Thursday, 2 December 2021

Pinch Punch...

The first Wednesday being the 1st of December this month, last night's Nuneaton Folk Club  evening caught a few out.  And although no one had any stuffing and there were no turkeys on stage, there was still a faint Festive tinge to proceedings. Aptly the headline band for the month of the Winter Solstice were Greenman Rising, on home turf like our (fragmented) House Band Nunc. 

    Nunc had been reduced to a trio. With guitarist John Kearney and singer Flossy McDougal sidelined because of medical issues, Jon Geoff and Paul flew the flag. Paul's song "Mr Moonshine" started proceedings, Vigilante Man followed and Paul took the lead vocal again with a Doc Watson song "Sitting On Top of The World." We had a running order and a set list which we'd torn up and re-written several times beforehand. 

Right on schedule, Tyburn (Jan Richardson and Hedley) followed us up there. They are a Warwickshire outfit and no strangers to NFC. A loner floor spot gave them more of a chance to air some more of their interesting arrangements such as  "Little Wing" 

Sam Shemmell delayed by traffic, arrived just before proceedings began. After the briefest of soundchecks he was thrown straight on ( Though not in a literal sense. We'd had Sam doing a floor spot at our previous venue but for some of our audience his massively distinctive voice took them by surprise. With vocal projection like that he doesn't really need a P.A. He filled the room. His arrangement of "Caledonia" was particularly imaginative, showing the Dougie McClean song in a whole new light. 

The men (and women) of GMR put a lot of time into production and rehearsal. Exemplified with a very thorough Sound check beforehand and arrangements and adjustments still being made into the second half.  The vocal range is frankly, astonishing. When playing fully in synch they make an impressive sound. The array of instruments is at times dazzling. At one stage three separate forms of woodwind were being played by separate musicians. With melodeon, bazouki, two fiddles ,two guitars and of course Steve Bentley's compulsive drumming.  

Several  favourites from their 2017 album Devils and Doxies were aired. (Many of which we've played on Anker Folk). Bedlam Boys, Winter Winds  and The Bonny Ship The Diamond for example. Many of us have been looking forward to a new GMR album release for quite a while now. 2022 apparently, so not long to wait. Until then, get to see them when you can. They are spectacular and entertaining. Or as one excited audience member started whooping at the end of numbers towards the end of the second half, " Get In!" 

Our thanks go out again to Ross on Sound, Aaron behind the bar and to Rich Burlingham for ensuring the facilities were as safe and clean as possible and for continuing to supply thirsty Folkies with a supply of Church End Real Ale from just up the road. Boston Fat Boy on this occasion which was divine. 

Thanks also to Kevin Hargraves, John B.Smith and Jon Harrington for the photos reproduced here. 


Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Fandango Christmas


After the first street was covered, Roy swung Dorothy expertly into another. He switched the microphone back on and bellowed:

' Ladees and Gentlemen! We will shortly be entering Arsehole Avenue and then continuing on to Wankers Way'

' Roy! Come on! Keep it down, eh?' hissed Michael,' I've got to deliver letters round here again after Christmas! Think of the Customer tips, if nothing else!'

Roy lit another fag and watched from the cab as Michael fawned over the kindly old lady who had given him a ten bob note yesterday as a Christmas Box. Dorothy's engine burbled along on tick over as Roy kept her alive, dabbing the accelerator pedal rhythmically with his foot.

' Morning Mrs. Perry,' smiled Michael,' Isn't it a lovely day? '

' It is!' agreed Mrs. Perry.

' This looks like those lovely paper doilies you ordered! ' said Michael. 'Will you sign to say you've had the parcel for me, please?' Mrs Perry scrawled on Michael's forms.

' They said it's going to rain later on though,' she added.

' Oi!' screamed Roy, poking a head out of the coach window,' Get a bleedin' move on Scottie, you idle git! We've gotta be across at Testicle Terrace by ten o'clock!'

By the end of the day Michael was immune to Roy's banter, his filthy jokes and his continuing invention of dirty street names. In fact, he began inventing a few himself. By the end of the shift they had navigated Bollock Boulevard, Cunnilingus Crescent, Tittenham Court Road, Brassiere Broadway and Mammary Drive. Roy dropped him off after their third run, outside the Post Office. Michael swung the empty sacks over his shoulder, grabbed the paperwork and waved goodbye as Roy nursed Dorothy off towards the garage.

' I'll fix it!' shouted Roy, waving a victory sign out of the driver's window as he pulled away.

Roy never did fix all of Dorothy's ailments but he made a few improvements including quietening the engine and charging the battery. This was a mixed blessing as on colder days he would insist on having the heater on throughout. On one occasion a badly packaged consignment of Samroo’s Chocolate Reindeer and a dozen Advent Calendars melted and fused all over the back seat.

Roy livened up Dorothy's interior with strings of Christmas lights connected by crocodile clips to the battery. He also acquired a large farting Santa, who postured, danced and noisily broke wind whenever anyone entered or left the coach. He had somehow cleverly wired up the ancient coach radio to play “Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree” whenever Michael opened the (now mercifully operational) sliding door.

' A gadget from them Samroo Boys again,' Roy explained. ' Got some fabulous lines, they have.'

On each outing, Roy hurled Dorothy up and down precipitous slopes, backed her in and out of tight cul-de-sacs and eased her through the gaps between expensive parked cars. Michael watched through hands held over his eyes. At Michael's request Roy stopped hanging out of the window at traffic lights and shouting lewd unseasonal suggestions to passing lady shoppers. Some were old enough to be his Mum.

Roy was allocated Dorothy every day. Michael often wondered afterwards if he ever did really get “back on the Margate Run” with a filthy mind and potty mouth like that. They made a strangely efficient team however, and having finished early on Christmas Eve, not through skiving, but because they had delivered all their parcels more efficiently than any other crew, they clocked off and shared a few beers around the corner from the Post Office. True to his word Mr. Harrison had conjured up what he termed “a little bonus” to acknowledge what had genuinely been all their hard work. Roy gave Michael a final lift home.

'Here we are then! Tampax Towers', he said.   He offered Michael his gloved hand.  ' It's been all right, though, ain't it? It's been a great laugh! I've really enjoyed it and thanks to you I've made a few extra bob.' He laughed, as a look of fleeting concern swept across Michael's face.

'No, not like that though, you prune! I never nicked a single thing! And that, trust me, mate is a first! I had a bit extra in me pay packet, what with the bonuses and getting extra shifts and all that. And there is a lesson for us both.'

' How come?'

' If you're having a good time together, work's just about bearable, ain't it? Eh?'

Michael shook Roy's outstretched hand.

' Merry Christmas, Roy. You're a nutcase.'

' Likewise, you tart. And if you're ever over Lewisham way, just look me up. You got my address, entcha?'

Michael shook his head, doubtfully. Roy handed over a crumpled Christmas card.

' You can read, can't yer? Educated kid like you?'

' Yep. I see it. “69 Gonad Grove”. Cheers. Roy!'

Dorothy and Roy rumbled off through the estate and into the darkness leaving a vile-smelling gaseous orange fug swirling about the base of the flats. Michael picked up an armful of carrier bags and headed for the lifts.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Overcoming hurdles at NFC

 Apologies for the lateness of this review. but to say that last Wednesday was a little challenging is an understatement. And things have remained a little chaotic ever since. We were up against it beforehand with one thing and another. John Richards had to make adjustments to his usual line-up as he had a damaged shoulder and his daughter Emma was poorly. Emily got lost on the way in: at one stage I was talking her in on JR's mobile! Unfortunately the evening started a little late too, so we were playing catch up from the beginning.  

     Nunc were without Flossy and Paul Moore was visibly poorly.  John Kearney was picking up the guitar on stage again for the first time since making minor adjustments to a picking finger with a chopping knife last month. Craig Sunderland had been a little peaky too, and was still recovering from an attack of the vapours after having spent the day up a scaffolding tower. (Don't ask).  None of these afflictions were  Covid related however: we had all done lateral flow tests before setting out for the venue. Photo below by Ray Buckler. 

      Nunc were fine: in fact they sounded rather good as How Long Blues, Vigilante Man and Copperhead Road were dashed off with great aplomb. Our Sound (very sound) man Ross had spent ages getting the JRB set up but within seconds I had wrought havoc on the mike intended for Jim. It flopped in a way I found quite disturbing-so much so that I had to cling on to it through our first slot to prevent total erectile dysfunction setting in. Later I'm glad to say that it was re-erected. (Ooh Matron!). 

 When Nunc finished we left JK up there to have a bash at some of the songs he was planning to air last month. (Before he'd sliced his finger). There was a wistful feel to them (as their often is with Kearney compositions) and none better than "Agincourt To Abbeville" especially poignant at this time of year, when we remember The Fallen. All of them. Photo below by John B.Smith. 

Up next came Bob Brooker and Craig Sunderland, sharing the first half hour slot. Bob was in exemplary form and treated us to a pair of his own songs,"Seven days" and "Coming Home,"  before Craig joined him for a rousing instrumental.

 Craig then added a frenetic version of "John Barleycorn," picking and singing it at a speed which was truly remarkable. 

The shoulder injury to John Richards gave us all the opportunity to enjoy an NFC debut from Gren Bartley. Later Gren would join the JRB and become JR's guitar sound. But his own solo spot was most enjoyable. A talented songwriter and a good guitarist-he filled the half hour and kept the audience focussed. I think he sold a few albums later too-well deserved. I certainly bought one-his stuff is available on Bandcamp. I recommend it highly. 

So the JRB had needed to make quite a few adjustments but although they later claimed to have made mistakes and had been a little apprehensive, nerves weren't evident as they launched into a first half full of old favourites and newer material. John, his songs and his band(s) have earned a reputation in all our local clubs and once more they did not disappoint.

The interval came and went. Nunc shaved a few minutes off the second half by doing two instead of three-"Bring It On Home" and Three Little Birds/Wild Rover, to warm up, before The John Richards Band returned to close the evening.

Things were going swimmingly. I was enjoying my pint of Church End Boston Fat Boy immensely and singing along nostalgically to classics like "Polly"  and "If you can Sing You Can Dance." Then our phones went, (on silent, obviously) and we were summoned away on an emergency: a mercy  mission to take my (very) pregnant daughter to A. and E.  (An old war wound: knee locked and she was immediately absolutely immobile). 

So I have no idea how the evening ended, although I have no doubt JRB got a rapturous encore and "Shine On," was sung particularly beautifully by the audience and JR combined. I was especially miffed about missing that one. It's one of my favourite songs and I could look to the optimism of those lyrics sometimes when life gets a little dark. John Kearney took over as compere and I bet he was brilliant, wrapping things up. It was past 2am when we got home. A. & E. were not much use and daughter had to spend another seven hours in there later that same Thursday morning. 

The hoodoo did not end there. It was great to see John B. Smith back again, recording video and still shots from his perch in the auditorium. We were all looking forward to enjoying them again later, as JBS posts them on the NFC Facebook page afterwards and send links to all artistes featured. Indeed, a few of us got a glimpse of them until a mortified JBS confessed to having inadvertently wiped the video content accidentally whilst transferring. Never mind: his photos are available for all to see. 

Once again I am indebted to all the performers and to Ross for engineering them so expertly. Rich Burlingham had got not one but TWO Church End beers on. So not only is he providing us all with a cracking venue, he is promoting local Breweries whilst slaking Folkie thirst. Aaron, behind the bar, was charming, polite and attentive. As he always is. 

Friday, 8 October 2021

Happy 7th Birthday, NFC!

 The odds were truly stacked against us beforehand, (read on!) but against them all we had a great evening. I confess that when I got news third hand (and quite late) that Pilgrims Way were unable to fulfil their booked appearance, I was disappointed.  The October Club night needed to be something special: something with a little extra to compliment the excellent line-up Steve Bentley has secured for The Ragged Bear Festival. It also had to be someone who would not duplicate those up and coming attractions at other nearby venues. My first instinct therefore was to see if Phil Hare was available. 

Fortunately for us all, he was, and his latest appearance on an NFC stage turned out to be a master stroke for all concerned. The petrol crisis/shortage threatened us all leading up to last night, and despite a few deluded souls in Government claiming it was "over" or 'stabilising,' it obviously wasn't. We drove back from Bath to North Warwickshire on the Tuesday. There were no queues at filling stations, but plenty of forecourts were shut! With Phil and Steph facing a return journey to Cambridgeshire, I wouldn't have blamed them for pulling out. But they didn't. And  I'm so glad. 

For House Band Nunc there were additional obstacles beforehand. During the previous week Master Chef John Kearney had mistaken his finger tip for a shallot and after a trip to A.& E. glumly announced that  he would be unable to provide the engine room which helps boost our sound. Besides scuppering our rehearsals, without "Hammerhands" (a nickname of his own choosing), this put a lot of extra musical responsibility onto our other guitarist, Paul Moore. 

 We had to reshape our set list beforehand, online, without seeing each other. We opened the evening with "Down Where The Drunkards Roll." There was a time when this was a staple part of our set list. It's one of the few Folk Songs we still do. It got the audience singing immediately, fuelled I suspect by the copious quantities of Church End's Goats Milk, an award winning ale fresh in from a local brewery. I stumbled over the final verse but I was already on my second pint. JK was still with us on vocals and finger clicks, so Flossy's imperious version of "Angel From Montgomery"  was particularly well harmonised and well sung. Paul Moore took the lead to conclude our opener with his own song "Mr.Moonshine." I'd forgotten just how good that was. 

At NFC we've always tried to bring you variety and quality in the other slots. The floor spots and features which should compliment the Headline Act. Since re-opening we've extended most of the spots and had fewer of them. Each one of last night's back-up performers can (and have!) been top of the bill elsewhere at times. Any one of them can entertain and hold an audience in their own right. We've also tried to always include local interest.  

We have to be careful with local lad Ian Bourne, because he's not been very well and is still getting used to treading the boards again. So he followed Nunc but with a standard 15 minute/three songs set. Ian has given a helping hand to many musicians (and venues) so there was a lot of warmth in the room for him. Even though (at my request),he opened with "Psycho," a brutal song which has one of the best Folk Club choruses I've ever heard. ("You think I'm psycho don't you Momma?/ I didn't mean to break your cup /You think I'm psycho don't you Momma?/You'd better let them lock me up." A jolly refrain that haunts me as an earworm for days after I hear it. Perhaps they need to lock me up too? 

We'd planned on giving JK his own solo feature spot so he could air some of his excellent  compositions. Due to his kitchen adventures with the chopping knife, I had to  draft in a reliable replacement who could entertain and keep the audience singing. Malc Gurnham and Gill Gilsenan provided that, with the usual aplomb and style. Malc seemed to be motoring well on the Goats Milk and uncharacteristically forgot the words a couple of times. Fortunately, the ones he substituted were as good as the originals and a great deal funnier. It was going to be a night of earworms for me, as they finished with Shep Woolley's "Down By The Dockside Wall." Malc went a little off piste with this one too, but one of those special Gill looks straightened him out again. Good stuff that Goats Milk.  

Paper Circus were the final feature slot. They were amazing. I hadn't seen the new(-ish) line-up before. They complied with all my prior requests, doing "Teardrop" and "Time Wears Awa'"  justice. Then they premiered Mazzy Stars "Into Dust" one of my all time playlist favourites. And added in a version of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," too. Wonderful song choice, superbly delivered. 

Phil could not disguise his glee at being let loose on a big stage again, after such a long lay-off. And how hard he worked it, in both his sets. A shorter one to lead us up to the interval and a longer one after the break to send us home happy.  After a brief break Nunc returned with "After The Goldfish" (as Flossy's Auto Correct described it), "How Long Blues," and "Guilty." 

Then it was time for a reprise from Phil Hare. During the evening we heard all the old favourites. Some funny: some witty: some poignant. " Potato Man,"  "I Got My Country Back," "HedgeFund Shuffle," "Music for a Lost Harmonium," "Will You Marry Me?" "Planxty Byrne," they were all there.   Anyone regularly listening to Anker Folk would have heard all of these. What can you say about the man that hasn't already been said? He has a great voice, he writes great songs, he has a stage presence and his dry humour is very funny. When he does a cover version he puts his own stamp on it vocally and instrumentally. On top of all of which he is an extraordinarily gifted guitar player, with a dizzying array of techniques and styles. Not only the range, the tunings and the harmonics, but the way he weaves snatches of other songs into his instrumentals. Bits of Stairway to Heaven and Anjii surfacing and disappearing again where you don't expect them to be. I do own a guitar. Though I wouldn't ever describe myself as a' player,' I don't believe I heard a wrong note throughout.  I've been replaying all of his albums since:if you haven't bought one you've seriously missed out. Buy one online. 

 A fitting finale was "Everyone's a Hard Man Nahhhhhhhhhhhhh,"  complete with homage to Mrs. Mills.  With the chorus lines belted enthusiastically out full volume, Phil Mitchell style. The clock had moved well beyond 11pm when the audience and Phil reluctantly parted company. 

Various other NFC regulars were unable to attend and even though they all had a credible absence note, it could potentially have thinned the numbers down. But it didn't. And then there's that Pandemic. The one that (again) certain deluded politicians claim is waning when statistics show it really isn't. The Crew's Rich Burlingham could not possibly take more steps to try to reduce risk and restore public confidence. The room  was more socially distanced than any other performance area I have ever seen. New machinery had been added to existing facilities so that the air was fresh, pure and in constant circulation. If any of you reading this still have trepidation about returning to live music venues-ask someone who was there on Wednesday if they felt safe.  I thank each and every one of you for turning out and supporting us. I'm sure you weren't disappointed. My thanks to Max Wright and Malc Gurnham for the photographs. 

Footnote  And I sold all the copies of "The Light Fandango," that I brought along. Wow! Thanks everyone. Even Phil took one!

Friday, 1 October 2021

Happy 7th Birthday Nuneaton Folk Club

 Seven years!  Wow. It's been a long and difficult journey at times. We have survived two venues, two "House" bands, lockdowns, a Pandemic and Brexit. So to all who helped us along the Rocky Road, some acknowledgements follow. 

February 2020 :The Queens Hall


I would like to thank Rich Burlingham and all the staff at The Crew for standing by us throughout. From Day One, when he first heard that we'd lost The Crown overnight, Rich was there. Offering us shelter and sanctuary. Special mention too, for Bar Staff like the irrepressible Aron and  the ever helpful Jenna, and all front of house and Sound Crews. Good job, all! 


(Really sound!). We've always used a P.A. in both venues. Over time they've been driven by Tom and Harvey James, Tom Veasey,  Dave Smart, Liam Johnson, Matt Mallen Allen, Malc Gurnham and Phil Benson. Currently in the hot seat are Ross Tidmus and co.


My life partner. She's been there at The QH every first Wednesday. Only illness has kept her away. Not only helping out with practical tasks like organising collections and raffles and banner hanging but also in putting up with my tantrums in the days when we aren't at The Crew. It's no exaggeration to say I'd have packed it all up long ago without her. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a good night at NFC owes her a debt of gratitude. 


    I would also like to pay homage to all members of NFC Resident In House band Nunc. In our various formats we have tried to warm up NFC audiences since 2016. Often at great personal sacrifice. 


We have a little army of excellent photographers who have recorded the sights (and sounds) of NFC and helped to spread the word. John B.Smith has worked tirelessly to promote the club and to support Nunc. Ray Buckler, John Wright, Max Wright, Paul Monks  and many others have chronicled the shenanigans with veritable albums of photographs. Rich and Gaj have been been very generous with time and input over producing high quality leaflets and posters. 

BBC CWR have featured us several times, including one "live" interview famously conducted on a very windswept Worthing Beach. 

The Tilting Kettle have baked us wonderful cakes for special occasions, always free of charge. 


Unfair to single anyone out possibly, but I suppose we must mention Polesworth's Mick Stanley who was in such a hurry to reach NFC one night that he actually got run over crossing the road outside and ended up in hospital for some considerable time! It didn't deter him though. He was back as soon as he could walk again! Some other regulars literally go out of their way to attend. Despite disability, family illness and ridiculous English weather, they struggle in, united by the common bond of loving "live" music. 

July 2015. At The Crown


The Folk and Open Mic community are a close bunch. Supporting each other not just through their attendance but via advice, practical help and collaboration on avoiding duplication of bookings. The input of Malc Gurnham and Phil Benson (who first persuaded me to embark on this madness) cannot be underestimated.  My thanks too must go to friends like Pete Willow, John Richards, Ian Bourne, Karen Orgill, Steve Bentley, Rob Halligan, John Harris and Kristy Gallagher. 99% of Organisers work co-operatively together. The odd 1% still see running a live music venue as some kind of Turf War.  Strange.


Too numerous to mention here, but a link to "Gallery " on the NFC Website leads you into a Pandora's box of memories. No performers= no club. Where would we be without such a rich array of talent?


Since we first  launched in 2014 NFC audiences have raised monies for Cancer Research, Nuneaton Foodbank. The George Eliot Hospital, Fireside ,McMillan Nurses and Anker Hospital Radio. 


Despite professing a love of the genre publicly elsewhere, a few citizens of the Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough catchment continue to boycott us. It's their choice, of course but our local stayaways could walk in from home, have a pint and help support live music in their nearest venue. We get visitors from Oxford, Leicester and Birmingham. And more people travel in from Coventry ,Warwick Rugby and Leamington than home turf. Odd.


Some of course could not help staying away, due to alas ,their taking leave of us permanently over the last seven years. RIP Arnold Chave, Angus Ellis,  Catherine Cope,  Rich McMahon, Ted Crum and Dave Cook. Among those who once trod the NFC boards but who  won't be back. Miss you Guys!  

Thursday, 2 September 2021

     I'm going to start off with a few kind words about Doreen and Patrick Tiernan. I don't want to embarrass them too much, but for me they exemplify all that is good about local Folk music.  They are hard core: loyal, supportive and appreciative. I  see them at almost all the local venues regularly.  When I first met Doreen,  Nuneaton Folk Club was based at The Crown. You could hear her coming well before she actually arrived in the room: clanking determinedly up a basically evil flight of stairs on a pair of crutches. ( I spend a few days of each year immobile and a few more unable to walk except with crutches. I know how much strength and courage that requires). Last night there she was again, bless her. 

The  stairs up to The Queens Hall are a lot easier, but even so, I know personally what effort and strength goes into her getting up them. I have nothing but admiration for her.  She puts so much effort into supporting all these venues, and I've never once heard her complain. (Patrick might advise me otherwise, but I doubt it).  

It's not much of a secret that last week was not a good one for me. I'd reached rock bottom with music-related stuff  and had already written a few sad and self pitying "farewell" letters. I've put a lot of  unpaid hours into supporting the good folk of Nuneaton. Working as an NHS volunteer at (and for) the hospital. As a Life Member of Nuneaton Borough  Supporter's Co-operative. And in trying to bring a decent level of "live" Folk music back into the centre of the town.  I don't expect an MBE for all this, but not having a deteriorating sense of self worth might be nice sometimes .Sometimes it's all very uplifting. Last week it wasn't. The turf wars and the divisions reflective as a microcosm of our society just got to me. My head dropped. So last night  needed to be good. 

Fortunately it was. I found the September attendance disappointing, even though I understand completely that some people are still very anxious about public events. Last night was better. Many familiar faces were still missing. I felt sad for the Craic I once had with those who choose to stay way ,but last night was better. Healing, to some extent. 

 The week had started more positively anyway, with a Nunc rehearsal at Flossy's on Tuesday night. Lots of laughs, a few beers and running through some good tunes in preparation for a stint at NFC. As a result our Everley's tribute went down well and it was clear early doors that the audience were up for a sing. In Nunc's second half slot, after a sublime version of Guilty we finished with our notorious Bob Marley/Wild Rover mash-up. When JK handed the chorus singing over to the audience, it was, for me, like that scene in ET when the Little Fella's heart starts to glow again. I had forgotten how good it sounds to hear an upbeat, well oiled audience singing along with something they know and love.

The Good Vibe also owed much to the support acts. For the moment we have dropped the flow of shorter "floor spots" in favour of longer sessions. This means less variety perhaps but a better opportunity to get the flavour of the artistes more fully. Importantly it also gives the Sound Crew a chance to tidy up between turns. 

Take Comharsa for example. They've been out of it for as long as the rest of us, but last night they were as good as I've ever heard (or seen) them. There were technical problems during their sound check, but the Crew family rallied round and surmounted them. By the time they followed Nunc they were sounding great. Leads were loaned and re-arranged and with the patient support of Ross and Jack they delivered an eclectic et. "Jolene" was a surprise, but a lovely one. Great song and the choruses got the audience going. Mick Stanley (legend) led his not inconsiderable band through the usual Irish drinking songs including the Inniskillen Fusiliers, but also turned in a passable Johnny Cash impression when Comharsa switched to a medley of songs made famous by The Man in Black. Grand stuff. Loved the pipes by the way, Big Man. 

Only the Thrup'nny Bits could follow that and they did, with their traditional elan and aplomb. Des had issued a complex dressing room rider beforehand so most of his wishes were acceded to. No smoke. Soft lights. Audible foldback trimmed so they could hear if the audience were singing or not. Forgot the Smarties on their table, the crates of Miller Lite and Gareth's hand rolled cigars but that aside, I think we got away with it. Loved "Bedlam" and so did the audience. What a spine tingling song that is!

And so to Winter Wilson and their first set, to conclude an excellent first half.  On stage on the first day of Autumn after Summer had ended the day before. Truly three seasons in one day. Their long journey had not diminished their fine playing or beautiful harmonies. Dave and Kip have been working on a new album," The Passing Of The Storm." . They treated us to some songs from it and some old favourites too. One of their covers was "Angel from Montgomery." Our audience took these choruses up eagerly. As part of Nunc's Set list they were well used to hearing our version. The Angry Mother was an entertaining song from Kip: a true story she was not ashamed to tell. 

You don't get to tour with Fairport Convention without being this good. An early second half song " The First To Fall" hit a nerve with me straight away. Heart achingly poignant and a tribute to the much maligned and violated NHS as they fought to contain a pandemic not everyone cared very much about. Until it touched them, of course. It's not the only Covid song on the album. In "The Passing of The Storm," Dave reminds us, "Lets make sure we don't forget. This isn't over. It isn't over yet."  How true. 

There's something about Dave's writing. He has a way of telling stories and of stringing a few fairly simple lines together and saying so much succinctly. In "All for the Coin," for example he begins:

   Oh My back it was aching, my hands were red raw: it was dreams we were building, whose dreams I'm not sure.

All too soon after a few encores which took us well beyond 11pm* it was time to pack up and go home. Kip and Dave had a long journey to make and some had work to go to in the morning. Several times during the night I looked around at the audience as Winter Wilson wove their magic. They were transfixed: taking on board the lyrics and the imagery: all combined with flawless musicianship.  I hope they'll agree to come back again one day. Meanwhile, look out for that new album. 

Thanks to all at The Crew who helped out, especially Aron doing a super job behind the bar. I think most of us made our way home feeling more upbeat and positive than when we came in. The Hall was well ventilated without being cold, social distancing was easily achieved.

 I even managed to sell another of my books. *  (Thank you Craig Sunderland!). 

Multiple photos and videos are available on the NFC Facebook page, thanks to the hard work and expertise of John B. Smith. Ray Buckler has added some cracking shots, too!

Notes * 1. Mick Stanley is an NFC legend because he got so excited crossing the busy road from the car park to The Crown one Wednesday that he got hit by a car and hospitalised for weeks. The show carried on inside unaware that the sirens and flashing lights outside were actually attending to Mick as he lay in the road outside! I think we need to start a Hall of Fame. Mick and Doreen would be first to have plaques! 

            *2  People often forget that The Queens Hall has a later bar than other venues. That enables us, with the Guest Act's agreement to run over a little. 

             *3  The Light FandangoThe anti hero moves from Beduff to Nuneaton and then on to London. I'm told it's a "Rite of Passage" novel Available by order via Waterstones, Amazon The Book farm and most Independent bookshops. Also can be downloaded in ebook form to a Kindle. 

All photos (except the one above) are reproduced courtesy of Ray Buckler and John B Smith.


Thursday, 5 August 2021

Bringing It On Home...finally!

      Seventeen months is a long time. It was March 2020 when we last set foot in the Queen's Hall to enjoy live music. It was a glorious, memorable occasion then, with the excellent "Bird In The Belly" Travelling up from Sussex to be the headline act. I don't think anyone present that night fully realised what would follow. Lockdowns. Masks. Isolation. Fear. Vaccines. It's a lot to take on board and a lot to forget about. As readers can see by the increasing gaps between Blog postings here, I was among those who began to lose heart. I carried on doing the Radio shows-although not from the Anker Radio studios. Every one of them since March 2020 was recorded at home.( And continues to be so).  Other than that, it felt that as far as music was concerned, there wasn't much to diarise or write about. Now the ice is broken, maybe I'll get back into the blogging habit more often. 

       So much has changed since that night. Many of us have been on painful and challenging personal journeys. For some of us it feels as if it may be time to try to approach normality again. For others it is still too soon. So it was with some apprehension that most of us approached the re-opening of Nuneaton Folk Club last night. An added burden was that always being the first in the month, we would be the FIRST Folk Club in the area to re-open and one of the first indoor venues to reconvene.  That felt like quite a responsibility to be carrying. Maybe others will find it easier now we've kick-started the whole thing off again? 

     The room had changed. Rich Burlingham had been very busy throughout Lockdown(s) with a proactive revamp of the venue. New bar, new toilets, new carpet, new interior from the auditorium to the stage. New sound deck (removed and sited upstairs in a gallery). New tech crew-and what a good job Ross and Jack made of it too, given that dealing with Folkies was a whole new ball game for them.  I liked the new, smaller  tables. It meant that there was natural social distancing and the new layout afforded more room to get around. We did not have a raffle but went for a "jug collection" instead. Which went well. A few potential raffle prizes had appeared anyway but I expect we'll see them at Beduff next week? 

      We anticipated a lower than usual turnout, and in that respect we were correct. (Good job we rearranged the advertised Mike Reinstein appearance and made it a home grown night instead?). There were things that went well last night and things that can be improved, especially as the Guests become more famous, the attendances rise and the Covid situation becomes clearer. The Air conditioning caused discomfort to some and was set too low. The Smoke machine we can definitely do without. Having spent all night compering and singing I woke up this morning with a cough, In the current climate that's a bit worrying! (I'll test!). Some people were too cold, but proper ventilation is currently the key to managing health and safety indoors. Personally I'd prefer circulating air indoors to being trapped in a hot, sweaty claustrophobic atmosphere which is a perfect environment for encouraging aerial transmission of virus spores. The World Health Authority and our own NHS agrees with me. We'll sort it for next month. 

     But the key thing of course, was the music. Having rearranged Mike's gig, it fell to House Band Nunc to try to link the entertainment and to take on board the second half.  Instead of a procession of floor spots first half we decided to try out warming our audience up (see what I did there?) with some longer feature sets. Cameos by Nigel Ward and Des Patalong preceded  a couple of half hour slots from Adam Wilson and Craig Sunderland respectively. 

          Nunc started with a shaky version of "How Long Blues," but once under way it steadied and adjusted to a racier tempo. The train (it's a railway song) effectively got up a head of steam and began to move. We followed with a second railway song "Vigilante Man," and finished our opener with the Richard  and Linda Thompson classic "Down Where The Drunkards Roll."  It was during this song that I first heard the audience singing, repeating the last line at the end of each verse. I confess, it got me quite emotional. I think I shouted over the P.A. something like "Hey! We're in a Folk Club again! And we're singing together. "

            Cov kid Nigel Ward boldly followed. He gave us some songs and tunes from his new CD "Coventry Kid (and other stories)."  This included "Coventrated," a dramatic song about the November  Blitz. Nigel got out the fiddle  to finish and delivered a rousing set of tunes which got feet tapping and the odd sedate table thumping going on as we romped along to a finish with a flourish. Stirring stuff. 

             Des Patalong, rarely backward in coming forward, had stepped into the breach at late notice, kindly deputising for the billed Steve Bentley and Andrew Wrigglesworth. Des was next up on stage and he looked comfortable as he launched into a series of songs. It was as if he'd never been away. Des has a voice which really does not need a P.A. to project. His sonorous tones filled the room and he too got the audience singing. 

          The first of our two longer sets followed that. An NFC regular, Adam Wilson did some songs from his latest album. By request, (my fault!), he did "Old Man," and "Heart of Gold." This was probably very selfish of me to ask for these, but no-one I know locally has the vocal range to deliver those songs live with anything like his authenticity. It probably skewed his set list. (Oops!)  I was humbled to hear him do "The Boy On The Beach," which we co-wrote together. First time I'd heard it "live." 

         Adam was a tough act to follow, but 'taking us up to the break' as it were, up stepped Craig Sunderland. The combination of Craig's fine voice, his ingenious musical arrangements and his superb guitar playing is always a highlight. He takes traditional music and makes it relatable. One of the attributes of Folk songs is that their originators did not mind having a dig at what they felt was wrong. So with a few slight amendments, many of the older songs are still relevant. Craig also kindly invited me to join him in a rendition of the Rod Felton classic "Curly."  We were (are) both admirers of the greatly missed Roddie's work. So it was an honour to mumble my way through the choruses as Craig delivered his own unique arrangement. The Old Rascal himself would have loved it!

   Nunc completed the second half with a selection of their repertoire. Reduced to a four piece, we still managed to rip through "When Love Comes to Town" and "Copperhead Road" with some spirit. Flossy was in particularly fine voice-her soaring vocals in of "Guilty",  "Landslide" and "Angel of Montgomery" were particularly well received. We finished with "Dark End of The Street," a fairly new addition but one which is a personal favourite. As an encore we reprised "Bring It On Home," which seemed particularly apt given the occasion. 

In conclusion, despite the frankly terrifying "tally ho" spirit of certain cavalier politicians and scientists, the Pandemic is NOT over, and we are not yet out of the woods. Nor will we ever be until people as a whole act more sensibly, and the vaccination programmes world wide are more consistent and reliable. We remain disunited as a nation with confusing ever-changing Governmental travel advice changing daily. We are too easily swayed by mass sporting events badged nefariously as "test events." There are those deniers who would like us all to believe that all is now somehow magically "disappeared." Returning to a semblance of normality is undeniably an attractive prospect. Those of us involved in the Entertainment sector must do our bit and try to move things on sensibly and safely.