Late August 2004
Here's a further bulletin of club news and related stuff. I've had a great month or so for live music since the last of these newsletters: some hot nights at the Black Swan, of course, but also an excellent weekend at one of my favourite festivals, Warwick , plus an enjoyable day at the Saltburn Folk Festival. I hope you too have been making the most of the summer festival season!
- FAREWELL PHIL CERNY. Phil Cerny received a rousing send-off earlier this month with a Full House for his farewell bash. Around 15 floor performers gave us a superb first half, then Phil himself was on top form for the final hour − indeed people were saying afterwards it was the best they had ever seen him perform − talk about rising to the occasion! Thanks to everyone who contributed to the evening, including all of you who chipped in for the presents for Phil (two old prints of the Black Swan Inn) and for my 50th birthday. It really is much appreciated.
- ATLANTIC PASSAGES is the title of Phil's farewell CD, a reflection of his own transatlantic life and the Anglo-American folk songs which underpin his repertoire. 18 numbers, simply but expertly recorded by Chris Euesden and with packaging which puts many a commercial release to shame, it is a fine memento of this good friend. Complimentary copies were issued to everyone at the Farewell Night, on top of which Phil has donated 50 copies to the club for sale. At £10 each, with ALL proceeds going to club funds, this could give our finances a healthy boost. So, if you don't already have a copy, do both yourself and the club a favour and pick one up on your next visit! All of which leads nicely to the next item:
- FINANCIAL REPORT. The club's idiosyncratic financial year runs from February 1st, so we recently completed our half-year and I have been looking at the books. The bottom line is that we made a small loss (£72) in the six months to the end of July, which is mildly disappointing but as a proportion (0.8%) of total expenditure of £8,800 it is hardly significant. A dozen more customers at the club (or half a dozen more at NCEM concerts) and we'd have broken even! Setting door receipts against artists' fees, guest nights did in fact work out even, while concerts and singers nights made surpluses, but not quite big enough to cover administrative overheads such as printing, advertising and postage.
The situation would have been very different without generous third-party support for one of our less well-attended NCEM concerts. Otherwise we could have made a big loss, eating into our cash reserves. As it is, we have around £1,900 in funds, which sounds a fair sum until you realise that we are contracted to paying out over £7,500 in artists' fees alone over the next nine months. Which brings me on to:
- TICKET PRICES. To keep the club solvent I have to hold our door prices under constant review. Artists' fee expectations keep increasing, particularly at the top end of the professional club circuit, and overheads such as postage continue to go up. For a long time our maximum door price at the Black Swan was £6, then it went up to £7, and now I fear it must rise to £8 for a few of the "Premier League" stars, starting with Martin Carthy in November and continuing with Dick Gaughan at Christmas and Vin Garbutt next year. Rest assured that there will still be some guest nights priced at £5 and plenty at £6 or £7. Also, there continues to be a concessionary rate for retired people, students, children and the unemployed.
What's your opinion? Do you think club nights are overpriced or under priced? Do we offer good value for money? How important is the door price in your decision whether or not to come along? Any and all feedback would be appreciated . For myself, I'll make just one observation. I know next to nothing about football but happen to live near York City FC's ground. When I moved there in 1988 I seem to recall that the price over the turnstiles was about the same as our top whack at the club (around £3). Nowadays you are asked to pay £13 for 90 minutes of football as opposed to £7 (soon to be £8) max. for 120+ minutes of live music!
- MORRIS DANCERS WANTED. The Minster Strays are a lively mixed Morris side, dancing the Cotswold and Border styles at venues around the York / Ryedale / Howardian Hills area. You may have seen them in action at the City of York Folk Day in May. They are now keen to recruit new dancers. Previous experience is not required, as full tuition will be given. They'd also love to hear from musicians. They will be practicing on Monday nights, 8pm to 10pm , beginning 6th September, at a venue near York . If you fancy keeping fit (and having fun) the Morris way, contact Gez Pegram on 01904 415443, firstname.lastname@example.org , or Bob Missin on 01904 738459, email@example.com .
- YOUNG FIDDLERS' MEET IN YORK . I now have more details of the Fiddle Workshop Weekend mentioned in E-News 21. It is being run by Yorkshire Dales Workshops and is for fiddle players aged 8 − 15. It takes place over 16/17 October at the York Steiner School , Fulford Cross, with tutors Robin Shepherd and Carolyn Francis covering a range of British folk fiddle styles. The organisers do point out that it is not suitable for complete newcomers − participants must have at least "basic knowledge of the instrument and be able to play in G, D and A". If you know of a young fiddle player who might be interested, the contact for further information is 01756 799367 / firstname.lastname@example.org , the price is £48 per person and the bookings deadline is 17th September.
- RUBY PAUL aka JANE EDWARDS. An old friend of the Black Swan has recently resurfaced after a long absence, doing a couple of strong floor spots at Singers Nights. Jane Edwards used to perform regularly at our meetings and as a booked guest she sang traditional songs and played her harp around the wider club and festival circuit, usually with then partner Adrian Spendlow. Now she has switched her emphasis to her own songwriting, in a sophisticated contemporary style mostly accompanied at the keyboard. To underline her change of direction Jane has adopted the stage name Ruby Paul and can be enjoyed this coming Saturday, 28th August, at the City Screen Basement Bar in York, tickets just £3 at the Box Office.
- fROOTS ON TRACK. For many years I sold Folk Roots (now fRoots ) at the club and still get asked from time to time where it can be obtained in York. The answer is at Track Records on High Ousegate, and sometimes also at HMV Records on Coney Street.