THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
Remember when you could go to a folk club, back in the days when folk clubs were folk clubs? Hopefully the photograph above brings back those memories of years gone by or, at present, of months gone by?
The picture in question was one of a series that I received a few days ago from my old bandmate Terry Kelly (pictured playing the accordeon) which were taken by his brother Peter Kelly over various years and this one shows members of South Tyne Folk and Blues performing one of our "live theatre” productions, think TATT’s Valliant Sailor and you have got the gist, at the 1972 Tynemouth Folk Festival. To the left of Terry on whistle is the late Matty Scott then the narrator and compiler Pete Brown with Don Day being obscured by my left elbow.
My initial thoughts were that this was from a year earlier, probably prompted by the shirt that I am wearing, but I couldn’t reconcile any of the songs to which I was allotted that year that would require accordeon and whistle accompanyment until I blew up all the pictures from this era to see that the poster behind me was for the 1972 festival and the logo on Crapper Brown’s t-shirt was HF72 (Hexham Festival) so that explained that and I could rest easy.
It was quite intriguing that the format of The Valliant Sailor devised by Andy Leith in the late nineties was along almost identical lines of our workshop/productions especially as ours were some thirty years or more apart and I don’t know of any template from which either of us would have worked. Those arranged by STF&B were the results of a number of Sunday night meetings in The County Hotel, South Shields where we would discuss various folk items and organising such events was deemed a good idea. Pete was the ideal person to put all the prose in order due to his knowledge of various subjects along with his attention to detail plus his determination to visit museums, Army Offices and Maratime Buildings to check or ascertain relevant bits of information. The rest was up to us who were performing to pool our songs on the particular subject under discussion and then it was determined where they would fit in the presentation. In all honesty I don’t think that any of us had to learn a new song to complete a programme.
The three that we completed were, in order, A Sailor’s Life, With Drums and Guns and A Mile and a Quarter Down all titles which gave a pretty good idea of the subject matter. We performed each one on separate club nights at The County when it was our home and they seemed to go as well as could be expected taking into consideration the lack of atmosphere in their upstairs room. We were preparing a fourth on Law and Order or Crime and Punishment which would contain plenty last goodnight ballads and songs of social injustice but this was shelved probably due to our move at that time to The Station Hotel. While the room, although much smaller, had 100% more atmosphere and the beer equally better but the logistics of putting these formats on in such a tiny area were against us and so our Live Theatre productions concluded.
We still had them in our locker so to speak and we performed A Sailor’s Life to three men and a dog in Hexham’s Moot Hall during the week leading up to the 1971 festival and then later that same year we were asked by Tynemouth to perform one of them during their lunchtime workshop sessions. There was no payment involved (we were friendly with the club) but we did ask them to promote the event enough so that we could play to a full room – and we did!
In the picture above we are in the throes of performing A Mile and a Quarter Down our presentation of mining songs and the history of the industry and the song in question could be either “Geordie Black”, “A Miner’s Life” or “The South Medomsley Strike”. We received our full room again that year and we were in high company as I recall that The Elliotts of Birtley, Nic Jones and the Staffordshire Tony Wilson were among those gathered there. One of the comments afterwards was along the lines of how encouraging it was that a folk club could actually spend the time and show the interest to be able to present such an event.
Word got to BBC Radio Newcastle and they recorded “A Mile etc” and “With Guns and Drums” although they were broadcast during the daytime, mid – week when we were all at work. However one Saturday lunchtime having finished a half day overtime at our Pelaw factory I went to the local newsagents to buy a packet of fags before catching my bus when I heard something familiar on the radio and they were doing a repeat performance of “With Dums etc” fortunately it wasn’t me performing at the time but I hung around to see where they were in the programme to the extent that the shopkeeper must have wondered what I was at standing around like a tin of milk.
Amazing what a collection of photographs can do for you.
This one was put to me by one of our club members and it akes some thinking about. We hear all about social distancing, face covering, no multi person gatherings etc all of which have ruled out meetings such as folk clubs until such time it is deemed safe enough to resume. However when that time comes what is going to be the reaction of the professional folksinger or the guest performer in a folk club; are they going to insist on playing to audiences who have been tested for CV19 or will any safeguards be part of their request/demands prior to accepting bookings?
And best wishes to two of our members John Whitelaw and Joyce Sawford who both have suffered accidents (separately I assure you) which have entailed a stay in hospital. Both are now back home according to the latest news so we wish them both speedy recovery and we hope to see both at Tigerfolk once that we are back again and they can get around.
Once again thanks must be extended to everyone who is playing their part in keeping the music alive via the internet either recording a song or two, uploading concerts or folk clubs collating member’s contributions so that they can present a virtual club night. One of which I must make mention is Lyn Golbourn’s illustrated rendition of “The Lambton Worm” on Facebook which must have taken some time and patientce to preduce. Give it a go!
Over the years I’ve known the odd busker and the odd one could well have been described as odd at the very least. Some were part of the great busking-fest of the 60’s living off what they did and traveling all over the British Isles and Europe. Others did it for a bit of beer money and sometimes to try out new material but relished the very act of busking. An old chum had always wanted to have a go at busking but as he was a well-known academic felt it necessary to take himself off some 40 miles or so from home to live out his dream…..it was a once in a lifetime experience.
Of recent times Tom Kitching, well known to many of us as a first rate musician, took it on himself to go a-busking. The reason was not solely for pecuniary gain but to try and discover who we, him included, are as a nation. As the majority of his work was at weekends this left him time in the week to go off, play his fiddle, observe and experience life on the streets and also see if he could “make it pay”. Obviously, if he had a mid-week gig somewhere, it focused his attention on cities, towns, villages and communities in that area. Having contacts all over the country helped as a bed and inside information could be acquired. Tom wrote a daily blog of his escapades and this brought forth offers of accommodation and so his field of operation widened. There were places that he wanted to visit for various reasons and chance encounters when out busking led to invitations and suggestions of other venues. Those daily blogs are now brought to you all neatly bundled in his book “Seasons of Change”.
As someone who has travelled around a bit, it was with anticipation that I started reading “Seasons of Change”. Starting in Berwick On Tweed and drifting south through Northumberland and Co. Durham, I was in my element revisiting, in my mind’s eye, many of the places he played in, not only in the north-east but all over the country right down to the far south-west and many places in between. What’s that old maxim, look at your town through a stranger’s eyes, or words to that effect, well, that’s what you get here in spades. This wasn’t a haphazard journey, although geographically it isn’t always logical, planning had been at its heart but allowances had to be made for the unexpected including the good old English weather. On any given day we follow him in search of the best busking spot, his approach, normally on foot, to the that place and what transpires as he tries to earn enough money to pay his way. We are privy to the conversations, the reactions, the innumerable incidents, the funny, the tragic, the surreal that at times prove that life is stranger than fiction. Tom diligently researches each place he visits and on his blog candidly opines on his day. He doesn’t hold back and at times bares his soul. On one occasion in particular he was challenged on his opinion of a place and a further visit was made, eyes were opened and a fresh realisation is revealed. This is honest writing and reveals the true Tom Kitching to us and maybe to Tom himself. Very often he questions the why and the wherefore of a situation that he sees played out before him as he plays. From the quaint idyll [sic] of an East Anglian village to the impoverished communities in various parts of the country he tells it as it is from his standpoint behind his fiddle.
So after over a year of traipsing his fiddle around the country did he discover who we are? Well yes and then again no or maybe, perhaps but that is for you to discover. What I do know is that many events, encounters and experiences made Tom assess his own outlook on life and he now sees things from a different perspective. A thoroughly entertaining read that will get you a thinking. There is also a CD by the same name that is available which is a joy to listen to and again, his interpretation of certain tunes will make you sit up and take note. Both are available from; www.tomkitching.co.uk
As an afterthought, when all this pandemic malarkey is over, how different a journey would Tom experience were he to venture off again?
“Free Drinks Tomorrow” so states the message on the chalk board outside the Stumble Inn at the moment. All the posters showing which bands would be appearing there in the ensuing weeks, plus the folk club information and the invitations to play darts, pool or poker have all been taken down and replaced with rainbows and a notice informing any potential low life that all the machines have been emptied and there is no money left on the premises. I did see the workmen giving the outside walls a coat of paint on one of my weekly trips to Asda car park to collect our shopping, me confined to the car and our lad taking advantage of staff perks to be able to enter the store via the employees’ access and pick up our weekly essential requirements.
Hopefully before too long we will be able to announce that we will be back in action and who our next guest will be.
In the meantime stay safe and we will see you somewhere sometime.