THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
Further on in this newsletter you will read John Bentham’s enthusiastic report on this year’s Whitby Festival, which is a welcome change to the list of moans that I have been reading on Mudcat Café re the festival. However the main thing for me is his reference to “The Other Music” Philip Donnellan’s TV Film about our music which was made in 1981 and broadcast later that year and of which I am told there is only one copy left and that was possibly the one that John saw.
That is only the bare bones of the issue and the making of “The Other Music” could warrant a film all of its own! It was early 1981 and I was working for a printer in Beeston when my wife rang me to ask whether I knew Philip Donnellan? I replied that I had met him a couple of times and that I was certainly aware of him but didn’t really know him. The reason was that he had called me to say that he was undertaking this project and would the members of Kegworth Folk Club be prepared to come along on one of the nights to be an audience and generally participate in the filming of the programme. This invitation was repeated a few days later by Roy Harris who was going to be the anchor-man of the project which was to be filmed at the home of The Co-op Folk Club in Nottingham. The four nights booked there promised to be a real star-studded affair with such names as Ewan MacColl, A.L.Lloyd, John Kirkpatrick, Martin Carthy, Frankie Armstrong, Peta Webb, Roy Bailey and The Ian Campbell Group among others.
Naturally for such a high profile presentation admission was going to be limited and it was either tickets or names on the door to get in. As my wife was well down the road expecting our first one she didn’t fancy being stuck in a crowded room with various restrictions so I went with her boss Tom who was the chef at the restaurant where she worked and who claimed to like folk music. It was the Monday night, the first of the series, to which Kegworth club was invited and as we entered we were met by a young chap from Roy’s Radio Nottingham programme who took our names but stated that he didn’t think that there would be any call for club singers. I wondered how Tom would get on being a non – folkie but with him being a lifelong bullshitter he had soon engaged Roy Harris in a conversation about football as Forest had, that morning, been drawn at home against Ipswich in the 5th round of the cup; a tie, claimed many of the pundits, that would have graced the final.
The evening began with Mr Donnellan giving a familiar welcome speech to those who had been present at other productions of his where he would point out that the cost of film ran at 3p per second (a significant rise from the 1½p per second he quoted prior to “Death of a Miner” in 1967) therefore get on with your task in good time and no messing about!! During performances by the guests Umps and Dumps, Jim Eldon and Roy Harris crew members focussed on people in the audience and in doing so sent boom mikes into the crowd and Philip was getting increasingly angry with the shrieks and giggles that emanated whenever this action was performed. He was also prominent when during Roy’s rendition of “McCafferty” some of the Kegworth crowd had decided to sing along with the opening verse.
After the guests had each performed their first allotted spot Mr Donellan then, somewhat unexpectedly, tried to get some dialogue going among the audience by throwing open a question as to what we all got out of folk music? The first person to dive in here was a chap who used to frequent the Beeston folk club and whose name I have totally forgotten but he started his diatribe with the statement that “We all love folk music” and illustrating his remark by detailing all the things that folk music was not; i.e. commercial, mass produced or electric. This last quote provoking a few nervous glances in the direction of John Kirkpatrick whose association with Steeleye Span and The Albion Band was quite well known. Our Beeston friend having told us what folk music wasn’t Mr Donellan wanted to know what it was; was it political? John Whitelaw was vocal here claiming that it certainly wasn’t! Now, although I had seen John and Jan around the clubs and festivals during this period I didn’t really know them and therefore I went steaming in to say that folk music most definitely was political claiming that many of the songs I knew came at the subject from a Socialist angle. This is what Phillip obviously wanted as he was making signs for me to expand on what I had just said so I think that I might have bumbled something about the difference between the sycophantic and servile attitude of some Southern agricultural songs and the anti – authority content of the Northern industrial songs. This had Jim Eldon taking up the cause saying he didn’t agree with my statement and that you could read a political message into any folk song if that was your way of thinking. I don’t think that there was much more said on this or any other topic, the discussion died and the music started up again. The only deviation from the norm in the last part of the night was some geezer who had recently attached himself to Kegworth club and told me why he loved folk music “Because it is cheap, easily accessible and you can dance to it” and therefore he demonstrated the latter by jogging up and down a clearway between tables, impressing nobody and mercifully the cameras ignored him too.
As we left to go and as I was about to give myself up to Tom’s expertise regarding the navigation through inner city Nottingham I felt an arm go round my shoulder and there was Philip Donellan thanking me for my contribution although he didn’t think that they were going to use any of it. I probably muttered something to the effect of the discussion never really got going and bade him goodnight. Seconds later, and quite unbeknown to me, my colleagues from Kegworth had collard Philip expressing their concern regarding his shutting them up mid song. This also involved Roy Harris and not one to leave it there Roy invited both Philip and the Oddfellows into Radio Nottingham studios to debate this and it would form the basis of the following Sunday’s folk music programme.
Having been forewarned about this at the following Thursday’s meeting of Kegworth Club I was ready for the programme and I think that I even taped it from the radio to listen again. It began with the Kegworth contingent, David Potter who sang for us last month being among them, grilling Phillip about his decision not to use floor singers and why did he want such obvious political overtones to imbue the programme. In response he outlined both subjects, floor singers because you didn’t know what you were going to get (the logistics of film etc.) while I can’t remember what he said re the political question but it must have been one he had asked countless times before. Only a year or so previously the pages of Radio Times had been awash with letters complaining about the left wing stance displayed in his programme “Gone For a Soldier” while other films of his that I had seen, “Sunderland Oak” and “Before the Mast” concentrated on the workforce as opposed to the captains, owners and bosses and with “Death of a Miner” featuring Jack and Em Elliott plus the rest of the Elliott family how could it not contain a vast political content? At the end of the half hour of debate it seemed that all parties were satisfied and the matter closed. Except that I went to the Red Lion the next Thursday armed with the three most politically conscience songs that I knew.
“The Other Music” was broadcast, if I remember correctly, in the October of 1981on BBC2 at some really early part of the evening. Naturally we had all be made aware of the broadcast date as we sat around out television sets (long before we and many others had VCR) to see the bits that John described and then to be shocked that Mr Donellan had included our comments in the programme and my political murmurings gave way to Roy Bailey and Martin Carthy performing “Blackleg Miner” and then Sisters Unlimited singing a modern political piece. Both Lloyd and MacColl could not come to Nottingham due to health reasons so they were interviewed at their respective homes but all the invited guests got a decent part of the documentary and the general feeling was that it had been a good vehicle for folk music.
Once again Roy had Philip on his now 2 hour Thursday night folk programme and invited those of us who had been interviewed to take a phone call and discuss the show with him. I was first up and generally said that I had enjoyed it but then Phillip asked me did I think that it was unfair that the programme just focussed on English music. To be perfectly honest I hadn’t realised that it had so I rather naively asked would that be the basis of another programme. To which he replied that my answer was a cop out.
I am aware that “The Other Music” has been shown at festivals over the years but I have never heard opinions about it other than someone on Mudcat declaring that it was “of its time” when I stated that it should be shown again in the wake of “Folk Britannia” Maybe music and television has moved on in the last thirty six years but we couldn’t half do with a successor to Phillip Donnelan.
Just for the record Forest went in at half time two – nil down and both goals were scored in his own net by Viv Anderson who the crowd did not blame and gave him an encouraging round of applause as he left the field. Forest came out in the second half inspired and raced into a three – two lead before giving away a late penalty to make it 3 -3. Ipswich won the replay 1-0.
SUNDAY 7TH OCTOBER 2018
SHADES OF GREY + EMBRACE
Once upon a time there was GU4, (or Guffaw, as you please), a storming 4-part harmony group who sang around the festivals of the Midlands and were universally admired for their range of material and stonking, full-blooded harmonies. They disbanded, alas, following the relocation of 50% of their line up to the north-east and south-west reaches of England - not that they were actively trying to get as far away from each other as possible, you understand, it just happened that way; but it did make close harmony rehearsals a bit impossible. The 50% still left were Bill Wilkes and Karen Harris; festivals baulked of their wish to book G4 persuaded them to carry on but a new name was required so they became 50 Shades of Grey (a bit unfair in Karen's case). Then Karen also started singing with Ed Butler, similarly at the request of outside agencies, and thus Embrace came into being. It is possible that, with this joint booking, Tigerfolk may have contributed to the organic development of this supergroup; Embrace the Grey???
Sunday 2ND September 2018
Tigerfolk has had some wonderful singer’s nights over the years, but you never know what you are going to get. September’s this year was even more of an unknown quantity as we had at quite short notice to decamp from the Stumble Inn due to building work, and took shelter in the back room of the Red Lion in Kegworth. Who would brave the roadworks on the motorway and the A6, even if they got the information in time? In the end we filled the room and had 13 performers including one welcome returner, two new faces and three bringing instruments: the ingredients for a highly satisfying evening of folk.
Ever mindful of the seasons we had many songs celebrating the harvest, leavened by one humorous parody (Dave Walters with Plough the Fields and Scatter) and Dave Sutherland with the Grape Picker’s Tragedy reminding us of the sometimes cost of seasonal bounty. Lynn Cooper remembered the date even more precisely with Sailing to Liberty’s Sweet Shore, which voyage left for Quebec on the 5th September. There was the opportunity to relish some of the longer traditional ballads and honourable mention should be made to Jack Crawford with the Cruel Mother, The red-haired man’s wife and another, new to me, that may be called My love is a well… (Apologies for my lack of knowledge to usual titles: I can’t find my Penguin book of English Folk Song!) John Bentham also took advantage, in a good way, with a version of the Outlandish Knight (I think) and Dave Sutherland with The Earl of Murray.
Paul Mansfield brought his fiddle to entertain us at the interval as well as accompany his singing, and Martin Tabraham’s lovely guitar playing on Allen Water and The Young Indian Lass were highlights for me. Sam Stephens abandoned his guitar to sing The Minstrels Request. Our visitors Derek Oldham and “3rd”Dave (Potter) each showed varied repertoires with traditional song, music hall comedy and a very testing round. Dave’s lyrical Sleep on Child lingers in the memory. There were of course some rousing choruses to join in with: special thanks to John Whitelaw for Queen of Rivers-O and Bill Wilkes for The Mary Ellen Carter.
For these and many other contributions too numerous to mention, thanks to all
You know how it is, the post arrives and there lying on the mat is the envelope you have been waiting for; yes it’s the Whitby Folk Festival programme. Now it’s still a month before you pack the old bucket and spade but there is that feeling that the holiday is somehow starting. For it is the time to diligently search for the events that will personalize and make the festival your own.
There is something reassuring about the routine and the familiarity of the journey and, well, it’s part of the annual ritual that is Whitby Folk Week. A gentle introduction to the week sitting in the sun watching the world, dancers and friends go by but not for long, there’s a festival to savour. The first couple of days seem to take their time and the week stretches before you but as the routine sets in the days speed up and hey presto, before you know it, you are saying cheerio and see you next year and so long as we are all the right side of the turf, long may it continue.
My Whitby doesn’t see me belting round song session after song session, in truth I rarely sing because I have come to see and hear others do that. Strolling along and watching a bit of dancing or bumping into old friends as you make your way from venue to venue is always a joy. The chatting that takes place while queuing or inside waiting for something to start affords great pleasure, the hors d’ouevres you might say before whatever it is you are going to see. There are times when a couple of things you want to go to clash so you have to decide which one you have to forego. And there are also times when a near impossible walk to get from one side of the town to the other has to be undertaken, well it used to be, but not so much these days. Again which one do you choose because, after all, you are on holiday and aren’t they supposed to be relaxing? Forget the relaxing bit as at the end of the day there is a need to catch up with the rest of the household and that can’t be done until all are back and the wine comes out and………..you get the gist. My mornings quite often start at the Coliseum where Doc Rowe offers an eclectic mix of all things folk. This year on Tuesday we were shown the film “The Other Music” as a tribute to Alun Howkins who passed away in July and who worked on this film for the BBC some 30 years or so ago. It started with a phonograph playing and Joseph Taylor singing in the background, it then morphed into a clip of film of Martin Carthy singing the same song. The singing continued but the background film became a cycle production line and then a making up department in the textile trade. The old grey matter started waking up a bit for this was surely Nottingham. Then in rapid succession we were treated to clips of interviews with John Whitelaw, Dave Sutherland, Dave Cooper and Roy Harris singing as only he could. Now that is pretty strong meat for anybody’s constitution at 10 o’clock in the morning but what a wonderful film it was. Being made of stern stuff I didn’t let this put me off and continued to go to Doc’s presentations and one other, to briefly mention, was “Departed Friends”, it is always popular and sadly is being added to year by year, This time it ended with a brilliant outtake from “Who Do You Think You Are?”. Tamsin Outhwaite traced her descendants back to Fishburn in County Durham and who was there to meet her but Bert Draycott, the font of all knowledge regarding Fishburn and spoon playing, being the world champion and all that, as well as a host of other things. But what we were shown was Bertie with herself in a nondescript room where Bert was teaching her how to play the aforementioned spoons. Apart from the patter from yer man the demonstration of the spoon player’s art which included the Roker Ripple and the Fishburn Flick amongst others was a sight to behold and the look on her face was one of sheer mystification and amazement. Money can’t buy an experience like that. One day I had to forgo the Coliseum as Peter and Barbara Snape presented “Cotton Town Chronicles” archival photos illustrating the life and times of the folk in these Lancastrian mill towns interspersed with commentary and songs was something to be seen (And you can because we have the show booked for the club next year). Later in the day a squeeze box concert, an account of happenings in the Cotswold including country dancing before Cecil Sharp arrived on the scene, mighty shanty sessions and more filled the time.
Nights in the company of Taffy Thomas with a myriad of guests where no-one including Taffy can predict what will be proffered for our delight and the sheer exuberance of traditional singing up at the football club are the heart and soul of my festival. The singing of Carol and Alan Prior, Ellen Mitchell, Moira Craig, Peter Shepheard and Arthur Watson, Jimmy Hutchison and one or two others showcased Scottish folk song but not to be outdone Brian Peters, Martin Wyndham-Read, The Wilsons, Pete Morton, Johnny Handle, Pete Coe, Will Duke and many, many more, the list is almost endless, batted very well indeed for England. The Irish didn’t do so badly either with Kevin Mitchell, Jimmy Crowley, Jerry O’Reilly, Oliver Mulligan and Thomas McCarthy pitching in for them.
So there you have it, some but certainly not all the highlights of my Whitby. Days and nights were filled with music, song, folklore, story-telling and dance not to mention the laugh and the crack. Don’t even ask if next year’s tickets are booked, I’ll see you there.
SEE YOU AT THE NEW IMPROVED STUMBLE INN