The Poppy Folk Club. The Poppy and Pint, Pierrepont Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham. NG2 5DX. Poppy Logo. Pint pot logo.
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Poppy Folk Day - Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th January 2015

Singaround and music morning

The Folk Day started at 10:30 with a couple of hours of songs and music for the early-risers. There was a good number of them too – we just about (and only just) got round the room twice. There were quite a few new faces too. Gordon and Vivienne sang and played guitar, including a nice version of Karine Polwart’s ‘Follow the Herring’; newcomer Ian sang two good songs he had written himself; and a very nice duo called The Needy performed two of their own songs. Crispin, a weekend guest of the hosts, also impressed with his singing.

It was good to hear some lovely guitar tunes from Patrick, a regular at the club who we don’t hear often enough. From Leicestershire, John Stephenson included George Unthank’s ‘Tar Barrel In Dale’ in his songs; and Malcolm Goodall gave us ‘The Snows they Melt the Soonest’. Back to Nottingham, Steve Plowright sang two seasonal songs – a Wassail and his own Green Man song; while club organisers Dave, Claire, Julie and Phil all squeezed in just one song each. And all before lunchtime!

Early afternoon concert

Ruth Graelish had the tricky job of starting the first concert. Ruth has been performing locally recently and has visited the club to sing for us. She has a beautiful voice and did a superb job, getting the concert off to a fine start, accompanying her songs with guitar and dulcimer.
Dave Collins is, of course, a club regular and is a prolific songwriter. His song ‘Good Health to the Nurses’ was the runner up in last year’s John Birmingham Cup – a national competition for folk song writers – and Dave included it in a great set of seven of his songs, before finishing with Hoagie Carmichael’s ‘Up a Lazy River’.
Next to sing was Liz Dyer, a traditional singer from Derbyshire who has been performing since the 1960s – initially in a duo with Dave Goulder. Liz doesn’t perform very often these days, so it was a treat to hear her singing a selection of traditional and contemporary songs. Her voice is still spot on!
Headlining the first concert was the wonderful Steve Turner! A multi-instrumentalist and singer, Steve is best known for his top-drawer concertina playing, and his excellent singing voice. He is in great demand these days, and indeed had to dash off after the concert to perform in the north-west, so it was a real treat to get an hour of lovely songs and tunes to end this part of the folk day. Mixing concertina and mandolin, Steve’s songs included traditional English, American and European songs and tunes. His encore of ‘Spanish is the Loving Tongue’ (based on a 1907 poem by Charles Badger Clark) was a treat, but my highlight was the Stephen Foster song ‘Gentle Lena Claire’, which was totally gorgeous!

Late afternoon concert

On with the show, and the second concert was opened by Wil Walker and Nick Murphy (joined today by guitarist Nigel Bull). Nick is an excellent melodeon player while Wil is an extremely good fiddle player. They both play for morris teams as well as with the ceilidh band ‘Bellows, Scratchitt and Pluckitt’, and for this short spot packed in a great variety of tunes, including Andy Cutting’s ‘Flatworld’, a lovely Phil Cunningham tune and a medley of Ragtime tunes! A lively start to the proceedings!
The nine members who make up Oldish Spice were up next – a small male voice choir or an oversized barber shop group? We don’t know, but they have recently fallen for folk music in a big way and have incorporated several folk and folk-inspired songs into their repertoire. Today’s set was mostly popular songs from the 60’s, but they finished with the great Sydney Carter song ‘John Ball’ – a Poppy Club favourite.

Ally Turner and Juliet Woodin started coming to the club in its early days and performed separately for a few years. A couple of years ago they began to join forces from time to time and now play as a duo regularly. Much more recently they have started to incorporate Rick Dyzon into the crew, and today’s concert spot was mostly from that trio. The main singing role goes to Ally, who has a lovely clear voice, while Juliet adds clever and interesting harmonies. Today, they were showing off their instrumental versatility too, with considerable swapping between guitars, concertina and whistle. A lovely set of songs – especially (for me) because it contained two Richard Thompson compositions!
Notts Alliance were the big finish for the late afternoon concert, and kicked off the show – to my delight – with another Richard Thompson song – ‘Wall of Death’. Notts Alliance have been around as a group since they were formed from the resident singers at the Nottingham Traditional Music Club in the 1960s. They have been through a few changes of line-up since then, but have always retained a reputation for great harmony singing, often delivered with a nice sense of humour. Today’s set included lots of traditional songs (Poor Old Horse, Creeping Jane and Dol-Li-A), some contemporary, and liberal sprinkling of humour – in the songs (such as Les Barker’s ‘Hard Cheese of Old England’) as well as in the between-songs banter, with some groan-worthy quips from Chris Orme in particular. Great singing, and great fun!

That wasn’t quite the end for the afternoon because, while we had a bite to eat and set out the room for the evening concert, there was a very lively music session in the bar downstairs with a terrific turnout and a pretty much constant stream of tunes from instruments of every shape and size!

Folk Day Evening concert

We were very pleased to be able to welcome back David Gibb for the support spot at the evening concert. David visited us in 2012 as half of a duo with Elly Lucas. Recently, David has been heavily involved with a project to introduce new songs for, and by, children, and has had an album of children’s songs recently released. He has been performing these songs with great acclaim as part of a stage show, and we were keen to hear a flavour of the project and test them out on an audience of ‘grown up children’. This is a young man with boundless energy and enthusiasm, and he quickly won over an audience somewhat ‘more mature’ than he is used to, and had everyone singing along to silly choruses, making animal noises, and (my favourite moment) playing ‘air trumpet’. It all worked better than we could have hoped and was a great start to the evening. Oh, and I should add that he’s a very good guitarist too!
To headline what had been a very successful and enjoyable day, we had invited Bryony Griffith and Will Hampson to top the bill. We first saw them play at the club in 2012 when we had a great night from them, so we knew we were in for a treat. As well as playing as a duo, they are key musicians in the Demon Barbers and members of the ceilidh band Bedlam, besides being involved in morris and rapper dance teams.
There is no doubt that Bryony is among the best fiddle players in the folk scene, and has a powerful and characterful voice. Newly Doctored husband Will (he had been awarded his PhD the previous day!) has a lovely playing style on melodeons, which he tries to disguise behind one of the most laid-back personas you could ever see. They make a great pair, and performed two excellent sets including morris tunes (Old Molly Oxford and My Lord Sherborne’s Jig were excellent); some of their own compositions; traditional ballads and chorus songs; and a couple of solo and unaccompanied songs from Bryony – ‘The Wild Wild Berry’ was terrific. There were lots of opportunities to join in choruses, and the audience sang along to ‘Down by the River Side-Oh’; ‘Gloucestershire Wassail’ and ‘My Faithful Johnny’.

And that, for another year or so, was the end of the Poppy Folk Club ‘extended’ Folk Day! It had been an excellent event again, starting with the Mr Fox performance and music session on Saturday; passing through a singaround, two lovely concerts and a musical blow-out; and finishing on a high with Will and Bryony. Thanks to everyone who came to listen, to sing or to play!