Lymm Folk Club    

Lymm Folk Club


This potted history of Lymm Folk Club starts when Ann Clancy, who was the club organiser at the time, moved to the North East at the end of June 1995. Written records prior to this date are not (yet?) available, so anyone who can furnish us with more information is very welcome to do so!

Perhaps these recollections will jog your memory?

The folk club started in 1980 (give or take a year) at the Thorn Inn in Appleton Thorn, run by Maggie Goodall. Regulars were: Maggie & Mick, Graham Sowerby, and the twins Jack and Norman, who went under the name of the Mynah Birds (possibly Minor or Miner?).

Late 1985 or early 1986(?), the back/upstairs room at the Thorn had been made more restauranty and less welcoming to the folk club, so the club moved to the Railway and adopted the name "The Boddy Shop" to celebrate the departure from Greenall-land and the chance of a decent pint. In the early days, the bar in the function room was actually used, although it tended to interrupt the performances on occasion.

Memorable nights at the Thorn included Martin Carthy, Martyn Wyndham-Read, Brass Monkey, John Kirkpatrick, Allan Taylor, Tom McConville & Gordon Tyrell, Ewan McColl, one of the first ever outings of the Electropathic Battery Band, "Tony Gibbons and friends", etc... so there were good guests right from the start.

We used to go regularly 'cos we lived only a mile or so away in Stretton. We used to go with Paul & Leslie who introduced us to Earl of Stamfords.

Lyn and Alan Goodkin (Earl of Stamford Morris)

The following was sent to me in an email on Sunday 3rd February 2002:

The Thursday Night Folk Club began life at the Pickering Arms in Thelwall or to be correct the little hut that stood at the back of the pub (as did the Thelwall Morris Men - began there I mean - not stood at the back of the pub!) The 'hut' is now demolished and replaced by a small flagged be-tabled area.

The club was organised and run by Maggie Goodall who was the lead member of a group called 'Sheridan' which included Tony Trantum and Mick and Dave Lloyd. Maggie was the daughter-in-Law of the landlord Jack. When the group disbanded Maggie continued to run the folk club on her own. Eventually the club closed down at the 'Pick' and opened at the Appleton Thorn.

I think that there might have been a slight gap in time between the two, but you'd have to check all the details with Maggie, or maybe better still Jim Berry of Thelwall Morris Men - he has the memory of an elephant.

Residents included Maggie, Mick Lloyd, Geoff Smith, Sandy and Geoff Clough and The Minor Birds - a name that the Froggatts had taken from a poem that was quoted in the membership cards from their Wednesday night club (which had been a long running affair begun in the Red Lion Bridge Street and continuing at the Old Blue Bell). The poem refers to the importance of every song even when sung by the most minor of birds. For the actual poem contact Norman.

The Minor birds were Jack and Norman Froggatt and Graham Sowerby and occasionally the younger Froggatt brother Colin.

This is the set up that moved from the Appleton Thorn to The Railway and was later to be run by Ann Clancy till she moved to Yorkshire. When Ann left some of the old residents and some new ones took over again.

Yours, Geoff Bibby.

It is rather difficult for me to contact many of the people mentioned above, as I do not know them personally. I would, therefore, be grateful if anyone reading this who knows them could either let me have contact details, or ask them to contact me!!

The following information is as accurate as it is likely to be, partly because we have written archives to consult, and partly because I was there!!

In July 1995 the first newsletter was published. A committee of six had now taken over the running of the club, with Graham Sowerby looking after bookings, Don Davies handling the publicity, and Geoff Smith responsible for financial matters.

The new management decided it was time to be more ambitious, so 'big names' were approached to fill the program for the new season, in addition to supporting local talent. This is now the established philosophy of the club - one of our most memorable nights was Monday 17th July 1997 when we had none other than Tom Paxton playing to a capacity audience.

For a couple of seasons, Don sent newsletters out by mail. But he got fed up licking stamps, so now we do it electronically on this web site! If you wish to be notified by email when the guest list changes, simply click here. Please note that this is NOT an automated mailing list!

Graham and Sylvia rarely have the opportunity to visit the club these days, as they have moved south. We really miss their fine repertoire of songs, some of which were written by Graham. Around mid 1997, Graham's many other commitments forced him to reluctantly retire from club activities, handing the bookings list over to Don. He returned with his new band 'Cautious Half' in October '97, and again for a Saturday Special (free admission!) with 'Three's Company' to record some 'live' tracks for their new album in October 2000.

Heather and Don Davies first came to the Railway around fourteen years ago, during which time Heather's tambourine has become a force to be reckoned with! Between them, they have written quite a number of songs, many of which were inspired by places they visit when on holiday. Under the name 'Kapsali Bay Folk' they recorded an album of songs about the Greek Island of Kythera, engineered by Bernard (in his front room!), and the songs were presented one Saturday evening at the club as a 'Son et Lumiere' with Rick on Bass, and Bernard on various instruments. During the performance, slides of Kythera were shown as a backdrop.

September 1997 saw Heather and Don marry in Delph (Saddleworth). Blarney Stone (as Garva were then named) provided the evening's entertainment, with some Railway regulars contributing, too (including the late Malcolm Disley), and Bernard was the organist for the ceremony. Sadly, the same day saw the funeral of Princess Diana...

Stewart Lever started visiting the Railway in 2002, and in the autumn of that year, Don and Heather announced that they had both decided to retire from their day jobs and tour the world - which also meant they could no longer run the club.

Stewart took over the reins in January 2003, and has maintained the club's high standard of guest bookings, along with the packed Singers Nights - when we have at least twenty performers, often as many as thirty!

Trevor Morton had been a Railway 'resident' for around fifteen years, taking his turn in running Singers Nights and Guest Nights with great aplomb! Sadly, he had a massive stroke from which he didn't recover, and he died on Thursday January 23rd 2003 - he had been due to run the Singers Night that evening.

Geoff Smith was our 'doorman' until ill health meant his visits became less frequent in 2000. We miss his fine unaccompanied singing and his jovial company. Ian took over as doorman in Geoff's place, but needs to eat quite a few extra Weetabix before he matches the stature of his mentor! Ian handed over to Bob in 2005.

Bernard first came to the club around Easter 1997 having known Don through work for a year or so; Janet Russell was unable to appear at very short notice, and Bernard stepped in and did the gig instead. A few months later he was 'promoted' to resident status. Until recently, he was producer of BBC GMR 'Sounds of Folk', until new station policy resulted in all specialist music programmes being axed... the station also reverted to being 'BBC Radio Manchester'.

Lesley and Rick became residents around the summer of 1998, and in 2004 they were joined by club regular Richard Peach. They now perform under the name 'Nelson Peach'. Their repertoire includes traditional and contemporary, with a distinct leaning towards Richard Thompson!

Nick and Lin have been visiting the Railway regularly for a number of years, and were asked to join the complement of Residents in the summer of 2003. They sing and play mainly American 'old time' music, and Lin occasionally does some Appalachian step dancing...!

We can justifiably claim to be one of Britain's top folk clubs now - how many other clubs can boast that Dave Swarbrick rang to say 'Martin Carthy and I are doing eleven gigs together this year - can we do one of them at the Railway?' That was our grand opening to the 2001-2002 season. Oh - the answer to the question is ten!!

What is the secret of the club's success? Well, there's really no secret. Give people what they want, and they come flocking in droves. Alternate Guest Nights and Singers Nights (and occasional Saturday Specials) mean there is something for everybody - and the room itself is ideal. You'd have to pay at least twice as much to see some of our guests at, say, the Bridgewater Hall - and you'd be a lot further away from them, even on the front row! Whether there's thirty or ninety in the room, the atmosphere is always cosy and welcoming, and the landlord keeps a fine bar with 'guest beers' every week.

The Landlord... well, you can imagine how worried we all were when we discovered our enthusiastically supportive landlord, Paul, had decided to retire at the end of March 2006. In January 2006 the ownership of the pub had changed hands, which was worrying - but the new owners, County Estate Management (Pubs) Ltd, laudably decided to keep the Railway exactly 'as is', instead of ruining it by making it into yet another 'plastic pub' as so many brewery chains are wont to do!

Whilst we were pleased for Paul, and for the future of the pub, it was still an anxious time... who would take over the tenancy? Luckily, Railway regulars Frank and Carole Anne stepped forward, so the Railway is safe for the foreseeable future! Frank was landlord of the Barn Owl (Warrington Lane) for a while, so he has plenty of experience, and Carole Anne has oft been seen pulling pints at the Railway. Hooray! We can rest assured that Frank and Caz will be just as enthusiastic and supportive as Paul had been.

Alas, this wasn't to be... the pub changed hands again, and Frank's tenancy lease was terminated at the end of June 2007, which he omitted to mention to us. The pub closed right in the middle of Lymm Festival, leaving the club up the creek without a paddle. Fortunately, we were scheduled to stage two concerts at Statham Lodge, leaving us three days to find a venue for Billy Mitchell on the Thursday. The Saracen's Head at Warburton kindly allowed us the use of their restaurant, so disaster was averted!

Pauline, the landlady of the Spread Eagle in Lymm centre, offered the use of the upstairs room, so we have a new home... but it's also the home of Lymm Masonic Lodge, so some Thursdays we will either be downstairs in the restaurant, or up the road at Lymm Rugby Club.

The club is now 'Lymm Folk Club', which reflects our move from the Railway whilst keeping our base firmly in Lymm.

Our club is primarily acoustic, and we encourage our guests to work without a sound system unless really necessary.

We can now offer a sound system for use by visiting guests (Singers Nights are strictly acoustic), which Bernard usually twiddles about with, pretending to look busy. Amongst those who have already used the system are Vin Garbutt (who was our 'guinea pig' in June 2000!), Harvey Andrews, The Mrs. Ackroyd Band, the Lorraine Jordan Band, and Carthy & Swarbrick.

For the technically minded, we have a power-mixer with eight mic/line inputs, graphic EQ, reverb and two 150w output channels which can either drive our two stand-mounted two-way loudspeaker cabinets (12" & dynamic horn) in stereo, or in mono if using a foldback monitor loudspeaker, and is more than adequate for our needs. We have four Shure SM58 vocal microphones, passive and active DI boxes. Other bits and pieces can be purloined if need be. There is also a special button which causes a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ to rise up through the floor... or is that Bernard's accordion?!

If you have any information which is relevant, please email Bernard...
Last edited Tuesday 13th June 2006
Alternatively, phone me at home - 01204 571167.

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