Martha Tilston & the Scientists

Friday & Saturday

Songstress Martha Tilston is currently ensconced by the sea in Cornwall, some 175 miles away from her West Country childhood home of Bristol. Her parents, folk legend father Steve Tilston, and artist mother Naomi ran a folk night at Bristol’s historical venue The Louisiana, where, according to family legend, baby Martha would often be “parked in a basket underneath the cash desk” and accordingly, she grew up amongst the happy bustle of touring musicians who’d congregate at the Tilston home for rehearsals and short stays; John Renbourn and Bert Jansch were regular houseguests.

“It just seemed normal to me at the time” says Tilston. “I thought everyone’s Dad wrote songs. To me, Bert and John were just friends of the family who’d turn up from time to time and play guitar around the house.”

When her parents divorced, Tilston relocated to Surrey with her mother and theatre director stepfather, while Tilston’s father stayed in Bristol with fellow folk singer Maggie Boyle, who filled their home with “beautiful Irish singing”.

In Surrey, Tilston mastered the piano and fell in with the actor friends that made up her stepfather’s social circle. Drama studies followed, and she appeared at Edinburgh Festival, but the tug of her musical lineage set in, and by her late teens, Tilston has taken up the acoustic guitar and taught herself the fine art of fingerpicking, finding her voice – a shivering, autumnal bird-song evocative of a young Joni Mitchell – along the way.