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JUNE 2018


First of all a big thank you to everyone who sent greetings following my big birthday back in April; I was most humbled by their warmth and so pleased to receive them. Thank you again.

Reflecting over the last seventy years the main thing is that over that time I have enjoyed almost perfect health only succumbing to the occasional cold or bout of 'flu and in all my working life, from 1963 to the present day, I have probably clocked up less than four weeks sick leave in that time.

Recalling the first of these occasions, back in early1966, being laid up with a heavy cold and confined to bed I did have for company a transistor radio and, as it was the era of the pirate radio stations, up in the North East we could pick up Radio Scotland very clearly to act as an alternative to BBC's Music While You Work. As expected the radio station played the chart hits of the day along with those new recordings which were trying to make an impression; suddenly out of nowhere the next record up was The Graham Bond Organisation's rendition of "St James' Infirmary" which had just been released as a single. As the four eclectic musicians in this band were blasting their way through this jazz/blues standard the DJ interrupted crying "Oh no, that's sick, I don't like that at all" My first impulse was to throw the radio out of the window and hopefully the presenter along with it but calming down I could almost see his point. Clearly brought up on a diet of inoffensive pop music of the 60's such a song must have seriously jarred his senses knocking him entirely out of his comfort zone while those of us who were becoming versed in folk and blues would barely turn a hair.

I had a similar experience around twenty years ago while reading a biography of Van Morrison where the author (I forget his name) is discussing an early Morrison track called "T.B.Sheets" a long rambling dialogue as the narrator is simultaneously trying to comport a lady friend who is suffering from the disease while trying to remove himself from the scene. The author patronisingly informs us that the blues can sometimes focus on subjects that some might find distasteful; no sh.t Sherlock!

Conversely I think that it was the fact that folk music (and there I do include Blues) explores corners that other, more mainstream music would shy away from that attracted me in the first place. I have lost count of the number of traditional ballads that have fired my sense of outrage at the stories of injustice. The innocent protagonists featured in "Child Owlet" or "Fanny Blair" for instance or the fate that awaited such heroes as "The Baron o'Brackley", "Hughie the Graham" or Johnson the boldest of the two or three butchers depending on your version. It was A.L.Lloyd himself who often talked about songs that could work on a person and those above certainly did that to me!

Very early into me appreciation of all things folk and probably long before I ventured into the folk clubs I became aware that among the nice pastoral English songs, charming as they are, there lurked a whole body of tales describing what happened to scores of ordinary soldiers, sailors, factory, mill workers and miners that should prick the conscience on any decent minded person and make them thankful that conditions and laws have changed (well.. in some cases they have).

 I hear stories these days that some folk clubs have become more "cosy" and that political songs are discouraged and that could also include the aforementioned songs that may be centuries old but still convey the same message. It will be a sad day when the songs that we sing are vetoed by a club's governing body who decide what we can and can't sing so as to minimise the risk of "offending" anyone. If a song has a different viewpoint to your own then engage the singer afterwards to discuss the merits of his piece and hopefully if they are passionate about what they are singing then a lively and sensible discussion should ensue.

While it is very nice to receive the polite, and sometimes enthusiastic, applause from the audience it is possibly more gratifying the find out that if your song has a message then it has made its mark.


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Sunday 3rd June 2018

Sarah Matthews and Doug Eunson



I feel I should declare a personal interest before writing about Sarah and Doug; but I won't (or that could disbar me from writing about half the artists who appear at the club). I do remember that they were the very first guests that the present management booked to appear at the club when we all stepped in at short notice following the shock of Andy Leith's sudden death in 2005.

In those days Sarah and Doug were just starting out on the UK folk scene; a dozen or more years down the line and they have numerous CDs, many bands and more collaborations (see Morai in Sarah's case) to their names.

It will be really good to have them back as the basic duo again. Will Doug bring the Hurdy Gurdy???

Corinne Male


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Sunday 6th May 2018

It was eerily quiet on the journey across to the club. For at least three miles we didn’t see another car going in either direction and when we walked into the Stumble, it was as quiet in there as on the roads. The barmaid told us that somebody had been in half an hour before asking if the club was on so at least that was encouraging.

A few chairs were just being put out when an unfamiliar face came through the door, naturally we inquired if he had asked about the club earlier to which the answer was in the negative. Curiouser and curiouser. One or two more people wandered in and then another new face to the club appeared; this was your mystery man, all the way from Ireland on a wander over here dropping in on clubs on his travels.

Now May is never a normal night and, thanks to Paul Mansfield our guest MC for the evening, it was going to get even more surreal. He welcomed everyone with a self-penned ditty dedicated to the club with a refrain of “Here we go again, Tiger time in Long Eaton, Here we go again”. The next decision was who was to start the ball rolling and this all depended on the score of a football match from the National League involving Ebbsfleet United and the lot it fell upon Phil Hind. As you might imagine, May songs featured heavily throughout the evening but horses, a donkey, a livestock fair, a murder victim, a con-man, an escapologist, musical lovers, a wanderer, a contented man and one not so were all introduced to us throughout the evening by Corinne Male, Sheila Bentham, Dave Sutherland, our MC Paul, Phil Hind and yours truly. But what of our visitors, well Liam was over from Bray and was known by one or two of us in the club from when we have been singing over there but Corinne also knew him from trips further afield. He is one of the unsung heroes who do not perform but support the folk scene with their enthusiastic presence. John Ledbury, on the other hand, was a welcome participant in this laid back summer evening of singing, telling and nattering. He introduced us to Happy Sam from “The Original Clock Almanac”, Musical Lovers from “The Joshua Taylor Tune Book” from Knaresborough and a song from Colin Dysden, an ex-pat Tyke domiciled Down Under.

But it wasn’t just the songs and stories, it was the discussions, the chat and the banter that made this a wonderfully relaxing evening. For the conversations, obviously, initially centred around the contributions but soon spread in all sorts of directions. Some of us got quite lost when different music genre and groups were discussed but then again others were left floundering a bit when the escapades of Jack Sheppard and his ilk were on the agenda.

The beauty of quiet evenings is the opportunity to just relax and chew the fat and not be too anxious about cramming in songs for the sake of it. Well done to Paul Mansfield for easing and guiding us through a thoroughly enjoyable “Evening in May”.

John Bentham


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Bendle’s Bit

Recent wanderings took us far north-westish and to make life easier, an overnight stay seemed the best option. All this getting up with or before the dawn has started to wear a bit thin.

As ever we started planning months in advance, so, where to stay and why?

Cheshire has always appealed as invariably we have just motored through on our journeys north. Admittedly we have had a few Easters based around the maritime festival at Ellesmere Port and a bird watching trip or two to the Dee estuary but the Plain Royal and other parts were still unknown. Our thoughts and inquiries, therefore, centred around that county but then a chance meeting with an old friend put all that to an end. “We have a folk club every Thursday afternoon in a cracking little pub, you are always welcome”. Thursday night was the night we wanted to stay over and Liverpool actually suited us far better as it was then just a short journey under the Mersey to Birkenhead for the ferry.

The last time I was in Liverpool for a visit was in 1958, the Kalin Twins were in the charts with “When” and to be quite honest all I could remember was a boat trip on the Mersey!

Having parked up close to the hotel we sorted out which bus to catch up to Falkland Street and we were both pleasantly surprised how much of this part of town appeared to our eyes, relatively unchanged. The area seemed pretty affluent and there were still local pubs on street corners and in amongst the large, well looked after, terraced houses. It was to one of these hostelries, the Belvedere on Sugden Street, that we made our way. Surprise greetings and welcoming smiles were the order of the day and with a refreshing drink to hand, the afternoon soon got under way. The pub is a typical 2 room, bar and smoke room(where the sing was held), establishment and with something like 20 people eventually shoe-horned in, it wasn’t long before you got to know folks. Colin Batho was our MC, and with the intimate knowledge that comes with being involved in a local scene for many years, guided the assembled company through a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of songs, stories and anecdotes. Being Liverpool the craic flowed quicker than the beer with people chipping in their two penn’orth. Maybe because St. Patrick’s Day was coming up there was a large percentage of Irish or Ireland related songs sung with a number of Percy French songs in the van, but maybe no, and this is typical of the Belvedere.

As five o’clock approached the door was opened a few times and people peered in for the sing normally ended before now and the locals were arriving for the early doors session (I suppose now with all day opening, the expression doesn’t really apply but it’s a term that is now firmly fixed in many peoples psyche) and wanting their favourite seats. And who wouldn’t want to sit in there, an unchanged room that is relatively comfortable with some wonderful Liverpool memorabilia on the walls. So the afternoon drew to a close and but not the hospitality and companionship. For during the afternoon people were asking us the usual questions of where we were from and what we were doing in Liverpool. Now as some of you who are interested in these things know, Liverpool has some wonderful heritage pubs and some of the good folk at the sing were only too pleased to give us a conducted tour round a few of them. Perhaps the Philharmonic is one of the best known and this was only three or four minutes' walk from the Belvedere. It was then a gentle stroll back down the main road towards the city centre dropping in at one or two more wonderful hostelries on route.

So thanks to Colin, Yvonne, Mathew and everyone else who made us so welcome and took time out to show us some of the best that Liverpool has to offer. But actually I think they would be doing this sort

of walk about anyway and why wouldn’t you. All I know is that we won’t need much of an excuse or reason to justify visiting this most friendly of clubs again and again.

John Bentham








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