OK, I'm gonna upset a few people here, but here goes. I cut my teeth in the Brighton Folk clubs of the late sixties. It was fun and exciting with what seemed like, but probably wasnt, great music. What was good was the solid performances, good songs with choruses, the camaradery, the social feel, the atmosphere.
Then I got married, had kids and forsook the clubs in the early 80's till I revisited the existing clubs in the mid 90's. What I found were cliquey gatherings, in rooms with no soul or atmosphere ( and clearly no attempt to create any), and talentless performers strutting their stuff. Another thing became obvious, which was that the less talent, the longer the song or tune was.
I sat there week after week watching the audience with their heads bowed into their laps, not sure if they were asleep or dead as someone crucified Sir Patrick Spens, or gave a 10 minute preamble about why 'Jenny McSporran' had written this song about twig whittling on the Isle of Ulay (or wherever). I thought 'this is not entertaining, what am I doing here?.....and worse, we are being charged money to witness this.
So I decided to start a club that was based on the premise that if we charge an entrance fee then we are in the entertainment business and thats what we have to do and not put on dross! We will put on good guests who entertain and not lecture. We will not put on floor spots who have to use bits of paper cos they've not bothered to learn the words or chords to their songs, but we do welcome good local talent. We will not give new performers more than one song till we know they are good enough. The club starts on time. We discourage audience talking during perfomances. BUT we do encourage banter between songs with the perfomers. We try to get to know our audience and newcomers, and encourage them to meet and know each other so the club isnt a clique. We try to ensure that the audience see that it is their club, and that we organisers are just the custodains if you like. We encourage the members to tell us who they would like us to put on as guests.
Maybe this all sounds dictatorial, but why should audiences paying 4 or 5 quid suffer mediocraty when there is so much talent out there.
After three and a half years the club is full every month, we have a healthy bank balance that enables us to book top line guests, and most noticeable is that we no longer get visits from talentless performers who only come to do their thing then push off up to the bar.
OK, it may not suit everyone, and I know there are those who feel that forums should exist where new, just starting out, confidence lacking performers can perform in public. Fine, but eventually the discerning audience will vote with their feet and all that remains is a gathering for those wanting to sing the full version of Matty Groves or Sir Patrick Spens, with a bit of paper in front of them cos they couldnt be bothered to learn the words.
Polish up the whole act (that includes clubs) and make folk clubs places that audiences WANT to go to.