2015 - Downend Folk Club continues to hit the right note
Published on: 31 Dec 2015
AT a time when many folk clubs are struggling to put bums on seats and some even closing their doors for good, it seems incredible that in under two years Downend Folk Club has established itself as one of the best folk clubs in the UK.
In its second year, the club has featured three BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners in Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin (April), The Young’uns (November) and Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (December), along with a host of other top names from across the UK’s fast-reviving folk scene…and even chairman Ant Miles admits that he’s been taken by surprise.
“It’s been utterly unbelievable,” Ant told Downend Voice.
“We had our launch in April 2014, which went really well, but things really got underway a month later, when we featured Bella Hardy. I recall doing some simple maths on the way home from work a couple of weeks beforehand, and realised that we’d have to sell 50 tickets to break even. I broke out into a cold sweat, amongst visions of failing to pay my mortgage or feed my children, but we sold over 120 tickets, easily a sell-out!”
Even then, many cautioned the club’s committee about the “flash-in-the-pan” effect, but, almost two years on, the club continues to regularly sell out concerts at both their venues, Frenchay Village Hall and Christ Church Downend, has a paid-up membership of more than 100 people and still attracts new gig-goers every month.
“I keep waiting for the wheels to come off, if I’m honest,” continued Ant.
“But they haven’t yet. People seem to be really enjoying what we’re doing. A lot of our audience aren’t dyed-in-the-wool ‘folkies’; they’re just people from Downend, Bristol and South Gloucestershire who enjoy having great live music going on in the area. And, ultimately, the club is all about them, as long as they’re enjoying it and keep coming to gigs and inviting their friends, we’ll keep enjoying the ride! The support of the community in Downend and the surrounding areas has been phenomenal; we couldn’t keep doing what we do without it.”
As well as folk award winners, the club has also featured well-known names such as Maz O’Connor, Lucy Ward, O’Hooley & Tidow, Jackie Oates, Sam Carter and Ewan McLennan, while they have remained true to their pledge to support up-and-coming artists such as Chris Cleverley and Kelly Oliver, while support slots by emerging acts such as Kim Lowings & The Greenwood, Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith and Kirsty Bromley have only reaffirmed that commitment.
And it’s not just about nationally well-known acts; the club have also featured local acts like Road Not Taken and Susie Dobson (both from Downend, no less), as well as Noey McElwee, Steffan Lewis & Rachael Foster, and Geoff Pugh.
“We like to have a mixture,” explained Ant.
“The big-name acts, the ones you hear on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show, are important, and ultimately they’re the ones that sell the most tickets, but we’re also committed to showcasing some of the best emerging talent as well as the cream of the folk acts from Downend and the surrounding areas. I’d urge people to take a chance, even when the headliner is someone that you might not have heard of. Even the biggest acts started out playing small local venues - you don’t know what stars of the future you might be missing!”
And 2016 promises to be yet another fabulous year in the life of the club. Acts already announced include the multiple-award winning duo Gilmore & Roberts, Scotland’s finest Mairearad Green & Anna Massie, as well as the highly-rated roots singer-songwriter Luke Jackson. There are more great gigs yet to be announced, but the club are thrilled with the 2016 line-up, and equally sure that the Downend gig-goers will agree.
Ant finished with some kind words about Downend Voice: “The coverage that this great local magazine has afforded us has been second-to-none. Every month, they give us two pages of fabulous coverage, in a publication that lands on every doorstep in our target area. It really keeps us in people’s minds, and it’s made such a difference.”
“A word, too, for Melanie’s Kitchen, who sell our tickets without any benefit to themselves. That’s the great thing about Downend - there’s such a community feel. We feel very lucky to be doing this in such a great area.”
For further information about Downend Folk Club, check out their website, www.downendfolkclub.co.uk, where you can also join as a member or sign up for the mailing list. Alternatively (or additionally!) you can like the club’s page on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
Next at Downend Folk Club
Drinkwater (support from Ian Roland & Simon Yapp)
Frenchay Village Hall
Friday January 15, 2016
Doors open 7.30pm
JANUARY’S guests at Downend Folk Club may only have formed in the last year or so, but they’re already gaining a reputation as one of the UK’s top live acts.
Recently lauded by BBC 6’s Tom Robinson, Devon-based duo Tobias Ben Jacob & Lukas Drinkwater have been making waves on the folk and acoustic scene of late, and their appearance on the Doric Stage at last year’s Bristol Folk Festival was hailed by many as one of the highlights of the weekend.
“Inventive and thrilling” -
R2: Rock n Reel
Their live show is a dynamic and emotionally-charged affair, ranging from high-crystalline falsetto led tracks like ‘We Are The First Ones Now’ to more driving riff-driven earthy numbers like ‘I Breathe In Life.’ Singer –songwriter Tobias’ startling vocal and guitar work being perfectly complemented by Lukas’ masterful upright bass playing and backing vocals.
“A fresh and uplifting sound” -
Folk Radio UK
Having seemingly crossed paths at many venues and festivals over the years but never actually met, the duo’s eventual encounter with one another in an Exeter bar last June set the scene for what has become a compelling and fast evolving musical collaboration. Less than a week after their first rehearsal they would debut the set on stage at Glastonbury Festival! The reaction from the audience sealed their fate and now their masterful, inventive delivery is mesmerizing all who encounter them.
Their ‘Burning Low’ EP is out now and has been called a “new-folk masterpiece”.
Opening the evening will be Brighton-based singer-songwriter Ian Roland, who will be joined on stage by fiddle-player Simon Yapp.
Playing 12-string guitar, guitars and mandolin to deliver a sound which is somewhere amongst roots, acoustic, folk, country, blues, rock & roll, Ian’s latest album ‘How That Dust Jumps’ was released last year to critical acclaim and drew comparisons with the legendary Cat Stevens.
Tickets for the event, which will be held on Friday January 15 at Frenchay Village Hall, are on sale now from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend, Bristol Ticket Shop or online from www.downendfolkclub.co.uk. They are priced at just £9 each Early-bird (if bought before Friday January 8), or £10 after that date. Members’ tickets are £8 in advance from the website or direct from Ant Miles only. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a bar serving Great Western Brewing Co. real ales, Severn Cider and a range of wine, soft drinks and teas and coffees. There will also be a raffle during the interval.
For further information, please go to www.downendfolkclub.co.uk or check out the club on Facebook or Twitter.