Miranda's ready for the show
I t is now eight years since Miranda Sykes first stepped on stage with Show Of Hands' Phil Beer and Steve Knightley. Today, it would impossible to imagine this popular folk group without her.
But she says: "It was purely by accident that I started to play with them.
"I was working with the Phil Beer Band and so Phil was aware I played double bass and they [Show Of Hands] were after someone to play."
One of the touring band had to honour a contract to appear with Richard Thompson and so Miranda was asked to stand in.
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"I was invited to do it and then invited back as a special guest," says Miranda.
Scores of concerts and a string of albums later she is still there and few could imagine the band without her.
"I think I would be missed now," she says.
"Not only by the guys, but also by the audience."
Miranda not only plays double bass, she also has a voice that is clear and pure. When she sings, it takes Show Of Hands on to another level.
But she is also now working with singer and musician Rex Preston. They have released a CD called, appropriately, Miranda Sykes And Rex Preston, a collection of 12 folk songs including Kate Rusby's Old Man Time and the traditional A Kiss In The Morning Early.
This album is a must for anyone who enjoys Miranda's solos during Show Of Hands' concerts.
And just as her first gig with Show Of Hands came about by chance, so did her collaboration with Rex.
"I had been invited to dep [deputise] in a band and we were just jamming and realised what a good sound the double bass and the mandolin made."
So last summer they went into the studio for a week's recording. And then Rex spent months developing the tracks for the album.
Miranda says: "The great thing about working with Rex is he can hear how he wants a song to sound – and I completely trust him."
The album has been well received and the two are already working on a second.
Miranda says the timing has worked out well.
"Steve and Phil like to tour as solo artists at the start of the year, so we each get to do our own things."
Miranda's musical career was perhaps inevitable, as both her parents, Penny and John Sykes, are musicians.
She was introduced to music as a tiny baby lying in her crib beside a stage while her mum played piano at a cellidah, and remembers regularly being taken to folk concerts and festivals.
She started to play herself when she was a little girl and 26 years on, she can now play double bass, guitar, ukulele and electric bass.
Miranda will be appearing at the Bristol Folk Festival later this month. The much- anticipated festival will be buzzing over the early May Bank Holiday and is a guaranteed "rain free" event as it returns to the revamped Colston Hall.
Other headliners are Irish songstress Cara Dillon, dreadlocked singer/songwriter Newton Faulkner, flute, whistle and Uilleann pipes performer Michael McGoldrick, and the towering Afro Celt Sound System.
Organised by West Country music promoter Jan Ayers and the new Bristol Music Trust, the festival will also give a platform to the winners of the festival's Isambard Folk Award for emerging folk acts – and last year's winners, the Welsh surf-folk band Under The Driftwood Tree.
The festival also promises a melee of Morris dancers, workshops, open-mic sessions, real ale and a market spread across three floors of the Colston Hall, with indoor camping available at St Mary on the Quay church.
Miranda performed with Show Of Hands last year when the festival was revived for the first time in a generation. This time she will be taking to the stage with Rex Preston as well.
"I'm really looking forward to performing in Bristol again," she adds.
And like the Frome Folk Festival in February, which was a great success, she said she is confident Bristol's reborn festival will continue to go from strength to strength.
The Bristol Folk Festival takes place from Saturday, May 5, to Monday, May 7. Tickets cost £30 to £80, with family tickets available. Tel 0117 922 3686