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One of the joys of retirement is that you can get up when you want to; enjoy a leisurely breakfast without one eye on the clock and then settle down to a few hours of watching daytime television. Good Morning Britain, Breakfast Time, Jeremy Vine however more recently my life has suffered a huge void with the withdrawal of The Jeremy Kyle Show (hopefully by now our readers will have ascertained that this opening paragraph is not entirely serious) however the stars of the show are the adverts. These are in nearly all cases aimed at those of us of advancing years, their target audience, carefully ignoring any shift workers who may be watching (I was one for more than twenty years) or those who sadly may not be working due to illness, injury or unemployment. Equity release, Senior Citizen Life Insurance and Pre - Paid Funeral Plans seem to be at the forefront to remind us that these things have to be faced.  

I have to admit that my wife and I have made enquiries regarding the latter but that was more inspired by an on-going encounter with the C word, which will require an operation sometime before the end of the year otherwise nothing to worry about, rather than the skills of the advertising people.   

Rather than via the mass media this was once again brought home to me at the beginning of June when I attended the celebration of life for our ex-resident and former NTMC mainstay Laurence Platt at Nottingham Mechanics Hall. The afternoon was originally designed to have some speeches paying tribute to Laurence and his political activities plus his other interests interspersed with music and song. Unfortunately the latter was not forthcoming due to a number of artists not being available however a very moving and profound tribute to his life in folk music coupled with recordings of Laurence singing and playing concertina was presented by Roger Grimes. After the advertised speech makers had delivered their eulogies there was opportunities for others gathered there to contribute their memories and a lot of these made mention of the fact they had not seen Laurence for some time or wished that they had known him better or longer.

I have to admit it was quite some time since Laurence and I had met face to face, possibly Jan Whitelaw’s funeral, although we had been in touch via various internet forums discussing either folk music or politics. While generally we agreed on the latter and I was always grateful for his support especially in the face of some of the venom I was experiencing from the right wing, our last correspondence re folk music was a right old tear up regarding alleged policy dictated by NTMC which became quite heated although we both decided, quite independently, to take our finger pointing and intemperate language (me) posts down as it did neither of us any credit. However most of the tributes declared that Laurence enjoyed a good argument so I was pleased to have played my part.

This also reminded me of ten years ago when the sad news that my old friend and chairman of South Tyne Folk and Blues Bob Gilroy had died and the tributes poured in for our mate. One source of these was a thread on the internet forum Mudcat Café which had comments from old members of the club, current members of the South Shields Folk Club and previous guests at the club. The thread kept on being resurrected as more people discovered its existence and wished to add their comments until about six months after the event one of our long serving members and a close friend of both Bob and I, who had also moved away from Tyneside, came on to say how sad and dismayed he was to have learned about his passing through the internet and not by one of the old crowd letting him know personally. He continued his message with a plea for all of us left to get back in touch and not lose contact again; he mentioned that at his last meeting with Bob they had both agreed to maintain contact which clearly they had failed to do and now it was too late. He concluded his missive urging us not to forget the music that we shared, the banter and jokes when we got together, the booze ups etc. stay in touch please!! He then posted a new message to say that if he left a contact address it might help us do that!! I am pleased to say that I did respond to his request and we have maintained an irregular correspondence ever since although I am guilty of not getting back to him a month or so back.

At the tribute originally mentioned Roger and his wife did think that more folkies from the old days might have been present but I had to say how many of us are left these days?

Don’t leave it to tragedies to remind us to stay in contact with our friends.


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Sunday 7th July 2019

Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman




Some time back Dave and Anni were forced to cancel a Tigerfolk booking and we've been trying to get them back ever since. They are two of our favourite people / artists (both); their mixture of south-western and northern roots, wonderful voices, harmonies and Dave's own songs as well (often sung to the accompaniment of Peter Bellamy's old concertina) have made them part of the backbone of the English folk scene. Welcome back!


Corinne Male

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Sunday 2nd June 2019

Cotton Town Chronicles – Peter & Barbara Snape

For the second time this year Tigerfolk has gone high tech.  What is happening??? But variety is the spice of life and both our ‘techy’ sessions have been extremely interesting and enjoyable and it’s great to learn something new. So it was on Sunday evening with Peter and Barbara Snape and the Cotton Town Chronicles.  John, Corinne and myself saw this presentation at Whitby last year but it was marred by lack of promised equipment so although it came over very well due to P& B’s ability to rise to the occasion, to see it again with the techy bit sorted, gave a rounded feel to it. Some of the information was not new to me but the way it was presented with songs and readings made it come to life. The research that has gone into this was obvious. The poverty that people of the time suffered, the grit, squalor and the grime with no work to be had adults and children starving yet there was still music, song, dance. All the greats visited, Sharpe, Broadwood, Kidson all drew on what they saw around them and gathered together a legacy, created a voice for the people that we are still listening to today.

The conditions in the mines were brought to the attention of Victorian Society and they didn’t like it. The idea of men and women being stripped to the waist, no thought of the work the people were being forced to do. Barbara’s song ‘Said the coal to Albert Berry’ has long been one of my favourites.  It brings for me all the feelings of being down a mine and battling with the enemy, the coal.

P & B were well supported with floor singers, some of whom followed the same theme with reflections of the times with songs of starving in the cotton mills of the Appalachians, having an illegitimate child at 15, emigration, whaling, hardship and poverty. Others reflected on the closing of so many men’s barbers, what you can do with parts of a ram, how the devil changed our music and fickle women.  We have to thank Corinne Male, John Bentham, Dave Sutherland, John Ledbury, Bill Wilkes, Lyn Cooper, Sam Stephens, Phil Hind and John Chambers.

So Tigerfolk going ‘techy’ isn’t a bad thing at all if it brings such excellent evenings as this. We’re not such old fogies alter all?!

Sheila Bentham


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Bendle’s Bit

I didn’t know Alan Bell but Alan Bell knew me.

It was with the sad news of Alan passing away that my thoughts started ranging and memories came flooding back and that is when I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know Alan Bell but Alan Bell knew me.  So dear reader, pull up a sandbag and lower that swinging light and I’ll tell you all abaht it;

Back in the 70’s when the Loughborough Folk Festival was in its pomp (the first weekend in July on the campus of the University) a number of us from NTMC used to steward.  It seemed that the sun always shone, the tradition bearers, source singers, call them what you will, were there in abundance and music, dance and song filled the Edward Herbert Building and also found release around the Tree of Lebanon that grew just near the entrance.  The Spinners used to bring a coach down from their folk club in Liverpool and many people travelled from far and near to be immersed in a weekend which was, primarily, traditional and based on music from the British Isles.  In fact there was always a contingent invaded from the Darlington area who slept on every available piece of floor in our flat and we always went for an Indian meal on Sunday evening in Leicester, tandoori fish if we were lucky, before they set back home.  But I digress.  For those who never experienced it, the festival was a sheer joy with the meeting of old friends as I hope I might have illustrated in the last few sentences and the start of many new relationships.  As a steward working on any one of the doors, everyone would be passing you at some time or another during the weekend and many were the people who would stop and have a natter, smiles were wide and almost permanent.  And so it was with Alan Bell.  Without fail two or three times a day he would wander up and buttonhole me and natter away like no tomorrow.  All good fun but he must have mixed me up with someone else, but it happened every year and became a talking point within our circle of friends” I wonder when you’ll be collared by Alan Bell” was the sort of comment that was passed.

Let us move on to 1996 and Sidmouth Folk Festival.  As a family we were intrigued by the name of an Australian act who were performing at the Ham Marquee on a lunchtime concert, The Sensitive New Age Cowpersons who “Performed music as God intended…….Blue Grass Style”.  They were quirky but sensational, consummate musicians whose repertoire ranged from the BGs to Bob Marley, Andrew Lloyd Webber to Country Rap or in their words “CRAP” and the Australian National Anthem.  The drums were beating, the grapevine quivered and shook and smoke signals obliterated the landscape, the sensation of the festival, you have to see them, send a runner, round up the gang as they are on tonight in the Bedford, only here for the day, last chance to see them, miss them at your peril………. be there.  Certainly it was the place to be and we were queueing a full hour before the show and we were right around the block.  Now the MC for the concert was Alan Bell and as we had time to while away I started recounting my relationship/non-relationship with Alan to daughter Sarah.  The queue started to move and all around us were anxious as to whether we would get in and anxious we should have been for as we reached the door it was announced that there was only room sitting on the floor in front of the stage, at least we were in.  The audience were hot, sweaty and breathless, mainly through the lack of air in the room, and aching with laughter by the end of their performance and they exited stage left.  Alan Bell didn’t seem to quite know what to make of them but called them back for an encore and then they departed.  The audience was buzzing as they left the room and as we were in people’s way we got up off the floor to ready ourselves for fresh air and a pint.  As I stood up Alan Bell came forward to the front of the stage, looked me straight in the eye and said “It’s been great working with you again”………..

For all you have done for folk music over your long life, Alan, heartfelt thanks and it was a pleasure not knowing you.

John Bentham

That certainly sounds like Alan, and I didn’t know him well either!

However back in 1975 I took part in a lively workshop at Durham Festival titled “The Future of the Folk Clubs” or something similar with a panel of Roy Harris, Dick Gaughan(who didn’t appear) chaired by Jim Irvine. All the Blackpool Taverners turned up to the workshop and contributed vigorously to the subject and then later in another Durham pub the conversation continued with a couple of their members until the dinner gong rang. The following year at Durham I was invited to be part of the panel on another workshop “Folksong and the Media” chaired by Sean MacManus from Radio Tees, Heather Ging from Tyne Tees Television, a local reporter from the Northern Echo, me from the Sunday Sun and Alan Bell from Tamlyn magazine. I remember Alan greeting me most cheerfully before we began and I recall his contribution to be valuable and succinct.

Fast forward to 1987 the National Festival at Sutton Bonington and the first festival we attended as a family (+one more on the way) where Alan was among the guests. As we waited to go into the early morning session that he was to share with Roy Harris and Eddie Upton Alan came past the queue stopping where we were standing to wish us good morning and how were we doing? Surely he didn’t remember me from a brief meeting a dozen years ago – or was he that sort of chap who did?

Regardless, I too was sorry to hear of his passing.


Don’t forget that we will not be open in August but we will return on Sunday 1st September.


See you at the Stumble Inn



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