Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 127

Early February 2011

 Here we are again with another bulging bag of news....




1.        PHEW, WHAT A MONTH.  What a month we had in January!  The music was uniformly excellent, the atmosphere wonderfully sociable, and every guest night was a full house, as was the Residents Festival event last Sunday afternoon, while the January Singers Night easily maintained the high standard of recent months.  Long may it continue.


2.        LANDER MASON, 3rd FEBRUARY.  The weeks ahead certainly bring more great music to the venerable portals of the Black Swan Inn.  For example, why not try this Thursday’s debut guests, LanderMason.  The combined talents of Fiona Lander (vocals, piano and various wind instruments) and Paul Mason (guitar and vocals) come to us highly recommended.  They have a distinctive approach which combines folk style songs (traditional, modern and self-penned) with striking arrangements, often jazz-inflected.  They have been singing together for a decade now and are well known around northern England and beyond, with a reputation for entertaining performances.  They run a monthly music club themselves (Bellingham All Acoustic, in their home village in Northumberland), so know what it takes to make a special night.  Find out more at  Eddie Affleck hosts this one and tickets will be available on the door (for once!) at £6 (£5 concessions).


3.        SINGERS NIGHT, 10th FEBRUARY.  These monthly gatherings are great fun, whether you are a performer or a listener.  We usually get a fine blend of the familiar and the new, the young and the not-so-young, across a range of musical styles.  Stan Graham is in charge this week and entry (on the door only) is just £2.50 (£1.50 concessions, £1 performers).


4.        STEVE KNIGHTLEY SOLD OUT, 11th FEBRUARY. Please note that the solo concert by Steve Knightley at the Early Music Centre is now completely Sold Out.  The Box Office has started a waiting list in case of any returns.  Incidentally, Steve will be back in York with Phil Beer and Miranda Sykes as Show of Hands on 4th May, when they do one of their standing rock venue gigs at The Duchess.  See for tickets.


5.        DUNCAN’S BACK, 17th FEBRUARY.  One night that is sure to be lively is the visit by Leeds’ finest, Duncan McFarlane, with his fiddle-playing accomplice Anne Brivonese, making their fourth club appearance for us.  Duncan was last seen in York with his full electric band, who were one of the highlights of Folk Weekend 2010, but he is equally impressive in acoustic band, solo or (as tonight) duo settings.  A stylish guitarist who cites Nic Jones as a seminal influence, Duncan writes great original songs and has plenty of traditional ballads and modern covers in his repertoire as well.  Above all, he is an exuberant and energetic stage performer.  Find out more at


Chris Euesden acts as MC for this one and tickets cost £7 (£6 concessions), on the door or in advance at  Note that this show replaces the previously advertised performance by Tom McConville, which has been put back at Tom’s request to 6th October.


6.        FUNI – ANGLO- ICELANDIC SPECIAL, 24th FEBRUARY.  I’m particularly looking forward to this club show, which is our contribution to the 2011 Jorvik Viking Festival.  Funi comprises Chris Foster and his partner Bára Grímsdóttir.  Chris was one of the great singer/guitarists in the vibrant 1970s folk scene, rated by many in the same league as Nic Jones and Martin Simpson and a superb interpreter of traditional English folk songs.  He stepped out of the professional music scene in the 80s and 90s but he never stopped playing entirely – indeed he guested with us as recently as 2002.


Along the way Chris met and fell in love with Bára Grímsdóttir, reckoned one of Iceland’s greatest folk singers, and they settled together in Reykjavik.  Collaborating musically as Funi, they combine her repertoire of traditional Icelandic songs with Chris’ English folk balladry, her kantele playing with his classic finger-style folk guitar.  They are also promoting the revival of traditional Icelandic instruments the Íslensk fiðla and the langspil, and sometimes they sing together in an Icelandic harmony style known as tvísöngur.  To complete their show they use backdrop projections of stunning Icelandic scenery.  Listen to a few samples of their music at


We had a couple of themed events last year (Will Kaufman on Woody Guthrie and An Appalachian Christmas), which proved very popular, and I hope this one will do as well.  It certainly sounds like a fascinating evening.  Phil Cerny is MC this week and tickets are £8 (£6.50 concessions) through WeGotTickets and (if not all sold beforehand) on the door.


7.        LOOKING FURTHER HEAD.  The new club brochure is now in circulation, listing all our activities through to early June.  Full details have also been uploaded to the club website and all guest night events are now open for booking at  Nights that are already selling well include John Kirkpatrick (3rd March), Julie Felix (31st March) and Boo Hewerdine (19th May).  Also selling briskly is the NCEM concert on 11th April by Spiers & Boden.  Book for that one at, 01904 658338.


8.        A WORD ABOUT PRICES.  The club’s financial year ended yesterday, 31st January, and presently I will be compiling the annual accounts.  It is no secret that we have had some financial worries over the last twelve months, though the busy end to the year has certainly offset a few of our earlier losses.  When drafting the new club brochure I had to decide on ticket prices and I made two decisions.


So far as Singers & Musicians Nights are concerned, entry will go up a modest 50p to £3 (£2 concessions) from the March event.  Performer’s contribution will remain at £1.  The Singers Night price was last increased 5 years ago and at that point had rough parity with the price of a pint of ale.  Draught beers are now at the £3 level so we are just catching up!


With guest nights we have a range of prices from £6 (£5 concessions) up to £10 (£8).  The £6 price will not be phased out entirely, at least not this year, but there will be fewer of them in future, and more nights at £7, £8, £9 or £10.


One suggestion which we have not yet followed up is to have a differential price between advance sales and on-the-door sales.  For example, a night could be £6 (£5 concessions) if bought online or £7 (£6) at the door.  This would give you an extra incentive to book online and would offset the 10% booking fee which online sales incur.  What would be your view of such an arrangement?  Any feedback would be welcome.


9.        FOLK WEEKEND PLANNING MEETING.  Another reminder that the City of York Folk Weekend 2011 is scheduled for 4th & 5th June.  We have organised an open planning meeting for Sunday 13th February in the Oak Room at the Black Swan Inn, from 8pm.  Do come along if you have suggestions to make or assistance to offer.  We don’t anticipate a major departure from the winning formula established over the last two or three years, but there are always new things we could try or other things we could do better.





10.     WELCOME RED COW MUSIC.  York has a new music shop and what is more, one that is a “folk and acoustic specialist”.  Red Cow Music opened a few weeks before Christmas at 13 Goodramgate, and reports good early trading.  Red Cow is a new project for the former proprietor of MOR Music Steve Morrison, in partnership with his wife and his son Miles.  Steve is a well-known character on the York music scene, and in the 70s and early 80s he was part of popular local folk band Brownie Dyke.  At MOR he traded heavily in rock band instruments and gear, but now he is relishing getting back to mostly acoustic music.


Red Cow advertises “guitars, mandolins, bodhrans, ukes, banjos, djembes and much, much more”.  As well as instruments and accessories they offer a repairs service and host music tuition classes.  They are even considering staging some small in-store live music gigs, and we have discussed the possibility of them having a stall at this year’s Folk Weekend.


A website is planned but for now the shop can be contacted on, 01904 674440.  Hours are 10am to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm Sundays.


11.     EMILY & BEN SPOTTED.  Many people in York have fond memories of Emily Weygang & Ben Harker, who were regular participants at informal folk gatherings in and around the city during the first half of the last decade, as well as appearing as guest performers at folk clubs around Yorkshire, including the Black Swan.  Relatively little has been heard from them since they moved to Manchester about 4 years ago, with the notable exception of the publication of Ben’s book about Ewan MacColl in late 2007 (Class Act: the Cultural and Political Life of Ewan MacColl, Pluto Press, £15.99).


Thus I was very pleased to see their names in the listings for the folk club run by the Ryburn 3 Step organisation (Pete Coe et al) in Calderdale.  Emily & Ben appear there on 23rd February, this being as it happens a new night (the last Wednesday of the month) and a new venue (The Works, Hollins Mill Lane, Sowerby Bridge) for the club.  The brochure says “traditional and political songs performed with intensity, commitment and sheer fine singing with guitar and fiddle”, which sums it up nicely.  Find out more at


12.     FOLK AWARDS 2011.  The BBC Folk Awards for 2011 are announced next Monday, 7th February, and for the first time the event will be broadcast live on Radio 2, from 7pm until 10pm.  I gather that it may also be possible to watch proceedings online.





13.     MOONSHINE OVER NUNNERY LANE.  York trio Moonshine Creek will be purveying their brand of “goodtime down home old time and rebel songs” at the Victoria Vaults on Nunnery Lane this Friday, 4th February.  You may recall that this is the new musical home of former Los Yobos member (and in an earlier life, Black Swan Folk Club Organiser) Mike Tavener.  “We’ll be starting around 9pm and it’s absolutely free” they say, “see y'all there!!”


14.     DON & SARAH IN SPACE.  Also on Friday 4th, on the other side of the river, there is an evening with our much-loved local poet, the Bard of York, Don Walls and the “incredible string blonde” harpist and songwriter Sarah Dean.  It is at Space 109, the community arts centre at 109 Walmgate, begins at 8pm, and is free (although donations are encouraged to help the work of Space 109).  Incidentally, there is now a “Friends of Don Walls” page on Facebook – see


15.     BROKEN IN THE BASEMENT.  York-based “alt-country/neo-folk” trio Broken Ground, comprising Chris Williams, Phil Simpson and Matt Lockwood, can be seen on Saturday night, 5th February, at City Screen Basement Bar, along with two or three other young acoustic acts.  Tickets are £5 from the cinema box office.  Tonight, 1st February, Broken Ground are headline guests at a sold out meeting of the Processed Pea Folk Club near Beverley


16.     AND MORE GOOD STUFF DOWN BELOW.  Next Tuesday, 8th February, there is a really fine contemporary folk/acoustic evening in prospect in the Basement Bar, when Edwina Hayes, David Ward Maclean and Holly Taymar share the night “in the round”.  Tickets are £6 in advance or £7 on the door.


17.     ADRIAN IN COURT.  Also on Tuesday 8th, Adrian Spendlow hosts his monthly Open House poetry and storytelling night in the Bistro Bar at the Dean Court Hotel near York Minster.  “It’s free to get in and there really is a great warm atmosphere” he says, and “a good menu is available” if you feel like eating.


18.     ANTHONY JOHN & FAKE JAKE.  John Watterson, aka Fake Thackray, has organised the first of what he hopes will be an occasional series of concerts at All Saints Hall in his home village of Upper Poppleton just outside York.  You are invited to spend An Evening With Fake Thackray and special headline guest Anthony John Clarke on Saturday 19th February from 7.30pm.  Tickets are £7.50 from 01904 785366 or via, there will be a bar available and nibbles are provided.


Incidentally, Fake Thackray is also in action on Wednesday 9th February at the Viaduct Theatre Café Bar, Dean Clough, Halifax, when he supports Roger Davies at a fundraising concert for cancer research charities.  Tickets are £8 in advance on 01422 255266.


19.     BLACK BEARDS ON THE DUCHESS.  Fresh from their triumphant sell-out acoustic shows at our club, Blackbeard’s Tea Party go into full and noisy 6-piece electric mode on Saturday 19th February for a gig at The Duchess on Stonebow.  The evening also includes a few special guests and tickets are available for a paltry £4 at


Future Duchess bookings of note include Lau on 20th March, Albert Lee on 15th April and The Strawbs on 7th May


20.     MORE WEE FOLK.  A reminder that Wee Folk, the Sunday afternoon folk club for parents with young children, takes place on the third Sunday of the month from 3pm in the Black Swan Inn function room, so next on 20th February.  Find out more from Ali Morgan on





21.     TOM GOES TO HELMSLEY.  This Saturday, 5th February, there is a rare chance to catch Tom McConville with a full band – not just regular accompanist David Newey but also Shona Kipling, Andy Watt and Phil Murray.  Helmsley Arts Centre is the venue, at 7.30pm, with tickets £12 (£11 concessions) on 01439 771700,


22.     KIRKHAM ACOUSTIC.  The aforementioned Sarah Dean likes to keep busy.  She has agreed to host a new acoustic music evening on the first Sunday of each month at the Stone Trough Inn at Kirkham Abbey.  The format will be three invited performers sharing the night, rather like the shows Sarah ran briefly a year or two ago at the Hussars in York, and giving “a chance for local and not so local musicians to perform for 30 to 40 minutes each”.  The first show will be this coming Sunday, 6th February, from 8pm, with Sarah herself plus friends Paula Ryan and David Swann.


23.     MEGSON FOR REETH.  Regular folk concerts continue in Swaledale at Reeth Memorial Hall, with that great duo Megson on 11th February and Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby on 25th March.  See .


24.     POCKLINGTON ARTS NEW SEASON.  The new season at Pocklington Arts Centre includes Sean Taylor this Friday, 4th February, Mike Harding (18th February, already sold out), The Coal Porters (11th March), Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham (12th April), Beth Orton (13th April) Eddi Reader (17th April) and Warsaw Village Band (23rd June).  See


25.     YORKSTON FOR THIRSK.  Scottish singer/songwriter James Yorkston visits Thirsk Old Courthouse on Friday 18th February, promoted by In The Dock.  See


26.     AHAB AHOY.  A newish acoustic band who are picking up fulsome notices right now are ahab (annoyingly silly use of lower case letters not withstanding).  Following knock-out performances at Cropredy and other festivals last year, this folk/Americana four piece are now on a big UK tour.  This includes appearances at The Half Moon, Elloughton, East Yorkshire on Saturday 19th February (sold out already) and a new venue to me, Great Northern Wine in Ripon on Sunday 20th – see


27.     HOWDEN LIVE NEW SEASON.  There is less folk music than usual in the new season at Howden Live, but they do have a show on Friday 18th February with Forro Porro, a new group which unites two very eclectic Humberside duos, The Hut People and Mambo Jambo.  See


28.     MOONBEAMS OVER THE WOLDS.  The good people at Moonbeams Acoustic promote some excellent folk and acoustic concerts on the Yorkshire Wolds, primarily at The Bell Hotel in Driffield but occasionally at other venues, and they also run the Wold Top Folk Festival in Hunmanby in July.  Concert guests coming up include Steve Tilston (25th February), Dogan Mehmet (1st April), Ewan McLennan (22nd April) and Sherburn & Bartley (27th May).  See


29.     SELBY NEW SEASON.  Amongst the goodies coming up at Selby Town Hall this season are Michael Roach (26th February), Dogan Mehmet (2nd April), Rachel Harrington (9th April), The Tannahill Weavers (15th April) and Lucy Kaplansky (13th May).  See



I’m now due to go into hospital for another (straightforward) operation on 7th March.  I’ll try to issue another Newsletter sometime just before then.