Sunday, 6 February 2011

Hard Times, Another Folk Club Disappears

We’ll start this week with the sad demise of the Dearne Valley Folk Club.  

OK it was a relatively new Club on the scene, meeting in the foyer of the posh Park Inn Hotel built as part of the Manvers re-development.   It was like all new Clubs slowly establishing itself as a monthly Club with floor spots supporting an extended set from a guest artist.  Being a monthly Club, dare I say it was not helped by a two month break for the Christmas season. 

A change of Management plus squeezed trading margins meant that the Club no longer fitted the Hotel’s profile.  

Worse, this was the second of Charlie Barker’s The Partnership Clubs to have been closed within three months, the bi-weekly Friday Folk at The Venue having been pulled towards the end of last year.  Interestingly the gap at The Venue left by Friday Folk was filled very quickly by the Wortley Folk Club. 

Charlie issued the following statement:  

"It is with regret Dearne Valley Folk has gone to join the great folk club in the sky and can no longer continue at the Park Inn Rotherham as of 03/02/11.
We are sorry to announce that the forthcoming events booked up to September 2011 are cancelled, but would like to thank our audience, floor spotters and special guests for the support since the launch in 2010.
Thanks to the staff at the Park Inn Rotherham for the fun times we spent at the venue.
Onwards and upwards!
See you around – Charlie & John"

Venue sponsored Clubs, e.g. Clubs that rely upon the venue to put up the money to run the Club do leave themselves open to Management / policy changes, and of course when profits drop it’s the low return investments that are going to pay the price. 

I’ve been there myself so I know the problem well. 

The fact of the matter is that few venues can afford to Sponsor Clubs, and most venues expect Folk Clubs to be free and in some cases actually pay for the use of a venue.   

One Land Lord said to me recently that Folk Clubs do not generate enough revenue, not even when they are packed.  The suggestion was that the nice Folkies simply do not drink enough pints………. And of course that’s because many travel to venues in cars, and those who walk often need a clear head to play their tunes or sing their songs.  So a Club dragging in twenty people is worth only around thirty pints maximum, meaning that the Club hardly pays for the heating of the room, let alone staff. 

Unfortunately most Folk Clubs have allowed themselves to become a group of consenting friends meeting at regular intervals to sing their songs.  While small groups allow singers more air time they also have the effect of making it more difficult for new blood to join the Club, although most Clubs would emphasise just how friendly and welcoming they are to new blood.  Unfortunately, that’s often a perception not shared by the stranger in the camp. 

The fact is that all the evidence suggests that most “folkies” simply do not want to come outside of their comfort zones.  They have their favourite Clubs and events and to expose themselves to anything new, unless within their own comfort zone appears to be a step too far.  A nightmare for New Club promoters.

And times are tough.  A trip out to a Club or event is no longer a cheap night out, especially by the time that petrol and a couple of pints have been taken into consideration, so Clubs outside of the mainstream areas are not going to be accessible as they once were. 

For artists not on the Festival lists or already booked into Clubs 2011 is going to be hard year.  Club Organisers I’ve spoken to talk of record amounts of Emails and Demo CDs coming their way as acts seek bookings.  Let’s be honest, most Clubs will have already sorted out their entire 2011 Diary so if an act is seeking to put a Tour together it’s going to be hard work indeed. 

A lesson might learnt from the 2010 Artisan Reunion Tour, which was set and arranged way back in the Summer of 2009, and they are an established act.

But there are some opportunities out there, yet artists will have to be prepared to work hard to uncover them, and that means investing time and money in yourselves.  Demo discs, Emails etc, are not enough, you have to get out and about, you have to network, and that means lots of frustrating evenings waiting to be called as a floor spot, and talking to people.  

ENOUGH depressing stuff. 

This past week The Masher has been recharging his battery ready for a busy little period coming up starting with the Thornberry Animal Sanctuary Benefit Concert on Friday 11th February.    Full details and tickets for the event can be found HERE.  You can also buy tickets at the Bridge or from little helpers dotted around various Folk Clubs.  Should be a fantastic evening of music. 

The Masher then heads to The Wellington in Hull, Thursday 17th February for Stripped Night, where the stage will be shared with Cracktown and another act.  And on the 18th February The Masher will be part of the Anti Cuts Campaign Fund Raiser at The Star, Rawmarsh, full details on the listings page HERE.

However I did get out on Saturday night, and to The Bridge where the pub really rocked to the rockabilly sounds of The Slingshots.  The Bridge was packed throughout the evening, and even I after a hard day on the road (all together ooohhhhhh) found himself surprised when checking the time to find it was 12:30am when the Band forced it’s way off stage.  I’m sure they will be back again soon as they are certainly entertaining and Masters of their genre. 

Now there’s a word that some of us could use – entertaining – it’s the value added so much needed in these grim days.

I think we’re all feeling the pinch, and it made me laugh when listening to the Coalition spokesmen rallying folks and assuring us that the National Economy’s zero growth had nothing to do with the cuts as the cuts have not yet taken affect.  Well that’s good news indeed, what?!!  So if we think it’s bad now, what is going to happen once people start to actually lose their jobs?   

So many of the specialist support groups are going to come under huge financial pressure, as they face budget cuts of at least 50% in this coming year alone.  Rotherham CAB have already issued redundancy notices to their staff and invited them to apply for what jobs will remain.   And I believe this is going on throughout the Rotherham Council Departments.  

Just a word about this reapplying for your own job malarkey.   What a way to stop Staff from vocalising their opposition – what a control tool for Management?   And of course that is exactly what it is designed to do, disunite the workforce and set worker against worker.  Who can blame the people going through this process for not being frightened, especially if they have families and mortgages to support.  

But Unite we must which is why I would urge those who can to get to The Star in Rawmarsh on Friday 18th February where there will be some great rock music, View From S62 headlining from around 11:00pm.  

Not a lot of changes on the Web Site this week, a few more pages updated but that’s as far as it goes.  This coming week I hope to have some new Reviews from David Kidman on line and I will have sorted out a slight technical problem that has presented itself on The Masher’s Influences page. 

The good news is that we had a record number of hits on the site this past week.  Keeping putting the word out there.  

But whatever you’re doing this week, have fun and keep it live.   The February page has it all listed, and I hope above all to see you at The Bridge on Friday evening.

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