Sunday, 10 October 2010

Bad News and Good News for South Yorkshire Folkies

This week’s Blog starts with the sad news that Friday Folk at The Venue is no more. 
The Venue, Stocksbridge, have pulled the plug, despite the growing success of the Last Friday Folk Club and the very succesful launch only this Friday of Second Friday Folk as a Concert based pay Club with special guests Gilmore and Roberts. 
Behind the scenes The Venue are struggling financially and clearly “folk music” is not considered a big enough pull to continue with the development of the Club.  
The Club was a Charlie Barker, Partnership Media Promotion, and this must come as a disappointing turn of events to them  as they were only a couple of years into a five year plan to establish the Club.  
It’s also a great loss to the Folk Community of South Yorkshire as yet another Folk Club hits the buffers.  One less place for people to sing, one less place for folks to meet and exchange songs and develop performance skills. 
Of course, as The Mashers well know from their own experience with Flat Cap Folk, sponsored Clubs, e.g. Clubs based upon the need for investment by venues like WMCs and the like are very much at the whim of Committees and or Management and the plug can be pulled at only a moment’s notice, mainly because of short term thinking.
Flat Cap Folk operated on a budget of £200 per month, for it’s monthly meetings.  Not a huge sum in the scheme of things, and that allowed us to bring some top Regional Bands to the Club, but only by paying absolutely minimum fees.  
In the case of FCF it was simply lack of attendance.  Ten people plus acts does not exactly suggest that Folk music is popular – of course it flies in the face of the popularity of Festivals etc.   
But then, if a venue owner is suffering a decline in beer sales it’s the live music that is going to get pulled first as it’s viewed as an expensive luxury.   Yes expensive!!   I can hear a few semi pro acts out there choking on that one.  
And those of us who have been happy to subsidise Clubs, Acoustic Rotherham – or Pete at South Yorkshire Folk, Rob and Roy at Nellie Folk  by running raffles or whatever in a dire attempt to break even to simply paying artist expenses and advertising and promotion are finding it harder to keep things  going as domestic budgets become stretched.
On my travels Friday Folk was always one of the best attended Clubs in the area, especially since the change to a proper Folk Club was made.  What chance then some of the singer Clubs – is it going to be worth Land Lords etc. heating those back rooms when Winter hits big time?   Will they sell enough beer to offset their costs?
Live music in general is facing very hard times, some would argue that it has been difficult for a few years, but the fact is that our current situation is only the thin end of the wedge.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news folks, but it’s going to get a lot worse. 
For Folk it all seems so complicated to me.  First there is the two audience phenomenon, singers and players turn up where it’s all for free, while in the main avoiding the Concert Clubs because they can’t play and won’t pay.  And it works visa versa, the audiences that attend Concert Clubs refuse to come out to the Weekly / Monthly Clubs.
It would be fantastic to find a format that would bring both together.
And what about promotion?  Many Folk Clubs at best place an advert in Stirrings or the local free paper or at worse do nothing at all, and then wonder why nobody bothers to turn up. 
I’ve heard it argued that “we only like about a dozen to come along as if we have anymore we don’t all get to do three songs”.   So in affect there’s active exclusion going on.
And what of the strangers?  The Mashers have received some very cold welcomes at Clubs we have visited as well as some very warm welcomes.  We’ve been shifted from the seats we selected, because they apparently belonged to a regular who might pop along late.  We’ve been deliberately left to the end of an evening after most had gone to catch their buses, because despite our instrument cases apparently the host hadn’t realised that we would like to sing.  If it’s happened to us, then it’s happened to others. 
We all have a responsibility to do more to attract new blood into our Clubs.  New faces need to be welcomed and encouraged.  New styles of the genre need to be encouraged.  
And with regards to publicity we need to get our Clubs out there…………………   press stories, dare I say the Internet and much more, inviting non-performers as well as the performers to our venues.  By hiding away as some Clubs do it’s little wonder that Folkies are viewed as being somewhat weird – of course some of us would argue that the beard stroking, pitch pipe blowing, cap lifting or instrument tuning sometimes takes on the mystique of a Masonic handshake and therefore we deserve our “weird” label – but we’re really quite normal……………………  aren’t we?
But enough negativism – let’s move the argument on and hope that we’re have more good things to say in the future.
But to the positive…………………   Saturday was the second meeting of The Dearne Valley Folk Club at The Park Hotel in Wath (it’s big new flash one on the Manvers Parkway) – attendance was down on the opening night in September, but none the less enough to make for an interesting evening, and this time, even The Masher sung……………..  what a treat for the Club!
Special guest for the evening was Andrew Morley.   Nice see him out in Folk Club land again following his run as Buddie Holly in a recent Show production.  
His short set was a mix of his own self-penned material, a new CD is available, and of course the Buddy Holly material for which he was well known around the Clubs.
The Club now goes into Christmas hibernation, but barring unforeseen factors will return on the second Saturday in January for a full monthly run until September 2011 – and we are promised some top guests.
The Masher was out on Thursday too.   Yes two outings in a week, somewhat of a record of late.  Son number one dragged me out for a birthday drink to The Yellow Lion, an Open Mic that has not had the benefit of a Masher performance for some time. 
Good to see Jono still doing his MC bit and some local developing talent along with some top friends. 
A grand night.  Pictures on the site soon.  HERE
Which brings me to the adverts of the week.   DON’T STOP READING …………………………
First, an old friend of The Mashers from the ether currently based in the USA is looking for a Sponsor Company to offer him employment to meet UK immigration requirements.  Chris is experienced in Electronics and Education. 
If you think that you might be able to help, you can contact Chris direct.  His CV is available to check out via our News Page.  HERE
Another good friend of The Mashers has started creating music event posters – so many of us try but fail to get beyond the basics of poster design…………  so why not check out what Karen might be able to do for your Venue or Band by going HERE at

And so to The Web Site. 
Would you believe that the overhaul is almost complete.  You wouldn’t?   well it’s very close. 
I’ve tied the links into the Resource Page now – if your Link is missing then let me know. 
The David Kidman Reviews have been reset.  Those that had been on the old style pages as part of the computer crash rescue have been converted to pdf files – while the more recent one’s can be found on the new style full page.  
There remains only a couple of pages or so to sort now and we’ll be able to strip out the server files and reload – which I think will make a difference to page loading etc. 
We’re sorry if you experienced problems recently. 

Acoustic Rotherham 9 Act details are almost complete……………………..   those I have are now posted and song tracks are on the Acoustic Rotherham player.  You can find it all HERE
Please give the event your support and try to get the word out as much as possible.   I you’ve forgotten, it’s 31st October from 1:00pm at The Queens, Rawmarsh.
Other Matters – With all the news coverage I’m sure that you are all aware that the DSA Driving Test changed this week – “the getting lost” element or “independent drive” as it’s officially known has been introduced…………….
We’ve got exclusive video from one of Britain’s top Test Centre’s of how the independent drive is bedding in. 
You can find it on the Driving School page HERE………….   Well anything for a laugh.

And that concludes this week’s missive folks, but not without a reminder to check out this week’s Diary – there are some top things going on, Princess Royal Supporters find out what’s happening HERE and also check out the details of Gilmore and Roberts CD launch Party on the 15th October in Barnsley, HERE  also Richard Kitson supporting Peggy Seeger at the Boardwalk.   It’s all there.
Whatever you’re doing this week - have a good one.

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