Downend Folk Club Review: January 2019
What a year it’s been at Downend Folk Club!
As they approach their fifth birthday, what started as a pipe-dream cooked up by chairman Ant Miles and a merry band of volunteers, has featured household names (well, in folky households anyway!), BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners and some of the best emerging acts on the UK folk scene during the last 12 months alone.
The year has also seen the club venture to a new venue at Downend School, alongside its regular home at Frenchay Village Hall; due, in part, to the closure of their usual bigger venue at Christ Church Downend, while many of the concerts have sold out well in advance of the night.
The year kicked off with a visit from singer-songwriter Blair Dunlop, who is well-known on the folk scene and beyond. February saw a triumphant return for Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin, performing under their new band name Edgelarks, and they packed out Frenchay Village Hall. The Spring programme was completed by up-and-coming singer-songwriter Harri Endersby, and world music duo The Rheingans Sisters, hot on the heels of their well-deserved award for Best Original Song at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
The Summer programme saw visits from multiple Folk Award winner Daoiri Farrell; a first visit to the school for a concert by former Bellowhead member Rachael McShane and her new band, The Cartographers; and a spellbinding evening in the company of Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage.
Autumn started with an evening of good, old fashioned folk singing from Devon’s Jim Causley; Lucy Ward, who had played solo in the early days of the club, back with a full band in tow at Downend School; A November visit from highly-rated Folk Award nominees Megson; while the year was rounded off with Lady Maisery and Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith heralding a return to Christ Church Downend to present “Awake Arise - A Christmas Show For Our Times” to a soldout audience of 350 music lovers.
The club has also continued its commitment to supporting up-and-coming artists with support slots for the likes of Iona Lane, Ben Robertson, Rosie Hood and Kirsty Merryn, alongside seasoned performers like Ian A Anderson and local acts including Downend-based four-piece Road Not Taken.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a year, with quality act following quality act, both topping the bill and doing support slots,” Chairman Ant Miles told Downend Voice. “When we started the club, back in April 2014, I had no idea how successful it would prove to be, and the fact that we are now approaching our fifth anniversary makes me feel very proud.”
“Of course, without the support of a very hard-working committee and a team of committed volunteers, none of this would be possible; but thanks are also due to the people of Downend and the surrounding area, and folk music lovers from the broader Bristol area, for continuing to buy tickets and support the club.
"We can book as many great acts as we like, but if people don’t come, the club doesn’t survive. People have come, in great numbers, and we’re looking forward to the future."
The club’s Spring 2019 programme has already been announced, and features Gavin Osborn; Alden, Patterson & Dashwood; a return for the phenomenally-popular O’Hooley & Tidow; and an April visit from The Askew Sisters, as they launch their first new album in almost five years.
“We’re genuinely thrilled, and constantly astounded, with the quality of acts that we’re able to attract to Downend Folk Club,” continued Ant. “We’ve really made a mark on the UK folk scene, with artists lining up to come and play… the Spring programme is amongst our best yet.”
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