Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 211

12th March 2017

A massive thank you to everyone who sent me good wish messages after the last edition of this newsletter. Happily, I am now more or less recovered from my recent illness and I am trying to catch-up with things (such as Folk Weekend planning) which slipped behind schedule while I was unwell. The next landmark is retirement from my 36-year-long day job on 31st March, after which it should be easier to find the time for folk club administrative work – and much else!
1. FOLK AWARDS NOMINATED SINGER JIM CAUSLEY THIS WEEK, 16th MARCH. Just as I was mailing out the last newsletter, the BBC Folk Awards nominees for 2017 were being announced and I was delighted to hear that this week’s club guest Jim Causley had been shortlisted in the Best Singer category. He is certainly a great performer with a rich baritone voice and has been nominated no fewer than five times before in various Folk Awards categories, so let’s hope that this time around he emerges as a winner.
Jim Causley is a singer and musician (primarily accordion) who is passionate about traditional song, particularly that of his native West Country. He became involved with music from a young age via his family, the local folk scene and an historical tradition of wassailing in his home village in Devon. He went on to study for the folk music degree at Newcastle University and made his recording debut in 2005 in Martyn Wyndham-Read’s Song Links II project, which paired English traditional songs with their American variants. That year he released a first solo album and was nominated for Best Newcomer at the Folk Awards.
Jim first came to our attention through his work with acapella trio The Devil’s Interval, who sang here almost exactly 10 years ago. With that group he toured with Waterson:Carthy for seven years as part of their Frost & Fire Christmas show and he also joined them in the studio on their last album. Jim went on to collaborate with Essex band Mawkin to form Mawkin:Causley whose albums and energetic live shows brought them many plaudits. He has also worked with artists such as Show of Hands, Shirley Collins, Eddie Reader and John McCusker and has toured with Steve Knightley and Kate Rusby.
Jim has issued three CDs of mainly traditional songs and more recently an acclaimed album of self-penned material Forgotten Kingdom, inspired by his West Country roots and mixing ancient history with the songwriter’s own personal history and experience of the world. He has also done two records of poetry settings, one devoted to the work of his late relative Charles Causley, the other settings of verse by Cornish poet Jack Clemo. A second Charles Causley album is in preparation, commissioned for the centenary of the poet’s birth.
Until now we have never managed to secure a solo club booking for Jim, so this is a night to savour. Stan Graham acts as MC on Thursday 16th and tickets are £9 in advance from WeGotTickets or £10 on the door.
2. KIERAN HALPIN RETURNS, 23rd MARCH.  One of our most reliable and entertaining guests over the last 35 years has been Irish singer-songwriter Kieran Halpin. His visit to the Black Swan on Thursday 23rd March will be something like his 14th solo appearance in the Wolfe Room since 1986, and before that came early duo gigs with such as Jon Strong and Tom McConville.
Kieran probably needs little introduction here and most of you will be familiar with at least some of his work. There can be few writers on the acoustic/folk scene in Europe who have had more songs covered by other artists.  Singers like Vin Garbutt, Dolores Keane, The Battlefield Band, John Wright, Flossie Malavialle, Niamh Parsons and many more have recorded Halpin songs and they figure in the repertoires of countless amateur club and pub singers. Kieran’s songs cover every conceivable subject, from love, loss and celebration to the more global concerns that face us today and he is sometimes described as a modern protest songwriter, never afraid to tackle topics that will provoke opinion and debate.
It is live on stage that Kieran really makes his mark. He is at once powerful and passionate, intimate and intense. He has managed to marry his intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics with great melodies and has developed over the years into a writer with a unique style. All this is underscored by an incisive wit in his introductions which helps an audience understand where the song comes from and hint at where it might be going. He is equally at home playing to a small folk club audience like ours or a large festival crowd and he is also one of the hardest touring musicians on the scene today with upwards of 160 shows per year around the world.
That said, Kieran is based in Germany these days and UK dates are not nearly as frequent as they used to be. He has three British bookings in March, including the Black Swan, and three more in May, and that is all currently listed on his website. What is more, this March mini-tour coincides with the release of a new CD, his 20th, called simply Doll. It is a remarkable achievement for any songwriter to be so consistently prolific over such a long career, and still maintain the highest standards.
Chris Euesden is the host for this one and tickets are £10 in advance at WeGotTickets or £11 on the door.
3. STEVE & JEZ PLAY THE JANUS GAME AT NCEM. We stay with singer-songwriters for our next event at the National Centre for Early Music. Steve Tilston and Jez Loweare two of the British folk scene’s most accomplished songwriters and on Tuesday 28th March they join forces for a shared night filled with lyrics and music, chat and banter and intimate insights into their very successful approach to the writing craft. Head to head, neck and neck (guitar necks, that is!) listen in as they rekindle the spontaneity of their late-night living room song-swaps. Expect an eclectic mix of solo compositions alongside material from the brand new album of co-written songs, The Janus Game. This CD has garnered some amazing reviews in the last few weeks, and there is clearly much interest, tempered with not a little overt curiosity, about why this collaboration actually works so well together, given their long-term individual solo careers.
Both established artists since the 1970s and both regular guests at our club venue, Steve and Jez have been widely covered by other singers and have been involved in many different projects over the years. For example Jez is a notable contributor to the BBC Radio Ballads series and has written extensively for musical theatre, while an incident from Steve’s past was the inspiration for Hollywood movie Danny Collins and he has published a novel. It is on the strength of their lyrical and literary reputations that this concert also forms part of theYork Literature Festival for 2017.
Tickets are now on sale at £15 full or £13 concessions. Note also that there is no support act for this event: Steve & Jez will be on stage from 7.30pm. Booking is as always through the NCEM Box Office at or on 01904 658338.
4. DEBRA COWAN – NEW ENGLAND SONGSTRESS, 6th APRIL. After a Singers Night on 30th March, we welcome Debra Cowan back to our club on 6th April for what will be her fourth guest artist visit. “Stunning” is a word that is often used to describe Debra's singing.  She performs unaccompanied and with guitar, interpreting a wide range of traditional and contemporary folk songs.  Her performances impress listeners with her clarity, warmth, agility, all the while encouraging the audience to join in on choruses and refrains. Above all, her enthusiasm for her chosen material shines through.
Originally a school teacher in California, Debra quit her job in 1997 to follow up a life-long desire to sing and perform. After a spell in Edinburgh learning the art of unaccompanied song, she relocated to Springfield, Massachusetts and began touring around New England open mikes and singing sessions.  Almost 20 years later, she is now a full-time performer who bridges the old and new with a refreshing stage presence.  She can be seen in many venues across America, makes regular tours of the UK, and has released four albums to date, which have been met with high praise world-wide.
Chris Euesden again acts as MC and this time tickets are £8 in advance or £9 on the door.
5. ENGLISH FOLK AND WELSH - FAUSTUS & CALAN AT THE NCEM. Our April concert at the Early Music Centre features a trio specialising in imaginative reworkings of English folk song. Faustus appear on Monday 10th April at 7.30pm, making their third appearance at the NCEM, and comprising as always Saul Rose (Waterson:Carthy, War Horse), Benji Kirkpatrick (Bellowhead, Seth Lakeman Band) and Paul Sartin (Bellowhead, Belshazzar’s Feast). All three of them sing and with an instrumental mix of melodeon, bouzouki, guitar, fiddle and oboe they offer a richly varied and virtuosic musical display, no doubt focusing on material from newest CD Death and Other Animals, researched and recorded during their 2016 year as Artists In Residence at Halsway Manor Folk Arts Centre in Somerset. More recently Faustus have been touring with The Young’uns, Nancy Kerr and others in the acclaimed revival of Peter Bellamy’s ballad opera The Transports, for which Paul did the musical arrangements.
Support comes from local duo Steve & Dee Marshall, best known as part of The Foresters, and tickets are £16 full or £14 concessions through the NCEM website and box office.
Welsh folk music has been undergoing a renaissance in the last few years and one of its foremost exponents is the five piece group Calan, our concert guests on Wednesday 3rd May. Fiddles, guitar, accordion, bagpipes and step dancing explode into life when this energetic young band takes the stage. These virtuoso musicians breathe fire into old traditions with their infectious rhythms and high voltage routines before melting into beautiful and haunting songs which explore the legends of Wales with tales of fairies and magic, myth and mischief.
Calan are introducing a new generation of listeners to Welsh traditional music as they tour widely across the UK and into Europe, North America and beyond, with their musicianship and huge sense of humour making for an outstanding show. In a departure from our usual concert pattern, they will be doing one long set, rather than two shorter ones, and they will be preceded on stage by their own special tour guest, singer-songwriter Dan Wilde. Tickets are £15 full or £13 concessions and are now on sale
6. CLUB NIGHTS - EASTER AND BEYOND. At the Black Swan Inn we begin the Easter long weekend break with a Double Bill on Thursday 13th April, comprising acapella female vocal trio Yan Tan Tether from Otley, and Bric-a-Brac, a youthful four-piece fronted by York postgraduate student and occasional club singer Bella Gaffney. Our spring season then continues with three very different duo acts. We welcome back that great young couple Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts on 20th April, then it is the Anglo-American pairing ofTania Opland & Mike Freeman on 27th April and (following the monthly Singers Night on 4th May) an up-and-coming English folk duo Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith on 11th May for more about whom, see item 18 below.
After a special Charity Night on 18th May (see item 7 below) we move from duo guests to a series of top flight soloists. Miranda Sykes does her first entirely one-woman show for us on 25th May and (after a Singers Night on 1st June) we welcome the long-overdue Black Swan debut of celebrated singer-songwriter Reg Meuross on 8th June and the return (after a 20-year gap) of veteran British bluesman Dave Kelly on 15th June. All these events are now open for booking at WeGotTickets.
7. CHARITY NIGHT IN MEMORY OF JULIE AFFLECK, 18th MAY. As reported in the last newsletter, Vin Garbutt has had to cancel his appearances at our club in May as he will be convalescing after heart surgery. Rather than book an alternative act for a conventional guest night, we have decided to run a Charity Night on Thursday 18th May. This will be in memory of the late Julie Affleck, with all proceeds going to St Leonard’s Hospice. Stan Graham has taken the lead in organising this special night and his provisional line-up includes short spots from Paula Ryan, Judith Haswell, Sarah Dean, Toni Bunnell, Phil Cerny, Eddie Affleck and Ian Pybus. Opening the show will be Ramshackle – which is the name chosen for the Black Swan’s new “house band” comprising Stan, Eddie, Phil and Judith (but sadly not, on this occasion, Chris Euesden, who will be away during May).
The second half of the Charity Night will feature a high-profile nationally known headliner duo, which I am not yet at liberty to name. Watch this space! Tickets will go on sale any day now at WeGotTickets – very modestly priced at £6 – and there will also be a fundraising raffle on the night. Please support this one if you possibly can.
Incidentally, Vin Garbutt’s appearances have been rescheduled for 11th and 12th January 2018 – more on that in a few months’ time. Meanwhile, we wish him well for a full and speedy recovery after his operation.
8. PEGGY SEEGER & SONS FOR YORK, 7th JUNE. In more breaking news, I can now announce that we are joining forces with Joe Coates of Please Please You to bring to York the legendary Peggy Seeger. “An Evening with the Seeger MacColl Family” features Peggy and her sons Neill and Calum MacColl and takes place at The Crescent, off Blossom Street in York, on Wednesday 7th June.
“The Seeger MacColl family are one of folk music’s most-loved dynasties” says the tour publicity. “Singer, songwriter and feminist icon Peggy Seeger performs with her sons Neill and Calum MacColl. Join these three exceptional musicians for a gloriously relaxed evening of great music and witty family banter. Expect to hear songs of love, politics and storytelling, including material from Peggy’s award-winning latest album, alongside some of the late Ewan MacColl’s best loved songs. This is an intimate evening with a remarkable family that will linger long in the memory.”
All tickets are £18, available now through (NOTE, not our usual online retailer) and they can also be bought over the counter at The Inkwell on Gillygate. Doors open at 7.30pm and music gets underway at 8.00pm.
9. GEOFF LAKEMAN REVIEWED. Local freelance music critic Martin Longley has been at it again. He caught the second set by Devon’s Geoff Lakeman at the club last month and has posted his review online at “The Cornish father of what has become a West Country folk clan, the affable Geoff Lakeman prefers a gentler, more relaxed, old school troubadour stance, seated simply with his concertina, weaving tales and singing ditties with equal naturalness” writes Martin. “It's not too long before Lakeman coaxes the audience into a few singalongs, not that they require too much persuasion, warmed as they are by his cheery wit.”
10. UPDATE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS WITH US. I understand that at the end of May EE will be closing down e-mail accounts associated with the old Orange and Freeserve businesses. As you will certainly be aware if you have one of them, this includes addresses ending in things like,,, If you used one of these old addresses to sign up for this BSFC newsletter, please let us know your new e-address so that we can update our mailing list.
11. FOLK WEEKEND PLANS TAKE SHAPE. Just this last weekend I have finally circulated to artists concerned a draft running order for the outdoor events at our 2017 Folk Weekend, which just to remind you takes place 2nd-4th June.  There will be the usual Friday night Ceilidh under Canvas with FiddlersWreck, then ten main stage acts will perform on both Saturday and Sunday. Inevitably there are one or two favourite acts who cannot be with us this year (such as Blonde on Bob and the Kaminari Drummers) but others return after missing out last year (e.g. King Courgette) and there are some great debuts (e.g. Stillhouse).
I will now turn my attention to programming all the indoor events that are such a vital part of the weekend – singarounds, sessions, concerts and workshops. Hopefully I will have a full draft programme ready for publication by early April.
12. CLUB GUESTS FEATURE IN FOLK AWARDS NOMINATIONS. Jim Causley this week (item 1) is not the only recent guest of ours to figure in the 2017 BBC Folk Awardsshortlists. Daoiri Farrell, who gave us such a great night in November, gets no fewer than three nominations – Horizon Award for best new act, Best Traditional Track and (in direct competition with Jim Causley) Best Singer. Recent NCEM concert guests Breabach are amongst the nominees for Best Group, while O’Hooley & Tidow are named in the Best Duo category, along with Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker, who appeared at the club last year and who return to an alternative York venue next month – see item 23 below. Past guestsJim Moray and Nancy Kerr both figure in the Best Original Track category, and Jim Moray is also in the Best Album category. The Awards ceremony takes place at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 5th April and will of course be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2.
If you want to catch up with Daoiri Farrell, he is currently touring in a Double Header with The Damien O’Kane Trio and they can be seen next Saturday, 18th March, at The Civic in Barnsley ( while Daoiri solo appears at the Roots Music Club in Doncaster on Friday 7th April (tickets via or on 07939 148603)
13. YORKSHIRE GIG GUIDE AWARDS 2017 NOW TAKING NOMINATIONS. Staying with awards, you may recall that only last October we were voted Outstanding Music Club in the annual Grassroots Awards run by the Yorkshire Gig Guide website. This year they have brought their awards timetable forward and public nominations are being sought now in 13 different categories. Visit (yes, that does say 2015!) and show your appreciation for your favourite artists, venues, festivals, clubs, sound engineers, media outlets and such by nominating them for an award.
Nominations close on 30th April and there is then a three month online public voting period (to 31st July) to select a shortlist of 5 in each category. A judging panel will then decide the final rankings and winners, which will be announced at the awards ceremony on Saturday 7th October, held this year at Pocklington Arts Centre.
14. NEW FOLK MUSIC DEGREE COURSE IN LEEDS. Rather belatedly, exciting news has reached me that the Leeds College of Music (which describes itself as “a leading European conservatoire”) is launching a Folk Music degree course in September this year. Read all about it at What is more, I am told that “LCoM are keen to work with the folk musicians that you work with at Black Swan. They’re excited about the artists you’ve programmed this year, and recognise that what you offer in York isn’t matched in Leeds”, which is very flattering. Rachael Sutcliffe, of Leeds bands The Heathen Kings and Fireside Knights has been appointed as Curriculum Co-ordinator, and hopefully I will be chatting with her soon about ways in which we could collaborate.
15. PAULA’S FLYING VIDEO. Club supporter Paula Ryan tells us she has just released a video version of her song Let Me Fly, the title track of her last album, which is about pioneering female Yorkshire aviator Amy Johnson. “I'm really grateful to young film maker Will Smith who did such fantastic work putting it all together” says Paula. Find it It appears already to have had a staggering 55,000 views!
16. LITTLE FESTIVAL OF LIVE MUSIC SEEKS PERFORMERS. Following the success of her International Women’s Week event at the Black Swan on 4th March, Ellen Cole is moving swiftly on to planning her main event of the year, York’s Little Festival of Live Music in September. “We are now accepting performer applications from our week-long music festival, which takes place alongside the York Food and Drink Festival from 22nd to 30th September” says Ellen. To apply for a spot, please e-mail, including information about your act, where you are based and what days you are available. Please also include links to online samples of your music and a high res image.  The deadline to apply will be at the end of May and everyone will be responded to by the end of June.
17. BLACKBEARDS ON ONE FRONT COVER. The Spring 2017 edition of EFDSS house magazine English Dance & Song was published last week, and who should I see staring up at me from the doormat but York’s own Blackbeard’s Tea Party?  Inside the magazine Liam Hardy, Stu Giddens and Tim Yates of Blackbeard’s chat with editor Natalya Catton Wilson. Other features are concerned with Eliza Carthy and with recent EFDSS Gold Badge recipients Pete & Sue Coe (and incidentally Pete Coe returns to the Black Swan on 19th October), while album reviews include the aforementioned Geoff Lakeman (5*), recent NCEM visitor Chris Wood (5*) and future NCEM concert guests Faustus (4*).
I am happy to say that Blackbeard’s Tea Party are able to appear at our Folk Weekend this year, on the Saturday afternoon. If you want to catch them before that, they also have a home town gig at The Crescent on Friday 21st April.
18. AND TOM McCONVILLE ON ANOTHER. Also received recently was the February/March edition of The Living Tradition, with a cover feature on Tom McConville, who by coincidence returns to the Black Swan on 21st September. There is also a four page feature on the Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe partnership (see item 3 above) and three pages on our Canadian favourite David Francey. CD reviews include Chris Wood (again). Daoiri Farrell and future club guests Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith (“there is much to enjoy in this 57-minute album … the singing is strong, their musicianship has developed and the arrangements work well … the duo is also excellent in live performance”).
19. ST PATRICK’S WEEKEND ACTIVITIES. A reminder that our friends in York Irish are running St Patrick’s Day FREE events in the Marquee in St Sampson’s Square next weekend. On Friday evening 17th March from 5pm there are Irish dance displays, live music and a ceilidh, while daytime Saturday 18th has more dance displays and live music from the likes of Paula Ryan, Damian Fynes and Roisin Ban. The Saturday evening events begin with a Ceilidh with FiddlersWreck and continues with a set by The Flying Donkeys.
Other York Irish events coming up include a storytelling evening with Damien Fynes (“stories old and new, a few anecdotes and maybe even an auld song for the road”) on Saturday 8th April at The Bay Horse on Marygate and an Open Trad Music Session at The Gillygate on Saturday 29th April.
20. FORESTERS ENTERTAIN AT ENGLISH MARTYRS. Steve Marshall writes “The Foresters have been invited back to the great venue at English Martyrs Church Hall on Dalton Terrace in York on Saturday 1st April at 7.30pm. Tickets are from David Bryan on 01904 709733. There is no bar but you are welcome to bring your own drinks and snacks to support this evening in aid of hall funds.  Hope to see you there.”
21. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE PROCESSED PEA. The monthly Processed Pea Folk Club reopened earlier this month following refurbishment of its home at The Light Dragoon in Etton near Beverley. The club was founded in 1969 and is believed to be the oldest folk club in England to operate all its life in the same room at the same pub – beating us at the Black Swan by several years. What is more, Stuart Bell has been one of the organisers since the very beginning – surpassing my record here by some 15 years! “All musical tastes are catered for” they say “folk, blues, contemporary, spoken word and fun loving music, so please continue to support us, tell your friends, bring your friends, like our Facebook page and share our events.” The club meets on the first Monday of each month, so next on 3rd April with guest Tom Townsend, supported by Phil & Jessica Simpson.
22. UNITED WE STAND AT CITY SCREEN 9th APRIL. Toni Bunnell is organising an evening with York singer-songwriters and poets at City Screen Basement on Sunday 9th April. Artists appearing alongside Toni at United We Stand include David Swann, Paula Ryan, John Storey, Stan Graham, Don Walls, Joanna Ezekiel and John Gilham. Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets are £6 from City Screen.
23. JOSIENNE & BEN IN THE BASEMENT, 19th APRIL. Double BBC Folk Award winners and twice in the past our own club guests, Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker return to York for a show at City Screen Basement on Wednesday 19th April. Support comes from Flora Greysteel, doors open at 8pm and tickets are £10 in advance or £12 on the door. The show is promoted by Mr H Presents (aka Tim Hornsby), who also has Lisbee Stainton coming to the same venue on Friday 19th May.
24. SINGING WORKSHOP WEEKEND IN SHEFFIELD. Gina Walters writes “I would be really grateful if you'd share news of Soundpost's latest Singing Weekend in Dungworth near Sheffield, taking place from 16th to 18th June”. Workshop leaders at “Old Adam” include Karine Polwart, Fay Hield, Nancy Kerr and Gavin Davenport. “This is a rare chance to work closely with top UK folk artists and academics to learn more about song, the art of songwriting and the voice” she says, “in the past people have travelled across the world to work with our guest tutors - this is a really exciting opportunity!” You can find out more about each workshop, the weekend itself and how to book at www.soundpost.
· Peatbog Faeries at The Brudenell in Leeds on Wednesday 22nd March
· Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham at Victoria Hall, Saltaire on Saturday 25th March
· The Sam Kelly Trio at Howden Live in the Shire Hall, Friday 31st March
· Eddie Reader at Victoria Hall, Saltaire on Friday 28th April
· Holy Moly & The Crackers and Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra promise a great Double Bill at The Crescent in York also on Friday 28th April
· The Furrow Collective at The Band Room, Farndale, on Saturday 13th May
· The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band plus Katie Spencer at Howden Live, Saturday 13th May
· Stick In The Wheel at The Band Room, Farndale, on Saturday 20th May
There’s certainly plenty coming up to keep us entertained. My next mailing will probably be in early April, once I’ve left the day job!