THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
Back in the heyday of Off The Tracks festival one of the highspots of the weekend would be the inter - act announcements by the late John Shaw as he described items which had been handed in to the committee as being mislaid. "Honest John's Lost and Found" section was delivered with some very witty asides such as the car key which had been dropped and the keyring bore the Lada insignia. "Will anyone come forward to retrieve it and actually admit to owning a Lada?" (Don't laugh, I did for a short and expensive period). Then there was the purse that belonged to a young lady by the name of Jolene; "Please don't claim it just because you can". Or the female denim jacket handed in "I think that the lady to whom it belongs will want it back pretty quickly as the pockets contain a key, a lighter and a pouch containing....shall we say a herbal substance and leave it at that?"
Doubtless all these and more items were mislaid due to their owners being in a state of excess either due to the music, the real ale or whatever else however as we get older we also become more forgetful. Not only that but we become more forgetful. So it was that I was obliged to e-mail the membership following certain items being left behind following our last couple of Tigerfolk evenings. Nothing particular sinister but a pair of spectacles and a tin whistle were the important things in question so we had to return them to their owners urgently. Regarding the tin whistle, I think that I might be able to live for a while without my guitars and other people would rather that I did! But how would the whistle's owner survive was a burning question. On the other hand these days I couldn't get very far without my glasses. Essential for reading and computer work and while my last eye test said that I didn't require them for driving I wonder how much longer.
I am pleased to say that both pieces of equipment have been matched up with their rightful owners so the e-mails actually served their purpose!!
E-mails were also sent out this month for a much more sombre reason and that was we lost our old friend Ted Poole, the organiser of Swindon Folksinger's Club one of the oldest in the country.
It was always a pleasure to welcome Ted, Ivy and the rest of the club's residents to The Tiger and the reciprocal visits down to their place were also great nights. Corinne had added a piece celebrating Ted's life further on in the newsletter.
Sunday 8th April
Now this really will be something different. Tom has been singing around the Sea Song and Shanty scene for a very long time, sharing the stage with the likes of Jim Mageen and Johnny Collins, compared to Cyril Tawny for his song writing, not least in the way his songs have entered the tradition to the extent that they are often mistaken for "traditional" (i.e. anonymous). But when did you last get the chance to see him solo in a club? For one thing, when he retired from the Navy he and his wife settled down in Canada. Then they changed their minds and came back to start travelling the canals of England; and this is our chance - you'll be sorry if you miss it, believe me.
sunday 4th March
March meeting March Tigerfolk was a reminder, if needed, of the diversity of the genre and of our good fortune to have such fine exponents of the art on our doorstep. A reminder of how topical a song can be, whenever it was written or first sung, whether the subject is the political situation or the weather. On that last point we had a story for Spring from Sheila Bentham, John singing about stormy seas and Lynn Cooper prophetically sang The White Shepherd. All quite topical, but fortunately we had a good fire to sit by and contemplate. Corinne Male started the evening with the Idle Undeserving Poor (knocking at the door), a theme picked up by our guests and Bill Wilkes with songs from Mick Ryan’s folk opera about the workhouse A Day’s Work. Our guests were the renowned Notts.Alliance, themselves something of a tradition, originating in the famous Nottingham Traditional Music Club and still going strong as a trio: Stephen Bailey, Phil Hardcastle and Chris Orme. To my mind they exemplify how a song does not have to be ancient to be a good folk song, but also how a song that has been around for centuries can still be relevant and enjoyable. Their choice of material is first class and each song presented to its best advantage with harmonies that enhance, but still allow enthusiastic joining in from the audience. So we had, just for example, traditional murder ballad, unrequited love songs and drinking songs. But also works from Peter Bellamy/Kipling, Tom Paxton, Jez Lowe and Michael Mara (The latter’s wonderful Frida Kahlo’s visit to the Tay Bridge Bar) And not forgetting Stephen’s own Better than Ale, clearly a heartfelt composition. There was also variety from the floor singers. Apart from those already mentioned Phil Hind, Paul Mansfield (our resident collector of songs from the South), John Chambers and Dave Walters. Sam Stephen’s had his own setting of a Banjo Patterson poem The Caliopee which has family connections for him. So, if you want to know what a good folk song is, check out Notts.Alliance. Check out Tigerfolk. You could have done both in March.
A lot will be written and said about Ted Poole by people who have known him for far longer and better than me. I just wanted to say how much I always felt at home with him. The London accent and the fervent and educated socialism reminded me so much of my grandfather that being with him took me back to my roots; he had the same desire to share learning and experience and was always so welcoming.
I suppose I probably first met Ted and Ivy at Traditions at the Tiger when Roy brought Swindon Folksingers Club up as guests for the night, but I got to know them over the years at venues from Dorset to the National. I was lucky enough to be offered a bed for the night and then to share with them the coach up to London from Swindon, on the occasion when the Tiger singers returning a visit to Swindon coincided with the first Keith Summers Singing Weekend at the Musical Traditions Club in London.
This is a very personal tribute form me to a man whom I shall miss more than I can say.
On our sojourns north if, we have time to spare, a popular and regular stopping off place is the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings, just near Ferrybridge. A chance of a bit of bird watching whilst having a bite to eat and drink overlooking the bird feeders and then a gentle mooch round. Sometimes instead of turning right out of the reserve back to the A1 we turn left and head for Barwick In Elmet.
For here in Barwick is a sight to behold………..a maypole. Now, forget your playground, temporary, ribbon bedecked erections, for this is the real thing; reaching up to the height of nearby rooftops and gaily painted like an old fashioned barber's pole, white with red and blue decorations and stripes. Half way up are located 4 brackets on which are hung floral baskets and on the top a weather-vane. Sighted in the middle of the village close to the War Memorial this really is a sight to behold. Up until relatively recent times this mighty edifice was the trunk of a big, straight tree and in consequence it needed some attention. So every three years it was taken down on Easter Tuesday, laid on trestles beside the church, inspected, refurbished or replaced and repainted. Then on Whit Tuesday it was re-erected. Both operations used to be done by manpower, ropes and ladders with many lads shouldering this heavyweight bole and fortified by ale brought round in a bucket. Once it was securely in place some young thing would attempt to shin up and over the brackets and spin the weather-vane on the top and usually, to the great amusement and encouragement of the crowd, they succeeded Nowadays it is still taken down, next time 2020, repainted and re-erected but on Easter Monday and Late Spring Bank Holiday Monday. Furthermore, it is now of a metal construction but because of how the world is run these days, it is lowered and raised by crane, as to what else happens, well, we will have to wait another couple of years to find out.
So why mention this custom when it is still 2 years away? Well, as you have read, it has changed quite significantly of late and following on from my piece last month about Haxey Hood and how that tradition could well be changing quite dramatically, it leads on to another event that will, hopefully, be taking place on Good Friday, but again, maybe not as before…….Midgeley Pace Egg Play.
Picture the front cover of the LP by The Waterson's “Frost and Fire” and there you will see a Midgeley Pace Egger. Every Good Friday for 66 years up and along the Calder Valley, lads of the Calder High School have performed the play that has, according to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society, “Been performed continuously in the Calder Valley for nearly 250 years”. However, Tom Jennings, who organizes the play hasn’t had any support from the school for the last three years and this year they will have no support at all. But all is not lost for Rodney Collinge who, as a lad took part in the play and as a teacher at the school, directed it for nearly 20 years has stepped up to the plate. It is proposed to set up a new organization to continue this wonderful tradition. Generations of local lads have experienced performing and because the cast was always changing, the play evolved as well, but behind the performance, there was the guiding hand of Rodney. Of recent times that connection has been broken but now looks like being re-established. Because of its proud history and very strong connections with the area there has been a groundswell of support and I am pleased to say that the play will be performed this year. Now Rodney admits that it is a bit of a holding operation because of the shortage of time to get the play up and running but looking forward, it augers well for the future. Great news indeed and good luck to Tom and Rodney and everyone else involved in keeping alive this wonderful tradition.
So, here’s a suggestion, if you are looking for something to do over Easter then consider staying in or around Hebden Bridge on Good Friday. The play is performed along the Calder Valley throughout the day and finishes at Heptonstall, where, you can watch not only Midgley but also Heptonstall perform. On Saturday it is a short drive over into Lancashire to experience the spectacle of the Bacup Britannia
Coconut Dancers or stay in Yorkshire and travel down to Kelham Island in Sheffield for a day of music and song; http://www.sheffieldseshfest.org.uk/
SEE YOU AT THE STUMBLE INN!