Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A tale of two folk clubs


A tale of two folk clubs 1990 -2015

Two weeks ago, while cleaning up after the painters had finished, I came across a faded copy of a sequence of events sheet.  Sandra Nixon, current ‘Minder’ of the Loaded Dog Folk Club in Sydney had nailed me down and made me recall the events and guests I had organised (along with the Loaded Dog itself) all those years ago.  It is down as having opened its doors Saturday 27th September 1990.

Here I am, twenty-five years later, having just put the final (??) details together for the opening of TRADEWINDS FOLK EVENTS  next month on 30th January 2015 coming up.  I am just as nervous obviously, but I am also intrigued to ponder the differences between then and now.  Why not the same model again?

I had arrived in Sydney, from the North of England, still in the grip of Thatcher’s reign of Terror, in 1985.  I returned for a year to sell up, then came, in a state of gratitude and bliss, to settle in 1987.  Largely unwelcome in the Sydney folk scene I decided to take the passive way round the problems, and found a British-style folk club.  On a morris trip to Melbourne, playing concertina for the Sydney Morrismen, I came across the pub known as The Loaded Dog.  I became much amused by the tale of the two men, the stick of explosive, and Nemesis in the shape of a playful dog.  So I pinched the name.
Among the principles I worked with were:
No More Pubs!  - there are not the back rooms there used to be. Landlords are voracious and will double book you without blinking.  Sound bleed is an awful problem, and number 97 is always needed in the snack bar, and more.
Nice halls are hard to come by, and cost rent, so reluctantly I was going to have to go commercial. 
Music will always go to where music is –look around.  Avoid the seedier places however cheap, ‘cos people won’t go.  Forget the places with too strong a religious or political connection as it will spoil the atmosphere.  Not too posh either, as the carpets and curtains will muffle your music.  Parking space is important too.
Atmosphere is not a dirty word!  It doesn’t take much to make a difference.  For TRADEWINDS I have some lovely candle goblets, and we can soften the atmosphere in other ways. 
In spite of Sara Lee having made a takeover of the world’s taste buds, people appreciate a bit of home baking, and we did!  Three of us baked cakes and made savouries every Dog night.  This nearly paid the rent.  In other places they charge membership fees, which covers a lot of financial ground, but I have never been a fan of that.
Alcohol has never been a problem.  Most folkies are not in the first flush of youth and can largely be left to self-regulate.  Let them drink wine! And those awful dip things if you wish.  We will have café-style seating for your convenience.  Just take away your empties chaps!.

Most people know I have been Bookings Officer for Newcastle Hunter Valley Folk Club for a few years.  Although I have made a few changes, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I was pushing in a way that they felt contrary to their identity.  So about Easter last year I assessed all factors and decided I had one more big push in me.  By this time I could see a ‘hole in the market’ and knew some wonderful people that would help me fill it.  Time will tell, but:
     The nice hall I needed was THE DUNGEON at Adamstown Arts.  The Uniting Church Minister, Dr. Rod Pattenden, has given us a wonderful and supportive welcome there.  Providing patrons behave themselves (you will! won’t you?)  you may bring your own drinks and nibbles.  Take away your empties please.
      We will still be a non-profit making venture, although quite a lot of money has been needed to start it all.  I am about to broach the third thousand dollars of my own money in set-up costs.  Please don’t object if I ask commercial rates for things like coffee and cake. 
     We are, however, rich in talent.  Peter Allsop and Nicola Ross have hearts like lions, as well as making superb music together.  Peter will be front-of-house man, as well as taking over organisation of sound.  Nicola is doing website, photography and other things.  Adrian Hill has done website, and may be persuaded to sing.
     My musical sidekick, Michael Fine, will not be able to come every month, but will generally look after money and administration details.  Michael is highly valued by me for his lovely guitar work and the fact that he uses his great voice in harmony, as easily as lead vocal.  I love singing and will still be trying to warble as they nail down the lid on my box.  Until then I will do Bookings and look after the kitchen side.  We need more help, but experience has taught me that the right person will come forward in their own time.
We can do nothing without the artists.  In sympathy I noted Kavisha Mazzella saying, that at the end of every night you are unemployed.  The least we can do is provide an appreciative atmosphere, and the best financial deal we can manage. 
So that’s what we promise folks!!  We will try the best we can to make this venture a vibrant part of the Newcastle music scene, at a very affordable price.  After Bob Fox in March, we will settle down to the 2nd Friday of the month.  There are already, some interesting plans for April  -  all on the website folks.  www.tradeswindfolk.com    
Check in regularly to see what’s coming.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014


Quite recently, I have had some health concerns which have led me down many an unkenned highway.  For once it was not, the extravagances of my teenage years, or the ungodly state of my soul.  My tormentor appeared as ravaged red eyes, a swollen blotchy face, and gosh! did it itch!   On seeking medical help I ended up with a diagnosis of Salicylates Intolerance.

Er! What?  Indeed it’s hard enough to say let alone know what it means.  Briefly say Goodbye to the diet of the twenty-first century.  Or the twentieth come to that!

Formerly a healthy diet consisted of tomatoes, eggplant, capsicums, grainy things, lots of seeds and nuts. There were delicious curries and meals with herbs and spices, and with multi-grain bread.  Pizzas, with mushrooms (no) tomatoes (no) onions (no) and pepperoni (no).  No more berries, dried fruit or olives, no fruit juice, not even a grape, crushed or otherwise - all forbidden.

Overnight I  was pitched into a food world more akin to that of our Colonial ancestors.  In fact, growing up in post-war British household, with all its aching austerities, (to which I fear we may all have to get reacquainted, in an Abbott led world) the food was plain beyond belief.

So what has all that got to do with Folk you might ask?

The songs of those periods detail the diet in various ways.  

The obvious one for Australians is theOld Bark Hut, listing 
'10 lbs of flour, 10lbs of beef, some sugar and some tea.  
That’s all they give a hungry man, until the seventh day.’
A kilo is close to 2 lbs which puts a modern handle on it.  Curiously, no mention of fat, which would provide energy, flavour and the ability to turn all that flour into baked goods.  (My mother used to render down, or melt, lumps of beef fat and drain it into a pot, kept by the stove.  Beef fat was dripping, pork fat was lard, and no oil in sight, unless it was on the end of a cotton bud for cleaning out ears) 

A lovely Scottish song, McGinty’s Meal and Alehas a pig, obviously tempted by all the cooking smells prior to a party, breaking into a pantry where he;
‘opened, shived the pantry door, and cam upon the Toddy,  (a whisky drink)
And he took kindly tae the stuff, like any human body.’
The now sozzled swine crashed into the larder shelves, upsetting the dripping pan.  To add to this slithery mess, comes the soft soap, pease meal, cornflour and, finally, treacle. 

A humble sort of fare is proffered as part of a wedding proposal in another Scottish song, At the Kirk at Birnie Bouzle’  and yet it is very diverse, and probably illegal.  
‘I’ll hunt the otter and the brock (badger)
The hart, the hare and heathercock.
I’ll pu’ ye limpets frae the rock,
Tae mak’ ye dishes dainty.’
Rabbits are thought of as food for the poor, on both sides of the world.  Curiously they did not do so well in Scotland.  They are not waterproof like Hares, and living in that cold wet climate, they did not do so well.  Australians may have cursed their import many times, but the meat and fur are fully useable, and rabbit cooked in beer is superb.  I still remember Len Neary singing ‘The Rabbiter’.

Other humble meats, offal particularly, went into many dishes, proving you ‘could eat everything but the squeak’.  The art of meat puddings goes from Haggis in Scotland, to Haslet, sausages of all kinds, black puddings, brawn and dozens of variations.  As well as oatmeal, there would be onions, herbs and sometimes dried fruit.  The song Stanley Market’ from County Durham goes;
‘There’s black puddings, nearly white,
They’re made to suit yer appetite,
One’ll serve from six to eight,
Up at Stanley Market.’
Sometimes these mixes went into pastry instead, and a whole raft of pies, pasties and sausage rolls evolved.  Cyril Tawney wrote The Oggie Man’ An oggie was a sort of pasty.  The Oggie man sold his wares by the Dockyard gates, as hungry workers and sailors left for home.  The supermarkets try to carry on the traditions of the old pork butchers, but inevitably the flavours are supermarket-bland.  I still smile when I see a Harry’s Café de Wheels’ knowing the great traditions behind them.

Colonial diets were greatly improved after the invention of Canning in 1845 by Louis Appert, a French Chemist.  He was apparently responding to the need Napoleon found, trying to get foods to his troops over long supply lines.  The early adoption of Canneries led to milk, meat, fish, jam and treacle widening food choice.

Ron Edwards notes, in the Overlander Songbook, an interesting swag of dishes for the Bullockies’ Ball.
‘Sal…….down to a dish of Hash did stoop,
She’d got a smack in the eye with a doughboy,
Put her sitting in a bucket of soup.’
Then come encounters with damper, leg of mutton, and Irish Stew.  More interestingly is the seizing of a roly-poly as a weapon.  That is an actual dish with a recipe, unlike soups and stews which use whatever comes to hand.  A roly-poly, either the jam or the savoury mince version, is boiled in a pudding cloth, probably made with suet pastry.  It is very filling and probably made an excellent shillelagh.

In all of the above you will notice there is not a vegetable in sight.  I suppose Barcoo Rot, or scurvy, was fairly widespread.  We know that vegetables were grown quite widely.  Windsor in NSW, was called after its namesake in Britain, because the water in the river stopped being salty becoming clear enough for agriculture.  Potatoes have lots of vitamin C directly under the skin.  This was the major source for the Brits during World War 2, and, together with cabbage, kept the country healthy.  Still they seem to remain a low status food, so no odes to a cabbage leaf.

Perhaps I will finish with a song with vegetables in it, though not one I would enjoy singing.  From ‘Depression Down Under’  by Len Fox.
‘I went out to fight for my country,
I went out to fight and to die,
I went out to fight for my country.
And this was my Country’s reply.
Sou-oup, sou-oup,
They gave me a big bowl of sou-ou-oup,
Sou-oup, sou-oup.
They gave me a big bowl of soup.

http://folkonovo.blogspot.com.au/  please do not reprint without permission. Carole

As a footnote;  This curious condition of salicylates intolerance is greatly undiagnosed, but is a lot more common in ‘Allergy’ families. .It comes and goes, bringing asthma, urticaria, and can involve the gastro-intestinal tract.  Talk it over with your Doctor if you suspect you too may have the condition. 
Carole Garland.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Celtic Feast

in Full Celtic Finery
It was the handsome qualities of an old leather bound book that inspired the name for this group of Sydney musicians. 

With gold edged pages and beautifully embossed printing, Rosie McDonald (second from right) felt that the book embodied the qualities that she wished to bring to the new group.  The name of the book was Folklore of the Orient, so Folklore was what she chose.

They delve into the Folkloric canon but with an original and innovative bent.  They also present some wonderful Celtic harp pieces and rousing fiddle sets. 
They have respect for the old ballads, and with two of the most beautiful voices on any folk programme, they have no need for dance beats, or other trickery to please their listeners. 

Folklore are: Fiona McVicar – fiddle, bouzouki, viola, and vocals.
Cliona Molins – ParaCeltic harp and vocals.  Anthony Woolcott – (also in Trianton) – Bodhran and voice.  and Rosie McDonald,- guitar, Bouzouki and voice.

The Big Festivals are lapping them up, since in their first year,in 2012, they performed at Illawarra, Cobargo, Northern Beaches, Glen Innes Celtic, and Turning Wave.  Cobargo have just repeated their booking for 2013. Hear more at Myspace  http://au.myspace.com/folkloresydney
Also on the bill is:   Gary Gray,Scots guitarist and singer,  is a specialist in the songs of Burns.
He resides in the Lake Macquarie area, but is a long distance  Geologist, so hard to pin down.  This is a rare chance to hear him.
They are the featured guests of Newcastle-HunterValley Folk Club,
on SAT.  2nd MARCH,  at Wesley Centre Hall, 150 Beaumont St. Hamilton.
And is open to the public from 7.30 pm. 
Information from Carole Garland, 02 4929 3912

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tasmanian Folk Festival Jottings.

CYGNET 11-13 January,TAMAR VALLEY  18-20 January,

Tasmania is already a beautiful destination but to all that, add a world class Folk Festival in a coastal setting in a bird sanctuary, and a wonderful welcoming community.  Now in its 31st year, CYGNET boasts of having launched many a budding talent, and this one was no exception.

There were eight venues on the Friday alone so it would not have been possible to see them all.  The Town Hall concert had our Gleny Rae and the boys, Battlers’ Ballad (Jason Chloe and Bill) with the Perch Family to finish.  Being of quieter frame of mind, I opted for the Church concert.  Andy Salvanos gave an intriguing performance on a guitar-related instrument called a Chapmanstick. Frank Yamma, sat Buddha-like while dozens of beavering roadies got the set up right, then he let loose in impressive style – superb big tone and a fine performance.

I recognized Horse and Wood – Horse was Bukhu, the Mongolian fiddler and throat singer, who entertained us at the club last year.  Wood, was John Robinson and his Arabic Oud.  With John providing the underlying structure, Bukhu is free to be really lyrical and dramatic. The pair were given the honour of being chosen for the Director’s Choice concert at the close of the Festival.  It is always a mystery who is going to be selected .  The Company , Stiff Gins, and Rory Macleod were also featured.

Saturday I was able to dip and dive into a number of venues.  I also took part in a Cornish tunes workshop given by Sarah Calderwood of SUNAS which was fun.  It seems the fashion these days not to provide written music sheets and I wish they would.  It is so much easier to remember them.  Next to that hall there was a park with free music all day.  Not the best spot for Danny Spooner, but I caught up with him later.  We also talked briefly about him coming North to see us sometime so maybe……

.....In the budding talent department...... I am predicting a great future for a young singer-guitarist called Matthew Dames, ex UK but now resident in Launceston.  Indeed the locals were very well represented from Ballpoint Penguins, New England Honeyeaters (an actual bird as well as a group)  Elfa and Emily who also played to Bob Brown and partner who sat just in front of me (my slender link to fame)  There were more local choirs, instrumental groups, than you could poke a stick at.  It must be the healthiest scene around. 
I was determined to see the two hot lads in the innovation department, Linsey Pollack and Mal Webb.  You couldn’t get near Linsey Pollack’s concerts – he is very popular.  He makes extraordinary instruments from household instruments like rubber gloves, then makes beautiful music on them.  Mal Webb seems to me like Leunig’s Mr. Curley, but on steroids.  I was almost scared to laugh in case I missed something.  His ‘lessons’  are almost unbelievable like the Geography of Africa on his head and the Physics of  sound Harmonics with a cable.   ‘Unique’ is an overworked word but I do believe that applies to this strange and marvelous man.
Mark Cryle, singer songwriter from Brisbane, gave a lovely smooth set of songs, and I caught a little of Richard Gilewitz, from USA,  with his super guitars.  The quality from all these people was absolutely the tops.
 On the Eastside of the Tamar River, in a once bustling Port the whole area is surrounded by natural beauty.  I spent one serene afternoon at Bonnie Point, below the mining town of Beaconsfield, watching happy folks fish. It’s on the following week from Cygnet, and of course, makes full use of having such wonderful performers on their shores.  Many of them have a double booking which is why I will be briefer about this festival.  One delightful surprise was the number of Territorians who were down; sort of Top Half meets Bottom Half.  Folk from Alice, Darwin and Nuriootpa had got together a tribute concert to Woody Guthrie, and very good it was too. 
That did not last: there were some wonderful concerts, notably Ange Takats, Backseat Driver, with Nick Charles (looking so like Julian Assange I had to look twice)  Danny Spooner commanded a good appreciative crowd in the yacht club, Kerrie Maguire with the West Coast singers, The Company, a Brisbane Bluegrass group who were magical.
OK, I know it is a long way to go but some folk manage it – I was delighted to see Jengis Osman who sessions here at the Bennett, and was backpacking in Tassie -  some drive, others fly and rent accommodation.  Combine it with some touring, a visit to MONA in Hobart (Museum of old and new art) and some interesting shopping, and it makes for a jolly good holiday.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Supporting Your Local Folk Club

I've been reflecting on the popularity of House Concerts recently and it prompted me to comment.
Going back a long way in my history, we had a 17th Century barn in England, for similar events, but we wouldn’t be able to do that now due to the dreaded Public Liability Insurance - which on a plus side, as a folk club we can provide for our members, thanks to much detailed hard work by our behind scenes workers.
   Not only that, but you can’t afford to do House Concerts regularly. They are a lot of work for one or two people. As a folk club with our loyal volunteers, we can spread the workload –also, our neighbours don’t get upset.
   There are many ways to promote small scale folk/acoustic music, all necessary if we are to bring new performers into being, but the heart-stopping moment when you are alone on the stage in the spotlight, is the proving ground most would aspire to. We have to be here to provide that next step.
Our club has been going, in one form or another, since 1967 (approx) and I wonder if familiarity has not bred just a touch of contempt. Please take a moment, Newcastle, to Count Your Blessings!!
  •  This is a hall without a liquor licence. If it had one we wouldn’t be able to afford it, and it would always be in demand for weddings, and what-have-you, so bye-bye Saturdays, also never a certainty of dates.
  •  It is BIG, but the acoustics are good-ish. With lighting, (when we get the time) and sound it can work for us.
  •  We can stage important folk events without running foul of Councils, local by-laws and the like.
  • If enough of us turn up, we don’t have to charge each person a huge sum to make it worthwhile for our beautiful and trusting performers.
   Really, the key to what I am trying to say is that WE (most of us) on the committee maybe aren’t all that pretty and trendy, hoary, may be a better descriptor, but we LOVE our music enough to do something about it. “Committee” is a horrible word – we are unpaid, we are friends, we are a co-operative, and WE ARE YOU.
   Please take the time to feel glad and PROUD that we are one of the few places in the country that still has a full scale working folk club. Volunteer! Support! Attend! And I promise you that the passion I feel in bringing you the very best in music that is on offer, will rub off on you. It is the glow that stays in the heart, shining like a “good deed in a naughty world”.

There’s an awful lot of “naughty world” about – take music for your antidote, and just maybe, say thank you once or twice.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Songman Without Borders

It has been a long wait, but November 3rd will bring the folk club quite an illustrious performer called David Ross Macdonald who caught the attention of several of our members at the National Folk Festival in Canberra this year.  
This musician is a very special performer with a mesmerizing quality that evokes landscapes, and the drama of big skies.  For a former underground Geologist, there is an awful lot of sunlight-on-dappled-waters kind of feel to his lyrics and melodies.
He is a renowned finger-style guitarist who had a ghastly accident last year, when a knife went through his hand.  This was a major disaster for a man who earns his living with his guitar, a trusty Gibson Loo of seventy years old.  However he, like Django Reinhardt, has found new ways of doing the old things.  I would never have guessed his hand was in any way impaired from his captivating performance at the National.
By the time he reaches us he will just have returned from touring Canada.  In his other musical persona, he is the drummer for the ‘Waifs’. I suspect there is a third man inside too, since his writing is also riveting and I hope there will be a book one day.  (Try his Blog)
“Penguin Eggs” magazine, Canada, described him this way:  “Gentle grace and captivating melodies, songs that employ powerful imagery to evoke strong emotions and poignancy, stirring and soothing – often both at the same time”.
One of his CD’s (I got two) has a great little gift inside, which guitar aficionados will appreciate.  It is a free CD with twelve tracks, each one on a different hand-crafted Australian guitar, and a nice long track from each.  That’s in addition to the songs CD in the other pocket.

Supporting on the nightWe are lucky that Springtide,  Greg Wilson and Jaquie Luke are available to complete the line-up.  Having recently taken up residence in Dungog, I hope we will see more of them, and their huge family of instruments.  Jaquie mostly plays the hammer Dulcimer, and Greg is strings and squeezies. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Cap In Hand in October

Cap in Hand 

 ...is a talented folk duo comprising “Dave Spira” and “Nigel Walters” (also of Wheeze and Suck Band).  These guys have proven their popularity with festival audiences and demand exceeds supply, as they rarely travel outside of their area.  Their first CD is due for release soon and is well overdue.

Dave and Nigel both play exquisite finger style acoustic guitar in a range of open tunings. They write many of their own songs and tunes with a wide mix of light and shade as well as ensuring ample opportunity for rousing audience participation.

They are both fine musicians and entertainers. With influences including Nic Jones, Martin Simpson, Simon Fox and Bill Mize their music ranges from traditional to contemporary. Come along and enjoy the delightful interplay between Dave’s dexterous finger style guitar and Nigel’s fine singing and multi-instrumental (guitar, mandolin and cello mandolin) playing.
 Cap in Hand offer all the ingredients for a fine evening’s entertainment and will be at the Newcastle Folk Club on Saturday October 6th.

 The support act on that night is local award-winning songwriter Maureen O’Brien who has just released her 6th album.  Her music – a hard-to-define blend of contemporary folk/blues/jazz -  is played by numerous community radio stations across Australia.  Every song has a story and many are wrapped in a giggle.   They’re warm, human, reflections on contemporary life.