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July 2020



The Devil Finds Work For Idle Hands” that was a phrase I heard many times in my younger days especially from the Primitive Methodist side of the family and no doubt, at times, from the Anglican side as well. I certainly don’t consider that I have been exactly idle during the lockdown months but it hasn’t been difficult to find myself cast as the devil incarnate; in the most innocent of circumstances!

One non – folk related instance occurred during my regular Wednesday lunchtime sessions in ASDA car park which have, over the weeks, garnered a cult following (at least I think that is what they called me) where I post pictures of the location at which I am parked, in isolation, awaiting our youngest to fetch the weekly shopping coupled with the particular esoteric recording that is on the car CD player at that time. On one particular occasion while waiting I was perusing Facebook and noticed a post generated by a well - known and respected singer who has been guest at TATT expressing despair at our leader’s inept performance during that day’s Prime Minister’s Question Time. Adding to the plethora of posts agreeing with his concern I decided to join in by creating a post made up of all the Tory excuses you find when anyone dares to criticize their hero like “Could you do better?”, “He’s doing his best” and “He’s only human” with the intention of concluding with some acidic remark to show that I was being satirical. However midway through our lad arrived and banging on the car I leaned over to free the central locking and in doing so pressed the “post” button on my phone!!! In my panic I found that I couldn’t edit it and even trying to post the rest of the message didn’t have the correct impact and by the time I arrived home the original post had swelled considerably via a lot of strangers either questioning my sanity, my addiction to certain substances or decreeing that I must be slightly to the right of The Monday Club.

It took a lot of texting over the next few days to clear that one up; if indeed I have done.

Then during the last ten days I have been kicked off Mudcat Café for the first time in seventeen years of contributing to that particular web site. Without going into the finer details it was following a contribution to a music thread although not concerning a piece of folk music. However the comments that I made were folk music related but they were deemed by the moderator in question to be part of “bad behavior” committed by at least four of the posters involved. I haven’t tried to post for a week as there has been nothing worth getting involved with so I don’t know whether I’m suspended indefinitely or not. Shame because that last thing I replied to prior to that was a very productive discussion on the ballad “The Rantin’ Laddie”.

One person who certainly hasn’t been idle during this crisis is our own Paul Mansfield (assuming we can claim him over Belper Folk Club or Second Time Around) as during the last month another of his academic papers has been produced and he shared it for our benefit on Facebook.

This particular treatise can be found at TANDFONLINE.COM under the title of “Anything Goes”* and credited to Paul and Fay Hield.  It is, as the inclusion in such a prestigious collection of papers would suggest, a well presented observation of the rules and objectives of the UKs folk clubs. A good deal of Paul’s contribution would have been culled during his original session with some of us for his own presentation on the objectives and ideals of the folk club floor singer although he did circulate a few of us prior to this effort.

For all its scholarly overtones (although it is entirely readable) it doesn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know although I readily admitted  that I am a bad example as after 54 years active on the folk scene I have probably seen every folk club format going. That is not saying much as one of the major bones of contention regarding the folk scene from around 1958 onwards is that the folk club format has not changed in any discernable manner and TATT’s presentation of the night in three sections is considered quite revolutionary!!

Club organisers interviewed all seemed quite united in the way that they presented their guest nights and singer’s nights; the material that they expect to be performed at their club and their policies of inviting floor singers to perform. They all expected good order from the audience throughout the night; no talking during a performance; regulate trips to and from the toilets and bar to in between songs and waiting outside the room until a song or tune has completed. Under par performers were gently discouraged and when that didn’t get through then one of the committee would be detailed to break the poor soul’s heart by telling them the rotten truth; no fun I can assure you having been on both ends of such a practice.

What was interesting was that Paul’s posting his paper on Facebook generated a lengthy discussion around his points but in particular comments from some local singers regarding the policy of TATT. One performer who is part of a duo performing contemporary songs claimed to be relieved that Tigerfolk wasn’t the clinical gathering of antiquarians that they had been led to believe that it was and maybe they wouldn’t be made to feel unwelcome. After a bit of discussion around this point I couldn’t keep my nose out any longer and started by saying that nobody is made to feel unwelcome at TATT and what is this supposition that an evening of traditional folk music cannot be enjoyed? We do have our rules and we exist to present and promote traditional folk music and song but not in some austere and ultra – academic fashion.

Anyway it is a poor folk club that doesn’t have a book full of rumors about it and we are currently building up a library; long may it continue. 

*I would have copied and pasted the article here but unsure of copyright issues.


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Bendle’s Bit


At a weekend sing we go to there is a very popular session that encourages people to tell the story behind the song they are going to sing.  This was inspired by Brian Dawson and in whose memory it is held.  For, as many of you know, Brian was well versed in fascinating introductions to nearly every one of his songs and, in some cases, the introduction could be longer than the song.

What this is leading into is the story behind a song on Francy Devine’s CD “An Ownerless Corner of Earth” called “The Labour League”

It was well over a decade ago that Brian and Francy were both guests at a singing weekend in Yorkshire and where they met for the first time.  An interesting sort of a do, set in lovely countryside, with a wealth of talented singers and where friendships between Francy and Brian and Francy and ourselves were forged.  The two of them met up over the years mainly up at Cullerlie, a weekend sing near Aberdeen, but also once in Leicestershire.  For a number of us had been invited over to Ireland for an epic singing weekend and a reciprocal visit was organised.  This took place in Shepshed at the beautiful watermill but the Irish were slightly outnumbered on the song front and as Brian said he would like to come along and catchup with folks, he was consequently invited “To bat for Ireland”.  Both of them have an affinity to Lincolnshire, Brain being a “Yellow Belly” through and through whereas Francy had been raised and spent his formative years there with a Lincolnshire mother and Scots/Irish father. Furthermore both Grace Devine, Francy’s mother, and Brian had both taught at the same school although at different times.  As time went on Grace moved over to Ireland and lived with Francy and Ann, so it was not unusual on our trips across to see them to take bits and pieces from Brian for Grace.  Grace, in return, would furnish Brian with Lincolnshire expressions, phrases and words in dialect as he was an avid collector of all things Lincolnshire and an active member of the Dialect society.

When Francy was pulling together material for his current double CD he came across “The Labour League” which originally appeared in the publication “The Labourer” in 1879.  He found it in a publication by Rex. C. Russell, “The Revolt of the Field” printed in 1956.  Now for the likes of me delving deep and to this extent is foreign territory but, as many of you know, Francy is assiduous in his research and likes nothing more than ferreting things out. The tune that it was sung to was unknown to him and so he turned to Brian to see if “The Union Jack of England” was known to him. He also asked Brian if he knew of Rex.  As far as the tune was concerned Brian had no knowledge but as for Rex, well yes he knew him, not only that but he was still alive and that he was shortly going to visit him in hospital! Rex at this time was 96 years of age and when Brian asked him he had no tune for the song but was overcome emotionally knowing that “Some bloke in Dublin still had his book”.  Consequently Francy set the words to an appropriate tune.  As a matter of interest Rex wrote extensively on Lincolnshire on a variety of subjects including headstones, the enclosure system, sedition and cock fighting. 

I hope you agree that as an introduction to a song it would have been just the sort of material Brian would have used.

As a footnote Rex died aged 98 and outlived both Grace and Brian who passed away just over a year previously and within a month or so each other.

John Bentham


Best Wishes go out to our friend Keith Kendrick who has been in hospital over the last couple of days following a repeat of the kidney stones that he suffered some years ago. Latest news is that the treatment has been successful and he should be going home in a day or so.

News from The Stumble Inn is that they should be opening in some capacity around the 4th July. Naturally in the interests of the club the committee will be paying mine hosts a visit in the near future to check out their forward planning and, no doubt, to be shown the results of the decorating that has been going on during shutdown.




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