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by Sid Kipper
Loving the tradition
Sid Kipper reflects on his first 25 years in Folkbiz
T
his Candlemas I marked a
quarter of a century as a
“Over those years, though, I’ve noticed quite a few changes on
professional folk person
by singing The Tailor’s Bitches
the folk scene. In fact the only thing that hasn’t changed is that
with my nephew, Kevin Kipper,
it’s still a very odd place for anyone from the real world.”
and my great-niece, Kerry
Kipper, in the Old Goat Inn. We
had to disguise Kerry as an old I thought all I’d have to do was do instruments while we prefer smart said it. “Well”, he said, “You hardly
English sheep dog, due to her what I normally did, but get paid new ones. They have festivals ever appear in Wales”. So I told
being only 8 years old - well, for it. And who wouldn’t want to with no feasts, and revivals with no him - that’s because of the Welsh
she wouldn’t have got served get paid for what they already did revs, and reckon jazz is folk when being anti-English and not inviting
otherwise. And she only sang anyhow? Well, alright, but she was folk isn’t even folk, due to it being me. I mean, it takes two to tango,
the chorus, to avoid drawing holding onto her amateur status too jazzy. don’t it? Just like it takes three for
attention to herself. But it was a in hopes of selection for the Sex bigamy, four for wife-swapping,
proper celebration of a poor boy Olympics. Then there’s all this Celtic stuff. and five for the Dave Brubeck
made good - if not rich. I mean Of course, the Celts arrived some Quartet.
me. Because, of course, I am But the thing is, the folk scene time before I turned professional.
now an internationally reckoned hasn’t got nothing to do with the I mean, they’d already been Another thing that’s changed
singer, story-teller, and multi- tradition I grew up with. I never invented by the 1970s. I well is the sorts of songs people
instrumental megostar. Among saw no candle in a bottle before I remember some people playing sing. Twenty-five years ago
other things. turned pro. If you’d stuck a candle the diddly tune in North Walsham there was hunting songs, cock-
in a bottle in my little village of in 1976. I remember because I’d fighting songs, boxing songs
It seems like half a lifetime since St Just-near-Trunch they’d have never seen people playing with - all sorts. Nowadays they’re all
I started singing for money, just assumed you couldn’t afford themselves in public before. In reckoned to be politely incorrect,
although the truth is if I dropped candlesticks. Whereas the truth is the tradition I grew up with tunes so just about all you’re left with
dead tomorrow it’d only actually most of the time we couldn’t even were for dancing. Not for listening is walking-out-one-May-morning,
be 25 62nds of a lifetime - it won’t afford candles. Well, not them and to. And certainly not for singing. and trilling-gently-o’er-the-lee.
actually be half a lifetime till the beer. And what use are candles Singing was for words. You only But I don’t consider that apply to
year 2022. But it still seems like it. if all they do is show you that had tunes because you couldn’t me, so I still do songs like The
you haven’t got any beer? Then, sing the words without them. Woodcock And The Wagtail, and
Back in 1984 I was a Most when you turn up for a gig, you’re That’s why you get lots of songs The Doggy Few, and anything else
Promising Newcomer and seventh expected to do a set. Nobody’s the same, but with different tunes. I choose. And do you know what?
Most Hated Thing On The Folk ever told me a set of what. Is it And tunes the same but with Exactly. But I do. People still like
Scene, according to Folk Roots a matching set, a running set, or different words. them. People still want to hear
(whatever happened to them, what? It might as well be a badger them. All them songs, as well as
by the way?). Now I’m looking set for all I know. So I ignore that, We know all about Celts in Norfolk, all the stories about Princesses,
forward to my long service medal and now if they ask me to do a set thank you very much. In fact, I’m and bosoms, and ghosts and their
from the EFDDT. Not that I’m not I do a show instead, and, as far one myself. That’s right - I’m a goulies, and rhymes, and poems,
still doing new things. Only last as I can tell, they don’t know the true descendant of Boadikippa, and you name it and I’ll hum it.
year I introduced a new show, difference. But I reckon a show’s who was Queen of the Iceni and Because folk is about words, and
Mud and Pullets. And this year I’m much more interesting than a set, set fire to London (which is why you can’t tell me different.
adding another, Silver Darlings. It because the hole can be greater it’s called The Smoke). Not that
features my most successful songs than the parts, as anyone who’s I’m claiming the throne, because Of course, there’s been other
ever, as measured by what they’ve ever heard The Bird In The Bush that belongs to Queen Tracey in changes in a quarter of a century.
earned from the Performing Rights will tell you (although how one in the hairdressers as far as we can Everyone’s got 25 years older,
Society. They’re the people who the hand is supposed to worth two tell. We’re the forgotten Celts. for a start. Except those who
give you permission to sing your of those I’ve never been able to But do we get invited to Celtic are dead. It’s usual to stop
own songs, which is very decent of discover). So I take an audience Collections? No, we do not. I counting then, though not always.
them, I must say. Mind you, they through time, or space, and tell mean, them Celtic Carthys are Shakespeare still has a birthday
want paying for it. them the larger story of life, love, there all the time. But I’m not every year, even though he can’t
rickets and ritual, just like it was bitten, because I get to go to real blow the candles out. But I was
Over those years, though, I’ve when the songs we sing was Scottish places like Girvan now talking about changes. Well,
noticed quite a few changes on the written. It seems to work. and then - like this year. So that’s nowadays concerts generally
folk scene. In fact the only thing the Scots sorted out. run to time, due to the audience
that hasn’t changed is that it’s still Now, folk people do it their needing to get home for their
a very odd place for anyone from way, which is not the way of the As for the Welsh - a bloke said to cocoa. And nowadays it’s
the real world. I mean, when I first folk. They dress down when we me a few years ago “Are you anti- considered unprofessional for a
become a professional folk person dress up. They play battered old Welsh?”, so I asked him why he performer to fall down drunk in
The Living Tradition - Page 14
Issue82.indd 14 24/2/09 16:56:13
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