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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Jack Warshaw Folk Clubs London 1960s & 70s (618* d) RE: Folk Clubs London 1960s & 70s 05 Feb 18


The Singers Club's reputation was supported by a programme of fine guest singers, both "interpreters" and true traditional ones from around Britain and Ireand, America and occasionally France and Italy. Ravi Shankar came once, and singers from India, like the wonderful Kali Das Gupta from Kolkata. The club's official sponsor was the London Cooperative Society. There was a committee, which held formal meetings with minutes. In reality much of the day to day organising work was done by Peggy.

Many of these sessions were hosted by club "residents," drawn from the performing members of the Critics Group when Ewan and Peggy and Bert Lloyd were on tour, or otherwise occupied. They included John Faulkner, Sandra Kerr, Frankie Armstrong, Denis Turner, Terry Yarnell, Brian Pearson, Jim O'Connor, Buff Rosenthal and me. Sometimes these residents took on the whole evening, on themes such as industrial ballads,or political issues.   The format was always the same: 1st half performers, introduced by the compere for the evening; floor singers, 15 minute break to refill glasses (there was never a bar in any of the SC pub rooms), then the 2nd half performance.

After the CG broke up, following the last Festival of Fools production, several of its principal singers and actors formed "Combine," which ran a club at the Knave of Clubs in Bethnal Green, still continuing their roles at the SC, while avoiding direct contact with MacColl and Seeger. A third club was started by singers who lived in Southwest London, at the Golden Lion, Fulham, near Putney Bridge. Many a night was spent flyposting for our guest nights.

These were of course weekly clubs, and there was much work in running and performing in them. But it paid in experience and building repertoires. Combine in particular put on themed, scripted shows and feature spots such as Pig of the Week in which some (usually Tory) lackey would be pilloried or lampooned. These efforts culminated in the inspiring Vietnam Victory Show of April 1975.

These clubs carried on somehow through the decline of the 70s and 80s into the early 90s, by which time, geographical distance, growing families, falling audiences, political stagnation and other commitments were taking their inevitable toll. That several CG graduates never gave up and made a place for themselves in the folk and theatre worlds is a tribute to the strength of their early work and training.


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