The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #69540   Message #1182473
Posted By: Nick
10-May-04 - 02:59 PM
Thread Name: Is Hull Folk Club Rubbish?
Subject: RE: Is Hull Folk Club Rubbish?
Keep going if it gives you and others pleasure, you're bound to get times when it doesn't work but the good times (hopefully) should outweigh the bad. From other threads here it suggests that you have had some good evenings - that alone suggests that it is worth persevering.

I hope the following is of some use, I hope it is not too long.

In September 2002 four of us started music on a Wednesday night in our local pub in North Yorkshire - I'm not sure if it's a folk club or not. The village is tiny (20-30 houses) and the pub relies on people travelling to it. Since then we have had music every week apart from one week when the snow was too bad to get to the pub and even then the one player who lives in the village played some music with the landlord. There are rarely less than ten of us and rarely more than 20 but it merrily goes on week by week with a nucleus of the same people and others coming and going. When we started we guessed that we might manage to keep it going perhaps once a month for a short while - the reality has been very different.

It was advertised early on once in the Easingwold advertiser (a VERY local paper) but apart from that has relied on word of mouth and being found by people. A high percentage of those who come once come again with varying degrees of regularity but the nucleus come, I think, because it has become a genuine highlight of the week. Just about everyone who comes plays or sings, though at least half of us have never done anything quite like this before and I doubt would have previously gone and performed at a folk club. It is very inclusive and encourages everyone to have a go if they want to and over time I think a number of us have been surprised to find ourselves doing things I doubt we would have done a year ago (eg I never thought I would sing in public!). We start at about 8.30 to 9 and we get thrown out when the landlord wants to close (which is of course bang on closing time *cough*) but I can rarely think of an evening when we haven't wished for the evening to extend for just one more song - perhaps that's what makes us come back the next week. As it can take the best part of an hour sometimes to go round the group and sing another song (you can feel a hint of tension on multi-versed songs sometimes) we have not really felt the need to advertise or push for lots more people, though everyone who does find us is always welcome, and new people always seem to make us improve or try a little harder.

We have had three outside artists over the eighteen months - Last Nights Fun to a packed pub, Marie Little and Dylanesque (a Dylan tribute band who wrote a very nice reaction to the audience on their web site after they played (!) Dylanesque Web site down in the bottom corner - I thought the band rather than the audience usually got reviewed) but mostly it has relied and thrived upon the fact that we really enjoy ourselves and want to do it, and everything else is a bonus on top.

Each week we wonder who or what will turn up and generally get pleasantly surprised that it just keeps on rolling. These days we would probably just play anyway even if there were two or three of us.

We are a mixed bunch with a range of musical tastes but we seem to tolerate each others tastes and encourage each to perform and contribute - four are unaccompanied, traditional Cecil Sharp/Copper family/Watersons type folk fans, one sings his own songs, a fiddle player (sorry violinist who is growing into a fiddle player much to his pleasure!) with some jigs and reels, a Tom Lehrer fan with a taste for the macabre, a touch of James Taylor here, a bit of everyone singing favourite Fairport things and a little jazz occasionally. Some would stand up and sing anywhere in front of anyone with minimal nerves, some of us find it much harder. Are we any good? It varies - but doesn't seem to matter too much or stop us encouraging each other. Definitely half of us have grown much better over the time, some would easily hold a spot at any folk club I have been to and one who comes occasionally has played at a festival or two. What is great is that all these abilities and tastes can co-exist.

We have few rules and the only problem I can think of - apart from a bit of tension with a few of the users of the pub about 9 months ago who seemed determined to show how much noise they could make in the main bar on a Wednesday (now no longer a problem) - was the mandolin/banjo player whose idea of tastefully joining in was to play a different tune in a different tempo in a different key (ideally about one and a quarter semitones from the key the other performer was playing in). Hide like a rhinoceros as well, but there you go.

I think overall we know what we set out to achieve, which is to enjoy ourselves, to hopefully improve and to try and make a range of music which gives pleasure to ourselves the performers and (secondarily) to anyone else who wants to listen. Mostly those who come, come to participate.

The pub is a lovely pub, it has a great landlord and a pint of bitter is £1.22 (though the last is just icing on the cake). We are not attempting to be like the Black Swan in York which has an excellent Folk Club with artists like Bob Fox, Roy Bailey, Dick Gaughan appearing - we raise four own money within the pub to pay for the few outside artists we have had so it is not too practical to fund as we do not charge for anything we have put on outside of raffle/bucket.

It's strength is that it is friendly, welcoming and relaxing to come and play and be. For my part it is a highlight to the middle of the week and a great thing to look forward to. Sometimes when I have thought that it was getting a bit samey or 'flat' and that we ought to broaden it someone turns up out of the blue or that certain magic thing happens and makes for an evening that keeps me smiling through Thursday (as an aside if you could bottle it and sell it at will, god, how rich would I be? LOL)

I'll give you a few of my thoughts and memories as I sit here which make the (minimal) organisation and the (very minimal) stress of wondering whether people will come worthwhile -

* A totally spontaneous reggae/calypso version of the Wild Rover to the tune of the Banana Boat song
* About 7+ hours of music on New Years eve
* The look of pleasure on the violinist's face on his first convincing 'squawk'
* Nice harmonies and a full sound of people enjoying singing
* The applause when one of us who finds it harder to perform does something which comes out half decent
* The surprise at finding an incredibly able whistle player who no-one even knew played
* The joy when someone totally new visits, plays and then comes back having enjoyed the welcome and the evening
* Occasionally having two or three people as an audience who enjoy themselves and stay AND come back

If you get anything like the above from what you have set out to do then it's got to be worthwhile keeping it going. Hopefully you may sense from this post that I get a lot of fun out it personally.

Best of luck - if you are ever over these parts get in touch and you would always be welcome, as would anyone.