Mid August 2008
As usual, I begin with a focus on forthcoming club events:
- ANOTHER OF OUR POPULAR SINGERS NIGHTS. This coming Thursday (21st) is our Singers & Musicians Night for August. These “open house” evenings are always good fun and are consistently popular with performers, attracting anything between a dozen and a score of high-quality acts each time. They are also proving increasingly popular with the listening audience. July’s Singers Night was a Full House, continuing a trend we have seen all year (see item 5 below). Future Singers Nights this year are scheduled for 18th September, 16th October, 20th November and the Christmas Party on 18th December. Entry is just £ 2.50 (concessions £ 1.50).
- BRYONY’S BELATED RETURN. Around twenty five years ago the trio of Ailsa Mackenzie, Cathy Barclay and Alison Younger, alias Bryony, were regulars at the Black Swan and indeed Alison was the club’s resident MC for quite a while. After finding considerable success on the national folk scene they eventually split up and went their separate ways. Alison, for example, worked with Strawhead and remains a member of The Mrs Ackroyd Band, with Les Barker, while Cathy sang with the vocal quartet Beggars Velvet alongside Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman.
Fairly recently Bryony got back together and it is now our great pleasure to welcome them back to one of their earliest musical haunts. They continue to specialise in strong vocals and sweet harmonies, with an unusual musical accompaniment which takes in Appalachian and hammered dulcimers, Celtic harp and recorders. They were due to perform for us in February but had to pull out due to a medical emergency. Very happily, we were able to reschedule their show for 28th August, as they are en route to the Fylde Folk Festival the following weekend. Another old 80s hand, Phil Cerny, acts as MC and it is £ 6 on the door (concessions £ 5).
- AN EVENING WITH TOM BLISS. The Leeds-based multi-instrumentalist and singer Tom Bliss makes his first full solo appearance at the Black Swan on 4th September, having first visited us with the band Slide and subsequently doing two bookings in duo with Tom Napper. Tom is a songwriter of real stature, producing songs which appeal to traditionalists and modernists in equal measure. Most of his songs tell of true stories and historical incidents, often from his “second home” of the Channel Islands. He’s a great performer too, a real storyteller-in-song, with plenty of laughs and some grand singing choruses. He switches effortlessly between guitar, whistle, mandocello, concertina, dulcimer and more. A fellow club organiser writes: “Tom conjured up little-known but thoroughly riveting songs, writing down tradition for today, the modern troubadour. He took the audience on a genial magical mystery tour”
As many of you will know, we have a floor-spot “booking” system to share out available guest nights slots equitably amongst our dozen or so residents. It is a measure of how highly Tom Bliss is regarded that virtually all of them put in a bid to perform on Tom’s night. David Swann comes out of the hat as MC for this one, doors open as usual at 8pm and entry is again £ 6 (concessions £ 5).
- BELLA: FROM THE ROYAL ALBERT TO THE BLACK SWAN. Things have really taken off this year for Bella Hardy. Her debut CD, Night Visiting, met with huge critical success and she received several BBC Folk Award nominations. Last month she sang at the first ever Folk Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, and she has guested at many of the summer’s major festivals. And now she sings and plays her fiddle for us at the Black Swan Inn, on Thursday 11th September.
Bella is no stranger to York, having spent three years as a student at York St John and having played with Michael Jary and Helen Bell in the band Ola. Her folk experience goes all the way back to her teens when she was a member of the young big-band The Pack. For us she is accompanied by concertina virtuoso Chris Sherburn, himself well known in York, having played here numerous times with his band Last Night’s Fun. This is a pay-on-the-door night (£ 8/£ 6.50) but I do anticipate a lot of interest and I will be happy to take reservations beforehand. Indeed, I already have a short list.
Followed by a miscellany of other club-related bits and pieces:
- HALF YEAR REPORT. The club’s business year reached its half way stage on 31st July and I’ve been totting up the figures. Cash-wise, we made a loss of £ 278 over those six months. This isn’t as bad as it appears, bearing in mind that there was exceptional expenditure of £ 548 on a new club PC (after the old one died on us), and also that we invested £ 172 in some new microphones, mic stands and cables. Despite the loss, we still had £ 4027 in funds at the end of the accounting period.
Looking at audience numbers, it is more of a mixed picture. Our NCEM concerts averaged 149 paying customers, which is excellent, and as mentioned above Singers Nights are attracting a larger listening audience, up by an average of 5 people per event compared with last year. On the other hand, Guest Night attendances are down by an average of 6 people per week. We’ve had many excellent performances over the last six months, yet all too often the quality of the artist was not fully reflected in the size of the audience. One guest in June even did an extremely entertaining, varied and well-executed performance to an audience of 12!
Thankfully, things have picked up lately, with a Full House for Roger Davies and a healthy turnout for Bram Taylor last Thursday. You, the readers of this newsletter, are the core of our potential audience – so please tell us what we could do to tempt you into the folk club a little bit more frequently!
- NO REST FOR A FOLK CLUB ORGANISER! You may think that this is the “quiet season” for a folk club organiser, with only our regular Thursday night meetings to manage, but in fact I’ve been very busy lately. For example, I’ve begun to map out our programme for 2009. Favourite Thursday night guests already booked for a return visit include Grace Notes, Kieran Halpin and Andy Irvine, while debut guest performers include young prodigy Ruth Notman, female band Zoox and harmony trio Craig Morgan & Robson, with other top artists currently under negotiation. I’ve also been arranging spring 2009 concerts for the National Centre for Early Music, with confirmed dates for Spiers & Boden and John Tams & Barry Coope and several more in discussion.
Alongside this I’ve been finalizing arrangements for this autumn’s programme, things like booking guest accommodation and chasing up posters and other promotional material. Very soon now I’ll have to set aside a day or so to draft and lay out our next publicity brochure, and as soon as that gets back from the printers there is an evening of envelope addressing and stuffing to look forward to. And so it goes on.
Before I can draft that brochure I have to reach a decision on future ticketing arrangements, so thank you very much everyone who volunteered feedback to my piece in the last E-Newsletter. Watch this space...
- FOLK WEEKEND ITEMS. Firstly, a reminder that there will soon be an Open Meeting to discuss this year’s event and plan next year’s. It is on Monday 8th September at the Black Swan Inn, starting around 8pm. Please come along if you have suggestions or constructive criticisms to contribute.
Secondly, I have been asked why there are no Folk Weekend pictures on the club website. In fact there are some photos available (not as many as last year), but due to an as-yet unresolved glitch they are filed under Folk Day 2007. See the link http://bsfc.fotopic.net/c823801.html where they are the uncaptioned ones at the beginning. Courtesy of Phil Myers, there are also some good images on the MySpace page www.myspace.com/black_swan_folk_club. If anyone else has Folk Weekend pictures available, do please let us know.
- EDDIE’S SORE FINGER. Our best wishes go to club resident Eddie Affleck who recently managed to take off the tip of one finger with a power tool while doing some DIY. Fortunately he is making a good recovery but it will still be a couple of months before he is able to play guitar again, much to his sorrow.
And now some more general news reports:
- ADRIAN REMINISCES. My piece about folk club history in the last newsletter produced the following recollection from Adrian Spendlow:
- I went to the folk night at The Lowther when I was just fifteen – me and two friends, primarily so we could get way with having a beer. It worked. We got our tickets and then got a pint. The only seats were right at the front so with heads down we snook forward, sat and looked up. The act on stage was our teacher from Lowfields School! We were really in trouble and sat and quaked throughout. The teacher was only few years older than we were, I reckon 21, and was quite good. He finished, came off stage and snook up behind us. “Don’t tell the other teachers you have seen me here, will you!”
Adrian is of course a very active storyteller, performance poet and all-round good egg these days – check out http://firstname.lastname@example.org to find out his many and various guises.
- KEVIN HALL S.O.S. Another North Yorkshire folk activist has suffered a computer crash and with it the loss of his entire email address book. Following Ray Black (E-News 86) this time it is Kevin Hall of the White Hart Folk Club at Mickleby, near Whitby who has suffered cyber-failure. So if you think that you ought to be in Kevin’s address book, please get in touch with him on email@example.com. “External hard drive back up here I come”, Kevin now swears.
- STAN’S DOUBLE DOSE. Stan Graham’s on-line radio show (E-News 86) has been so well received that is now getting a repeat. The Akoustik Hour goes out at 8pm Mondays, online at www.drystoneradio.co.uk , and again at 9pm on Wednesdays.
- PILLOWFISH ANNOUNCE DOWNLOAD. Local “alt folk” duo Pillowfish, aka Helen Bell and Tom Drinkwater, announce the release of a new studio track Whisky In The Dark as a download. They have also had their song Seven Stolen Stars included on Folk Rising 2, an excellent new compilation CD of up-and-coming folk artists put out by Proper Distribution. Find out more at www.pillowfish.co.uk.
- YOUNG ACOUSTIC ROOTS 2009. Each spring the Rotherham-based BPAS group organises a talent contest for young musicians. The next one takes place on Saturday 7th March 2009 and is open to all musicians aged between 12 and 21, with “all acoustic styles” being eligible. There is no entry charge, closing date is 7th February 2009 and the final takes place at The Phoenix Theatre in Bawtry near Doncaster, where all selected finalists will perform in an evening concert headlined by a well known artist. There are various prizes, subject to sponsorship. Entry forms and further details from Pete Thornton-Smith on 01709 739093, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- PICKERING CANCELLED. As many of you may already have heard, the first Pickering Folk Festival (8th-10th August) had to be cancelled at very short notice after heavy and persistent rain left the site waterlogged. An announcement is imminent regarding both refunds and the future of the festival. Check out www.pickeringfolkfestival.com for the latest news.
Lastly, a look at other forthcoming gigs in York and beyond:
- MUSIC IN THE LOFT. York-based singer/songwriter Holly Taymar appears at the Loft at Meltons Too Restaurant on Walmgate in York on 27th August. Doors open at 8.30pm and there is a £ 1 cover charge. The Loft is fast establishing itself as a good venue for live acoustic music. Future guests there include Paula Ryan in October and TWO in November. Find out more at www.meltonstoo.co.uk/Events.
- RYEDALE LIVES. Holy Taymar also features at the next in the Ryedale Live series of “upbeat and laid-back acoustic music shows”. This one is at Hovingham Village Hall on Friday 5th September at 7.30pm, with the Black Swan’s own David Swann also on the bill, and 17-year old singer/songwriter Anna Leddra-Chapman, amongst others. This enterprising new venture is taking contemporary acoustic music around various venues in the Ryedale area. Find out more at www.ryedalelive.co.uk.
- OSMOTHERLEY GATHERS. David Swann also features at the Osmotherley Gathering over the weekend of 29th-31st August, the latest event under the banner of Festival On The Moor. Other acts include Mawkin, Gordon Tyrrall, Wendy Arrowsmith, Richard Grainger & Chris Parkinson, Steve Dawes & Helen Pitt and more. Venues are the Village Hall, the Queen Catherine and the Golden Lion, with concerts, singarounds, workshops, sessions and a ceilidh. Find out more at www.festivalonthemoor.co.uk.
- RICHMOND SINGS. I’ve also been asked to mention a new folk “sing-along” on Fridays in Richmond. It’s at the Castle Tavern on the Market Place and kicks off around 9.15pm. There’s a contact number for more information: 01748 823187.
- UNION CENTRAL CALLING. Phil Quinn advises that modern bluegrass outfit Union Central (one of the hits of Folk Weekend) are back in action at the Black Swan Inn on Saturday 13th September. Doors open at 8pm for an 8.30 start and admission will be £ 5. Tickets can be reserved in advance by calling Phil on 01904 783029.
There’s lots of good stuff coming up, so do keep on supporting live music.