Sunday, 9 September 2018


            Someone said afterwards-it felt like the final Prom. The end of Summer. And in a way it did/was.A glorious Summer it has been,too,not only weather-wise,but in terms of DruncMonkey as a band, who gelled together and proved without doubt during 2018 that they can really handle outdoor gigs. From The Square in Atherstone to MotoFest in Coventry. From Earlsdon Festival to Folk On The Water out at Napton On The Hill. Glorious sunsets.Healthy audiences.Marquees and forests of trailing cables. Real Ale and Barbecues. Fantastic.
      So it was a disappointment to see the drizzle out at Tamworth Beer Festival  yesterday for what could be our last outdoor gig of the season, but we were under cover,at full strength and had an enthusiastic and well-lubricated captive audience egging us on over the 90 minutes of music supplied for them.
      Good also to see some friendly faces from Nuneaton Folk Club who had made the short journey up the A5 including John B Smith and Ray Buckler who between them supplied all of the photographs. John B. took hundreds of them ( it seemed) and not only that, just as impressively, he sang along with every single one of the songs we did! 
      On electric bass and simultaneously mixing the sound,was Dragonhead’s old warhorse John Harris He was a study in concentration (and cool) throughout. 
        On (assorted) guitars, vocals,SX pedals, electric mandolin, and Naughty Step, that mischievous imp Paul Moore. The photo below courtesy of John B.Smith captures it all. I expect he'd just terrified one of the rest of us with his Church organ sounds or special buzzing fly plectrum. Paul had a new effects pedal which employed judiciously and often, (mischievous scamp that he is) deliberately in the wrong places. 

        Blowing Blues harp and shaking percussion,(sometimes just shaking),we featured Jon Harrington. Both Jon and Paul were on leave from Blues Monkey. Jon is newly relocated from Earlsdon to the much more select reaches of Nuneaton's Horestone Grange.

        From  Nunc, the Human Jukebox John Kearney. Our engine room. There is not a note, not a chord not a lyric, or a key The Cork Nightingale does not know. And instantly memorise. Although the start to "Weather With You" wrongfooted everyone and necessitated a second run at the fence after a restart. 
     Also from Nunc myself. Front man and Eye Candy for the Over-80's, providing wit,wisdom,growly vocals and pithy asides which one might expect from the lively Octogenarian. Packing away afterwards I tweaked my ankle and later tore an old scab off my hand putting away mike stands. I bled like a horse because of the anti-coagulants I'm taking. Truly, Rock and Roll. 

        And finally, and also from Nunc (Niece and Uncle-see what we did there?) my beautiful niece Flossy. One of several beautiful nieces. (The rest of them made me say that). Stunning vocals,stunning looks and outstanding tambourine work. Worth going along just to see and hear her alone.  

        A potent line-up,and our strongest available. We had such a great time and judging by the two encores,so did the audience. Blues,Folk,Pop,Rock,Country,Reggae,we chucked the lot at them. Segues,covers and our own arrangements.Covers of  numbers by Neil Young,Crowded House and U2. Richard Thompson,Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack. John Prine,Randy Newman and Casey Chambers. Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. Bob Marley and Petula Clark. Everything but the kitchen sink. 
       To be honest,we would have had an absolutely wonderful time playing together and drinking beer in a tent if we’d just have been stuck out there all on our own. But as we weren’t, despite a few of our audience up and down like yo-yos as they replenished empty glasses from the barrels racked next door, many of them  sang along,clapped and even danced as we worked through each set list. Resolutely ploughing on through an ever-decreasing Beer List,
       So it's a  shame (to quote one of our mash-ups) that, “Its all over now.” Outdoors at least anyway. Supporting Tir Na Nog in November. Sharing the Guest Billing with Paper Circus in December. And after that the diary is empty. So if you are a Festival organiser or an MC at a Folk or Blues Club-don’t forget us. We come very cheap,we’ll get feet tapping and who knows...we'll maybe leave your audiences dancing. Until then.....seems it's off into that sunset for now.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Controlled Mayhem

           This best describes the Bill Bates Experience. Bill decided long ago to liven up his sets by mingling his excellent guitar playing and fine songwriting with comedy and entertainment. Aided by his mystery guest (who we cannot name for contractual reasons), our Sound and Lighting boys and one or two bits of technology,Bill bumbled his way through the evening with an endearing mix of cock-ups,errors and miscues-most of which,those of us who have seen him before know full well,are rehearsed. 
        The end result was two sets of barely coherent lunacy. A bit like  Mr Pastry and Jimi Hendrix combined. (Two references which will leave our younger readers baffled). Those who had not seen him before seemed a little perplexed at first, but by the time we'd got onto the legendary Simon and Garfunkel medley,it was quite evident what both of them were up to. 
         As the Tour of Britain circus left Nuneaton (described, perhaps a little generously in the OVO Energy blurb as "beautiful"), so the Folkies moved in to repossess the Queen's Hall. Plenty of regulars were in  and it was good to see more new faces in the audience. Having lost one monthly local music event in the Town,it was heartening to see that there is still broad support for this one. 
         Richard Burlingham,aided by willing and friendly staff,  continues to give massive support to NFC in its new home. Free Chicken and chips and sausage butties were provided at half time,(thank you,Jenna!) and for the second month,a locally brewed Church End beer was on draught.  Richard listens to what people tell him. No wonder The Crew is so successful,where other town venues are deserted,midweek. 
          It was NuncMonkey who started us off. With Flossy and John Harris unavailable,this was myself,Paul Moore,John Kearney and Jon Harrington. Starting a little late, there were no sound checks for us-just arrive,get up and play.  "How Long Blues,"  "Guilty" and "Copperhead Road" were dashed off in anticipation of our weekend gig in Tamworth,before handing the baton over to Jak and Marie.
       They had appeared at NFC before. After a little sound glitch to start with (they'd not had time for a sound check either!) they gathered in strength and momentum and did three songs very well. They get better each time we see them, which is really what floor spots are all about and a testament to the hard work they put into rehearsing.
        John Neal followed. He's a keen cyclist,and as his Facebook posts showed, he had already enjoyed an exciting day around the town.  In fact he has been known to put his cycling headcam tours and music together on film,but last night he stuck to the guitar and treated us to three songs delivered with polish and warmth. 
        It's always good to discover new talent and share it with a wider audience via an NFC debut. Adam Wilson did not disappoint on his first appearance there. 
          Opening with Neil Young's "Old Man" might have seemed an ambitious starter for a newbie, but he soared into the challenging higher range of the vocals confidently. Finishing with a Dylan song (complete with harmonica frame), he received an enthusiastic (and fully deserved) response from the audience at the close of his set. We'll definitely get him back. It was a good night all round for Adam, as being our 100th artiste to appear at NFC, he was presented with a framed certificate to commemorate this landmark. 
        Steve and Christine (aka Moses and The Ref) had come all the way from  St. Albans and Ruislip respectively. There was method in their madness though, as they are our Headliners in November and wanted to check out the new venue (They'd been to The Crown before-they like a challenge). This distance work puts them into out top three of floor spot visitors-as we have previously had Brian Price travelling north from Hampshire,and a band from Stockport having a look in too. Such is the magnetic pull of "beautiful" Nuneaton. Steve and Christine treated us to a mix of very varied songs superbly sung, enunciated with great diction and Folk "presence" Spread the word!
      And that set us up nicely for Bill's crazy first set. It took us a while to actually get sound coming from all the right directions but once we did,the smiles and laughter began. With a particularly daft version of Funk and Folk mixing together,involving some critical sound-vocal syncopation.
       After the interval and a second trio of songs from NuncMonkey (including a lovely audience singalong with "Knocking on Heaven's Door" ) it was time for the Raffle Draw. It will be four years next month since we first launched NFC and still a few punters either don't know (or don't care) how this works. Some put a few pennies in the tin,others decline to put anything in at all. Obviously still a small minority who think that free admission nights of great quality come 100% for free. (They don't) We don't make a profit-but there is a need to break even!. The raffle helps generate expenses for those performers travelling. Still,there were no bus tickets or trolley tokens put in the collection tin this time so that's an advance. 
       Admin done and dusted, to the lilting strains of "Albatross" Bill cranked the second half into chaotic action. He did "Miner" early on and that's a song of his which for me exemplifies his true talents. Locally based,very catchy chorus,some nifty guitar work and sensitive lyrics. I've played it several times on "Anker Folk." It's a good 'un. "Albatross" was to be a recurring theme,breaking hauntingly and without warning into several other routines. 
      During the opening part of this half, the audience cottoned on to the fact that Bill's Apple appliances,used as prompts and autocues,were also receiving incoming calls. So we all started texting and messaging him. And he read each one out. 
        And so on to their rapturous finale,the Simon and Garfunkel medley. I've only ever told people this a few thousand times, but in the 1970's in a South London Folk Folk Club, I once watched one of the young floor singers haltingly stumbled through "Scarborough Fair." Then he did one of his own songs and gained in confidence. He was introduced only as "Paul" Yes was HIM! Paul Simon. 
        Last night  was very much a tribute to the fanous duo,albeit a slightly irreverent one,.Bill has always been a bit of a giggler,and seeing him struggle through "I am a Rock" as interruptions, orchestrated heckling and a complicated question and answer routine sought in turns to wrong-foot him,was a treat. As an encore,Bill and his friend from the floor  did "Homeward Bound" together. In which Bill's faint mewing as he lost control completely,prompted by the visuals going on to his left,the staccato questioning,and a successful attempt to scramble his word screens reduced a few of us to tears.
         Great stuff. Fuel for the soul, and it left us all chuckling. Great to see Bill back on form,on a big stage and not wilting under the lights. Choking on the smoke effects (which Bill himself had demanded),blinded by the lighting effects (ditto) and reinforced by the input of his dear friend KD. 
            Yes it was great to finally see KD on an NFC stage. Yes...KD. Finally. After trying to entice him up onto one for nearly four years. He was there. His long stay away has evidently taken years off him. But what ever happened to the Diddy Men?  

  Photos by John B.Smith and John Kearney. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Anker Folk Cast List

"Anker Folk " on Anker Radio celebrates its second birthday on September 3rd. We've lost count of all the hours broadcast in terms of Special holiday shows, Christmas features and repeats. But for those (to quote my good friend Pete Clemons) who "like this sort of thing" here to commemorate the anniversary,is a roll of honour. Some evocative names here! 

LOCAL TALENT -Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Coventry etc Played on Anker Folk-as at September 2018

(those asterisked-have also appeared at Nuneaton Folk Club )
Paul Moore* Daisybell* Steve Adams Rod Felton Kevin Dempsey*
Bob Brooker* Dragonhead* Thrup'nny Bits* Des Patalong* 
 Allan Richardson Hedgehog Pie Paper Circus* Bill Bates* 
 Pennyroyal Maria Barham*K.C.Jones* Izzie Derry* Nick Drake
 Dave Taylor John Lee Kristy Gallagher* John Kearney*  Cliff Hands
Norman Wheatley Terry & Jan*Katherine Fear* Ian Bourne* 
Dave Parr* Nunc* John Neal*Wright Brothers* Sue Sanders* 
Glyn Finch* JAG* Matt Mallen Allen*Malc & Gill* Brian Phillips* 
Amelia Roberts* Colin Squire* Malc Gurnham*Ninepenny Marl 
Dan Gascoigne* Dave Fry* Will Pound Rob Halligan*Alkevan*
Nigel Ward* Mick Stuart Geoff and Brian* John & Elaine Meechan
Simon & Sally Anne Veasey* Rude Mechanicals
Dave & Julia Taylor Brian* & Marie Phillips 
 Malc Gurnham & Gill Gilsenan* Black Parrot Seaside* 
 Greenman Rising  Borderline Crossing

These  acts have  also appeared at NFC but as yet have not recorded (or been played) on Anker Folk  (those in bold type are local)

Wilson Wright  Wes Hall Jak Lynch Finger In The Jar
Chris Tobin Ian Bland Flaky Tarts Andrew Buckley 
Anna Ryder Sean Cannon Sly Old Dogs Hilary Wilson 
 Drunc Monkey Moses and The Ref DriftwoodThe J.P.'s 
Alyson Bushell,    Somerville Gentlemen   Comharsa 
Band On The Rum Raintown Seers Campbell & Jan Perry
Jan Richardson Tool & Willow band Max Wright Dipped Sheep 
Blues Monkey Frayed Knot Away With The Fairies
Sam Shemmell Jesse Desai Michael Luntley Lesley Wilson 
Dr.Bennett Angus Ellis Kane Foster Joe Roberts Tom Young
Tricaorach Andy Jones Blues Division Rob Oakey Dave Webb

Total Local at NFC: 70

Total Local on Anker Folk 52


Ed Sheeran Ralph McTell Alison Krauss Kirsty McColl  
Nick Dow Jake Bugg John Renbourne James Taylor
Molly Davies*  Loudun Wainwright Leonard Cohen
Eric Clapton Lou Monte Geezinlaws The Spinners 
Gregg Cave Jim Croce Tim Hardin Eva Cassidy Bob Dylan 
David Bristow  K.D. Lang Stan RogersJohnny Butten 
Dougie McClean  Mike Oldfield Bert Jansch Cat Stevens
Kate Rusby Joe Ely Lyle Lovett Christy Moore Sting 
Bonnie Raitt Shawn Colvin Joan Baez Judy Collins 
Vashti BunyanJohn Tams Roy Harper Doc Watson
Claire Hamilton Zeid Hamdan John Richards* Donovan 
Cosmotheka George Formby Peter Sellers Pete Seeger
Jackson C.Frank Sandy Denny  Martin Carthy
Spiers & Boden Martin Carthy Eliza Carthy Cara Dillon 
Luke Kelly Mary Black Si Barron* Phil Hare* Billy Bragg
 Shirley Collins Gerry Rafferty Peggy Lee John Prine
Johnny Cash Bonzo Dog Band Paul Robeson Nic Jones 
Gordon Giltrap Oscar Brand Jean Richie  Joel Sonnier 
J.J.Cale Dick Gaughan Peggy LeeEddie Reader Sunjay  
 Lonnie Donnegan  Krauss & Plant Jeff Beck Pieta Brown 
Charlie Drake Cat Stevens Joni Mitchell Downes and Beer 
John Martyn Simon & Garfunkel Maddy Prior  Isla Cameron 
 Geoff Higginbottom*Rosanne Cash Tom Paxton Foy Vance
Woody Guthrie Jean Redpath Rufus Wainwright Phil Ochs
Ramblin Jack Eliot Seth Lakeman Bo Carter Ry Cooder 
Bill Caddick Duncan McFarlane* Kate Wolfe Pauline Scanlon 
Bryan Ferry John C. Reilly Patty Griffin Ron Sexsmith 
Sister Rosetta Tharpe Don Williams Staid Cleaves 
Jake Thackeray  Newton Faulkner Gerry Heaney 
Glenn Campbell Mark Knopfler Sharon Shannon Leadbelly 
Clinton Ford Jimmie Rodgers Kirsty Merryn Slim Whitman
 James Morrison Lucinda Williams Barbara Dickson
Rory Gallagher Sally Ironmonger Marianne Faithful Badly Drawn Boy
Dave Van Ronk Gene Autry Damien O'Kane Emily Maguire
Maura O'Connell Jimi Hendrix Pete Morton Tom Morello Mike Vass 
John Spillane Emmylou Harris Heather Innes David Arkenstone
Tom Kines Malvina Reynolds Nick Lowe Singing Postman 
Bob Gibson Anna Massie  Bob Neuwirth Mairtin O'Connor 
Sarah McQuaid Kathryn Williams 

Duos and Trios
Joan Baez and Bill Wood Krauss Emmylou & Welch 
The Kingston Trio Danny Pedler & Rosie Butler Hall 
Richard & Linda Thompson   Gren Morris & Sam Stephens* 
 Pro Cantione Antiqua Winter Wilson* Sharp as Razors 
Peter Paul & Mary
Finbarr & Eddie Furey India Electric Co Discovery 
Port Isaac Fishermen Brendan Power & Mick Kinsella 
 Kev Dempsey & Joe Broughton The Way Out 
Ciaran Tournish & Dermot Byrne Gretchen Peters & Rodney Crowell
Cieran Algar & Greg Russell Lal & Norma Waterson
Kathryn Roberts & Seth Lakeman Bob Kirkpatrick and Ashley Hutchings 
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage
Sharon Shannon & Mundy Billy Bragg & John Henry

Steeleye Span Mr. Fox Brier The Chieftains Gryphon Capercaillie 
Prelude Pentangle Oddsods Mauric & The Minors The Red Hills 
Scarecrow Pilgrims Way Firebrand The Dubliners Amazing Blondell 
Young Tradition East of Eden  Planxty Show of Hands CSNY
 Led Zeppelin Sweeney's Men The Fureys Morbid Angel  Frigg 
The Watersons The Imagined Village Well Pennies The Young 'Uns 
WhapweaselOcean Colour Scene  The Subways The Pogues 
Folly Bridge Beggars Velvet Incredible String Band Gigspanner 
The Corrs  Three Sheets to The WindKathryn Tickell Band 
 The Carter Family Fairport Convention Woven Hand The Strawbs 
Battlefield Band Young Dubliners Allman Brothers The Highwaymen 
Brothers Four The Chieftains Belzebub The Eagles The Transports
Ninebarrow Clannad Corrib Folk New Humblebums Beggars Banquet
Cherish The Ladies Horselips Altan Clancy Brothers Brass Monkey 
Misshaped Pearls  New Christy Minstrels Coteau Dixie Chicks
Gallowgates Ceilidh Band Kim Lowings & The Greenwood* 
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys Jethro Tull  Ladysmith Black M'bazo.


Ewan McColl  Alex Campbell Folk Group  Norah Jones  Dando Shaft
Taj Mahal  De Dannan  Alain Stivell Melanie The Byrds Jon Harvison 
Stephen Stills Keith Donnelly Men They Couldnt Hang  
 Dropkick Murphys Loggins & Messina

Most unusual names played 
Led Zeppelin Morbid Angel Ocean Colour Scene Allman Brothers
The Eagles Jimi Hendrix Jeff Beck Ed Sheeran Rory Gallagher 
 Sting Bryan Ferry

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

# You Ignored it. You Lost it

            It's a sobering thought that the first song I ever sang fronting a band was John Lee Hooker's "Dimples," and  the last song I sang, fronting one of the many collaborative sessions at The Anker Inn Blues Sessions,43 years later,was the same song. I don't suppose our paths will ever cross again now, which is a shame. I loved this venue and the musicians I shared a stage with there. Autumn,Spring,Summer,Winter.Through heatwaves,Beasts from The East and falling leaves we made our way there. As an audience member or  backed on stage by some fine musicians,the Anker Jamm Blues nights were just bloody good FUN!
Blues Jamm

         Yeah. I know. FUN! In a small Tory-returning  provincial town with airs above its station and a serious apathy problem. Not supposed to happen,beyond your four walls, is it? Fun is something you have watching Premiership Football on your Sky T.V. Or gawping at some X Men crap on your iPhone. Nibbling your Kentucky Fried Chicken or Chinese Takeaway.
Tom Young

Or noodling secretively away on one of your very expensive imported mail order guitars at home whilst singing into your hairbrush-that's FUN,yeah?   Not enjoying real "live" music played with fire and passion in a pub. Surrounded by other,living breathing people. No holograms,no transiently flickering images on an HD screen.  Just raw energy and a good laugh. 
Michael Luntley

          I met John Lee,briefly,once. Shared a cup of coffee with him. All I learned was that regardless of skin colour, if you don't have The Hurt, you can't sing The Blues. Not even worth trying. Apparently he told this to everyone he met and its quoted in all his biographies. But he was absolutely right. You can't sing or play the Blues unless you've known grief,hunger,sorrow,longing,oppression or all of those things. 
John Kearney

         Which is perhaps why dwindling audiences and a virtual boycott by musicians has finally closed the Blues Jamm. I'm going to miss it. Which is selfish,I know. I met some really good people there,and a whale of a time. So all kudos to those who DID try to support it, and Yah! Boo! to those who gave it a wide berth,presumably intent on maintaining their precious egos and fragile reputations.  

             So step forward Michael Luntley,John Kearney, Anne and John Harris,Lesley Wilson,Flossy McDougal,Paul Moore Peter McParland,Angus Ellis,Jon Harrington, Simon and Sally Anne Veasey, Greg Daffern, Dr Bennett,Dan Gascoigne, Tom Young ,Miles Walker,Rob Oakey, Wes Hall,Max and Chris Wright et al. Plus the few people who just turned up like The Lone Ranger, had a busk and then slipped away again into the night. You at least, gave it a go.  And if I missed anyone out,apologies. I lost a good friend tonight and the grieving is distracting me. Message me privately and I'll add you to The Roll of Honour. 
Lesley Wilson

               This excellent venue,in a pleasant town pub, serving decent beer, survived several management changes. All those in charge did their level best to create a welcoming atmosphere and to support Live music.  The stage was fab,the acoustics were great,the P.A. was splendid,and what audiences we pulled in were knowledgeable and enthusiastic. 
            Now it's gone the rest of you can go away and drool over your Bellowhead albums. Or put your Ed Sheeran collection into alphabetical order on Tuesday nights. Or write swingeing "Dear Sir" letters to post on Facebook or Folk 21.   
Miles Walker

                                                               Blues Jamm
It goes without saying that the October 2018 gig there featuring Drunc Monkey is cancelled.But there is a legacy which we owe to The Blues Jamm at The Anker. For had we not all jammed and improvised and larked about together,then the band would not have morphed from that little wooden stage to become a half-decent band, way beyond Nuneaton's sunny shores. 
Drunc Monkey

Friday, 3 August 2018

A Classic night out at The Queens

         It's alway illuminating after another NFC evening at The Queens Hall  to retrospectively read the reviews,study the feedback and admire the photography. We are blessed in this region by having several outstanding photographers of the highest quality to record our venues and artistes for posterity. People like John B.Smith,John Wright,Andy Jones and Ray Buckler. Or Jon Harrington, John Kearney, John Neal,Mark Taylor and many,many more. Their work does justice to the drama of the venue. Surroundings which (as on Wednesday seem to lift performers to new and exciting heights. I have been overwhelmed by the public reaction to Wednesday. It has exceeded all expectations. Take a look at the NFC Facebook page-it's astounding-as are the portfolios of breathtaking photographs.      
DruncMonkey by Mark Taylor
      Such analysis provides pointers to what we get right on each night and what if anything needs attention It's good practice to be self critical and reflective when one shares music with the public. However small and insignificant a part we may play, it is a cog in a living machine. If we all tread blindly down a common route ,without the capacity to change, adapt, renew and innovate,then "Live" music and Folk Clubs (and consequently Folk Music) are doomed. The majority of "Folk" music is first aired,in a Folk Club or a licensed premises of some kind. Whether rearranged Trad. Arr.  songs, newly written material or the music of a thousand regions and a dozen genres, this is where a lot of stuff gets performed,
DruncMonkey by John B.Smith

             On a warm Wednesday night in August we knew beforehand that we had assembled a good line-up.  they are all good,but this one looked to be exceptional. Each one of those on the bill could be ( and indeed have been) the headline act elsewhere. Don't take my word about it. Just read what people said about them below. Rather than me tell you about it let the audience speak. At the bottom of the text there are some musings on why a few ex-regulars continue to stay away. Each to their own. 
            Those who came,(in larger than average numbers) liked Wednesday a lot. They liked the variety,  the quality of the performances and their diversity. They liked  having the choice of sitting down or standing up. They polished off sausages onions and chip butties provided by Guvn'or Richard Burlingham. They had asked for more Real Ale and they got Coffin Dodger Stout brewed by Champion Brewers Church End. They had 100% visibility wherever they were because of the elevated stage. And, after a sweaty start,the air conditioning switched in,making it comfortable for all.  
     "What a stunning night …. so much talent on stage giving a wonderful mix of styles … great sound and lighting … fine food and Church End Stout Coffin on the bar... Thanks to all."-Ray Buckler-a regular at NFC and at Atherstone. 
             Here's what our featured Guest, the beautiful and talented Kristy Gallacher had to say:
            "Enjoyed playing at Nuneaton Folk Club so much last night. Was so great to see so many faces I haven’t seen in a while, thank you for coming. All of the sets were superb. Got that music buzz again! Fabulous night! Nunc monkey on cracking form! Loved every act. Thanks for the music ."
photo by Ray Buckler

              It had been a while since we had last seen Kristy.  Check out  an independent review of her performance and an overview of the club by local writer Pete Clemons.
            Here are the views of Hilary Wilson and John Wright. As Wilson Wright, they were making one of their last appearances locally before relocating to Scotland. :
        " Fabulous set Kristy and thanks for the wonderful music. Brilliant night. What a way to say farewell to Warwickshire."    (Hilary)
          Hilary's partner in Wilson Wright wrote:
         "Absolutely enjoyed the evening and a big thanks for all the hard work you put in to organise and run this fine club. A great venue brings out the best in you, I feel. Fond farewell, but we will visit at some time in the future."-John Wright
           They were outstanding. How we'll miss their sophisticated arrangements,Hilary's songs and John's magnificent photography.
photo by Jon Harrington
         DruncMonkey kicked off the evening. We felt good, we felt wired in fact. Starting with "When Love Comes To Town" a duo of CSNY songs segued and "Knocking On Heavens Door" warmed the audience up a little concluding our first cameo. We got a good response from them. Thanks,guys. 
                Ian Bourne followed us. He was a late call-up and (as always) he rose to the occasion with a quality perfomance. Highlight for me was his interpretation of the Gretchen Peters song Hello Cruel World. Ian writes his own material but his covers when he does them are first class. 

                                          Ian Bourne.   Photo by Ray Buckler
                Maria Barham followed Ian. The Gremlins were out for her but,as energetic and as enthusiastic as ever the stage became a little damp in places as her drink got displaced. Our Sound Crew went to work around her as poor Maria became thwarted by a malfunctioning battery in a guitar and various Knights in less than shining armour rushing to her aid. Eventually she delivered three songs of the usual high standard. As one of our audience members said:"We were definitely spoiled last night. Some great music, and laughs. Maria always make me smile."
Maria Barham snapped by Andy Jones.

            Each of the successive support acts built on a tension which was palpable, feeding from each others' adrenalin rush and enthusiasm. Unpaid, they got up on that stage and delivered powerful performances. 
                     The wonderful Paper Circus, continue to go from strength to strength based on Jennian's stunning voice and the Boys' unique instrumental support. Playing to a crowd like this was a good rehearsal for their forthcoming debut at The Cornish Folk Festival. 
Paper Circus at NFC. Photo by Andy Jones

         This week, after several years I finally enticed  Ian Bland, out to NFC whilst he was here on one of his whistle stop U.K. Tours. Visiting here on a biennial visit away from his native Oz. Ian's a popular festival turn and is in constant demand whilst over here. So it was a bit of a coup to get him out to deliver three typical songs with confidence,charisma and style. It was bonzer,mate!
Ian Bland by Ray Buckler

           And finishing a memorable first half, we at last also persuaded Rob Halligan to join us. .Another name I've been pursuing and trying to introduce to an NFC audiences since the club re-opened. He led us up to the Interval with a measured, electric performance, powering out his great songs with immense presence and bags of  confidence. Rob,besides being a prolific recording artiste,has championed Folk and Roots music in Coventry and Warwickshire,notably at The Godiva Festival and MotoFest. He is one of the driving influences behind CV21 the organisation committed to having a Folk Input into Coventry's year as The U.K. City of Culture. It was an honour to have him there.
                                              Rob Halligan   Taken by Ray Buckler.
     A tiny minoruty of those present last night see themselves as critical friends,who will always tell me candidly what needs improving. (Even though everyone working in NFC is unpaid and voluntary). So there were a few grumbles about the temperature,(it has air conditioning!) the lighting,(it's brilliant!) the sound,(our crew work so hard and are never beaten)  the Guest beer, (a potent Church End Brewery Stout) the hold-ups (it's life) and the noise from downstairs-(some bloke from Wishbone Ash,apparently)  
      But the overall consensus was that it was bloody good entertainment,for free,in a setting far more welcoming than the previous one. Here's the view of another Midlands Folk Club organiser,a first time visitor and one who has been hosting far longer than I have and whose judgement I respect tremendously: 
"Fab evening! A venue to rival the Red Lion Folk club at Kings Heath! Better stage lighting at your club and a wider stage."
           John B. Smith, one of our fabulous photographers who records everything and never misses a night wrote:
     " Absolutely fantastic. Well done for organising a brilliant night's, quality entertainment; as always really, but you excelled yourself this time."
          And yet, a few once familiar faces were again missing. (Surely they can't all be permanently on holiday or gigging elsewhere?) Perhaps  with the venue changing, they don't want to bother travelling the extra quarter of a mile round the Ringway to  the new one. People can be very perverse. What exactly is it that the absentees miss about the old venue. What are the drawbacks about attending the new one? What factors make the stayaways stay away? 
        Perhaps they resent having free food provided for them, maybe finding it patronising or invasive?  Would they prefer to buy their own?  At the old venue they didn't do  food ,so if anyone was hungry they had to walk round to Asda and buy a sandwich. Who wants chip and sausage butties, Chilli Con Carne  or ham sandwiches laid out  for them? (We do!) So thanks to Richard and Jenna for continuing to provide tasty bar snacks like they do.
         Previously, if the needs of nature called, could it be that some hardy fellows with strong bladders actually preferred the long trek downstairs and through a roomful of War Gamers before relief was at hand? Do some traditionalist diehards miss the luxury of having "facilities" so far away. Queen's Hall has that rare commodity in local pubs, running hot water and flushing toilets. Admittedly, you cannot stand and watch rainwater trickling through the roof whilst performing so I suppose  if Troopship Holds are your thing men of a certain inclination or age might miss that.  
          Perhaps those few still operating their lonely boycott prefer to pay to get in (or play!) and have gone elsewhere, on the premise that free admission is somehow common or degrading? Perhaps having clean tables, (indeed,having a clean room to sit in) is,an anathema?  I used to clean the previous room myself, on arrival,often found that  during the intervening month,no-one else had bothered.Unwashed beer glasses on the tables,food on the floor and furniture sticky with beer. I had to move all the furniture back sometimes and once or twice had to remove an entire Sound System from the stage before even being able to set up our own P.A. I took in my own broom,mop, black sacks and cleaning cloths. Personally  I don't miss that at all. 
       The stairs at The Queen's Hall are much more forgiving than at the previous venue. There are less of them and they are wider. They are definitely cleaner,and there is no view of a flat roof littered with waste material to contemplate, as you stopped and struggled for breath half way up. Sometimes I found the stairs at the previous venue barricaded when I arrived, and had to move stacked furniture away just to access them. Some people like a challenge. Me? I'm all for the easy life. Our "new" venue is not so new now,professionally run, well staffed and an inspiration to acts performing there. SPREAD THE WORD!