History

The band was originally formed in 1989 as a project to produce electric folk music with a Sussex feel. A few local gigs and festivals soon showed the potential and after a few personnel adjustments, the long running line up including Mark, Bonnie, Chris, Steve & Dave was finalised.

They famously met at the 6 Bells at Chiddingly and joined up with a party from the Folk Camps Holidays organisation – more by accident than design! after the first 1989 experimental line up of Mark Orchin, Ben Paley, Dave Vale, Brigit Novak and Julian Scott (Brigit and Julian from pop group ‘M’) were playing at the pub and met Chris Jewell who introduced us to Bonnie!

In 1991 the band recorded their 1st album ‘The night the snow came down’ and this received wide critical acclaim and secured many festival dates and gigs. Interviews and recorded live sessions followed on radio Sussex and in 1992 the band started their long association with Crawley Folk festival up to the current year 2014 (23 consecutive years) and  Eastbourne Lammas since 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 (planned return 2015).

Local press and magazines have always supported Touchstone and our events and in 1995 the band were featured on the front page of ‘Folk-on-Tap’ with a 2 page interview.

Although still a semi-professional band, Touchstone became more and more popular as both a Ceilidh band and performing group and were one of the most heavily booked band in the south east for may years. The Wivelsfield Ceilidhs were an annual event, highly supported along with several charity bike ride events where the band raised a few £000′s and played in several Sussex pubs as part of a 25 mile bike ride – great fun.

1995 saw the release of the CD ‘One the rum’ which sold through all the major record stores in the south east, and many festival performances and supports to bands like Show of Hands, Fairport Convention and The Oyster Band. Touchstone had now carved a niche for writing traditional songs based on Sussex historical events and gained further popularity both at gigs and on record.

1995 also saw Bonnie & Mark winning the prestigious ‘Best new artist’ award at the National Folk Festival in Loughborough run by Brewhouse Records. At the time the band and as a duo became their most busiest. Bonnie and Mark received good reviews for their 1998 Album ‘Silently Calling’ in Folk Roots magazine, as well as getting one of the tracks ‘Gold Rush’ voted into the top 10 most liked tracks by local artists in the Mid Sussex Times Music round-up that year.

Always best live Touchstone gigs are lively and entertaining.

In 1997 Chris and Lynn moved away from Sussex to Milton Keynes and this affected the opportunity to play live. However in 1999 Touchstone performed at a sell out gig at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley to celebrate their 10th anniversary. Soon after this they were down to 5 members as flautist Lynn departed the band to concentrate on new projects.

The constant cord for the band has been their incredible un-broken run at Crawley Folk Festival of 19 years, and 2006 saw them headlining on the main stage (unfortunately clashing with the England v Portugal World Cup match).

Touchstone and Bonnie & Mark together have played at Winchester, Broadstairs, Ely, St. Neots, Hobbs Farm, Gosport, Chippenham, The National Folk Festival, Togfest, Cecil Sharpe House and Crawley Folk Festivals plus numerous other smaller events.

In 2000 the band released ‘Wine Barrel Jigtarrel’ and re-recorded many of the tracks originally only available on the 1991 cassette album ‘Snow’ plus a good selection of Ceilidh band tracks. The final 4 tracks are live from Bonnie & Marks support to Show of Hands in 1998 with Touchstone members. The next 3 or 4 years seemed to pass by without much activity, most band members also involved in other musical projects, and distance apart affected our work.

After this period of inactivity Touchstone performed an acoustic set to a large and enthusiastic audience at the 2005 Crawley Folk Festival and were inspired to work on the last album ‘Sea of providence’ which was released in July 2006 – this unfortunately clashed at Crawley Folk Festival with the world cup when England lost ! but has subsequently proven very popular.

2007 was a difficult year for Touchstone with Chris Jewell finally departing to live in North Devon where he now plays as well as teaching music in schools. The line up then went on to included Harriett Wilder on fiddle and we played a few festivals including the disastrous ‘Big Culture Show’ in Haywards Heath on the same bill as Chas and Dave, the Feeling (and Bob the Builder!) This line up carried through 2008 when major changes took place in our ranks.

2009 saw new members Ruth Stevens (fiddle), Rowena McArthur (flute), Marianne Hillier Brook (drums) and John Sandford (bass, vocals) join Bonnie and Mark in a new Touchstone line up and things started to happen again.

2010 – was the bands busiest year in a long time both as an acoustic and electric unit.

2011 – 2013 – After much consultation and reconciliation It was decided that the original line up would continue to play when ever possible along with new members Marianne, Val Will, John and Rowena as appropriate. Although there has been very little activity of late, we have created a 1970′s covers band called ‘Alchemy’ which has already achieved some success and includes Mark, John, Bonnie Steve and Dave. Crawley Folk Festival on June 29th will be our main event this year (22nd consecutive performance).

update —– May 2013 -Mark is completing a Music degree with the OU at the moment which has been the main cause of the slow down, but we still plan to play, record and have fun in the future – Completed 2:1 and Mark has retired from his post as Head of Music at Lewes Old Grammar School.

In 2016 we completed our 25th consecutive year at Crawley Folk Festival along with various acoustic gigs, all great fun.

May 2017 – Touchstone have just completed another successful gig at the Hawth Folk day (28th May) playing to a full audience and are well on their way to recording their 5th studio album, but unfortunately the release date has been postponed to 2018 due to unforeseen circumstances, and postponed gigs at  Eastbourne Lammas Festival and the Hawth main theatre in Crawley will be rescheduled for 2018.. Kimberley Burden (Bonnie’s daughter) has taken over from Rowena on flute while Ro and her family live and work in the middle east for 5 years or so.