THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
When I first got involved with folk music folk festivals were pretty well few and far between and therefore they were viewed with huge anticipation. Then a few years later they were springing up all over the country to the point that there were one or more festivals taking place every weekend. I can actually remember one meeting of the North East Folk Federation where we were trying to organize a date for a particular workshop only to be met with the response to each proposed Saturday that such and such festival was taking place that weekend.
It all depends on whether you like festivals or not; personally years ago they were as much a great place for meeting up with fellow folkies from other parts of the country as they were for hearing some new performers along with your favourites. Others, and this view was often aired at the above NEFF meetings, was that festivals didn’t reflect the serious side of folk music and they were more an excuse to get drunk and act in an irresponsible manner.
Over the last twenty five years or so when attending festivals, both indoor and outdoor I have seldom encountered anyone that I knew and also I have found it equally difficult to hear any actual folkmusic; maybe I wasn't going to the right festivals?
As usual around this time of year I get inundated with information regarding festival throughout the country and one, unsettling, trend appears to be forming and that is that you have to delve pretty deeply into the line - up before you can find what you would normally class as “folk”. In order to attract the crowds these days it would appear that you have to present as your three main top liners pop or rock groups who might have graced the charts twenty or thirty years previously. Thankfully a number of these events have dropped the word “folk” from their headline in favour of “roots”, “world music” or “acoustic” while others just go with the word festival.
In recent arguments that I have observed people are stating that they no longer go to folk clubs, citing various reasons, and now only go to festivals to hear folk music; at the same time I have heard festival attendees saying that they have no interest whatever in folk music but they find the weekend atmosphere a good time out.
What also seems to have been a trend over the years is that festivals now appear to be just a series of concerts with hardly any workshops or singarounds in evidence thus offering little opportunity for those who wish to participate in some small measure. There again this might have been generated as an antidote against those who think that they have a God given right to be given a place in every singaround, club session etc. that the festival has organised.
So call me unadventurous but I don’t think that I will be troubling the festival circuit again this year; my loss probably but these days I find myself siding with my colleagues from the NEFF who lamented the loss of the serious side of the music.
Sunday 2nd June 2019
Peter and Barbara Snape
"Cotton Town Chronicles":
At Whitby Folk Festival, 2018, John, Sheila and myself all went along to see the Cotton Town Chronicles show presented by Peter and Barbara - and unanimously agreed that Tigerfolk should see this as well. Despite being booked to do the show in a room with no projection facilities at all Peter and Barbara held us enthralled; we know it'll be even better when we get them a real screen and that you, the Tigerfolk audience, will enjoy it just as much as we are going to do the second time around.
Sunday 5th May 2019
Singing in the May
As is normal in May our club night falls on the Sunday of the Bank Holiday, so, we aren’t surprised when attendance is on the low side. It does, however, give those performers who do come along a chance to have more than one bite of the cherry as was the case this time around. A night mainly of songs but stories were given a good airing as well as a concertina, a fiddle and a guitar.
It should come as no surprise that May featured a few times with songs from Cornwall where we visited Crantock and Helston, Ickwell Green in Bedfordshire and back to our own patch with a couple of self-penned songs. Fittingly, a Morris tune “Brighton Camp” brought fiddle, concertina and guitar together. In fact, we did quite a lot of travelling with tunes from Shetland, Raasay and mainland Scotland, not to mention a ballad from Deeside. We came across gypsies in the borders, a rather salubrious Chinese restaurant in South Shields and once in the Lakes and another time elsewhere, we came across the devil, old nick, old scratch himself in a story of jokes and one of fiddling, musical fiddling that is not your accountancy type. In Yorkshire we visited Holmfirth and Kettlewell and were also introduced to a thresher man, a hanged man, a young lark man and musical lovers. From Belper came a waltz and a song celebrating Tigerfolk, now, how many folk clubs have a song written for them? Carrying on geographically, we had a reminiscence of Martin Carthy in Stratford on Avon when the world was still in black and white and the same over in East Anglia where Cyril Poacher was introduced to us. Heading west, we went to Swansea and over to Ireland for a love song. More songs were sung about more lovers, at least once involving a nightingale, we had snow and a knight winning his spurs. There was one extra-terrestrial story that followed the Pope up to Heaven and he wasn’t a happy bunny!
Sheila Bentham knitted the evening together with more contributions from Lyn Cooper, Corinne Male, Andy Cooper, Dave Sutherland, John Chambers, John Ledbury, Paul Mansfield, Phil Hind and yours truly.
A gentle relaxed evening with plenty of time to chat and to enjoy some very well performed songs, stories and tunes.
“Good morning, come in and lie on the couch and tell me why you came along today”
“Well doctor, it’s like this. You see I’ve been getting more and more pre-occupied with Michael Marra”
“Mmmm, the MM Syndrome. It isn’t one that I am familiar with, you’d better tell me all about it”
“I guess it all started when I first heard people singing some of his songs and the chief culprits were Notts. Alliance, local lads who sing unaccompanied harmony stuff. They have featured some of Michaels’ songs both in performance and on CD. Then I heard other people singing more of his songs and then we had the opportunity of seeing him at the Musician in Leicester. As we walked up to the pub, there he was, just standing outside with his beret bedecked head bent forward having a fag. He wasn’t inclined to say much, just a nod and an acknowledgement and was kind of withdrawn into himself, but what a change when he was on stage, funny, witty, engaging and very professional. He gave a performance that you couldn’t forget. A few years later, we were staying the night in Dundee so went on a pilgrimage to the Tay Bridge Bar that features in in his song about Frida Karlo. This was Michael’s local and a copy of a montage of Frida Karlo, painted by Michael was presented to the landlord as a memorial and hangs on the wall of the pub. The landlord, by the way, gave the family a £500 cheque for the Optimistic Sounds Charity, founded by Michael as a musical charity for the young people of Dundee. It was up in Scotland mixing with Scottish singers, especially those from around Dundee that fueled my interest in even more. Perhaps listening to Barbara Dimmock singing “Muggie Sha” confirmed that I was getting hooked. I know this because Dundonian is a foreign language to me but I couldn’t get enough of it. Whenever we are on a car journey I have to stop myself just reaching for his CDs to play. It isn’t fair on all the others in our collection.”
“This is all very interesting but can you give me some idea of how long this has been going on and has it developed further?”
“Well, I guess, we are talking around 20 years give or take but recently I have been satiated by reading a biography of Michael by James Robertson…..twice in two months. Oh, it’s a great read. Not only do you get the hard facts of his life but there are so many stories, reminiscences, tributes to the man it gets quite overwhelming. I, like many more, think of Michael Marra as a singer-songwriter but he was so, so much more, a composer who couldn’t read music, an actor, poet, writer, a champion of the underdog, a painter, yes, and more. You would think that he would stride like a colossus all over his beloved Dundee but he was, like we found out when meeting him outside the Musician, a very quiet, nervous man but my, did he work. If he was involved in creating something be it a song, play or whatever, he worked at it morning, noon and night burning the midnight oil for days on end. He was deeply conscientious. The anecdotes and the appreciation of all, apart from authority in whatever guise it took, are endless. So many people have so much to thank him for. But there are also conversations around the kitchen table between Michael and James that take this book to another level and his incisive, you might say barbed, humour shines through in their sparring either side of the table and their last conversation is quite surreal.”
“You say you are satiated, therefore satisfied, replete and are you now, to use your word, again, satiated?”
“Er don’t think so. In fact I know so but at least I have come to terms with Michael Marra and through all the information in the book re discography and the like I can work away at it at my own pace…...I think. But I know the next time we head up to Scotland there will be a detour to Dundee for another pint in the Tay Bridge Bar, a visit to the McManus art gallery and museum to look at photographic works of him by Calum Colvin and rom
“Well I’m pleased you are so optimistic and feel you are in control. By the way what’s that book called?”
“Michael Marra, Arrest This Moment by James Robertson www.bigsky.scot “
“Thank-you and good bye, might bump into you in the Tay Bridge Bar sometime “
The tribute to Laurence Platt, former resident at both Tigerfolk and NTMC as well as being involved with Dolphin Morris, will take place on Saturday 1st June at Nottingham Mechanics Hall, 3 North Sherwood Street, NG1 4EZ between 1pm and 4pm.
There will be tribute speeches from a number of his colleagues from The Morning Star and other movements with which he was actively involved. It is hoped to have some folk music on the day but at the time of writing the organisers do not have any names to forward to me.
Look up Laurence Platt on Facebook for further details.
See you at the Stumble Inn