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I’m calling this group Guest usually better the second time, but
personal development vs value-
niche (and who the festivals need
Clubs, because they operate on people who didn’t come first time
for-money and a bigger audience),
just as badly), the whole machine
the classic model of paid artist are just as likely to give it a miss
should hold sway. And I think
eventually grinds to a halt.
with local support (ranging from again - specially if the organisers
the former group are winning
pre-booked, vetted-for-quality acts have not sold the gig very well).
the argument, because I’ve lost
So how to stop that happening?
to floor spots from anyone and
count of the number of clubs who
everyone who wants one). Some It wasn’t always thus - I’m reliably
have, reluctantly, abandoned or
First off, we need to have
Guest Clubs offer a gig every informed by Old Guardsmen.
drastically reduced guest nights
folk clubs properly politically
week, some one a month, some Time was, when folk clubs were
because of poor attendance
represented within the folk
only one a year. Let’s assume fashionable, that people always
by regulars - but also poor
industry. At the moment they
an average of 20 a year - that’s went to see whatever was on,
attendance by visitors because of
are considered irrelevant by the
4,000 paying gigs available every because it was on. They were
poor standards by regulars!
Gatekeepers, as they are widely
year. But there are at least 200 open-minded, and they trusted known, with only lip service being
touring acts (Old Guardsmen, the booker to book something
This is not to say that I don’t see
paid. I’ve done all I can to initiate
Young Turks and Journeymen) interesting - which it seems many
the merit or even essentiality of
the formation of an Association
chasing those gigs, and perhaps don’t any more. Today, people
the participation ethos - I do.
of Folk Club Organisers (AFCO),
a similar number of Local Heroes are much more choosey. This
Only a fool would seek to sever
but not being an FCO myself,
getting their turn. 2000 divided by is partly because of the other
the root that snakes back into
there’s only so much I could do.
400 is five gigs each. Five. A year. factors which are affecting club
the pubs and kitchens of yore.
I know this has been tried and
At £150 a pop that’s an annual attendance in general - the
Plus these are clubs we’re taking
abandoned in the past, but that
income of £750. Of course is advancing age of the average
about - sometimes literally so, with
was before the internet existed
doesn’t work like that because the folkie (oldsters are less likely to
members who can do what they
to create a franchise for such a
better acts do win the lion’s share. turn out for anything, never mind
like - and they like to sing, not
body, and to allow proper, timely
But you can see how hard my an act they may not like), the fact
listen. Fair enough.
communication. But now we have
maths homework is. that pubs are gasping for breath the FCO on-line forum and people
(because of drinks prices, the
But I also champion the oft-
out there with the skills and will to
And you can’t just do guest nights smoking ban and drink-driving
overlooked, and frequently
make it happen, I say the time has
at random, even if you’re wanted. going out of fashion), that many
denied, role of the ‘trade’ singer,
come to start herding those cats!
You have to arrange sensible tours clubs are held in grim rooms with
writer and player throughout
(even if only of two nights) with poor lighting and uncomfy chairs,
history. The influence of great,
Along with an AFCO, we need a
gigs somewhere between one and so on. So guest nights
probably professional, writers
proper survey to be done of non-
hour (min, if you’re not going to are seen by many folkies as a
is clear within the tradition, and
festival folk in the UK. FAE did
poach your own audience) and duty rather than a joy, whereas
travelling troubadours must have
an excellent job re festivals a few
four hours apart (any more and singers nights - where there is no
had an impact on the spread of
years ago, and the results speak
you’re too zonked to perform, long concert and a more casual
styles and material. And since the
for themselves. We now need
never mind the fuel costs). Clubs atmosphere - are still doing well
revival, and the advent of mass
accurate figures and quantifiable
meet on different nights of the in a lot of places; often better than
media recordings, we can make
trends for all my estimates above
week, and book guests anything guest nights - even when there’s
a strong claim that 90% of song
- so that we can engage with the
from every week to once a year. an Old Guard on.
transmission now involves some
powers that be in terms they can
So even if there’s a club that
level of professional endeavour by
accept. An AFCO could do this,
wants you, in the right place for Why is this? Well it’s been
artist and/or media.
but that’ll take time as it doesn’t
the trip, you can’t necessarily do it. suggested that the old balance exist. The FAE could do it now - if
And then there’s the fact that most between participation and
So the role of the Journeyman
it could be persuaded to change
have guests on a two or even four performance, on which the
is not just to draw new people
its current attitude to the small
year rotation because there are so folk revival was founded, has
to folk music. It’s also to be the
gig sector, which I would strongly
many good acts out there. You tipped away from performance
flux in the solder. To generate
advocate in the interests of the
can’t play a club if you’d played (concerts) towards participation
and disseminate new material,
rest of the industry (the agents,
another nearby recently, or are (singarounds). And that tipping
to challenge perceptions and
record companies, magazines
booked soon - oh and many clubs has become more marked,
open minds. To raise standards
and radio stations all need
work up to 18 months ahead because once it went off balance it
and to offer advice, support and
Journeymen and Guest Clubs
(while others work on a much was bound to go all the way down.
expertise. In general to be ‘one
shorter booking period). It makes There’s always been a tension
of us ‘ but on a national, not local
tour-fixing the very devil. between asking Joe Public to pay
scale, while also being accessible
Once formed, an AFCO could
to see a high quality performance
and responsive in ways that a
lobby on behalf of the club
And on top of that, the number of by John Journeyman, while
Theatre-based artist simply cannot
movement and represent club
guest nights is dwindling rapidly. allowing Jim Public to perform as
be. When you stop to think about
issues at the FAE Conference and
Clubs are closing down (for a host well - but that was the challenge
it, that’s quite an important role
similar events. It could obtain
of reasons), and also reducing the from the word go. Different clubs
- one it would be a shame to
funding for its own use (sending
frequency of guest nights. This have different solutions - from
loose. Without it, we can only see
reps to the FAE Conference, for
latter trend is due to the second those who say John is there at
an increasing fragmentation of the
example, because it’s out of their
problem that new Journeymen Jim’s invitation, so Joe can like it
folk world. The clubs all become
price range now) and to help
in particular face: getting people or lump it (hopefully they’ll explain
singarounds, and the glass ceiling
to develop existing folk clubs, it
to attend on guest nights. Local the ethos and bring Joe on board,
below the theatre concerts goes
could help rescue failing clubs,
Heroes usually do well, because but not all see the need), to those
through the roof. Meanwhile the
and to start up new folk events
they’ll be well known in the who carefully choose the right
clubs also diminish (the material
- I’m massively in favour of the
vicinity. The Old Guard are also Jim to perform to John’s fans.
stagnates, as people hear only
promotion of house concerts, for
ok - though organisers report that But even in this choice lies risk.
the songs they already know and
example, as a stopgap for clubs
you’ll often see entirely different Among clubs who do discriminate,
the output of those BIg Names
who can’t find a good public
people for each act (i.e. just their there is the problem that the Jim
they do encounter) and eventually
venue, and as a circuit in its own
own fans), with very few of the they feel is good enough to put
disappear, as the current
right. The AFCO could help
regulars turning up. Young Turks in front of John’s fans actually
membership dies out. Thus the
enormously with advice here. An
often get a good turnout through isn’t. Jim Local Hero probably
clubs’ role in providing fringe
AFCO could represent the small
curiosity - the first time. Then is, but even that’s not a bookie’s
activity, stewards, artists, dancers,
venue point of view on issues like
they’re in the same boat as us. certainty. Web forums like
networking and promotion
PEL, Form 696 and PRS licensing
But getting the folk club regulars Mudcat are full of heated debates
to the festivals is lost as well.
(as it might need to do re house
to turn out for an act they don’t on the issue of standards, and
Without the Guest Night, and the
concerts, for example). FolkWISE
know can be a real problem (it’s which philosophy (participation /
Journeyman who inhabits that
has made a start with the folkWISE
The Living Tradition - Page 18
Issue82.indd 18 24/2/09 13:55:15
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