Late August 2010
I must begin by apologising for the exceptionally long interval since the last Newsletter, which was in mid June. This is squarely down to me. While Chris, Eddie, Stan, Tracey and others have done sterling work in keeping the club running during my illness, the Newsletter is very much my personal project and I am afraid I have simply been too unwell to compose one until now.
I have managed to keep my day-job going during chemotherapy, but the side effects have left me increasingly tired and weak in the evenings and at weekends. The Bank Holiday break has at last given me an opportunity to sit down at the PC and compose something.
My course of chemotherapy has another month to run, then I look forward to a gradual return to normal, though I will have to have another operation before Christmas.
AN ENJOYABLE AND FAIRLY SUCCESSFUL SUMMER SEASON. Almost all folk clubs either close down completely during the high summer season or just operate on a Singers Night basis. Being located in a major tourist city, the Black Swan has always bucked that policy and chanced a normal programme right through July and August. Happily, this summer has been a generally successful one. Turnouts on a few nights have been a bit disappointing, but others have drawn good numbers and we even had one full house.
Ill health meant I didn’t get to the club every Thursday, but I gather the musical standard has been gratifyingly high. Amongst those artists I did see, I was particularly impressed by The Carrivick Sisters, Hannah James & Sam Sweeney and Cloudstreet.
COMING IN SEPTEMBER. The month ahead has five Thursdays, which means two Singers Nights rather than one, the first this coming Thursday (2nd September) and another at month end (30th September).
Meanwhile the guest artist line-up could hardly be more varied: a lively traditional music duo, a top-class acoustic bluesman and an impressive singers-songwriter. The Askew Sisters, Emily & Hazel, (9th September) were due to visit us last autumn, but then swine ‘flu struck. In the interim they have released a new CD which has been picking up glowing reviews, as do their live performances, which are full of vigour, enthusiasm and youthful ability. They mostly perform English traditional songs and tunes, playing melodeon and fiddle.
Euro-bluesman Hans Theessink (16th September) has visited us several times over the last three decades and never fails to deliver the goods. An exceptionally talented guitarist and singer, combining self-penned songs in the blues idiom with classic blues covers, he is based in Vienna and is rated as one of the most creative blues musicians on the continent. I’m always impressed by how he generates an intimate, compelling stage presence from the very first notes of his set.
Over the last three or four years it has been a real pleasure to watch Roger Davies (23rd September) develop from a tentative floor singer into a major league figure on the Yorkshire folk scene. His defiantly locally rooted songwriting and deceptively straightforward performance style are both excellent and he really deserves wider national recognition. If you want to know more, there is a lengthy cover feature in the new issue of Tykes’ News (on sale at club meetings, £1.50). Roger’s last Black Swan appearance was an enjoyable full house and this return visit (which falls on his birthday) promises to be even better.
The music continues into October with a Sunday special from Anglo-Irish-Breton folk rockers The Churchfitters (3rd October), which has already sold getting on for half its tickets at www.wegottickets.com . This prompts me to remind you that tickets for all club guest nights up to Christmas can now be booked online at this user-friendly site.
CONCERTS IN PROSPECT. We are now planning publicity for our autumn series of four concerts at the National Centre for Early Music. Booking has opened for all of these, on 01904 658338 or online at www.ncem.co.uk, and the NCEM’s new brochure has just been published (with three members of Malinky in the cover photo).
Our first concert features the “dancing harp and blazing guitar” of Máire Ní Chathasaigh & Chris Newman on Monday 11th October, with Rebekah Findlay (as played a second time on Mike Harding’s Radio 2 show a couple of weeks ago) doing the support. Later in the month, Scottish band Malinky revisit us in their new four-piece line-up, on Wednesday 27th, with support from a young Edinburgh-based singer Chloe Matharu.
KAN is the new Celtic band put together by Irish flute maestro Brian Finnegan (Flook) and Scottish fiddle genius Aidan O’Rourke (Lau, Blazin Fiddles). They visit us on Tuesday 9th November. This event will form part of this year’s Leeds Irish Gathering and we have invited the Irish Arts Foundation to suggest a suitable support act.
Finally, Vin Garbutt returns to the NCEM on Wednesday 1st December, with support from who else but our very own Stan Graham.
FINANCIAL REPORT. We reached the half way point in our unusual financial year at the end of July, so I have been looking at the books. We are down just over £1,000 in that six month period. This deficit is mainly due to a disappointing spring concert season at NCEM, where we lost just over £900 over 4 events. The NCEM is a splendid venue for us, but the overheads are high (venue & PA hire, box office commission, PRS fees, artist meals and accommodation) and last spring simply not enough of you came through the door to cover artists’ fees plus all those extra costs. Let’s hope we do better in our next concert season.
Other expenses included £380 of additional PA equipment and a backlog of £190 in website hosting costs, which had not been paid since we registered our current domain name several years ago. General publicity and administrative costs accounted for a further £460, and even though club guest nights, singers nights and folk weekend all generated surpluses (the latter ring-fenced to support next year’s event), they were nowhere near big enough to offset all those losses and expenses. Let me know if you’d like to see a full breakdown.
Average attendance figures for both guest nights and singers nights were virtually the same this year as in the full 12 months of last year, but as indicated above average NCEM sales per event were well down at 122, compared with 149 in 2009.
BLACK SWAN INN UPDATE. If you’ve been down to the Black Swan in recent works you’ll have noticed further repairs and improvements as our very active landlord Andy Cross continues his refurbishment programme. Indoors, the electric wiring has been renewed and there is now a stove in the Wolfe Room fireplace which will take the chill off frosty winter nights. Outdoors, flat roofs and rotten window frames have been renewed and the whole building repainted, a new storage building has been erected, and the car park has had potholes filled in and new road markings painted.
YORKSHIRE PUDDING DAY. Overruns on the above work scuppered Andy’s plans to celebrate Yorkshire Day on 1st August (as trailed in the last E-News) so instead the Black Swan Inn is having a Yorkshire Pudding Day this coming Saturday, 4th September. Centrepiece is a Yorkshire pudding cooking competition (with our Stan as one of the judges!), but there will also be a number of craft and food stalls and other activities, plus live music in one of the marquees originally bought for Folk Weekend. I understand that several of our club residents will be amongst those performing. Events kick off around noon and all proceeds from the day are going to Help For Heroes.
MEET CHARLIE IPCAR. The Maine, USA, folksinger and song researcher Charlie Ipcar is spending a few days in York next month, as guests of Pete Outhart, Ron Akehurst and Martin Bartlett, aka Two Black Sheep & A Stallion. There’s a chance to hear them all sing at the Golden Fleece on Pavement in York on Saturday 11th September, when TBS have organised an informal concert in the upstairs function room. It begins at 8.30pm, with nibbles provided. There is no fixed admission charge but donations towards Charlie’s expenses would be gratefully received. There may be limited opportunities for other people to sing as well. Let Pete know on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to perform or just to reserve a seat, as space is limited, “although I think anyone turning up may get in” he says.
Charlie Ipcar is currently researching the work of poet and folk song collector Cicely Fox-Smith and the following week he and Jim Saville (an occasional Black Swan visitor from West Yorkshire) present a workshop on her at the Otley Folk Festival. Two songs on the new Two Black Sheep album carry an Ipcar co-credit, where they describe him as “a great recoverer and assembler of old sings”.
NEWS FROM TONY AND DAVID. Tony Morris writes to tell me he has set up a new website devoted to the Native American style flute, which as many of you will know is Tony’s instrument of choice these days. It is at www.amerynd.co.uk. Also busy this summer setting up a website has been David Kidman, who asks me to point you towards www.davidkidman.co.uk, where you will find pages devoted to his various roles as singer, compere, reviewer and poet.. Also, for an unsettling video of Tony (disembodied face only) reading his poem Road Rage, have a look at www.youtube.com/watch?v=16GByGF3ZC8
TAKE A BEATING WITH SUSIE. Another club resident with a website to promote is Susie Fox. In her case it is devoted to her work as a bodhran tutor. She asks “do you want to learn the drum, but are not sure where to start? Or perhaps you want to join a session when the musicians are playing down at the pub? Or are you a folk singer who wants to add a bodhran accompaniment to song!” Susie offers both individual tuition and group workshops. She has been teaching the bodhran for several years, she says, tofolk groups at festivals or in her home. “One lesson will teach the basics and point you towards suitable repertoire. After that, you may want more lessons to refine technique, or you may want to go it alone.” Have a look at www.bodhranlessons.co.uk for full details, or ring her on 0771 929 5029 (after 8pm, please).
PROBABLY THE SMALLEST FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD. This is how the organisers describe the Bielby Music Festival, taking place from 5pm to 10pm this coming Saturday at Firgrove House in the village of Bielby, south of Pocklington. Artists performing include Pink Cadillac, Soundsphere and (fresh from judging Yorkshire puds at the Black Swan) Stan Graham. There will also be a special guest appearance by Snake Davis. It is a fundraiser for Macmillan Nurses, with entry £10 adults or £5 children. There will be a bar and toilets but bring your own food, the organisers say. Find out more from Ian Simpson on 01759 318328.
EPIC STORYTELLING. If you enjoy adult storytelling, make a note of Saturday 11th September when Tim Ralphs and Simon Heywood perform one of the oldest stories in human history, the Epic of Gilgamesh, at Explore York Library Learning Centre (aka York Central Library in ordinary speak). It is a 7.30pm start and tickets at £5 can be booked on York 552828.
OTHER GIGS & EVENTS IN YORK
MORE FOLK CONCERTS AT NCEM. As well as our own four concerts, the NCEM autumn season includes two attractive folk events they are promoting themselves. June Tabor sings on Saturday 25th September, with accompaniment from Andy Cutting and Mark Emerson, and two months later, Friday 26th November, The Alistair Anderson Band performs his Steel Skies suite. The NCEM also has its usual excellent blend of classical, jazz and world music events, and even a country music evening with Sara Watkins, of Nickel Creek fame (12th November). Find out full details at www.ncem.co.uk.
KATE IS GRAND. A reminder that the Grand Opera House in York has Kate Rusby in concert on Sunday 19th September. There is little else of folk interest this year, but note that Richard Thompson (16th January) and Fairport Convention (1st February) are both due in town early next year. See www.grandoperahouseyork.org.uk.
FEW HAPPENINGS IN STONEBOW HOUSE. Both The Duchess and the newly refurbished Fibbers have few folk/roots guests this autumn. Ade Edmondson & The Bad Shepherds are at the former on 13th October, with Shooglenifty to follow on 20th November, while Martin Simpson makes his annual visit to Fibbers on 10th October.
UNION CENTRAL AT THE BLACK SWAN. York’s favourite bluegrass outfit, Alison Krauss tribute band Union Central, are back at the Black Swan Inn on Sunday 26th September, doors open 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start. Reserve tickets with Phil Quin on York 783029.
HAPPENINGS FURTHER AFIELD
NEW SEASON AT SELBY. Selby’s Town Hall Arts Centre kicks off its new season this coming Friday with the aforementioned Martin Simpson. Future folk concerts include Peggy Seeger (16th October), Beoga on 25th November (a Thursday, but only a Singers Night for us) and the Bella Hardy Trio (10th December). There is also blues (the mighty Ian Siegal), world music, comedy and more. See www.selbytownhall.co.uk.
AND AT SALTAIRE LIVE. Saltaire Live resume operations after the summer break with Koshka, fronted by the incredible fiddle playing of Oleg Ponomarev, on Sunday 12th September at Victoria Hall, Saltaire. Le Vent du Nord appear on 8th October at Otley Courthouse, with more events to follow in Saltaire and Bradford. See www.saltairelive.co.uk.
AND AT POCKLINGTON. The lively Pocklington Arts Centre kicks off its folk strand in fine style with Irish veterans Altan on Sunday 19th September, but thereafter there is slightly less mainstream folk/roots than usual: Ralph McTell (3rd November) and Albion Christmas (14th December) stand out. There is plenty of other good stuff though: singer/songwriters, blues men, country and comedy. See www.pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
FESTIVALS IN OTLEY AND HELMSLEY. The 19th Otley Folk Festival takes place over the weekend 17th-19th September, with the usual mix of national headline acts and lots of local and regional favourites and a plethora of dance sides. See www.otleyfolkfestival.com.
The following weekend, 24th-26th, sees another Helmsley Folk Weekend. This looks particularly attractive, having been programmed by Kate Bramley. She writes:
Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies have been asked to host a “Friends and Favourites Festival” at the arts centre in the picturesque North Yorkshire town of Helmsley on September 24th to 26th. They’ve invited acts from around the world with whom they have a special relationship, and/or have a high regard for, including James Keelaghan, Edwina Hayes, Emily Smith, Robin Laing, Shona Mooney and The Carrivick Sisters. It will be a great weekend of concerts, workshops, singarounds, dances and sessions. The Friday night concert will see the official release of the new Jez Lowe album, and he and the rest of the band will be popping up throughout the weekend, formally and informally.
Our own Eddie Affleck and David Swann are both roped in as concert MCs. For full details, go to www.helmsleyarts.co.uk.
Rather unfortunately, there is also a Folk n Roots Festival the same weekend as Helmsley, at the New Inn, Cropton, near Pickering. This one has a more diverse line-up, spanning blues, country, jazz, spoken word and dance as well as folk. Amongst the folk artists appearing are Rebekah Findlay, Richard Grainger, Keith Kendrick and Yorkshire Coast Morris. See www.rootsnorth.co.uk for more details.
That’s your lot for now! Hopefully I’ll be back around the end of September.