Thursday, 3 August 2017


      Another wet Wednesday night in Nuneaton. Like many similar places  in England, demoralised by years of Austerity and impending Brexit, its centre is slowly shrinking. Department stores and pubs are closed and boarded up and the once vibrant nightlife has all but gone. With the school holidays under way the streets were deserted. Empty buses crawled morosely about the Onion roundabout. 
        But wait! Over at The Crown, between the Bus Station and The Railway Station,and lit up like an Ocean Liner,there are sounds of applause, laughter and singing. Like in the good old days.  Inside, the place is rammed-both downstairs and upstairs.Downstairs a flourishing War Gamers group occupies much of the room and shares the tables  with punters enjoying the Abbeydale on handpulls.  Upstairs, with all the seating taken and standing room is another first Wednesday at Nuneaton Folk Club.Another full house. 
      Last night, another Club organiser, looking  across  this packed room upstairs, said to me wonderingly, "How do you keep doing this?"  Later,someone who had made a long trip to be there  for a first visit, asked me the same thing. I thought about that question when I got home, gone midnight,tired, aching all over and exhausted physically and emotionally after a draining seven days. 
       It had been another very successful night. A stream of very talented local performers had given their all in providing a rich and very varied tapestry of talent. The clever songs of John Neal. The artistry of Paul Moore. The wonderful singing, syncopated rhythms and finger picking of Terry and Jan Wisdom. The constantly improving repertoire of Atherstone Folk Club residents Finger in The Car-Steve,Anne and Pete. The ever reliable and always cheerful Maria Barham. Another masterful demonstration of how to get impossible things and sounds out of an acoustic guitar from Glyn Finch.And the finale of our good mate Brian Phillips, rightly loved for his comedy and rightly admired for his brilliant guitar work. 
       The fun which the three of us continue to get from Nunc. A thankless task opening up at 8pm when. people are still coming in and settling. But that's what residents and comperes do. Warm up the audience for the joys to come.  Such a range, such an eclectic mix deserved a big audience. 
       As always there was something for everyone. It could be the club motto if we had one. Last night there was Blues. Country. Trad.Arr. Contemporary. Self-penned original songs. Poetry. Stand Up. Music that defied the eye and ear. Harmonies. The most wonderful audience singing. Completely original arrangements and innovative re-worked covers. A pretty typical night, as it happens. The cast changes each time, but the content is always panoramic. That's one reason why people keep coming. That's one "How?" answered. 
       The principal answer however, is "hard work." I'm pretty sure that some of those who attend any of our three FREE North Warwickshire Folk clubs think it's easy to organise and host them. It isn't. Usually (but not yesterday) I'm in The Crown on the Tuesday, or early Wednesday, clearing the room, setting out the furniture and unloading some of the gear. I couldn't do that in this instance because I was only able to walk yesterday thanks to painkillers and a strapped up ankle. And the fact that on Tuesday I was still clearing up at home after a tree fell on my garage and broke the roof, causing over £1,000 worth of damage.
       During the next few weeks I'll still be working hard on NFC. Messaging, phoning and contacting people. Booking new guests and Floor Singers. Sending (mostly ignored) Press releases to the local media. Advertising future events. Editing the NFC website and facebook Pages. Finalising running orders. Promoting other clubs and Festivals. On Radio, on Social networks and live in performance. 
        Hard work too, from our latest Sound man the excellent Dave Smart: another NFC gem unearthed. He comes in early Wednesdays to help set up and he stays behind afterwards to help clear up. He had the extra task last night of co-operating with John Goodman from Anker Folk, as we tinkered with "Live" recordings at The Crown,in anticipation of a September Special on Anker Radio. 
        Hard work from my beloved Mags. We celebrated 46 years together on Monday and yet there she is, selling raffle tickets,humping gear up and down stairs, making sure our Guests have petrol expenses and keeping me sane. Hard work from my two compadres in Nuncsomeness, John and Flossy. And hard work exemplified by Maria Barham, who ALWAYS stays on to help clear up afterwards. 
       Compering and singing is thirsty work, but as I drive to and from NFC each month, I drink Diet Coke only on Club Nights and it takes a while to unwind back home. Afterwards I scanned the photographs and comments on Social media.  Like many artistes working in entertainment, I think it's always important to know what your audience is thinking.    Having spent half an hour doing that and "coming down" from the buzz of presenting, compering,hosting and performance, I was left, about one am this morning, not with the question "How?" but rather.... " Why?"  
         Because, for the second consecutive gig for Nunc  there is no evidence whatsoever that we had ever been there. No photographs.No comments. No feedback.  Nothing. Are we really that forgettable?  Deflated by that realisation, then I also remembered the offer of 2p for Raffle tickets and the Euro coin placed by some smartarse in the biscuit tin. Perhaps they thought I would not mention it. ( They don't know me very well, do they?)  Plus, the tiny minority who attend but clearly expect this level of free entertainment by right. And those Facebook "friends" I have who boycott the club and the radio show. I'm sure they have their reasons.  But my, there's some food for thought there.