Mudcat Café message #3976116 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165645   Message #3976116
Posted By: Vic Smith
11-Feb-19 - 08:28 AM
Thread Name: Where Have all the Folkies Gone
Subject: RE: Where Have all the Folkies Gone
The question is Where Have all the Folkies Gone?

I feel that this question arises because of the decline in the number of folk clubs and that the music now achieves a much lower profile in the mainstream media. I think that I have one of the reasons for this....

Laat night I was in a good old-fashioned village pub about five miles from where I live. There were about forty people there for the music and about a half a dozen at the other end of the pub.
There were 18 musicians there. The most common instrument (surprise, surprise) was the G/D melodeon, but there were also the three types of concertina, three fiddles, Northumbrian pipes, mandolin, octave mandola (that was me), flute, clarinet, whistles, a nycleharpa, a bassoon and only one guitar (thankfully because more than one guitar leads to clashing chords which I always find jarring).
The standard of musicianship was high; several of the better local morris musicians were there and there were six musicians that I had worked with either as a band member or as a dep. at barn dance gigs. The age range of the musicians was from the mid-20s to the mid-70s. Amongst the musicians there were two sets of father and son and two married couples. The tunes were almost exclusively English dance tunes with a heavy emphasis on the Sussex tunes of Scan Tester.... well, the nominal leader on the session is Will Duke and one of the concertinas that Will played last night was previously owned by Scan. There was one set of French tunes and one Swedish and there were eight songs, all traditional including a really well delivered ballad. We went round the table anti-clockwise with each person deciding what was next, either choosing 2 tunes to play together, or playing a party piece or singing a song.
This session has absolutely no profile. It never appears anywhere on print or the internet but word of mouth tells people that Will goes there on 2nd Sundays and that it is a good session. No money changes hands apart from buying drinks. It was a very satisfying ego-free evening to be a part of.
I know of quite a few sessions on this nature in my immediate area. I know of dozens in Sussex and I suspect that there are others that I know nothing of - perhaps I have heard them mentioned, but all share that very low profile. They don't publicise themselves because they don't need to.

Writing this, my thoughts turn to a town to the east of where I live, Hastings. There is no folk club in Hastings but you can hear quality folk, traditional and roots music every night of the week in a half a dozen or so pubs in the Old Town. There are English tune sessions, Irish sessions, bluegrass pickers, singarounds, a hugely popular weekly sea songs and shanties session. There is not a sizeable number of Irish or Irish heritage people in Hastings yet in recent years the mainly local Irish tune specialists have set up their own branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann with teaching and workshops and they even hold their own fleadh. There is a weekly 'Voices Only' session where you will hear songs ( mainly trad) and monologues and poetry. I doubt there is any town of comparable size where there are so many dance display sides; obviously their huge 'Jack In The Green' festival in May is a great stimulus for these.

I don't know if what I am aware of in my county is reflected in the rest of the country, but if what happens here is reflected nationally then they is still a great deal of traditional song and music that is being played that is totally under the radar. It could be that folk clubs are less important then they were because they have fulfilled their need. Both the local amateur or semi-pro enthusiast as well as the full time singers and groups don't need folk clubs as much as they did.

It could be that the success of folk clubs in giving a starting platform to singers and musicians now means that we no longer need them so much.