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MARCH 2020



I have our friend and regular guest at TATT Brian Peters to thank for the idea generating this month’s piece. Returning by train from a concert in Scotland a few weeks ago he took part in one of the “chain letters” type lists that appear frequently on Facebook and this particular one centred on concerts attended; e.g. first concert, last concert, best concert, worst concert, loudest etc. It then followed up by asking which performers you would wish just to be able to hear one more time and among the names that Brian put forward was our founder Roy Harris.

A few days later one of Brian’s Facebook friends replied saying that he remembered seeing Roy in a particular performance where he sang a song called “Jack The Zipper” and would anyone expect to get away with such a song today in our woke climate?

Now woke, which means an awareness of injustice especially in the case of race, is one of these new words which along with snowflake are guaranteed to trigger (another new word) me into a state of aggression as they are usually used to signify a sign of weakness. However I do have some idea of where the reply was coming from. The song “Jack The Zipper” was nothing more than a throwaway, semi - humerous piece regarding a serial flasher which I heard Roy sing on a couple of occasions but which I believe he stopped singing following an instance in a club when the atmosphere noticeably changed while he was performing it and it transpired that one of their members, who was present on the night, had recently been convicted of such a practice. Quite possibly these days folk club audiences might not find it particularly funny and in all honesty, apart from a song that Gary and Vera used to include, I haven’t heard any more songs on that subject.

In similar vein there were a few internet discussions last year regarding a song called “Clarence” and how it would be found offensive were it to be performed today. When I moved down here in 1978 everyone was talking about this song and a few months later I was to meet with Mitch from the Worksop area who had written it along with a number of other humorous if risqué songs and monologues. As soon as I heard the song I knew I would have to learn it as there was a ready - made market for it in a number of folk clubs in the North East (and I was proved correct). The song if you don’t know it concerns an innocent lad who goes out one night for a drink and wherever he goes he is subjected to a series of gay proposals; however the main laugh, for me is when he confides in his pal the next morning:-

“I told my mate next morning at eight, he swore he wouldn’t tell,

By ten to nine each production line and the foreman knew as well”

The song certainly found favour among some of the traditional singers as both Tom Brown and Jeff Wesley had versions of it in their repertory and the fact that at the time it was popular the Jeremy Thorpe scandal was in the news added to its appeal. A couple of years ago following a home match against Brighton where the police had warned about homophobic chanting I decided to trot it out and the tepid response, regardless of how well or otherwise I had delivered it, left me in no doubt that such a song was no longer welcome in our clubs. Over the years that I have been involved in the folk clubs there have always been plenty of gay double entendres  and how many Mummers Plays have had an effeminate St George or Doctor among the cast? But Clarence is the only song that I have heard in a folk club that actually concerns the gay community.

As if to compound this I was reading just a couple of weeks ago a query regarding the origins of the music hall song “The Old Dun Cow” when someone joined the conversation to say that they had either lost people close to them or seen them struggle with alcohol problems so how did folk consider a song which celebrated unlimited boozing be classed as funny?  There are of course songs in the folksong cannon which address the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, “Farewell to Whisky”, “The Sandgate Dandling Song” and “Roll, Bullies, Roll” to name three but how do they compare against the wealth of drinking songs, “O Good Ale”, “Fathom the Bowl”, “The Barley Mow”, “Jones’ Ale” and “A Pint of Good Ale”?

Have we reached the point where we now have to consider all the implications of every song that we sing in a folk club in case someone takes offense as the subjects that I have mentioned have only scratched the surface? How many of our songs include instances of domestic violence, how many songs depicting sexual encounters actually deal with consensual activities as I can think of some that don’t! Then there are hunting songs and songs of the whaling trade, the list goes on.

How much longer can our response that these are songs which are conducive of the period in which they were composed hold up or will we see ourselves adopting the practice of some of the early collectors and locking the more scurrilous or descriptive of our songs away and only allowing those of a delicate nature to be performed? 

Are there subjects that these days have no place in a folk club or any other place of entertainment but years ago they were accepted as part of the whole set up; a bit like some of the comedy programmes on television in the 60s and 70s but are now classed as politically incorrect?

Please let us know your thoughts on this at dsutherland3@hotmail.com


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I was slightly horrified to find that, when I asked the audience last month how many knew Kevin and Ellen, hardly a flicker of recognition showed ...

How fragmented is this folk scene of ours??? Does being a fan of Jez Lowe completely preclude you from knowing the best tradition singers of these islands???!!!

Well no, because I fall into both groups and so, thankfully, do the rest of the organisers of our respected club in Long Eaton. So, having brought you our finest songwriter in the folk tradition today (I'll mentally apologise to a couple of other songwriters I can think of, but I won't retract that statement) on our birthday night, now come back to hear the real thing, the tradition from which Jez draws his inspiration and to be equally charmed and entertained by two lovely people, old friends of Tigerfolk.

Kevin from Derry, with a seemingly inexhaustible fund of Northern Irish songs, from ballads to comic ditties and everything in between; Ellen from Glasgow, a respected tradition bearer of the songs she learned from the likes of Jeannie Robertson. This couple are long time favourites of the club but it's been quite a few years since they visited us and a return is long overdue.

Corinne Male



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Corinne nailed it when addressing the almost capacity crowd, another two or three and the House Full sign would have to be rescued from the club archives, she said that of all those present some may not have previously heard of Tigerfolk but they certainly were aware of Jez Lowe. After all it was our 29th Birthday event and such a major occasion demands a special guest and Jez, who hadn’t been at Tigerfolk for a good seven years, was the ideal choice. As an added bonus Fellside, the first label to record Jez had just released a five CD boxed set of his early albums, originally on LP so it was the perfect excuse for him to revisit some of his back catalogue.

This was most apparent during the taster spot with “Old Bones” and “Black Diamonds” two songs both thirty plus years old. In the first full session he included two more current titles each of which dealt with the present social/political climate “Not My Tribe” and “The Will of the People” while again some of his best known stuff “Durham Jail” and “Taking on Men” a personal favourite that one, were presented along with a reminder that there is still one more “Pitman Poets” concert to come this year.

In the final segment the Radio Ballads were highlighted with the tragi/comic “The Wrong Bus” before the North East really took over with “The Last of the Widows”, “Cursed be the Caller” and “The High Part of the Town” before closing with a couple of more recent and highly amusing songs “Talk Dirty To Me in Geordie” and “The Frozen Roman” which totally appealed to the audience who he had kept spellbound all night.

There was a most impressive Birthday Cake to be cut and eaten during the second interval and our thanks to Karen Harris for producing such a masterpiece.

Then there was quite an array of singers from the floor, all of whom handled their songs and stories very well indeed. These were John Bentham, Sheila Bentham, Corinne Male, Paul Mansfield, Andy Cooper, Sam Stephens, Ed Bons and Karen Harris, John Ledbury, Phil Hind, Phil Hardcastle, Stephen Bailey and first time visitor Mark Kerrigan.

Onward to our 30th Birthday.

Dave Sutherland; photos courtesy of Andy Cooper and Corinne.


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Bendle’s Bit


As I have mentioned in the past, the first weekend in February is a pretty heavy affair.  Not only is it the clubs’ birthday, and what a night we had this year, but on the previous night it is the annual feast of Leicester Morrismen.

The feast is one of those occasions when you get to meet up with old friends not only from the side but also the guests invited to this night of dance and merriment and many a tale is re-told during the course of the evening and especially during the meal of fine food and ale.  The occasional hip flask makes an appearance and invariably contains malt whisky.  Now my partner in crime for many years, who shall remain nameless, stays over with us and so the night is extended somewhat and on that I shall say no more!  But it was during the meal that he produced a hip flask that was circular in design but had a round window in it just like a porthole for it had a brass surround.  This immediately provoked a re-action from the Leicester lads on our table but an explanation had to be given to the others of our party, so pull up a sand bag and lower that swinging light and I’ll tell you a story;

It was at Sidmouth Folk Festival in the mid-90s and Leicester Morrismen were booked not only to perform but also to run workshops on Border Morris and my chum, let’s call him “The Wardroom Orderly, TWO for short, was charged with running these, every afternoon.  Not only were we dancing Border but also Cotswold and performing the Sproxton Mumming Play as well and not only that, but this was our holiday so determined were we, as usual, to have a roistering good time.  The week was exhilarating but exhausting and I think we burnt the candle at three if not four ends.  As usual, after Late Night Extra, TWO and one or two others came back to our awning for a night cap or pre-dawn cap.  One night there was consternation as the aforementioned, TWO, reached for his circular hip flask only to find it was conspicuous by its absence. Somewhere along the green lane they had parted company.  At various times the odd mooch was taken along the likely path but sign of the hip flask was there none. The week ended, reality once more ruled our lives and time moved on. It was either at a Wednesday night dance out or practice a few weeks later and when TWO was not there, that it was suggested we bought him a replacement for his lost hip flask.  And so, one practice night in autumn during bag business TWO was presented with his new pewter flask engraved in appreciation for all his hard work at Sidmouth and it was also filled with Glenmorangie.  The gift was received with much thanks and a proffering of its contents, it was an empty container that accompanied him home.  It could have only been another couple of weeks or so when TWO strolled into practice with a big grin on his face and with the words “Hey chaps, look what came through the post”, he brandished his old hip flask that had been lost in the depths of the Devon countryside.  Apparently someone happened across it as the vegetation along the lane was dying back or had been strimmed and handed it into the police.  Now this flask been a gift from his wife and was engraved with his name.  Putting one and two together and making five, the Devon Constabulary worked out when it might have been lost and contacted the festival organisers, one of whom was the wife of TWO.  So TWO now had two hip flasks and Leicester Morrismen were out of pocket!!!!!!!

At this juncture the subject of this diatribe excused himself from the table and returned with his original hip flask and thus we were able to have a drink or two from the two hip flasks of TWO……………….

Good night children.

John Bentham






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