Biographies of band members

Magpie Lane

Current line-up

Ian GilesIan Giles
founder member; appears on all CDs

Ian is lead singer and frontman for the band. His voice is amongst the finest on the folk scene: warm and mellow, but with great power when required. A veteran of many folk club gigs and pub sessions, Ian is equally at home with a lyrical ballad, or leading a lusty chorus song. On the instrumental front, he adds tabor, side drum, tambourine, bodhran and, on occasion, hurdy-gurdy.

Ian is a member of the Oxford Waits; he has sung in the three-part harmony groups Vinegar Tom (with Darren Ormandy and Kathryn Nutbeem), GMW (with Ian Woods and Oxford's favourite Yorkshireman Graham Metcalfe), and Folly Bridge (with Graham Metcalfe and Claire Lloyd); he has recorded with the Mellstock Band and Christminster Singers, and has made guest appearances on CDs by Belshazzar's Feast, Anne Fentiman & Dave Webber and many others. He is also acknowldged as an influence and mentor by a younger generation of folk performers including Jon Boden, John Spiers and Paul Sartin. His own solo album "The Amber Triangle" was released on the WildGoose label.

Andy TurnerAndy Turner
founder member; appears on all CDs

Winner of the Sidmouth Singer award way back in 1984, Andy is equally well respected as a singer and anglo-concertina player. An occasional member of the Oyster Band in the early eighties, he also worked with Chris Wood (as a duo, and in Polkabilly), and has sung on three of the Mellstock Band's CDs. Andy is a member of dance bands Oxford NAGS and Geckoes, and West Gallery choir the Christminster Singers. He performs regularly at folk clubs and festivals, both solo and in a duo with Mat Green.

More at

Mat GreenMat Green
founder member; appears on all CDs

Began morris dancing with Bampton in 1972 and has become one of the key figures in the current generation of dancers - he recently celebrated 25 years as Squire of Bampton Morris. He has been playing fiddle since the age of 14, both for the morris, and for many years with the Woodpecker Band, possibly Oxfordshire's most popular barn dance band. He is surely one of the finest exponents of the traditional style of English fiddle-playing, giving dance tunes tremendous vigour and vitality. Mat also plays in a duo with Andy Turner.

Jon FletcherJon Fletcher
first played with Magpie Lane 2004
appears on: Knock at the Knocker, The Robber Bird
, Three Quarter Time

Joined Magpie Lane in 2004, playing guitar, bouzouki and harmonica. Jon grew up in a musical family in Reading and during the late 90s played with siblings Kate and Colin, and fiddler/singer Nancy Kerr, in acclaimed roots-pop group Epona, who toured the folk and festival circuit in the UK and Germany and released the album "Shine Again". Now living in Oxford, he combines performing with teaching, production work and - until recently - running a youth music project. As well as performing his own material, Jon is a sought-after collaborator, performing and recording with a number of other artists in Oxford's vibrant acoustic scene, including Lisa Fitzgibbon, Sharron Kraus and Matt Sage. 

Jon's solo albums "When The Music Ends" and "A Month in the Summer" feature largely self-composed material covering a musical spectrum from folk to swinging jazz and soulful acoustic pop.

More at 

Sophie ThurmanSophie Thurman
first played with Magpie Lane 2001.
appears on: Six for Gold, Knock at the Knocker, The Robber Bird, Three Quarter Time

Joined the band in January 2001. Sophie studied music at the Colchester Institute of Music where - amongst other things - she became involved in West Gallery singing. With Magpie Lane she sings, plays the cello and tambourine, and does on-stage prawn impressions.

Sophie currently performs in folk duo Jenkinson's Folly with her husband Phil Thurman; she has recorded a CD of celtic songs with ex-Fairport musician Maartin Allcock, and was a member of Oxford all-woman quartet Divers Divas. But she is also involved in a range of musical activities beyond the folk scene: she is a sought-after classical soprano soloist, has sung in smoky late-night jazz duo Lady Daze, and played cello for singer-songwriter Phil Bentley.

Former members

Magpie Lane 2004-2008

Magpie Lane - Holywell Music Rooms December 2004

Marguerite Magpie - drawing by Anthony HarringtonĀ Marguerite Hutchinson
first played with Magpie Lane 2001; left 2008.
played on Six for Gold, Knock at the Knocker
Marguerite joined the band with Sophie in January 2001. A fine singer, well-known on the Oxford folk scene, Marguerite also played recorder, whistle, flute and Northumbrian small-pipes. She has performed in an occasional duo with leading early music / folk musician Giles Lewin (Afterhours, Dufay Collective, Bellowhead, Carnival Band etc.) and was formerly in Divers Divas.

Having moved away from Oxford, Marguerite decided to take a break from the band in December 2008.


Magpie Lane 2001-2004

Magpie Lane 2001-2004

Benji Magpie - drawing by Anthony HarringtonĀ Benji Kirkpatrick
first played with Magpie Lane 1999; left 2004.
played on: A Taste of Ale, Six for Gold.

Benji joined Magpie Lane in 1999, contributing guitar, bouzouki and vocals. He started performing solo in 1998, and released his first CD "Dance in the Shadow" later the same year to universally favourable reviews. He has subsequently released further solo CDs, but is probably best known as a member of Bellowhead and Faustus (previously Dr Faustus). Benji has also played with family dance bands Copperknob and Sons, Kirkophany, the John Kirkpatrick Ceilidh Band and Mr. Gubbin's Bicycle; was part of the Oysterband "Big Session"; accompanied John Jones on his solo tours; has been a member of Seth Lakeman's touring band; and is currently a member of Steeleye Span.


Magpie Lane 1999-2001

Magpie Lane 1999

Tom Bower
founder member; left December 2000.
appeared on: Oxford Ramble, Speed the Plough, Wassail, Jack-in-the-Green, A Taste of Ale.

Tom added a number of instruments to Magpie Lane's line-up - whistles, flute, recorders, harmonium, dulcimer, bass mandolin, even bass guitar when we let him (!) . He also contributed lead and harmony vocals, and along with Andy Turner was one of the main arrangers of the group's material. Outside Magpie Lane, Tom formerly sang with the Christminster Singers, and has played bass with any number of local dance bands (principally Bathsheba's Wedding at present). He is also an extremely fine and original artist; amongst many other commissions, Tom has provided cover artwork for CDs by the Mellstock Band, Dave Townsend and Northern Harmony - and most recently for the Magpie Lane CD
"The 25th".

Check out Tom's artwork at

Di Whitehead
first performed with Magpie Lane Christmas 1993; left December 2000
appeared on: Speed the Plough, Wassail, Jack-in-the-Green, A Taste of Ale.

An accomplished cellist and recorder-player, Di's classical training on the cello was evident on some of the band's more lyrical song arrangements; at the same time she was able to provide a solid rhythmic bass-line for dance tunes, and this became one of the hallmarks of the Magpie Lane sound. Di was a member of folk bands Ayres and Graces and Bonne Bouche, and has played in various classical ensembles.

Magpie Lane 1993-1998

Magpie Lane 1994

Peter Acty
founder member; left 1999.
appeared on: Oxford Ramble, Speed the Plough, Wassail, Jack-in-the-Green. 
An immensely sensitive accompanist on guitar, Pete had worked with Ian Giles for a number of years before joining Magpie Lane. In addition to Magpie Lane's first four recordings, Pete's guitar and mandola work can be heard on several collections on the Beautiful Jo label. Now living in Devon, he currently performs in the trio
Unstrung Heroes and with his daughter Eliza Acty.

Joanne Acty
founder member; left 1999.
appeared on: Oxford Ramble, Speed the Plough, Wassail, Jack-in-the-Green. 

A distinctive singer, often given the job of tackling the heavy ballads with Magpie Lane. Joanne also contributed a number of songs to "English Songs of Love" (BEJOCD-19 ) alongside Julie Murphy and Lynne Denman.
For details of Joanne's artistic activities see

Isobel Dams
founder member; left 1993.
appeared on: Oxford Ramble.

Isobel played cello on our first CD, and in the very first series of concerts around Oxfordshire. She left the band, to be replaced by Di Whitehead, when nursing work took her to Brighton.

Magpie Lane outside the Holywell Music Room before their first concert, 3rd May 1993. With special guest Chris Leslie.

Magpie Lane outside the Holywell Music Room before their first concert, 3rd May 1993. With special guest Chris Leslie.