Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 221

24th November 2017


After an autumn season slanted towards overseas artists and soloists, we have three contrasting but equally excellent British folk bands to entertain you in the run up to Christmas.

1. GEORGIA LEWIS & FRIENDS, 30th NOVEMBER. At the Black Swan we pride ourselves in nurturing up-and-coming talent. Very definitely under this heading comes a young singer called Georgia Lewis, who with her Friends will play for us next Thursday, 30th November. I’ve now seen Georgia and her musicians at three different festivals in the last 18 months and I must say very few new performers have impressed me as much in recent times.
Georgia has just released her first full-length album, The Bird Who Sings Freedom. “A glorious cocktail of modern folk influences, a potent statement of intent and a first glimpse at a burgeoning talent who looks set to put her stamp on English folk music” says one early posting, while the R&R (Rock & Reel) reviewer gives it 5 stars, saying “the melodious Wiltshire singer and multi-instrumentalist seems to have emerged fully fledged on the folk scene”. The fRoots critic talks about “thoughtful and innovative arrangements of traditional folk songs” alongside “an inventive approach to sourcing other material”. For example, the title track is a setting to music (by Jerry Jordan) of words by Maya Angelou, while Georgia herself has done a setting of an A E Housman poem. The latest (December) edition of fRoots follows up that review with a full page feature article about her.
Georgia plays a number of instruments but primarily accordion and is joined by Felix Miller on guitars and Rowan Piggott on fiddle and backing vocals. Irish-born Rowan is a rising star in his own right, with a debut solo album imminent and several published tune books to his name. I urge you to check out this trio – sample them first on YouTube if you wish – see for example Chris Euesden will be acting as MC and floor spots are anticipated from Bella Gaffney & Polly Bolton, Martin Heaton and Stan Graham. Tickets are just £8 in advance at WeGotTickets or £9 on the door.

2. HARP AND A MONKEY TELL THEIR WAR STORIES, 7th DECEMBER. After their excellent Black Swan debut in 2015, we welcome back “electro-folk storytellers” Harp & A Monkey on Thursday 7th December. The distinctively original style of Martin Purdy (vocals, glockenspiel, accordion, harmonica and keyboards), Simon Jones (harp, guitar and viola) and Andy Smith (banjo, melodica, guitar and programming) is quite modern yet imbued with a deep Lancashire sensibility. Whether it is a re-worked traditional song or an original number, we can expect beautifully crafted vignettes of northern life, love and remembrance.
Formed in 2008, Harp & A Monkey first won a loyal following as a quality live act in their native north west before expanding their reach across the country. The band are particularly proud of their reputation for building an excellent rapport with an audience and they say that they have never played anywhere (Black Swan included!) and not been invited back. A self-titled debut album was released in 2011 and a second, All Life Is Here, followed in 2014, both receiving outstanding reviews. “Undoubtedly one of the most vital and charismatic things happening in English folk music right now” said fRoots.
The band’s third release, last year, was entitled War Stories and reflected an ongoing project (part-sponsored by Arts Council England and The Western Front Association) to mark the centenary of the First World War. This show is a mix of new material and suitable traditional songs which strive to challenge stereotypes of the conflict. Over the last year or two the band have been performing it in unusual venues related to the war all across Britain. The album has received outstanding reviews, with the likes of The Observer describing it as “bold and brilliant”.
In York, Harp & A Monkey will perform some of their standard repertoire alongside a selection of songs from the War Stories project. Eddie Affleck will be acting as host and anticipated floor performers are John Cherry, Phil Cerny and Matthew Mason. Tickets are £10 in advance or £11 on the door.

3. KENNY SPEIRS & REAL TIME, 14th DECEMBER. We usually try to have something a bit special for our final club guest night of the year, and this one is no exception. Real Time is a top class band from the Scottish Borders, with a lovely mix of traditional, contemporary and original songs from two strong singers, supported by fiddle, guitar and keyboard.
Kenny Speirs first came to notice as a founder member of the John Wright Band, accompanying that majestic but now sadly departed singer for 11 years. A fine vocalist himself and acclaimed across Europe as an excellent guitarist, Kenny went on to form Real Time with his partner the North East English singer Judy Dinning and another ex-John Wright Band musician, keyboards man Tommy Roseburgh. Following Judy's untimely death in 2013, the band has reformed with Eilidh Grant on lead vocals and newest recruit Carla Blain on fiddle. Moreover, Kenny Speirs has recently blossomed as a songwriter, releasing his first entirely self-penned album Sleepwalking earlier this year and seeing it very well received. We can expect to hear some of those songs given the band treatment on 14th December. Real Time don’t get down to England very often but I managed to see them action at a festival this summer and they certainly were very entertaining, so I’m delighted they are coming south again.
Kenny and Tommy have also contributed to several albums by our own Stan Graham over the years, so naturally Stan is the MC for this one, while expected floor singers are Judith Haswell, Steve Marshall and Val & Mike Bennett from the Cottingham Live folk club. Tickets are £10 in advance or £11 on the door.

4. CHRISTMAS PARTY NIGHT, 21st DECEMBER. We end the year with our informal Christmas Party event on Thursday 21st December. This is run in Singers Night format and is open to all. There is no admission charge but instead we hold a grand raffle – the one occasion in the year when we have such a thing. There is also a bring-and-share buffet supper in the extended half time break. Phil Cerny will be hosting this year.
There is no club meeting between Xmas and New Year, but see Item 22 below for news of an alternative event at the Black Swan Inn on Thursday 28th December.

5. NEW YEAR GUEST ARTISTS REVEALED. The club diary is now full until summer 2018 and a full list of events is available on the Programme page of the club website. In addition, most Thursday night guest events are now open for booking at WeGotTickets, up to and including Clive Gregson on 21st June. Amongst many highlights are guitar ace Clive Carroll (1st February), the new line-up of Pilgrims’ Way (1st March), the York debut of Broom Bezzums (8th March), the return of Andy Irvine (26th April), Hannah James (seen a few days ago at NCEM with Lady Maisery) in a double header with Claudia Schwab (24th May) and a solo show by Nancy Kerr (14th June).
As previously announced (and selling steadily), Chris While & Julie Matthews do a rare small venue show for us on 4th January to launch what will be our 40th Anniversary year. The ever popular singer-songwriter Anthony John Clarke follows on 11th January and sailor-turned-folksinger Tom Lewis is back with us on 25th January. The next club brochure, covering early January to early May is with the printer as I write and should be available in a week or so.

6. AND MANY DIFFERENT FLOOR SINGERS IN COMING WEEKS. My colleague Stan Graham is responsible for allocating floor singer spots amongst our large panel of supporters and he has just done this job for the period 7th December to 8th February inclusive. That is for 8 guest nights, although in fact one of those (Clive Carroll) will be using a support act rather than short floor spots – more on that in due course. I must say I’m impressed with the range and variety of Stan’s choices for the other 7 weeks. Although we are careful never to have more than an MC and three floor singers on any one guest night, Stan has still managed to accommodate a total of 17 different floor spot artists over those 7 nights – which means loads of variety even for the most frequent attenders amongst you.
Alongside the core team of Stan himself, Chris Euesden, Eddie Affleck and Phil Cerny, and regulars like Judith Haswell, Toni Bunnell, John Storey, Ian Pybus and John Cherry, will be more occasional singers such as Steve Marshall, Simon Alexander, David Swann, Martin Heaton and Sarah Dean. Special “guest” floor performers will be Val & Mike Bennett on 14th December and Two Black Sheep & A Stallion on 25th January, and we will enjoy a floor spot debut by ace ukulele player Matthew Mason on 7th December. In future newsletters I will try to inform you who the anticipated floor singers will be on any particular night in the month ahead, just as I have done in items 1 to 3 above.


7. SOME TICKETS LEFT FOR PEGGY SEEGER NEXT MONDAY. There are still some tickets available for the concert we are co-promoting with PleasePleaseYou next Monday, 27th November, namely Peggy Seeger and Family. That’s at The Crescent Community Venue on the Crescent, behind the Odeon Cinema on Blossom Street.
Following the recent publication of her memoir First Time Ever, this singer-songwriter, folk legend and feminist icon has taken to the road for a 20-date UK concert and literary festival tour. The show will feature Peggy and her sons Neill and Calum MacColl performing her and Ewan MacColl’s most treasured songs from a career spanning over 60 years, interspersed with readings from her memoir and plenty of whip-smart banter. At 82 Peggy remains the undisputed queen of folk and political song with a charisma that shines as brightly as ever. She has always had the ability to take an audience from laughter to tears and back again in the space of a few songs. Her memoir achieves the same in just a few paragraphs. Put the two together and it’s guaranteed to be a memorable night. “Peggy may be folk royalty, but there’s nothing either reverent or nostalgic about this joyous performance” wrote one critic.
Doors open at 7.30 and there is no support act, just two sets from Peggy and her sons. Tickets are £18 in advance from or in person from Earworm Records on Goodramgate or over the bar at the venue after 7pm or all day Sunday. They will also be available on the door next Monday at £20.
Incidentally (1): Guardian readers amongst you may have seen The Crescent mentioned in a feature article in its Travel supplement last Saturday (18th). “A new York state of mind” looked at our city’s “vibrant arts, music, food and bar scene” and described The Crescent as “a creative fulcrum (with) an eclectic international line-up of underground music and comedy (while) simultaneously focused on nurturing York talent”. And incidentally (2): at last night’s (23rd) York Culture Awards held at York Minster, Joe Coates, aka PleasePleaseYou, our co-promoter on this show, was voted York’s Cultural Champion 2017 in recognition of his tireless work in promoting non-mainstream live music of all kinds in the city and beyond.

8. COMING NEXT AT THE NCEM. Be warned - the Carolling & Capers show by John Kirkpatrick at the NCEM on 18th December is now Sold Out and the Martin & Eliza Carthy concert there on 13th February is heading the same way – there were fewer than 40 tickets left earlier this week.
We have four more shows at the NCEM next spring, beginning with an East Coast Canadian double bill on Tuesday 27th February, with The Ennis Sisters (Newfoundland) and Dave Gunning (Nova Scotia). Alistair Anderson & Northlands will give us an evening of Northumbrian music and song on Wednesday 14th March, then on Tuesday 27th March we welcome back the dynamic young Scottish group Barluath. Finally we return to Canada on Wednesday 30th May with Ritchie Parrish Ritchie, the band formed by three former members of much missed outfit Tanglefoot. The first of these concerts is already open for booking and the rest will follow in a few weeks.

9. AND MORE AT THE CRESCENT NEXT MAY. We also have two shows at The Crescent venue next May, again working in collaboration with Joe Coates of PleasePleaseYou. On Sunday 6th May there’s a feast of acoustic blues when two of our favourite players Hans Theessink & Brooks Williams pass through York on their Steady Rollin’ Blues joint tour. Then on Tuesday 22nd May it is an Irish night to savour when the Dublin quartet Lankum, formerly known as Lynched, finally makes it to York. The latter show is already on sale at WeGotTickets and other outlets (£16) and the blues gig will follow shortly.


10. YORK’S WINTER FOLK DAY TAKES SHAPE. As usual we are running an event for the York Residents Festival at the end of January, featuring folk and acoustic acts who live within the city. York’s Winter Folk Day will be on Sunday 28th January at the Black Swan Inn, with free entry for holders of York cards and local SU cards. Provisionally, the afternoon concert (2.00-5.30) will feature Leather’o, Bella Gaffney & Polly Bolton, Two Black Sheep & A Stallion, Paula Ryan, Union Jill, Tom McKenzie and Toni Bunnell, while the evening bill (7.30-10.30) is The Foresters, Ian Pybus, White Sail, Fake Thackray and “house-band” Ramshackle, comprising Stan Graham, Eddie Affleck, Phil Cerny, Chris Euesden and Judith Haswell. “The line-up for the whole day looks brill - maybe the best yet!” was one early comment.

11. FRIDAY NIGHT SESSION NEWS. The excellent Friday night music and song session at the Three Legged Mare on High Petergate is secure, at least for the time being. In E-News 219 I reported how bean-counters in the pub chain management were proposing to do away with the session for two trial weeks this autumn and see what happened to their bar takings. Well by all accounts those takings were significantly down and so the session is back in normal action. The next question mark hangs over early January, a time when pubs are often at their quietest. “Can I ask that in the first two weeks of next year everyone makes an extra effort to come to the session” says one of its leading figures, Ruth Thompson. Meanwhile other regulars have started a Facebook Group page for the Friday Folk Session – see

12. FAB FOLK & BLUES NEWS. Tony Haynes writes “since moving to Wednesdays on Wetherby's Tempo 107.4FM our studio guest list has exploded. I am now taking bookings into April/May next year!” But the show still needs to prove it has support. “Even if you don't have time to listen to the whole two hours” says Tony “please drop into the podcast at for a few minutes, now and again, if you can spare the time. It will register.” Recent studio guests have included Chris Milner, Tony Morris, Carrie Martin and Alex O’Neil, while on 8th November there was also a song by Martin Wyndham-Read recorded “in great voice” at his recent Black Swan appearance and a topical song by Ian Pybus from the same evening.

13. MORE MUSIC ON FILM AT THE NCEM. Following the screening of The Ballad of Shirley Collins which we supported at the NCEM last month, I have been asked to remind you that a second music-related feature is being shown there this coming Sunday, 26th November at 4pm. The Music of Strangers (USA, 2015, 96” 12A) is the story of the Silk Road Ensemble, an international collective created by acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, which exemplifies music’s ability to blur geographical boundaries, blend disparate cultures and inspire hope for both artists and audiences. “Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville’s film includes performances, interviews and archival film to create an intensely personal chronicle of passion, talent and sacrifice.” The film will be preceded by some traditional Chinese pieces performed by two Chinese musicians from the York University Music Department. Tickets are £7 (concessions £5), which includes tea and cakes.

14. fROOTS LAUNCHES A CROWDFUNDER APPEAL. Generally regarded as the premier British magazine covering our area of music, fRoots has been publishing continuously – and always on time - for nearly 39 years, promoting the best in folk, roots and world music – what they like to call “local music from out there”. I’ve been a subscriber almost from its beginnings and you’ll have seen fRoots reviews cited regularly in this mailing (e.g. about Georgia Lewis and Harp & A Monkey above).
But fRoots are now saying that “like many print magazines, we've reached crisis point. We want to keep publishing the great interviews, commentary, photography, reviews and listings that our readers love and are so vital to the independent music world we support, but the magazine is no longer breaking even, despite our faithful advertisers, subscribers and supporters. We've been having difficulty covering our costs since the crash in 2008, and the magazine can no longer continue with its current business model.” They have therefore launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding appeal. “If we can raise at least £20,000 it will greatly relieve current pressures, so that rather than worrying about paying the bills, the fRoots team can develop a new business model for the magazine. We can also plan for founder editor Ian Anderson's handover to a new team to take over the reins.”
I think this is a very worthwhile cause and I have pledged a modest sum on behalf of the folk club – as we did a few year ago to help crowdfund the Shirley Collins feature film. If you’d like to show your support, go to

15. LIKEWISE JOSHUA BURNELL GOES CROWDFUNDING. As he nears the end of his highly ambitious Seasons project, York musician Joshua Burnell has also begun a Kickstarter campaign. Seasons has seen Joshua release online a recording of a traditional folk song or tune every week this entire year. Now he is raising funds to issue 14 of the strongest tracks from the project as a physical CD. You can in effect pre-order the CD by pledging as little as £10, or you can offer more and choose from a range of additional rewards, such as a full digital download of all 52 Seasons tracks. Find out more at And by the way at those York Culture Awards held last night (23rd) at York Minster, Joshua was named “highly commended” runner-up in the Best Performing Artist category.

16. GERRY HALLOM RELEASES A CD-EP. It was good to see Gerry Hallom at the recent club show by James Keelaghan. A professional folk singer in the 1980s, famed for his Australian-themed albums and performances, Gerry has had medical problems recently which have limited his ability to make music. However, current political events have spurred him to break a twenty-year recording silence and he has just released an EP-CD of four new self-penned songs which reflect on our current situation. On Limited Edition he is sympathetically backed by local York musicians such as cellist Rachel Brown, fiddler Elaine Wallace and pianist Kieran White. Enquiries to

17. AND JEZ LOWE PUBLISHES A NOVEL. Also at that James Keelaghan show was our good friend Jez Lowe, who of course lives near York these days. It was recently announced that Jez will be publishing his first novel on 5th December, entitled The Dillen Doll. The press release continues “a major departure for Jez as a writer, this project has been in the works for the last two or three years, concurrent with all his songwriting and Radio Ballads work. Published independently by Badapple Books, it very much fits in with all his other work, with a grounding firmly in the folklore and culture of his native region. It’s an historical tale, set in North East England at the beginning of the 19th century, and based on the well-known Tyneside song Do Li A”.
Simultaneously Jez will release a new album, also called The Dillen Doll, consisting of a suite of traditional North East folk songs that are alluded to within the novel, songs such as Benwell Lass, Broom Bezzoms, Byker Hill, Keel Lad and of course Do Li A. Jez plays most of the instruments on the album and is joined by The Bad Pennies and other guests, including the upcoming Tyneside singer Rachel Hamer who visited our club a year ago. Go to for more about the book and the CD.
Incidentally, you can see Jez and the Bad Pennies in action at their Yule Do on Sunday 17th December at the Village Hall in Green Hammerton (YO26 8BA). Tickets are £12 full, / £10 concessions / £6 children on 01423 339168 or through


18. SEND A COW FUNDRAISER. There is a fundraiser night for the African aid charity Send A Cow ( coming up on Saturday 2nd December. It is at the Fulford Arms on Fulford Road (also mentioned in that Guardian article about hip venues in town – see item 7 above) with a line-up including world music choir Chechelele, our own Paula Ryan, “lyrical song weavers” Lunabaï and “soft and country rock” trio The Remains. There will also be a quiz, food and a raffle. Doors open at 7pm and the suggested entry donation is £5. Further information from

19. AND DIG THE FORESTERS! Steve Marshall writes “just to let you know The Foresters are playing their usual Christmas concert but this year we have agreed to do so in conjunction with the Green Lane Growers, from Green Lane Allotments in Acomb. Well that’s different! The date is Saturday 9th December and the venue for the concert is the Severus Club, Milner Street, Acomb, YO24 4NJ - and the ticket price is a modest £5.00. Children under 16 free. Light supper included. Sounds a bargain!” Contact Steve on if you are interested.

20. SOUNDSPHERE’S CHRISTMAS CONCERT. A reminder that Sarah, Paula and Judith, aka Soundsphere are doing a Christmas Concert at the York Cemetery Chapel also on Saturday 9th December. The ticket price of £7 includes a complementary glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. Doors will open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start and bookings can be made by emailing or contacting Sarah Dean on 07963 792504.

21. UNION CENTRAL’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. Graham Metcalf writes “to let you know about our Christmas Concert which will take place on Saturday 16th December at The Black Swan. This will feature two sets by Union Central followed by a set by The Bluebirds, the York-based 6 piece vocal harmony group.” Some of you may have seen both groups in action during last summer’s Folk Weekend. Graham adds “as we have not appeared in public for quite some time we will not charge an entry fee, but we will have a box for optional "retiring donations" on the door”.

22. BLONDE ON BOB PRESENT BOB’S XMAS BASH. Staying with the Black Swan Inn, Blonde on Bob are running their annual Bob’s Xmas Bash there in the week between Christmas and New Year, while our club takes a short break. In an evening of “Nothin’ But Dylan” songs, Chris and his mates will be joined on Thursday 28th December by special guests Freewheelin’ (alias Graham Hodge, Billy Bills and Geoff Earp). Tickets are £9 in advance through WeGotTickets, or £11 on the door at 8pm.


23. WINTER WARMERS WITH MAYOR & JAMES. Mandolin maestro Simon Mayor and singing bassist Hilary James promise “musical fun with a seasonal twist” when they appear at Seven Artspace in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, on Friday 1st December and then at Toll Gavel Church in Beverley on Saturday 2nd. See for more information.

24. CHRISTMAS CONCERT FOR WORLD PEACE. Ace accordion player Sam Pirt asks me to mention his annual Christmas Concert at the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre at Kilnwick Percy Hall just outside Pocklington (YO42 1UF). This is on Sunday 10th December from 4.30pm until 9.00pm. The event includes a welcome (non-alcoholic) drink, a vegetarian buffet and a meditation session, with live performances by Sam himself, Dolce, York student and singer-songwriter Tilly Moses and folk rockers Aelfen, fronted by fiddler Sarah Horn. Tickets are £20 through or on 01759 304832.

25. AN ALBION CHRISTMAS IN LEEDS. As part of their annual tour, The Albion Christmas Band (Simon Nicol, Simon Care, Kellie While and Ashley Hutchings) appear at the Leeds Irish Centre on Wednesday 13th December, with special guest Gordon Tyrrall. Tickets are £20 from Barry Evans on 01977 792205,, or from the venue on York Road.

26. AND THE YOUNG’UNS DO CHRISTMAS. Also touring a seasonal show, We Three Sings, The Young’uns visit St Mary’s Church, Beverley, on Friday 8th December at 7pm and Otley Parish Church on Friday 15th December at 8pm. The press release says “the popular Teesside trio don their festive jumpers for a handful of shows this Christmas, all in parish churches, as they take a light-hearted romp through Christmas past, from carols rooted deep in the soil of Britain’s ancient wassail traditions to original songs of seasonal cheer and heartbreak. Tickets are £16 – from WeGotTickets for Beverley or through for Otley.

27. MARTIN HEATON IN GREEN HAMMERTON. Regular Black Swan supporter, singer-songwriter Martin Heaton asks me to mention that he has a concert at the Village Club in Green Hammerton on Saturday 16th December at 7.30pm. Entry will be £3 on the door.

This will probably be my final mailshot before Christmas, so I’ll leave you with best wishes for a happy, peaceful and musical holiday.