Twickenham is primarily famous as the home of Rugby as the enormous stadium dominates the town. It is also pretty famous for music as well, not least because of Eel Pie studios that used to exist on Eel Pie Island in the River Thames at Twickenham. Pete Townsend of the Who was able to commute there by boat when he lost his driving licence. Many of the pubs in Twickenham host music events, at least once a week, and one of the main ones is The Cabbage Patch.
Apparently named because the area where the rugby stadium is now sited was once a field in which cabbages were grown, The Cabbage Patch is host to many a different music club, including the Twickenham Jazz Club, The Eel Pie Club (for lovers of blues and rock) and Twickfolk for aficionados of folk and roots music. They also host dance classes. They have a number of different function rooms, and for many a year Twickfolk would find themselves hosting events sometimes at the rear, sometimes upstairs, and sometimes at the front depending on what other events were being held that night, but in 2014 the Cabbage Patch created a dedicated room, known as Patchworks in which all of the music clubs meet.
Twickfolk meet most Sunday nights. Not every Sunday, however, as whenever there is a Rugby match the town is virtually gridlocked. They did attempt once to meet when the Lady Gaga was playing at the Rugby Stadium but hardly anybody was able to get there as the roads ground to a halt. One time when there was a Wales v England match, BBC Radio Wales wanted to broadcast a live show from Twickfolk, so they met in the nearby town of Isleworth and featured Ralph McTell amongst their guests, (along with Luke Jackson, Brian Willoughby, Sue Graves, Al Lewis and Grammy winner Amy Wadge).
A decade ago, Twickfolk had a celebration so special that it was reported in The Guardian: their 25th Anniversary. Now, ten years later, they have just celebrated their thirty-fifth birthday. The media these days only seem to be interested in spreading miserable news, so the event passed without a mention in the Guardian, so it befalls on Fatea to report.
Twickfolk comes in three flavours: Guest nights, which feature a particular artist, (sometimes famous as in Ralph McTell, sometimes a rising star, and sometimes a particularly talented local artist); Singaround nights, which are informal events, in which anyone who wants gets a chance to sing or play acoustically, and Singers Nights, which are more formal, in which anyone who wants gets a chance to sing or play on stage, with a microphone. The entrance fee from the Singers Nights and Singarounds helps to pay for the guest nights, unless it's a charity night.
They celebrated their thirty-fifth birthday with a Singers Night. It is staffed completely by volunteers, and Geraint Evans drew the sort straw that night to act as Master of Ceremonies. Coming originally from Wales, Geraint is well aware that those of us born on the East of the Severn can't pronounce any Welsh words unless they contain a double LL and a double D, so he conveniently calls himself Ger. I still have no idea how to pronounce that, either, so I generally call him Gerry.
He'd recently been to another folk club which had had to move venue three times in the last year. Twickfolk has remained at the Cabbage Patch since their very first meeting. No idea whether that is any kind of record, but Ger was quite rightly proud of it, and quite rightly proud that none of the bar staff were born when Twickfolk began.
First up on the stage were a couple called Loose Chippings. They are John and Emily – Ger said they didn't want to be known by their real names – for tax reasons, no doubt. John apparently had been to Twickfolk before, but this was Emily's first visit. All acts played two songs. Loose Chippings' contribution was “You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive”, written by Darrell Scott (from Robert Plant's band The Band Of Joy) and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” written by Robbie Robertson, but made famous by Joan Baez.
They were followed by David Lawless. He introduced himself by explaining that this was the first time he'd been on stage with a microphone, and also that he was deaf, so wouldn't be able to tell whether the balance was right. I'm happy to report it was, and that he was excellent. He played the traditional folksong “The Leaving Of Liverpool” (also known as Fare Thee Well) and “The Spinning Wheel”, which David introduced as an old Scottish song, but I think it was actually written in the mid 1800's by an Irish Lawyer called Francis Waller.
Rory Gilbert was next up to the stage. He'd been to Twickfolk a few times before. Normally he plays with an acoustic guitar, but one of his kids had given him an electric guitar, so he wanted to try it out. His first song was therefore on an electric guitar, but he switched back to his comfort zone for his second. Both songs were original, “Beyond Wonderful” and “Fairy Tales”.
Introduced just as Bill, the next act sang a capella. He covered “The Shoals Of Herring” by Ewan MacColl and “I'll Fly Away”, a hymn written in 1929 in the style of a gospel song, by Albert E Brumley.
Twickfolk regulars Sara O'Keefe and Martin Karran are absolutely brilliant, and two songs from them just isn't enough. They played “The Lancashire Lads” and “People Of The Heavens”, the former being a traditional song and the latter is a track by Huw and Tony Williams, with a chorus ‘The Spirit within you is free'. Loved that one. Must confess that I've never heard of Huw and Tony before, but I do need to check them out. Sara dedicated the track to Paul Vile (another regular who played in the second half) as he is apparently a big fan of them. Martin played a twelve string, and Sara played an acoustic, both unplugged, but with the sound picked up my microphones.
Penultimate act for the first half was Ron Light. He accompanied himself with a ukulele, opening with a cover of Dylan's “Blowin' In The Wind” and followed it with “Sweet Georgia Brown” an old jazz standard written by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard and Kenneth Casey.
The first half was wrapped up beautifully by another newcomer to Twickfolk, a lady from Hertfordshire called Odette Michell. She started with one of her own compositions, “After The Hurricane” and finished with a perfect cover of a Sandy Denny song, originally recorded when she was with Strawbs, but perhaps better known as a Fairport Convention song, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”.
After a brief interval to allow everyone to recharge their glasses, (the Cabbage Patch is a Fullers' pub if you are in to Real Ale), the evening continued with one of the Twickfolk volunteers, Paul Vile.
Accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, Paul played “Geordie Will Dance The Jig Tonight” and Lindisfarne's “One Day”. Apparently both Rod Clements and Nigel Stonier from Lindisfarne have been guests at Twickfolk, Rod back in 2005 and Nigel back in 1997. “Geordie Will Dance The Jig Tonight”, was written, as you might have guessed, by Huw Williams. Again, according to Paul, Huw has been a guest at Twickfolk twice, back in the 1990s. OK. My next task is definitely going to have to be finding out about Tony and Huw.
Paul Kenny followed, with two more a capella songs: Chaim Tanenbaum's “Moonshiner” and Luka Bloom's “Wave Up To The Shore”. When Ger saw that he wasn't holding a guitar he introduced him as ‘looking like he's unaccomplished this evening'. Most impressed in the way he played a single note on a harmonica before each song in order to hold the note in his head so that he could sing in the correct key. Luka Bloom, who wrote “Wave Up To The Shore” is Christy Moore's younger brother, and began life as Kevin Barry Moore. He changed his name when he began touring in the States, choosing the name Luka from Suzanne Vega's song.
Another Twickfolk volunteer and regular, Simon O'Grady was next. Simon, and his partner Kate Vahl are members of a band called Grand Union, one of the best folk bands ever. In Grand Union Simon plays guitar and flute, but the flute didn't feature in his set. He sang two songs: the traditional Scottish song “Seven Gypsies” and one of his own compositions, which I believe is called “New Year Shoes”.
He was followed by a guy introduced as Neil, another a capella singer. He started with the traditional “Lowlands Away”, (he described it as either a sea shanty dressed up as a ballad, or as a ballad dressed up as a sea shanty). He then said he couldn't decide what to sing next. Did we want a traditional wassail or a contemporary protest song? Ger heckled with the question – ‘Have you got any disco?' The audience settled on a contemporary protest, so Neil sang a song by Steve O'Donoghue, “If I'd Known Then” – a very clever yet funny song about austerity.
Pete London was next up. He (allegedly) was there on the first night 35 years ago. It was hoped that he'd be able to recount various stories and gossip from the time, but all he could recall was that somebody sang a song about sitting on their mother's knee. Someone in the audience jested that he couldn't remember what had happened that night because he'd probably been booed off the stage. For his two songs he played the traditional “Scarborough Fair” and the rock and roll classic written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison, “That'll Be The Day”.
Sadly, I don't know Kate's surname. She is one half of a duo called Don and Kate, and one quarter of a band called the Snowbirds. Neither seems to have much of an internet presence that I could find. Don wasn't able to attend that night so she teamed up with Ger. They had had no chance to rehearse but still played beautifully together. Their first song was called “Songbird”, written by Jesse Winchester and covered by Emmylou Harris. Ger had once played “Goodbye”, written by Steve Earle, (also covered by Emmylou Harris), on a previous evening. Kate had happened to mention that she too sang it, which is why they chose to make it their second song. Almost impossible to believe they hadn't rehearsed as the guitar interplay was faultless.
The evening was drawing to a close, when another Peter took to the stage. Again, I didn't catch his surname. With his lovely soft Irish accent, he opened with “Ride On”, written by Jimmy McCarthy and made famous by Christy Moore (brother of Luka Bloom who wrote the second song that Paul Kenny had sung – almost as if the entire evening's set list had been planned). He finished up with “It Never Rains In Southern California”, written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood.
Last act of the evening was Sue Graves, another Twickfolk regular and volunteer. She had been manning the door all evening. She started with ‘the parish notices' which is something most of the folk clubs in the area seem to do – giving out news as to what events are coming up soon, not only at that venue, but at nearby clubs. I am always so impressed when that happens, as advertising other clubs could be seen as a risk that you might lose clientele to the ‘opposition'. Not necessarily quite so altruistic this night, however, as one of the clubs she included in the parish notices were hosting her band, Suntrap.
Kate and Ger had earlier played a track called “Songbird”. Sue also played “Songbird”, but hers was the Fleetwood Mac version written by Christine McVie. Apparently, Chrissie wrote it in her head whilst in bed, and was then too afraid to sleep in case she forgot it. She had to stay awake all night until she could get to a recording studio to set it down. Sue finished the evening with a cover of Claire Hammill's “You Take My Breath Away”, also sung by Eva Cassidy. I've seen Claire three times before. She appeared with Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash at Victoria Park, and twice supported John Lees' Barclay James Harvest, but, of course, I'd much prefer to listen to Sue.
If you're of the opinion that folk clubs are full of stuffy old men singing about fishing expeditions, think again. The delights on offer at Twickfolk's 35th anniversary covered rock ‘n' roll, jazz, gospel and strong links to prog rock. Fifteen acts, eighteen artists and thirty songs. A good evening's entertainment.
But as everyone there thought – thirty five years! In the words of Sandy Denny and Odette Michell, who knows where the time goes?
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