VINCENT Paul Garbutt was a man of many guises – folk musician, comedian, social commentator, Catholic, Teessider, citizen, communicator, father, husband, brother, son, grandfather and family man.

Known as the Teesside Troubadour, Vin Garbutt’s spirit, charisma, and the impact of his personal and professional orbit has always been, and continues to be, extraordinary.

In recognition of this, Mike McGrother (frontman with the Wildcats of Kilkenny) has organised The Gathering: Celebrating the Spirit of Vin Garbutt, an online festival presenting the essence and energy of the artist, with support from the Garbutt family, the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the Mayor’s Award. Saltburn Community and Arts Association is hosting the four-day online event, which takes place from Thursday, March 11, to Sunday, March 14.

Mike says: “We have tried to create a festival rooted in Vin’s musicality but with even more to offer. Vin spoke with pride of his landscape, heritage and faith, and all these are reflected within the festival programme.”

Vin Garbutt, from Coral Street in South Bank, Teesside, died in 2017 at the age of 69, but continues to be a well-loved and respected musician and humourist, as famous for his ‘patter’ as his music.

Hugely loyal to his Teesside roots, he began writing his own material after realising there were few folk songs about Teesside.

However, his fan base is global – Vin’s charisma, guitar, and tin whistle has taken him to many countries. Local filmmaker Craig Hornby, who toured with him while making the Vin Garbutt documentary Teesside Troubadour, recalled: “People would stop him in every airport we passed through. It was quite surreal watching him singing a song about South Bank in a place like Kuala Lumpur, but they loved it… and many knew the words.”

Vin discovered folk music while at school, visiting and performing at Middlesbrough’s Rifles Club and Eston Folk Club. Leaving school, he was interviewed for the position of apprentice turner at ICI. After accepting the job, he had to ask the interviewer what a turner was.

In 1969, he and friends played in clubs while touring Spain, Gibraltar, and Morocco in ‘Sybil Klondike’, a VW caravanette. He also played in a pop covers band, The Mystics, explored his Irish maternal roots, and was a member of the Teesside Fettlers.

In 1972, his first album Valley of Tees came out, the first of 15 studio albums with the Tees and locality being a recurrent feature in his songs. Journalist Colin Randall, wrote of Vin’s death, ‘If the River Tees could sing, he would be its voice’.

His gigs were hilarious. Sometimes his introduction to the next song became so tangential he had to ask the audience, which song he was introducing. However, he maintained he was primarily a musician, with humour coming second, saying: “If people come for the comedy, they are unlikely to listen to the songs. If they come for the songs, they will go away having been challenged and had a laugh.”

And his material could be challenging. His songs often incorporated themes such as injustice, oppression, unemployment, and the demise of local industry. A devout Catholic, his songs occasionally reflected an anti-abortion stance. But no matter how serious the subject, as folk musician and writer Hector Christie noted, his tunes were never dreary dirges, but strong, melodic arrangements.

A gig at Farningham Folk Club in 1971 was pivotal for him. His train terminated six miles from the club and a young lady named Pat Austen went to pick him up. They married in 1977 and had four children, Emma, Tim, Katie, and Louis.

He received BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominations, winning Best Live Act in 2001, also the year he was awarded an Honorary MA Degree by Teesside University. In the mid-2000’s, he was diagnosed with heart issues, followed by surgery and recovery. In the late 2000’s, Craig Hornby began amassing the material for The Teesside Troubadour. Released in 2010, it sold out local premieres.

In June 2017, Vin died, a few weeks after major heart surgery.

Wilma Gardiner-Gill, the Arts Development Officer for Saltburn Community and Arts Association, recalled that Saltburn Theatre was a favoured venue for Vin.

“The Gathering is also an opportunity to put Saltburn Theatre back into the community consciousness after a year of forced closure.” she said. “It has been a new experience to create a virtual event but with support we have risen to the challenge.”

Mike McGrother described his amazing ability to connect with his audience. “His craft was effortless. Vin loved this world, and the world loved Vin.”

For more information and tickets, visit and

Programme of events

Thursday, March 11, 7pm: Set in Stone, a streamed presentation of extracts from Craig Hornby's two films: A Century in Stone and Vin Garbutt - Teesside Troubadour. Tickets, £5 (see websites above) with Zoom link to live post-film Q&A with Craig Hornby and festival curator, Mike McGrother.

Friday, March 12, 1.30pm: Wings, School Assembly (upper KS2/lower KS3 (closed event).

8-9pm: Persona Grata, a podcast 'in conversation' with Vin Garbutt and biographer Michael McGreary, available from from March 11 with the podcast going live at 8pm.

9-10pm: Ring of Iron, BBC Tees, worldwide anecdotes, songs, and stories about Vin Garbutt. Listen free on DAB/95FM.

Saturday, March 13, 9am: Vin’s Way Part 1, Leaving Slaggy Island, a walking trail and playlist inspired by the Teesside Troubadour revealed at 9am at

7-10.30pm: 'Plugged! Again!' Streamed live from Saltburn Theatre: Mike McGrother and Pete Davies host an extraordinary musical tribute; tickets £5 (see websites above, available to view for 24 hours).

Sunday, March 14, 9am: Vin’s Way Part 2, When the Tide Turns. Beginning at Saltburn Theatre, the second walking trail and playlist inspired by Vin Garbutt revealed at 9am at

3pm: A streamed Mass from Middlesbrough RC Cathedral celebrating the life of Vin Garbutt; see

Events later in the year (when lockdown restrictions allow) will include the after-show party, led by versions of Vin's Way and a celebration in The Station, Loftus. Details will be posted at and