Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 103

Early August 2009


Happily, the upturn first noted during June continued during July. Let’s hope that trend continues through August. After beginning the month with a Singers & Musicians Night this Thursday (6th), we certainly have some strong guests lined up.

  1. THE YOUNG ‘UNS, 13 AUGUST. Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle are three young men from the Hartlepool area who share a passion for harmony singing – mostly acapella but sometimes with instruments. They have a large repertoire of folk songs old and not-so-old, particularly sea songs and shanties but also mining songs and rural songs. Coming from where they do, the Wilson Family have clearly been a big influence, alongside Peter Bellamy and others.
    They’ve built up quite a reputation over the last two or three years, singing at clubs and festivals around Britain and beyond. Just last weekend they were at a maritime festival in Germany and later this month they appear at a similar event in Holland. Outside the North East they have sung at such famous folk clubs as The Herga (“A fantastic evening of music, tight harmonies and very entertaining stories”) and the Tudor (“The sheer volume, the tight harmonies, the choice of songs and the entertainment ... superb”). They first performed at the Black Swan on a Young Performers Double Bill in 2007, and they were back here in the singing crowds at our Folk Weekend earlier this summer.
    Visit or hear some tracks at David Kidman MCs this one and entry is £ 6 (£ 5 concessions).

  2. DAVID BROAD, SAM BARRETT & MICHAEL ROSSITER, 20 AUGUST. Another trio of young men, but this time armed with guitars and based around Leeds. They have a common interest in American and British roots music – folk, blues and early country - and are all soloists in their own right. However they often collaborate on stage and for us it will be a mix of solo pieces and joint numbers.
    We were first impressed by David Broad ( at the Black Swan in 2005, when he shared a night with two other fine Leeds singers, Ben Wetherill and Fran Rodgers. “I play folk songs, mostly the American kind” he says. This includes Appalachian, Blues, Country and Ragtime. I mostly play the guitar but sometimes the banjo, mandolin, harmonica and double bass”. He cites influences such as Rev Gary Davis, Woody Guthrie, Blind Blake, Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Dave Van Ronk, Charlie Patton, Carter Family, Pete Seeger, Blind Boy Fuller and Jimmie Rodgers, which is fine by us!
    “Serious” Sam Barrett ( shares that range of influences but performs mostly self-penned songs with words and sentiments inspired by his Yorkshire roots. Reviewing his brand new CD in the July issue, local music magazine The Link was fulsome: “a wonderful debut collection ... one of the best love letters to Yorkshire I’ve ever heard. There’s a word on Sam’s MySpace called ‘Yorkshirecana’ ... it is a damn near perfect depiction of what Sam is trying to do with his music”.
    Third musician Michael Rossiter ( released his debut disc of mostly British and American songs last year. This picked up a glowing review in fRoots (no less!) for December 2008: “terrific stuff, with a masterly approach to traditional songs”. He also does some fine guitar instrumentals of his own composition – the same reviewer detected a strong debt to the late John Fahey.
    I’m particularly looking forward to this one. Our own bit of Americana, Phil Cerny, acts as MC and entry is again £ 6 (£ 5 concessions.)

  3. HOWDEN JONES, 27th AUGUST. We are delighted to welcome back the high-class contemporary song duo of Paul Howden and Kate Jones, who were last with us in 2005. Since then they have been a bit less active on the folk scene, but they still write and perform wonderfully. “With superb arrangements, breathtaking harmonies, down-to-earth virtuosity and an infectious delight in live performance, Kate and Paul Jones are songwriters with that special magic that takes you on a journey through a musical landscape, telling stories and sharing experience”. Between them they play guitar, mandolin, bodhran and cajon. Listen to some of their newer material at David Swann hosts this one and entry yet again is £ 6 (£ 5 concessions).

  4. MEGSON, 3 SEPTEMBER. .At the Folk Awards ceremony in February I met up with two charming young people who were in the running for the Best Duo award, Stu Hanna and Debbie Hanna-Palmer, alias Megson. They write strong and melodic original songs but also have strong roots in their native North East and for last year's highly-praised album Take Yourself A Wife they set aside their own material in order to research and perform a vivid selection of 19th and 20th century songs by other North Eastern writers. Eddie Affleck MCs what should be a splendid Black Swan debut and entry is £ 8 (£ 6.50 concessions). Pre-booking at might be advisable for this one, after you’ve sampled their music at or via MySpace.

  5. AUTUMN PROGRAMME IMMINENT. I have already begun to write our autumn season publicity leaflet and hope to have it completed within the next two weeks or so. As soon as it is ready for the printers I will also add my blurbs to the club website and set up box office with the WeGotTickets website. With artists coming of the calibre of James Keelaghan, Sherburn & Bartley, Harvey Andrews and Dick Gaughan there is sure to be heavy demand for early on-line booking, so do keep an eye on the club website for developments.

  6. CONCERTS UPDATE. I’m delighted to tell you that the Eric Bogle concert on 7th September is now completely Sold Out. Indeed, there is a growing waiting list in case of any returns. As the last English performance on Eric’s farewell tour of Britain it should be a really poignant evening. Meanwhile, the Early Music Centre’s glossy programme brochure for the main autumn season is about to be printed and distributed. They advise that box office will open on Friday 4th September for concerts from Faustus (28th September) onwards – on 01904 658338 or online at

  7. 2010 SUGGESTIONS. Thanks to those (few) of you who sent in suggestions for people to book in 2010. I will try to respond individually in due course. Meanwhile quite a few more Thursday night bookings have been made: old favourites such as Bob Fox and Martin Carthy, newer discoveries such as Ember, Isambarde and Dan McKinnon and debut visitors like the band Suntrap. There are also two young women singers returning to live performance after motherhood career breaks, Fay Hield and Emily Slade. More details in the months to come.

  8. HALF YEAR REPORT. As mentioned in the preamble, we have seen an upturn in club support through June and July. This is borne out by the financial and audience figures which I have just compiled, now that we are half way through our financial year. The club’s Thursday night guest events did make a small loss but Singers Nights generated £ 400+ in income and our concert programme, with three full houses, created a surplus of around £ 800. These “plus” figures were more than enough to cover that loss plus our administrative and publicity costs and special Folk Weekend expenditure. In fact we are left with a half year “profit” in excess of £ 500. See me on Thursday evenings if you want more information.
    Numbers-wise, our average paying attendance is holding up well and is much the same as last year. Within that picture there are big fluctuations. For example we had the lowest May attendance since 1995, but the busiest July since 2003. Swings and roundabouts!


  1. ANOTHER DOWNING STREET PETITION. Discontent continues over the current licensing regime for live music. The lobby group Live Music Forum has submitted a petition to the Downing Street website calling on the government to change tack. It only went live a week ago and has already received around 1500 signatures. See it and sign it yourself at The organisers’ statement says
    “Under the Licensing Act, a performance by one musician in a bar, restaurant, school or hospital not licensed for live music could lead to a criminal prosecution of those organizing the event. Even a piano may count as a licensable 'entertainment facility'. By contrast, amplified big screen broadcast entertainment is exempt. The government says the Act is necessary to control noise nuisance, crime, disorder and public safety, even though other laws already deal with those risks. Musicians warned the Act would harm small events. About 50% of bars and 75% of restaurants have no live music permission. Obtaining permission for the mildest live music remains costly and time-consuming. In May, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended exemptions for venues up to 200 capacity and for unamplified performance by one or two musicians. The government said no. But those exemptions would restore some fairness in the regulation of live music and encourage grassroots venues.”

  2. RACHEL’S CD LAUNCH IN EDINBURGH. Some of you may remember Rachel Dawick the New Zealand singer and songwriter who graced the streets of York a few years ago as a busker. She also sang at the club from time to time, performed at a couple of Folk Days and did an NCEM concert support. Rachel is still writing and singing but is based in Edinburgh these days. If you are going there for the Festival this month, look out for a concert which Rachel has organised to launch her new mini-CD. It’s at the Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides on Oswell Street on Wednesday 19th, at 7.15 and Rachel will be appearing with a full band. Tickets £ 10 or £ 8 (to include a copy of the EP) at

  3. POLITICAL SONGWRITING COMPETITION. The Raise Your Banners festival of political song takes place in Bradford this year, 6th-8th November. In conjunction with the festival there is a song competition with the theme “Living in 21st Century Yorkshire”, for which the closing date is 1st September. “Songs will be judged primarily on the lyrics”, it says here. Find out more at or ring Rob Martin on 01274 593585.

  4. YOUNG FOLK AWARDS 2009. Also giving a closing date of 1st September is the BBC’s Young Folk Award. This annual competition is open to soloists, duos and groups, aged between 15 and 20, who perform “folk, roots or acoustic music from any culture”. For more information and an entry form visit or contact, 01629 827012.


Not surprisingly, August looks like being a quieter month than usual, with some other clubs closed for the month and fewer one-off gigs. Of course there are the festivals, but....

  1. CROPTON POSTPONED. At this point I was going to plug the Cropton Folk & Roots Festival scheduled for this coming weekend, but checking their MySpace page I see that it has been postponed “due to the bad weather and forecast. We are sorry but we feel we had no choice.” See

  2. I’LL BE AT SALTBURN BY THE SEA. Definitely going ahead, having sold a very healthy number of advance tickets, is the 12th Saltburn Festival of Folk Music, Song and Dance, on 14th, 15th and 16th of August. I’ll be there myself and I anticipate plenty of good concerts, singarounds and sessions. One special presentation which I’m looking forward to is Songs of Ironoplis, described as a journey in songs and words through the industrial landscape of the Middlesbrough area, evoked and illustrated by the songs of the great Graeme Miles. The event is narrated by Graeme himself and features a strong cast of local singers. It takes place at the Marine Hotel on Saturday 15th, from 5.45 until 7.45, with admission £ 5 to non-festival ticket holders. The festival does have a web presence at but to check last minute ticket availability best ring 01287 622623.

  3. WHITBY EXTRAVAGANZA. Dedicated northern folkies need no reminder about the annual Whitby Folk Week, which this year takes place from 22nd to 28th August, but if you are new to the riches it offers, it too now has a website at

  4. FOLK AT HENSHAWS. Henshaws Crafts Centre in Knaresborough continues to present regular doses of folk music, song and dance. On Monday 17th August, as their contribution to the town’s FEVA festival, they present an open air evening concert. This is headlined by Annie Dearman & Steve Harrison, but also includes Michael Rossiter (warming up for his Black Swan gig the following Thursday?) and Medusa Gothic Morris dancers. It’s a 7.30 start and costs £ 7. See the festival website for booking details, etc.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope to be back late in August or very early September.