Folk Club reputation enhanced by star performers
Published on: 02 Jan 2015
A folk club? In Downend? Who’d have thought it. Yet what started off as an ambitious idea a year ago, has now become a popular monthly fixture planted firmly in the hearts of its music-loving followers. Ant Miles, the brains behind Downend Folk Club, tells the Voice how 2014 has exceeded all expectations
GIVEN the quality of acts that have played and the glowing reputation that the club has established, it’s difficult to believe that Downend Folk Club hadn’t even been thought of this time last year.
It was around February 2014 when Ant Miles drew together a group of like-minded individuals with the intention of starting a new club to put on monthly folk music concerts in Downend and the surrounding area.
It was April when the first event took place at Christ Church in Downend and featured Sheffield-based trio Bright Season. In May they moved to their usual home at Frenchay Village Hall for a concert by reigning BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year Bella Hardy, and since then, they have featured well-known acts such as Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar, India Electric Company and Jim Moray, who is also the club’s patron and played a sold-out gig, back at Christ Church, in December.
But it’s not only been about established acts. The club has also hosted headline gigs by up-and-coming artists such as Ange Hardy, the Jess Vincent Trio and a trio headed by Jennifer Crook, who spent most of her teenage years in Downend. In July, support-slots were introduced, and have featured a mixture of local acts like Road Not Taken, Geoff Pugh and Black Sheep Harmony, well-respected folk club singers like Mike Weaver and highly-rated new acts such as Emi McDade and Katherine Priddy.
“It’s been astonishing,” chairman Ant Miles told Downend Voice. “When I first had the idea at the start of 2014, I had no idea just how quickly the club would take off. I didn’t know what I was doing really, but the calibre of acts we’ve been able to attract has been amazing. I’ve been interested in folk music – both traditional and the more contemporary stuff – for a long time, so I just booked acts that I thought were good.”
The people on the stage don't make a great folk club without a welcoming audience. The local community has given the club a great reception, and the majority of gigs have sold out, whether they have been held at Frenchay Village Hall or Christ Church.
“Both our venues are just fabulous,” continued Ant. “They offer something quite different. The village hall has a fabulous intimate club feel, and we’ve raised the roof there on a few occasions, while the church has a more 'concert-like' beauty about it that really lifts the music. Wherever we’ve been we’ve had brilliant support from the people of Downend and the surrounding area. Most month’s sell out now, and I think people are really enjoying what we’re doing. We’re really grateful to all the people who have become members or buy tickets on a regular basis. At the end of the day, if no-one comes there’s no club!
“We’re also very grateful for the support of local companies like Baguette Me Not, who sell our tickets free-of-charge, The Great Western Brewing Company, who supply all our fabulous real-ales and ciders, Christ Church, who have lent us all sorts of sound-equipment and staging, and indeed Downend Voice, who have given us such fabulous coverage since the very start.”
And the future looks just as bright for Downend Folk Club. They have recently announced their spring programme for 2015, which features top-artists such as the current BBC Radio 2 Best Duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin, Lucy Ward, Maz O’Connor, Ruth Notman and Kelly Oliver.
“It’s been said that ours is as good a programme as any folk club in the country, and we’re extremely proud of it,” Ant said.
“It reads a bit like a nominations list for an awards ceremony. I hope people will be as excited about what’s coming up as we are!”
For more information about Downend Folk Club, visit the website www.downend folkclub.co.uk, where you can buy tickets, sign-up for membership or simply for the mailing list and much, much more. You can also like the club on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for regular updates.
Next at Downend Folk Club – Kelly Oliver
Friday January 16, Frenchay Village Hall
JANUARY’S headline guest at Downend Folk Club has really been making waves on the folk scene of late.
Kelly Oliver has enjoyed a whirlwind of a year as a singer songwriter. Having originally been inspired by the folk tradition, she returned from travelling determined to give her own material a chance to be heard and put all her energy into realising her dream of becoming a professional musician.
Having won funding via an Emerging Excellence Award from Help Musicians UK to fund her album, her single Diamond Girl, featuring the vocals of Luke Jackson, alongside Kelly’s own distinctive voice, was played on BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show with Mark Radcliffe and Bob Harris’ Sunday show during October.
Kelly’s début album, This Land, has recently been released to great acclaim, including a four-star review from R2 Magazine.
“Kelly is an artist we’ve had our eye on since we launched, so we’re thrilled to welcome her in January,” said Downend Folk Club’s Steve Johnson.
“She’s had a big year, and her album really is excellent. It’s a great way to start the new year.”
Opening the evening will be The Portraits, who are husband and wife alternative folk duo Jeremy and Lorraine Millington, from Bristol and Galway respectively, who performed at Glastonbury Festival 2014 and have been played on BBC 6 Music.
Their appearance at Downend Folk Club is part of a mini-tour promoting their new single “The Rest Of Time”. Throughout 2014, they recorded real people’s voices across the country for the song, which they are releasing in an attempt to save lives lost to blood cancers, in particular that of six-year- old Emma Whittaker, from Buckinghamshire, who suffers from the rare genetic condition Fanconi Anaemia and needs to find a donor by March to save her life.
Tickets for the event, which will be held on Friday January 16 at Frenchay Village Hall, are on sale now from Baguette Me Not or online from www.downendfolkclub.co.uk and Bristol Ticket Shop. They are priced at just £8 in advance (£7 for members, £10 on the door). 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, as well as a raffle during the interval.