MAY 24 will be the 73rd birthday of Bob Dylan and the 195th of the late, seldom amused Queen Victoria. It also happens to be the 30th such anniversary of one Arwen Arabella Hardy, from Edale in the Peak District, better known as the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards' Folk Singer of the Year for 2014, Bella Hardy.

To mark the occasion, the Derbyshire singer, songwriter and fiddle player is taking her birthday party on the road on her Thirty For 30 tour, an epic adventure in which she will visit 30 of her favourite venues, playing solo at some and with her band The Midnight Watch at others.

Among the solo dates for the York St John University alumnus will be a 7.30pm show on her old academic stamping ground on Monday night.

"I studied there from 2002 to 2005, but I did English Literature rather than music; I'm a book girl, a terrible bookworm," says Bella, who also will give a morning lecture at the university.

"That won't be on English Literature! I'll be talking to students about music, the music industry and folk music in particular, telling them about the path I've taken, as you never know where you will end up."

Since gaining a Masters in Music at Newcastle University in 2007, that path has led Bella through six albums, the latest being last year's Battleplan, which brought her the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award.

"It's been a whirlwind since I won it," says Bella.

"I didn't necessarily feel an immediate knock-on effect because I had to fly to America the next day to play at The Folk Alliance, which was in its first year in Kansas City. It was an incredible experience, with everything that went on at the event, and it felt like I'd shaken a snow globe that still hasn't settled.

"I went over there at the invitation of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, who do all sorts of fantastic things to encourage folk musicians to travel, and I went around KansasCity for five days listening to lots of amazing artists and playing half-hour sets, just me and my two fiddles and loads of story songs. And that's what I'll be doing in York; lots of story songs and lots of fiddle playing."

The Thirty For 30 tour has two purposes, reveals Bella.

"For my 30th birthday, I'm starting with intimate gigs at places like York that I wanted to go back to, and then I'll be playing be playing with my band," she says. "I really wanted to play the 30 venues that mean the most to me as I've built up these lovely relationships with lots of places and want to re-connect some old friends and old faces."

The tour maintains a hectic diary for Bella, so much so that when asked whether the BBC award will make any difference to her career, Bella responds, "Well, I'll just carry on...and maybe meet a few new friends, but I've been nominated in the Folk Awards four times before and I won the Best Original Song award in 2012 for The Herring Girl.

"The great thing about the folk awards, and the great joy, is that we get to have a party, seeing all our friends winning the awards, but I did feel overwhelmed this time because I hadn't expected to win," she says.

In "just carrying on", Bella not only pursues a solo career but also has been touring as a duo with Blue Rose Code, alias Ross Wilson, on weekdays and performing with the all-female, all-fiddle Carthy, Hardy, Farrell & Young at weekends, having released their album Laylam early last year.

She is back in the studio already, working on the follow-up to Battleplan.

"I'm nipping in and out all the time! One of the reasons that I've released six albums already is that I like to get things written, recorded and processed once I've started and I like doing new things," says Bella.

"Last year I started writing from a really honest place, that wasn't trying to live up to anything else, so next year's album will definitely be honest and personal. A lot of songwriters start with those songs and then progress to ballads and story songs; I started with teenage angst and I'm really glad that no-one offered me a contract at that time," she says.

"Since then, up to now, I've tended to take my emotions and put them into other people's stories in my songs but now I'm doing the opposite and putting myself out there a little more, which is interesting for me because part of being a songwriter is to be an emotional conduit and that means being as honest as possible."

Maybe honesty begins at 30? Discuss.

Bella Hardy plays York St John University Students' Union, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York, on Monday at 7.30pm. Tickets: £8, students £5, on 01904 876741.

Charles Hutchinson