Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 101

Mini Newsletter June 2009

I’ve just returned to York after a week’s holiday and have decided to issue a mini newsletter straight away, mainly to exhort more support for tomorrow’s Whippersnapper concert.

  1. ENJOY A MUSICAL EVENING WITH WHIPPERSNAPPER. There are still loads of tickets left for the concert tomorrow night (Monday 15th) at the National Centre for Early Music, and there will be no problem in just turning up to pay on the door.
    Whippersnapper was the brainchild of legendary fiddle player Dave Swarbrick following his departure from Fairport Convention. Recruiting ex-Dando Shaft members Martin Jenkins and Kevin Dempsey and gifted youngster Chris Leslie, Dave came up with one of the must-see bands on the British acoustic music scene in the later 1980s. They commanded a stunning array of instruments with awesome virtuosity and helped to redefine English folk music after the heyday of loud electric folk-rock. Band members went their separate ways in the 1990s, with Chris (for example) joining Swarbrick’s old band Fairport, while Dave himself revived his duo partnership with Martin Carthy. However, following Swarb’s near-miraculous return to good health in 2007, Whippersnapper decided to get back together for occasional short tours and twenty years down the line they have rekindled their old spirit and indeed they are said to be playing better than ever. The line-up includes fiddles, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, mandocello, mandola, cittern, whistle and flute and the material spans self-penned and traditional tunes and songs.
    As an added attraction, the opening set tomorrow night comes from highly regarded local singer and guitarist, Graham Hodge. Graham was unable to attend the York Folk Weekend this year, so this concert spot is doubly welcome. Doors open at 7pm, Graham is on stage at 7.30pm, then Whippersnapper do the first of two sets at 8.05pm. Eddie Affleck acts as Master of Ceremonies.
    Surprisingly, tickets have not sold particularly well and in fact we still need around 30 more of you in the audience just to cover our costs and pay the musicians their minimum fee. Quite why such an exceptional act should draw such a muted response I cannot fully explain. You tell me! Certainly, the Recession is now biting (see item 4 below) and the fact that this concert was arranged too late to feature in the NCEM’s own glossy brochure has also had an impact.
    Anyway, if the above tickles your musical taste buds, do come along to Walmgate tomorrow night, pay on the door (£ 14 full / £ 12 concessions) and enjoy a great evening’s music.

  2. NATHAN ROGERS ON THURSDAY. Looking ahead to Thursday evening (18th June) our debut club guest at the Black Swan Inn is Nathan Rogers. I’ve not seen this Canadian singer/songwriter before but was sufficiently intrigued by what I read and heard to give him a booking. Of course the big selling point is that he is the son of the late Canadian folk legend Stan Rogers, but in truth he was only a child when his father passed away and Nathan has absorbed a great many other influences along the way, from blues music, country and rock as well as folk.
    What Nathan does share with his father, his uncle Garnet Rogers, and such other Canadian heroes as James Keelaghan, the Tanglefoot crew and David Francey, is a lyrical concern with telling stories in song about real people, places and events. He has a velvet baritone voice, plays a neat guitar (a handcrafted Laskin) and also includes foot percussion and Native American style throat chanting in what is said to be a dynamic live performance. Read more about him at and sample songs such as “Hibbing” and “Three Fishers” at then come along to the club on Thursday. Tickets are £ 7 (£ 6 concessions) on the door or bookable beforehand at

  3. JUDY & KENNY RETURN. We move from newcomer to old favourites the following Thursday at the Black Swan, June 25th, with Judy Dinning & Kenny Speirs. Actually, this is their first duo performance for us: they were last here as one half of the band Real Time in 2005, while before that we enjoyed Kenny’s able guitar playing and singing several times with the John Wright Band. Judy first demonstrated her remarkable singing voice at the Black Swan almost exactly 25 years ago (May 1984) with her then musical partner Dave Smith. Later visits have included the all-woman band Lucky Bags and a classic line-up of Jez Lowe’s Bad Pennies. This one is also £ 7 (£ 6 concessions), on the door or in advance from WeGotTickets.

  4. WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG – CONTINUED. A modest number of you responded to my appeal for feedback in E-News 100 over declining audience numbers at club meetings. There were almost no common threads to your responses, which ranged from personal commitments to changing interests to unfamiliarity with artists. There were a few comments about programming and presentation but these sometimes cancelled each other out – for example one person wanted fewer floor spots while another felt that local singers sometimes outperformed the booked guests! When I catch up with my email backlog I’ll reply individually as appropriate.
    Nobody explicitly mentioned the Recession but I can’t help but feel that this is at the root of our problem. Other club organisers and concert promoters have also reported a marked falling off in attendance levels this year, and I have heard rumours that this summer’s folk festivals are often struggling to match last year’s ticket sales. Artists tell me that they are seeing smaller audiences pretty much everywhere and also that gig CD sales (a major source of their income) have declined badly. I’ve even heard from a couple of local musicians who make their living through busking that they now have to work the pavements for five days a week to earn the same amount that last year they would have taken in just two or three days! Roll on an economic upturn!

  5. FOLK WEEKEND SUCCESS. Aided by some remarkably good weather, the recent Folk Weekend was a roaring success, almost certainly our busiest and best yet. Re the earlier item, perhaps a free event was particularly appropriate in these recessionary times! Anyway, thanks to everyone who performed, stewarded, operated PA, and generally kept things running smoothly. For our new landlord, Andy, it was a gigantic eye-opener, and no doubt lessons will be learned for next year over things like catering, beer supply, marquee size and staging. I’ve had some good feedback already, but do get in touch if you have any comments (e.g. things that went particularly well) or constructive criticisms to offer. There will be an open meeting to “de-brief” and to discuss next year’s event sometime after the summer holidays.

  6. DEVELOPMENTS AT THE BLACK SWAN. Talking of the new management at the Black Swan Inn, they continue to make improvements and alterations to the pub’s facilities. The totally re-equipped kitchen is now fully operational and as well as lunches there is a good early evening menu. Several recent guest performers have already availed themselves of the latter and tell me that the food is excellent. Just in time for Folk Weekend, the serving bar was doubled in length, cutting down on queuing and making it easier for bar staff to operate. More recently, several stout cycle racks have been installed in a good position outside the back bar windows, with security lighting above. So while we have long summer evenings why not leave the car at home and cycle down to the folk club instead? You could even come earlier and have a bar meal first!

This newsletter is a bit of a rushed job and I haven’t time to do a big listing of other people’s upcoming events, but I will mention one thing which was in my in-box when I got home:

  1. DAVID & CAROLINE AT THE BLACK SWAN. David Breslin has been a regular at our Singers Nights for quite a long time, a very capable young singer and guitarist who is also a member of the York Songwriters Circle. This coming Saturday (20th) he has his own night upstairs at the Black Swan Inn, together with the York debut of Newcastle-based singer-songwriter Caroline Mary. You can hear some of her “melodramatic popular song” at It’s an 8pm start, entry £ 4.

I should be back before the end of June with another Newsletter. Meanwhile, my apologies if I’ve failed to give your event the “plug” you were hoping for.

Keep on supporting live music!