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The State of Folk in the UK in 2016

Les in Chorlton 29 Apr 16 - 06:53 AM
Will Fly 29 Apr 16 - 07:28 AM
John Minear 29 Apr 16 - 10:41 AM
Harmonium Hero 29 Apr 16 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,Peter C 29 Apr 16 - 11:48 AM
Harmonium Hero 29 Apr 16 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,Peter 29 Apr 16 - 12:24 PM
Will Fly 29 Apr 16 - 01:45 PM
Pete from seven stars link 29 Apr 16 - 10:22 PM
GUEST,In good company 30 Apr 16 - 03:42 AM
GUEST 30 Apr 16 - 04:02 AM
GUEST,Peter C 30 Apr 16 - 07:05 AM
Sarah the flute 30 Apr 16 - 08:17 AM
GUEST,Tim 30 Apr 16 - 08:43 AM
Les in Chorlton 01 May 16 - 08:26 AM
GUEST,Peter C 01 May 16 - 02:13 PM
GUEST,Peter 01 May 16 - 02:28 PM
Tradsinger 01 May 16 - 05:35 PM
Steve Gardham 01 May 16 - 06:09 PM
Acorn4 02 May 16 - 03:43 AM
GUEST,In good company 02 May 16 - 03:58 AM
Will Fly 02 May 16 - 04:42 AM
Les in Chorlton 02 May 16 - 06:32 AM
GUEST 02 May 16 - 11:36 AM
Les in Chorlton 02 May 16 - 02:59 PM
Harmonium Hero 02 May 16 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,In good company 03 May 16 - 02:57 AM
GUEST,padgett 03 May 16 - 09:17 AM
Mo the caller 03 May 16 - 10:54 AM
The Sandman 03 May 16 - 12:48 PM
Howard Jones 04 May 16 - 09:00 AM
punkfolkrocker 04 May 16 - 09:47 AM
Les in Chorlton 04 May 16 - 09:59 AM
Harmonium Hero 04 May 16 - 10:01 AM
Will Fly 04 May 16 - 10:50 AM
punkfolkrocker 04 May 16 - 11:12 AM
Will Fly 04 May 16 - 11:28 AM
punkfolkrocker 04 May 16 - 11:55 AM
Will Fly 04 May 16 - 01:36 PM
Howard Jones 05 May 16 - 04:04 AM
The Sandman 05 May 16 - 04:09 AM
Les in Chorlton 05 May 16 - 05:58 AM
GUEST 05 May 16 - 07:18 AM
Vic Smith 05 May 16 - 07:49 AM
FreddyHeadey 05 May 16 - 09:04 AM
TheSnail 05 May 16 - 09:14 AM
Les in Chorlton 05 May 16 - 09:32 AM
GUEST,dunelmian 05 May 16 - 02:17 PM
FreddyHeadey 05 May 16 - 02:48 PM
Howard Jones 05 May 16 - 03:08 PM
Les in Chorlton 06 May 16 - 04:27 AM
FreddyHeadey 06 May 16 - 01:25 PM
GUEST 07 May 16 - 03:27 AM
Mo the caller 07 May 16 - 10:40 AM
Les in Chorlton 10 May 16 - 04:56 AM
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Subject: Review: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 06:53 AM

The State of Folk in the UK 2016

I recently responded to a questionnaire as a member of The EFDSS. It didn't really address or inquire much about "The State of Folk in the UK 2016" but it's basic and reasonable assumption was that I as a Member would be in favour, be a supporter and even promoter of "Folk".

Last night I watched the BBC 2 Folk Awards Ceremony at The Royal Albert Hall. I felt the quality and variety of performance was breathtaking and thought that anybody finding the recording on BBC iPlayer could only be impressed and entertained. On reflection I also felt that these Awards are mostly awards to professional singers and musicians.

I have no intention of getting into a discussion about how much "professional singers and musicians" contribute to or are part of the greater world of UK Folk but it made me think about how far "Folk" has come since the Folk Clubs of the 60s and 70s.

In many parts of the country Folk Clubs are few and far between but they are and always have been only one aspect of "Folk".

My question is: What are the other aspects and how are they fairing?

1. Folk Clubs – resident singers, audience, guests.
I don't know but I guess the collapse of the 80's & 90s has leveled out.
2. Singarounds – most people who go sing songs, small audience if any
Don't know – how can we find out?
3. Tunes Sessions - most people who go play tunes, small audience if any
Don't know – how can we find out?
4. Folk Concerts – in larger venues and small theatres pro and semi pro performers
Seem to be good in larger towns and cities
5. Folk Festivals – weekends to weeks, residential audiences pro and semi pro performers
Seem to be very popular – probably at least one every week or weekend through summer
6. Social Country Dance Clubs – often associated with The EFDSS, regular meetings to dance Social Dance to a Band or recorded music
Don't know but I guess EFDSS does.
7. Ceilidhs – sometimes organised by "Folkies" for "Folkies" Social Dance with a Band
Popular with some folk clubs and Morris sides etc.
8. Ceilidhs – sometimes organised by "Folkies" for "None Folkies" Social Dance with a Band
Popular with PTAs, Birthdays, Fundraisers etc.
9. Solo Clog Dancing – individuals learn the same routine but often dance together in public
Don't know – is their a national organisation?
10. Other regional solo display dancing -
Appalachian, Suffolk …...........................
11. Longsword and Rapper Dancing -
I guess in good shape but don't really know
12. Morris and related Dancing -
I guess in good shape but don't really know
13. Mummers Plays and other Folk Drama -
No idea!

With all this going on I am tempted to say that "Folk" in the widest sense is in good shape. How is it for you?


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 07:28 AM

In my area of Sussex, roughly within a 15-mile radius of home, I will probably play at the following events in May 2016:

* 29th April-1st May: Folk at the Fireside - a weekend of folk at the Woolpack in Burgess Hill.

* 2nd May: Brighton Acoustic Session, the Lord Nelson, Brighton (guests Dave Arthur & Dan Stewart), which I'll be MC'ing.

* 3rd May: English Tunes Session at the John Harvey Tavern, Lewes.

* 8th May: My own singaround/session at the George, Henfield.

* 9th May: The Village Singaround, Limes Bistro, Charlwood (strictly in Surreybut near enough to home!)

* 20th May: Seaford Folk Club (weekly) - Singers' Night

* 26th May: The Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne - MC'ing and guesting at the monthly session, with Chris Wolferstan.

* 29th May: The White Horse Session in Ditchling - organised by members of the Unreel Ceilidh Band.

And, apart from that, I've got Unreel Ceilidh Band functions on 7th and 14th May and a rock'n roll gig at the Woolpack on 30th April.

And all that's without attending the weekly folk clubs at Lewes (Lewes Saturday Club) and the Willows Club at Arundel - plus others too numerous to mention here, and many other sessions in the locality. Actually, it's nice to have a night off occasionally!


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: John Minear
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 10:41 AM

From the other side of the water, I just wanted to say that we are very proud of Rhiannon Giddens Laffan, a dear friend and a fine folk singer. Our congratulations to her for winning the BBC's "Folk Singer of the Year" award.


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Subject: RE: Review: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 11:29 AM

I'm a bit hesitant about getting involved in this, as everything I say on these matters either gets shot down in flames or kills the thread stone dead. However.....
Speaking as someone who has been involved in folk song, music and social and performance dance for 48 years, I think I might have a fair view of what's going on, so I'll try to answer some of Les's questions.
Folk Clubs: hanging on by a thread, I'd say. The number of clubs is much lower than in the boom years, but that's inevitable. The '80s left us with a 'lost generation', which has contributed greatly to the division between young and old folkies, where there should be no division. Folk Music is for everybody, and is not aimed at a particular generation; in fact it isn't aimed at all, but is just what people do. The young generation has brought a healthy influx of performers, but the young audience seems to be found at festivals rather than clubs. But I'd say that the number of clubs seems to be pretty steady at the moment.
Singarounds: these are proliferating. A number of clubs have gone over to the singaround format for singers' nights, and some have also given up booking guests. This is because many of the people who go to singarounds will not, on principle, attend when there is a booked (i.e. paid) performer. They tend to become cliquey, which discourages others. There is also the controversial proliferation of crib sheets. And, in my experience, a lot of what one hears isn't ....erm....Folk Music.....where did I put me coat?.... As far as audience numbers goes, on a singers' night, there may be 30 people in, of whom 27 sing. Same club next week, with a guest, there'll be maybe 15 people in, some of whom may be regulars - even regular singers - and some have come just to see the guest. So I'd say for regular singarounds, the audience is minimal.
Tunes sessions: audience is incidental. I doubt whether many people go just to listen, but then I don't know that it matters, as these are informal gatherings, with participation being the main aim.
Concerts: probably more common than in the old days. With the advent of Arts Centres, concerts are probably now, on average, in smaller venues, which are more suitable for folk music. Usually amplified, which, in my controversial opinion, is anathema to folk music. Attendance? - I haven't been to enough of them in recent years to judge, but I'd say probably not what the promoters would hope for. Something Les didn't mention are house concerts. These are not as common in UK as in the States, where they are an established part of the folk scene, but the idea may be slowly growing, and this might be a good thing, as folk is really small-venue music, and best unamplified. Trouble is, most people in UK live in such poky little houses that there isn't the room for much of an audience.
EFDSS affiliated Country Dance Clubs: sadly, these have become associated with an ageing
membership, and are declining. Some have ceased to operate, and others have amalgamated with others in a similar plight. The only thing that will save them is an influx of younger dancers.
Ceilidhs: or rather dances: a ceilidh used to be a dance with entertainment spots, but now the term 'Ceilidh Dancing' has come into vogue, and a dance of this sort has become a Ceilidh. These are organised by clubs, and as part of Morris Weekends and such. Also at festivals, and there areregular dances calling themselves 'Ceilidh Clubs', and even some REAL Ceilidh Clubs. I'd say this is doing all right, although the style of dance and music seems to be mostly 'English Ceilidh' - invented in the '70s, and not to everybody's taste.
Dances for PTAs, social clubs, barn dances, Masonic dinners etc: There was a period when such dances were regular bookings for Ceilidh/Country Dance Bands. However, over the last 15 years, there has been a steady decline, with many bands reporting a significant drop in bookings. 15 years ago, people were blaming line dancing, but that seems to have been largely a passing fad -although it does still exist. It was also a regular thing to have country dancing at weddings, but now the wedding venues seem to do a package deal, which includes all the extras - table decorations, balloons, flowers etc. and a disco seems to be part of the deal. If the mugs...sorry -Happy Couple- want any other kind of dancing, they have to find and book the necessary musicians themselves, but they are paying for the disco anyway, and as the band usually ends up only playing for an hour or so, it doesn't seem worth it. But it may also be due to changing fashion. Either way, wedding bookings seem to have declined. Mind you, they are a pain in the arse anyway- don't get me started!
Performance dance: Cotswold Morris doing fine. Rapper ditto. Longsword not so popular. It's not as spectacular as rapper, and is seen as more of a performers' dance than a spectators' dance. Also not as exciting, so fewer young people getting involved. I don't know whether things are any different now than formerly in the longsword community. Still seems to be doing ok on the continent. (For those not familiar with it, this form of dance is widespread across Europe). Perhaps our European neighbours are less subject to the whims of fashion than the English. Probably, I'd say. Appalachian, clog and other forms of step dance are pretty popular. Certainly clog dance has had a steady revival over recent decades, and a more spectacular rise in Wales, where it is, I believe, now on the National Curriculum. North West Morris (Lancashire Morris) may be doing ok elsewhere in the country, but not in the North West. The mens' dance in particular is likely to die out in the NW in the next 5-10 years, as there are no young men getting involved. Border Morris and Molly sides seem to be proliferating. It looks easy, it looks fun. Why not try something a bit more challenging? Like...erm....NW Morris?
Don't know too much about the state of affairs in Mumming/Pace Egging, as these things are usually local and seasonal. I know they still exist, many of them being independent of the Folk Revival.
I don't think that the existence of Folk Awards should be taken as indicative of the state of folk music. These things are run by the Music Industry, and are really there to help them to sell stuff. People imagine that, because folk is getting a higher media profile, that it must be doing all right. Wrong. It's the kiss of death. The Music Industry is what it says it is; you're talking about businessmen. They have heard that Folk is selling , and so they want to be behind the cash register, and will stuff anything they think they can get away with into the 'Folk' pigeon hole. But they have more than an eye on the sales figures, and as soon as there is a dip, you'll hear the cry of "Folk is Finished" and they'll drop it like a bag of warm dog turds. Trust me - I'm a folk singer -I know stuff.

John Kelly


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,Peter C
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 11:48 AM

Glos Folk (Gloucestershire Folk Association) compiled some figures on this a while ago. The conclusion was that about 10,000 people a week took part or listed to 'folk' activities in the county each week. What evidence I have suggests that that number is on the increase overall, with folk clubs declining, but informal music and song sessions increasing.
My figures are at Here


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 11:50 AM

Before the bullets start flying, I should add that there are regional variations. People in some areas may have different experiences with singarounds, for example, and there are certainly more clubs in some areas than others. In fact, there are far more clubs down the east side of mainland Britain than on the west side. There seem to be only a handful of clubs in the 'Land of Song' , and apparently none in some English and Scottish counties.
John Kelly.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 12:24 PM

I think that Harmonium Hero has summed things up pretty well. Musically, among younger musicians, there is a strong leaning towards bluegrass / old time. A lot of these bands don't impinge on the classic folk circuit at all. In London at least there is a whole separate circuit of promoters and venues that put on bands like these mixed with solo artists and bands doing their own material with varying degrees of "folkiness". I sampled a gig of this type in Shoreditch a couple of years ago, the demographic was younger than a folk club but generally not the student age group.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 01:45 PM

Hi John - I wouldn't dream of shooting you down as I love you dearly, but I must contradict you about the wedding/ceilidh scene. Or at least offer a different perspective.

For a start, weddings with ceilidh bands have certainly not declined, in my humble experience. The band I play in is busier than ever - in all sorts of venues ranging from village halls to posh hotels to yurts in farmyards to specific wedding venues. And, generally, speaking, they're cracking events - and the reason (I believe) is that it's a form of dancing that mixes generations, sexes and families freely. The range of expertise in dancing can range from complete novice to knowledgeable, and there are certainly lots of very traditional dances being done - particularly in Scottish weddings - for which particular tune sets are required. But, with very few exceptions, we always have a great night. Many of our bookings requests are from word-of-mouth recommendations, not just from our website, so we must be doing something well.

There are several dates booked this year for each of which I've had to turn down at least two requests from potential bookers.

The icing on the cake is that we get the chance to play traditional English, Irish and Scottish (and some North American) traditional reels, jigs, rants, strathspeys etc., all evening long - stuff that we love and play in sessions - and get paid for it!


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Pete from seven stars link
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 10:22 PM

Don't think it's been mentioned yet, but here in the Kent, se London area there have been a few weekend events, which though I have not attended yet, I hear have been quite successful . These involve booking a more established artist but with plenty of time for floor/open mic spots. As noted above many of us don't go to clubs if it's a booked guest, as our interest is more in performing/participating ourselves, but the mixed format affords an audience for the paid guest, who largely will also be performing, perhaps partly in order to play to more people themselves. I suspect some may find this an undesirable arrangement, as the quality may be thought poor in some cases , but it seems to be a realistic strategy that's working....at present. Personally, I prefer variety , however good/established, a paid artist might be.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,In good company
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 03:42 AM

Good summary from John. I know of two clubs where singers nights can be packed while guest nights are generally much quieter. At one of them I know for certain that the pub landlord has commented that, even with the additional numbers, his takings are down on singers nights. Maybe it is partially an economic thing as well?

As age progresses I am finding the week long festivals I used to attend too much of a commitment but I do enjoy a weekend with camping which I found difficult when I had a young family. Swings and roundabouts for those two from me then.

The only other event I am familiar with is Skipton Clogfest which has been very busy over the last 3 years. See you there John?

Dave.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 04:02 AM

Saw Fay Hield last week, doing a great job on the folk scene.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,Peter C
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 07:05 AM

Just to add to an earlier point, the ceilidh band I play with, The Amazing Matchless Band, had the best ever year of our 20 year history in 2015, with 16 dances. Not quite so many weddings as usual, but more family parties. 'Village' type events were few in number, unusually.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Sarah the flute
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 08:17 AM

Yes I haven't seen any decline in the ceilidhs for weddings and other celebrations and find I am usually calling or playing at least once in a weekend. We do get asked at weddings sometimes to stay on so they can play disco music through our PA but that's usually just for the last hour so we can use the time to pack up other stuff


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,Tim
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 08:43 AM

In the Milton Keynes area the folk scene is booming with established sessions mixing with new venues booking quality guests supported by established and local acts. We have some great youngsters who are organising these things as well.
Check out Sian Magill and Forest of Fools on You Tube...


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 01 May 16 - 08:26 AM

Part of my reason for raising this thread was to see if we could gather good practice. The reason being I would like to travel not very far to hear good folk music.

This is my original list:

Is it possible not simply to gather good practice but also to explore how these different events might support each other?

1. Folk Clubs – resident singers, audience, guests.
2. Singarounds – most people who go sing songs, small audience if any
3. Tunes Sessions - most people who go play tunes, small audience if any
4. Folk Concerts – in larger venues and small theatres pro and semi pro performers
5. Folk Festivals – weekends to weeks, residential audiences pro and semi pro performers
6. Social Country Dance Clubs – often associated with The EFDSS, regular meetings to dance Social Dance to a Band or recorded music
7. Ceilidhs – sometimes organised by "Folkies" for "Folkies" Social Dance with a Band
8. Ceilidhs – sometimes organised by "Folkies" for "None Folkies" Social Dance with a Band
9. Solo Clog Dancing – individuals learn the same routine but often dance together in public
10. Other regional solo display dancing - Appalachian, Suffolk
11. Longsword and Rapper Dancing -
12. Morris and related Dancing -
13. Mummers Plays and other Folk Drama -


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,Peter C
Date: 01 May 16 - 02:13 PM

That is exactly what we at Glos Folk
are for! But only you live in and around Gloucestershire. In my innocence, I thought that was what EFDSS was supposed to do for the rest of the country............!


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 01 May 16 - 02:28 PM

EFDSS is doing a lot these days but duplicating the host of existing independent listings magazines and websites isn't considered a good use of their members' (or ACE's) money.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Tradsinger
Date: 01 May 16 - 05:35 PM

My experience of the folk scene goes back to the 60s, so I have some knowledge of the issue and I would like to make some general comments as I perceive the scene around Gloucestershire and adjoining areas:

Dance - Border Morris is on the up and up, with probably more women taking it up than men. It is also a pretty vibrant scene with new dances being coined all the time, due to the fact that there are very few collected Border dances. The tune repertoire draws heavily on session tunes, mainly English.

Much as I love Cotswold Morris, it is now in the minority with a lot of aging dancers. All male dance sides are rare but cling fiercely to their traditions. A number of mixed sides have appeared as well as women's sides, but Cotswold is getting far outnumbered by Border and is having difficulties in recruiting. Some sides stick to an 'as collected' repertoire and some are more innovative.

I can't really comment on other forms of Morris as they are thin on the ground around our way.

I mentioned sessions. There is no doubt that the skill and musicianship has gone up by leaps and bounds over the years. Melodeons rule the roost and there are lots of tunes only sessions, with melodeons thick on the ground. This seems to be a very healthy scene and lots of tunes being passed around.

On the song side, the scene is variable. A lot of folk clubs have disappeared and some of the others, with exceptions, are doing well. I say doing well rather than thriving and an audience of 40 is considered to be good. There seems to be a move away from traditional 'as collected' material (with the exception of shanties) but a lot of new songs are being written, some in 'traditional' style and some in more Americana style. There are a number of song sessions, of variable quality. Apres-Morris song and music sessions can be lively and atmospheric.

So to sum up:
Border Morris - up
Cotswold Morris - down
Musicianship - up
Music sessions - up
Song sessions - down but stable.
Song clubs - slightly down but keeping afloat.

I have not mentioned the professional or concert circuit and that is largely another world and I have tried not to make value judgements on the above but rather describe what I perceive is the situation. Of course there are many more complexities.

Tradsinger


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 01 May 16 - 06:09 PM

Well-established festivals and large urban areas seem to be doing well in Yorkshire and the north in general. Some weekend festivals have moved over to booking headliner has-been popstars to get bums on seats, but festivals like Whitby have been helped by the infusion of second-generation folkies, aided by older stalwarts. This latter is very healthy. However in the more out of the way places where there is a big generation gap the folk clubs have struggled and are largely peopled by pensioners. A stalwart few are trying hard to bridge the gap by being more inclusive rather than exclusive, but in many cases the damage has already been done.

Sessions are usually well attended and vibrant and singarounds seem to keep going albeit with mostly the same old faces. Dance teams in my native Hull have been struggling to keep a team going for about 20 years now, though new ones with a less traditional outlook do keep springing up. It's many years since a mummers play was performed in the area.

Concerts are well attended but again the audience is almost all retired.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Acorn4
Date: 02 May 16 - 03:43 AM

One quite encouraging feature, in one sense, is the increasing popularity of village hall/church hall type events with BYOB - many people are discouraged by pub prices for drinks; have been to a number of these recently, some folk some non, which have been very well attended.

Pubs have always been a crucial part of the folk world, but with many of the audience now retired, the drink price can be a put-off - you can often cover the entrance fee by what you save by bringing your own booze.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,In good company
Date: 02 May 16 - 03:58 AM

If I may say, bringing your own booze to a session or folk club in a pub is not really a good idea. Unless you can come to some arrangement with the landlord, they would not thank you for reducing their primary source of income :-(


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 May 16 - 04:42 AM

Down here in Sussex, the price of a pint of Harveys, the local brew, is around £3.50 depending on where you drink. Prices may be slightly higher in some Brighton pubs.

Tonight is the monthly gathering of the Brighton Acoustic Session - which is run by Stuart Reed with my assistance. Stuart does the booking and the finances, while I do the MC'ing and keep order :-) It's held in the Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Street in Brighton on the first Monday of every month. Last month's guest was Tom Paley with son Ben Paley on fiddle. We don't make a door charge but ask for a contribution at half time - and we suggest a minimum of a fiver. Now, there are always one or two bludgers in the audience who shy out of paying up, or just put a few token pennies in the post. Most people happily put a fiver into the pot and a choice, generous few will give much more. The pub management also throws in £50 so, all told, we can afford to get a decent guest every month.

The pub room was packed to the rafters for the Paleys - we had to turn people away. They did 2 45-50 minute sets, and we had several excellent and entertaining floor singers - many of our floor singers have been guest artists at other sessions.

Now, retired or not, where else could you get nearly three hours of excellent entertainment in a nice, intimate venue, with a pint of good beer, for £11.50 including a pint? Once a month doesn't really break the bank.

Tonight it's Dave Arthur with multi-instrumemtalist Dan Stewart - all welcome!


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 May 16 - 06:32 AM

We use a United Reformed Church Hall for Ceilidhs. We don't have bar but we encourage people to bring a drink and a "picnic". The church is ok with this and it seems ok with the punters.

We have songs sessions on 1st & 3rd Tuesdays and tunes on 2nd & 4th in a local pub. We have celebrations - 6th anniversary of this and 7th anniversary of that. Although the pub does limited food it allows us to bring our own for these dos. Obviously nobody brings drink.

The songs and tunes people overlap and the Band comes out of the tunes sessions. I hope the Ceilidhs will bring people to the song and the tunes sessions but it hasn't done much so far.

Any ideas about drawing people from one kind of Folk activity to another?


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST
Date: 02 May 16 - 11:36 AM

Any ideas about drawing people from one kind of Folk activity to another?
I think it is only a minority, albeit a sizeable one, who are interested in "Folk" in all its aspects.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 02 May 16 - 02:59 PM

True enough Guests - and most people don't want to go every week


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 02 May 16 - 07:11 PM

Hi Will. Love you too, sweetie. (Don't quote me on that - I'll deny all knowledge). I did say that there may be regional variations. The South East, for instance, has a lot more clubs than some regions, as has North Yorks/Northeast. My experience with bands has been largely in the North West, and the wedding dates have been pretty dire mostly. In he old days, bands were turning down dates where there was going to be a disco; the two things just don't mix. Nowadays, the disco seems to be a willy-nilly feature. It isn't just the discos - there are other reasons. I could go on at some length about why I don't miss them.
Dave: we won't be at Clogfest this year - missed the deadline. Some people aren't keen anyway. They (no names- no pack drill) think it's getting to be a ripoff. Given that the price seems to include the ceilidh, I'm not so sure. If we (7 Stars, for anybody who doesn't know what I'm talking about) don't go next year, I think I'll go myself - especially since the discovery that I can accompany myself on the moothie!
Les: regarding your question about getting people into other folk activity: I don't know. It puzzles me that there seems to be a degree of polarisation between song, music, dace and drama. I've always thought they were all part of the same culture, as I believe was traditionally the case. Maybe if organisers of folk clubs and ceilidhs booked a mixture of singers, dancers, mummers etc.....

John Kelly.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,In good company
Date: 03 May 16 - 02:57 AM

That's a shame John. I am learning to play piano accordion. When I am good enough maybe I can oblige :-) Or you could just come along anyway!

On ceilidhs, yes you are right. I think we booked Rumworth at Swinton once or twice so you may remember our ceilidhs there. We always had dancing interspersed with acts. Once of my favourite moments was Taffy Thomas's tale about the clog dancer selling his soul to the devil with Geoff doing the dances. We usually had at least one headline act from the festival appearing at the ceilidh too. It was a good mix in my opinion.

Cheers

Dave


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,padgett
Date: 03 May 16 - 09:17 AM

Folk clubs are under greatest threat I feel ~ though there are new clubs opening (Yorkshire) and good luck to them, perhaps steering away from the established guests and promoting new talent and up and comers

Certainly ffs are headlining the talented acts and those "professionals" that is ~ "do it for a living" and younger guests ~ it does seem we are suckers for new kids on the block and need to hero worship to some extent ~ rather than give some of the older and perhaps more capable guests a chance!

Some solo acts still out there but groups and collabarations, duos etc can be good value

Most important word in all of this is AUDIENCE ~ Folk clubs are social events, audience members often run the clubs are most ceratinly NEVER to be referred to as PUNTERS awful word, supporters and clubs cannot do without selfless individuals who run and support Folk clubs and pay good money!! dont abuse them

Ray


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Mo the caller
Date: 03 May 16 - 10:54 AM

Well, I agree with HH saying that dance clubs have declining numbers. Several clubs that used to run Saturday dances with a band and outside caller have reduced the number or stopped altogether. And numbers at the midweek club night is down (certainly in 2 of the 3 clubs I go to regularly). At one club I've noticed because I was treasurer in the 90s and we had an average attendance in the mid 30s. Now we think it's a good night if we get above 24 - and even then not all can / want to dance every dance. Sometimes in single figures for part of the evening. So the caller is left with a difficult choice either guess who will dance and find a dance for that number, or plod through a prepared programme and leave a large proportion sitting out / pressure unwilling dancers onto the floor.

I don't think you can be surprised that there is some polarisation, though some of us enjoy more than one form. I could go dancing almost every night of the week, or play in sessions. So there isn't much time for listening to singarounds or concerts. I'll save that for when I'm at Folk festival and want a sit down / rest.

PeteFSS, we also have an monthly event, organised by Chester Folk Festival as a 'taster' that has an advertised group in concert for the first hour then a mixed session to follow. There have been other sessions in the village that started well but dwindled, it depends on a core of regulars. Luckily now there is a 4th Tues session, run by a group who go to other villages on other Weds. But both of these have variable attendances. The 'taster' seems to depend on the group bringing their own following + a small core.

HH, I'm also in the NW and get bookings for weddings and family parties. Though looking at the past couple of years it does seem to be more anniversaries, 'big' birthdays & church Harvests. Weddings can be quite variable, you have to expect to wait around, and people have had a long day so don't want to dance unfamiliar dances late at night. I've no objection to a disco taking over at that point. I have noticed that those of my age 'did' country dancing at school so know what I'm talking about, the younger the group the more explaining needed. But also Lancashire gigs seem easier than Cheshire.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: The Sandman
Date: 03 May 16 - 12:48 PM

I recently did a support 45 minutes for Martin Carthy at TEIGNMOUTH, THE Venue was packed, Martin was very good.
good performers who were well practised, the gig was well promoted, that is the secret of success in 2016.
performers fumbling around with bits of paper well never attract anyone unless they have a fez and are called Tommy Cooper.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Howard Jones
Date: 04 May 16 - 09:00 AM

I too am from the north west and my ceilidh band gets plenty of wedding bookings. True, they can be variable, but for the most part they are enjoyable for the reasons Will Fly gave. I agree that sharing with a disco can be a problem, but usually because the disco is superfluous. We find ourselves playing until 11 or midnight to a crowded dance floor comprising a good cross-section of guests, then the disco takes over and there are just the bride and half a dozen girls dancing around handbags. A ceilidh involves everyone in a way a disco can't.

PTA and similar events do seem to have dropped off, partly because of a lack of confidence from organisers who seem reluctant to take a financial risk. However there's no shortage of weddings and birthday parties to keep us busy.

I am saddened by the decline of the folk clubs. Singarounds have their place but I deplore the attitude of those who won't go to a guest night because they'd prefer to perform themselves. Having the opportunity to play at the same event as a leading professional, and to have them in your audience, is a great incentive to improve your skills. However I also dislike that so many guest clubs have turned into concerts, with no opportunity for floor singers. I realise there may be concerns about quality, but in the old days there was no shortage of competent floor singers at any of the clubs I went to, and you had to earn your right to a spot. There were also singers' clubs where you could build up experience, but these too set a fairly high standard, and whilst no one was discouraged from performing the example set by other performers meant it was natural to aim high.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 04 May 16 - 09:47 AM

ceilidh bands...

One major branch of my family are devout evangelical christians.

2 summers ago we had to attend a wedding in liverpool.
It was a big reception at a posh country club.
The largish congregations of 2 evangelical ministries joined up in attendance.

The main event was the ceilidh band which all the teenagers and young 20 somethings looked forward to in keen anticipation,
and joined in most enthusiastically knowing all the dance routines.

It was explained to me that ceilidhs were a serious part of their church social culture,
and events the youth could get a little rowdy at whilst meeting & getting to know potential marriage partners under parental controlled conditions....


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 04 May 16 - 09:59 AM

Thanks HJ and many others for thoughtful and useful advise.

I like this:

"meeting & getting to know potential marriage partners under parental controlled conditions.... "

Social dance has always been versions of this delightful comment.

We did a Ceilidh for Asylum Seekers in Manchester. I did question the sensitivity of a Ceilidh for what could be a largely Muslim audience but was reassured that it would be Ok. And it certainly was. It was not a fund raiser for supporters but a fun raiser for Asylum Seekers! Calling to a collection of people from Afghanistan, the Gulf, Rwanda, Libia, Syria, Iraq and other places was a bit of a challenge but once they got "The Swing of it" much fun was had and the band were cheered and clapped to the doors! Not everybody joined in mut I thin most did.

The point :- The power of English Social Dance to bring pleasure to who ever joins in - and most people will given the right circumstances.

Strictly? Not a patch on Top couples down!


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Harmonium Hero
Date: 04 May 16 - 10:01 AM

Hmmm...interesting comments from Mo and Howard. It seems as though there are mixed experiences at weddings even within the North West. The band I have done most of the weddings with was Cheshire based. In the old days ('70s), the dance was usually a seperate thing from the reception. These events used to be in Church halls, Co-op halls, pub reception rooms and such, whereas now they are often at specialist venues, which offer a package deal. These places will spend money on swanky decor, and extensions which allow them to cater for bigger parties, but don't bother about how booked bads get in and out with equipment, or have any sort of designated performance area, let alone an actual stage. And, unlike the old days, the dancing usually follows on from the reception. Our experience in recent years has been typically as follows:
Arrive in time to set up for the alleged starting time; unload instruments and amplification - soetimes having to carry ewquipment through kitchens and so on - find that the reception is running over, and sit in lobby or corridor surrounded by gear; every 15 or 20 minutes, the best man comes out to tell us "they're on the sweets - do you want a drink?" ..... "they're on the coffees' you ok for drinks?" ...."they're doing the speeches. would you like a drink?".... If we accepted all these drinks, he'd have us as drunk as himself. Eventually, people start to drift out, and we then have to battle our way in, with people standing around chatting, and waiters trying to clear tables and clear the dancing space. We end up playing - in a corner or up against the wall - for an hor or an hour and a half, then have to clear our stuff out while being deafened by the disco. Like I said, I don't miss it.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 May 16 - 10:50 AM

Interesting stuff here. Just to continue on the wedding ceilidh theme a bit...

I always have a serious conversation with the groom or bride (usually the bride) about 7-10 days before the event, in which we agree things like:

Setup time - we allow an hour to set up and do a sound check, but there may be special arrangements for setting up which don't intrude on eating, speech time, etc., and I agree these in advance.

Dance and break periods - very often 8pm-11pm, but sometimes a little later, a little earlier or a little shorter. Never longer - else we charge more!

Sure, we know that speeches will overrun quite a lot, but we always prepare for this by checking what facilities are available for waiting in attendance - and we don't worry if it's all half an hour adrift. That's life, it's their day, not ours, and we're being very well paid. By the way, you can bet your boots that, on the rare occasion when you're late, the speeches will have finished on time!

We always check on exit and entrance facilities first. It's very rare that we have a problem. Many village halls have backstage facilities or alternative entrances where we can get gear in without interfering with the celebrations. At a recent very posh hotel recently (the East Sussex National near Uckfield), the hotel duty manager and staff organised a dressing room for us right next to the wedding, helped us with gear and parking and gave us the nod when the floor stage area was clear for setting up. Extremely efficient and helpful.

As far as stage space is concerned, the rule seems to be that village halls have stages and everywhere else doesn't. We say that all we need is a suitable floor area and a power point, and we're ready to go, but I always check band location and area with the client in advance. Sometimes I'm actually asked for detailed advice on what size marquee they should hire for the number of expected guests, floor coverings, table layout, etc.

In short, good communication is everything. Occasionally we accompany a disco. I've no problem with that and, quite often, the disco is run by our drummer, who's also a DJ (very handy, that). Yes, like all bands we do get the very, very occasional bum gig, but I can't recall one in the last 3 or 4 years.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 04 May 16 - 11:12 AM

.. here's my uninformed though reasonably educated guess...

The profiteering conveyor belt wedding industry being what it is...

.. ceilidh bands are just another item on the wedding menu checklist,
to be ticked in the conformist heady rush to squander as much as possible in planning that 'special day to remember'...

Simply another of the over expensive 'Keeping up with the Joneses' wedding day conventions that families feel pressurised to comply with...

No more meaning or worth for the newly weds involved than that...???

At least the very religious contingent of our family actually seem to genuinely value and integrate ceilidh into their living culture...?????


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 May 16 - 11:28 AM

Not my experience at all, PFR - as it happens. Most of the people who book us for dancing really want their evening to go with a swing and want to involve as many people in the dance as possible - which usually happens in ceilidhs. As I said earlier, the dances we do bring both sexes and all age groups together. Men dancing with women, men with men and women with women - young and old. Sometimes very proficient, sometimes making complete arses of themselves, and yet having fun. And we always get lots of compliments on the music we play - very often from people who's first real experience of "folk music" is hearing us playing it in their faces, and who are quite surprised as to how good it can sound.

Many of the people who book us also have very definite ideas of what they want and specify "lots of Scottish music" or even name particular dances that they want called.

So my cup is half full, not half empty. By the way, I also think that too much money is spent on weddings, but most of it goes on the venue and eating and other matters. The band cost is usually a comparatively small part of their overall bill, but I don't think we're booked to tick boxes - as I said earlier, most of our bookings come from word of mouth...


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 04 May 16 - 11:55 AM

It's ok Will - I don't mind being corrected on my pontifications...
.. especially if musicians are getting decent paid work..

I usually tend to be a bit sarcastic and critical of 'religion'..
but the atmosphere at that evangelical wedding reception Ceilidh
was just so warm and [dare i say] inspiring
to see a real close knit community letting their hair down and enjoying 'their' live music....

Naturally I've a chip on my shoulder about the corporate wedding industry..
we spent absolute legal minimum on the wedding license and registrar,
.. then several pints and a pub meal..

Same with funerals, I don't want a single penny wasted more than necessary disposing of my remains,
I'd rather anyone left caring about my memory spent any spare cash on hiring a good band for a party afterwards... 😎


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 May 16 - 01:36 PM

When I got married - back in the '60s, we had a simple church ceremony then went back to my in-laws' house for a bite to eat and to cut the cake - just family and a few friends. I played boogie-woogie piano duets with the best man - and that was it!

And a natural burial ground and a cardboard box for me - overlooked by Jill, the windmill on Clayton Down where I work as a volunteer steward.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 May 16 - 04:04 AM

We do get a few weddings where they've clearly bought the full package without really thinking it through - hog-roast, tick; chocolate fountain, tick; disco, tick; ceilidh, tick. However usually we're booked because they know what they want (and often the bride and groom first will come to see us play at another gig).

Yes, the logistics can be difficult at some venues (and not just for weddings) but you get quite adept at setting up and soundchecking quickly. It does help to communicate both with the bride and groom and the hotel staff in charge of the event. If there's also disco, chat to the DJ and work out how we can both set up without interfering with each other. Attitude is important, and you'll find it easier if you show you're willing to be part of a team to make the whole event go smoothly, rather than behaving as if you're the most important element - you're not.

And everyone knows that weddings never run on time. Take a book. At one gig the organiser had everything planned to the minute - fat chance of that working! Our worst example was when we were booked to play from 8-11;30 and finally got on at 11. We played through a bit later than we'd contracted to, and it was a good evening.

As Will says, it's their evening and you go with the flow. The overwhelming majority of weddings are fun to do, and the audience clearly enjoy themselves, and often say so. I feel it's something of a privilege to be able to contribute to someone's very special day. When you get the occasional bad one, well that's life, and you've still been paid.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: The Sandman
Date: 05 May 16 - 04:09 AM

I think the 2016 folk scene would be improved if there were more well run guest booking folk clubs, or guest booking venues where the emphasis is on listening and participating, we need fewer venues where the music is treated as background music and fewer singers clubs [if those singers clubs have a low standard] where people have not practised their songs.
the other alternative[ i would like to see]are singers clubs tht are b better organised, so that a weak performer is followed by a couple of competent performers.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 May 16 - 05:58 AM

If people run events at which anybody can turn up and sing some wont be very good. One extremely experienced teacher once said to me that the one feature of good practice was to find 20 ways of praise to every one of criticism.

Singarounds are a group of friends singing songs together for the sheer pleasure of doing so.

We have explored why folk clubs in the 60s & 70s were so succesful:

Here

and I think we have concluded that the social and musical circumstances have changed and for those and other reasons many folk clubs have disappeared.

This thread seems to show that other kinds of folk events are doing well. It is my contention that more people would go to and enjoy folk music if the people in the the various aspects of folk thought about the others and shared experiences.

One simple suggest would be semi pro and pro musicians giving a shout out for Folk Clubs at concerts and festivals - nothing too specific maybe - just find you local Folk Club via the Web!

Best wishes - vote early and vote responsibly.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST
Date: 05 May 16 - 07:18 AM

"One simple suggest would be semi pro and pro musicians giving a shout out for Folk Clubs at concerts and festivals"

On the other hand if the local club organisers can't be arsed to get their publicity to these events do they deserve a "shout out"?


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Vic Smith
Date: 05 May 16 - 07:49 AM

1] Chronological listings for folk, country & world music song and dance events in and around Sussex - THE SUSSEX FOLK GUIDE:-
http://whatson.brighton.co.uk/folk/

2] On-line facsimile of THE FOLK DIARY - the bi-monthly paper listings magazine for events in and around Sussex:-
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~tinvic/fd.htm

3] THE FOLK DIARY Facebook page which enables updates on events in the paper edition and other information that organisers and enthusiasts want to share with others in our area:-
https://www.facebook.com/groups/folkdiary/

I am the webmaster for these three sites

4] List of the regular song and/or dance tune sessions in the area:-
http://www.lewessaturdayfolkclub.org/LAFC/Sessions.php

Bryan Creer is the webmaster for this site. We realise that these four sites are not a comprehensive coverage of folk and roots music in our area - but at least it shows that there is lots and lots going on.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 05 May 16 - 09:04 AM

2016
From: GUEST
Date: 05 May 16 - 07:18 AM
".....

On the other hand if the local club organisers can't be arsed to get their publicity to these events do they deserve a "shout out"?"

Yes, they do.

We could also ask -Does the concert audience deserve to be spoon-fed the information about local clubs?

Yes, they do.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: TheSnail
Date: 05 May 16 - 09:14 AM

Maybe organisers just need a bit of encouragement from time to time instead of being told what a lousy job they are making of it.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 05 May 16 - 09:32 AM

Good will Folks, good will

Les


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST,dunelmian
Date: 05 May 16 - 02:17 PM

I run a singers' club in Durham and we are 47 this autumn, not only that but a weekly raffle enables us to book the occasional guest. 'State of Folk 2016' in the north east is good with Dave Minikin's club in Newcastle, the Brit in Darlington as well as us in Durham good examples for all.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 05 May 16 - 02:48 PM

The organisation Folk21 tries to improve things for small clubs who book guests :

"West Midlands regional group, which now has some 20 affiliated venues, the organisers are pursuing a number of different projects and ideas but there are two advanced projects currently. The first is the production of 10,000 flyers with positive photographs of busy folk guest nights with decent audience age ranges and eye catching graphics on one side, and a list of all the venues their websites and contact details and the evenings they run on printed on the other side. The print cost for the flyers is very competitive, and the intention is to distribute them at festivals, arts centres, concerts and other music venues, offices, information centres, hotels, restaurants, libraries, universities colleges etc -- in an effort to attract people who do not currently visit the smaller venues that book folk acts....."

...printing 10,000 flyers with positive photographs of busy folk guest nights


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Howard Jones
Date: 05 May 16 - 03:08 PM

Overall I think the state of folk in the UK is currently pretty healthy. There are plenty of young people getting involved, and the standard of musicianship is higher than ever before. There are lots of festivals, concerts and house concerts.

Ceilidhs are doing pretty well, both inside and outside the folk scene, and there is considerable interest in other forms of dance such as Eurobal. Morris is thriving, in the sense that there are lots of sides, although I think the standard in many cases is disappointing. The older-style dance clubs may be dying out, literally, but that is perhaps to be expected. Music sessions are popular and again the standard is often high.

The only problem area is the folk club. It occurs to me that those that are succeeding are those which still follow the old model of offering frequent professional guests and which maintain a high standard of floor-singers. Unfortunately many clubs do not follow this model. I am unsure whether it is an unwillingness to take the financial risk or because of the difficulty of building up a base of competent resident performers to underpin it.

Perhaps this isn't really a problem and is simply the inevitable decline of one format which no longer meet's audiences' needs and is being replaced as the new generation goes its own way.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 06 May 16 - 04:27 AM

Just a minor point but the number of suitable venues seems to have dropped dramatically of er the last 10 or 20 years. Rooms above pubs seem to have gone and if you are chucked out - often without explanation it can be very difficult to find another - is thisa common problem?


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 06 May 16 - 01:25 PM

"Rooms above pubs seem to have gone ...."

I'd heard it was because of the expense of upgrading for fire regs & insurance.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: GUEST
Date: 07 May 16 - 03:27 AM

More commonly so they can ram in more tables and flog more pub fodder.


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Mo the caller
Date: 07 May 16 - 10:40 AM

Les said "Singarounds are a group of friends singing songs together for the sheer pleasure of doing so."

And sessions too. And even if you aren't a soloist it's great to join in the chorus, or play along with the tune.

Tom Hughes arranges occasional events in Chester, and there are usually good players there (e.g. members of the Time Bandits ), who play the sort of music I enjoy - Playford, English , etc.
Last Bagpipe Day there were a couple already in the pub who were pleasantly surprised that 'Folk Music' could sound like that. Of course Tom had them trying his beginner Bagpipes and his rauschpfeife .


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Subject: RE: The State of Folk in the UK in 2016
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 10 May 16 - 04:56 AM

Hi Mo, good to see you are still fighting the good fight for live folk music and dance.

Here's a useful site for dance tunes:


BITS


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