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The editorial goes here

The club's history goes here


(February 17th 2003).

Thanks to Sheila at Verse and Worse for -

And a Good Time Was Had By All…

I started going to Wigan Folk Club probably in 1997 so my memories are of this time…a time when every week brought new surprises much wonderful music and laughter was guarantee often at the expense of others…

Once upon a time not so very long ago, Wigan Folk Club met each Tuesday in Upper Morris Street Workingmen's Club, in Scholes, Wigan.
The club stands some 100yds from what was the hallowed turf of Central Park, former home of Wigan Rugby League Club: now Tesco Extra…
Problem is that whilst the 'Sands of Time' moved on for most of us, the world that is U.M.S.W.M's club remains a bastion of the world as it was in the late 70's…

The club meeting room was a small room with high narrow windows. A cosy place off the 'Sports room'. The club boasted a Sports room which was nearly as big as the Concert Room, such was the need for the male membership to have their own space…
Now to get to our little room, one had no option but to walk across the 'line of fire', walking underneath the tv screen that was watched nightly by men (average age 70) willing Wigan Rugby on to victory yet again…Matches were relived week in, week out… a particular favourite being the Wembley Challenge Cup Final against Saint Helens. (These men would spit at the saying of the name…) reliving the glory of a 27-nil win to Wigan. Anyone familiar with the late Peter Tinniswood's Uncle Mort will know that he would frequent a place like this…

Our little clubroom was stocked with the paraphernalia that required storage space; broken tables, ladders, tins of paint, empty barrels etc. and in case you got confused in this confined space a HUGE sign above the only door out of the room said 'EXIT' ! In summer you sweltered as the windows were painted shut and to open this one door would allow the excitable Eddie Waring or the more restrained tones of that 'St Helener ' to drown us out. The reference is to Ray French the Rugby commentator who replaced Eddie after his death. And accordingly, in winter, because the radiator didn't work, the early arrivals kept their coats on until at least ten o clock until the swell of latecomers warmed the room sufficiently! This was later remedied by Wigan Folk Club's very own plumber/heating engineer, Kevin Brady. Kevin handily brought his tools along with his guitar and fixed it! And were they grateful? Aye, well, uhm as Uncle Mort would say.

Yet, in the way of these things we were tolerated…we brought much needed income into the club and apart from going to the bar for drinks, we knew our place. On the other hand, 11.30pm finish meant that from 11.15 you would be interupted by hawkish barmaids - picture the Uncle Mort variety - whipping away glasses, finished or not…And if you weren't out by twenty to twelve it was a punishable offence.

Ah, the barmaids…If I wanted to be malevolent I'd say they were bitter and twisted. The truth was they were to bar management what King Herod was to childminding. They would burst into the room with no thought for the performer; no knocking or waiting…and shamelessly collect glasses and gripe about something and nothing. As the following incident which I committed to verse tells…

First off, I state this in my defence:
"My name is Sheila, I am a Menopausal Woman." And I am married to Monologue Joe who does not drive. My burden gains me much sympathy and I think explains my loss of sanity.

Anyway, on this particular night, Kevin Brady, he of the blowtorch and guitar, was in fine voice and the room was held captivated by his rendition of an Irish ballad when…

As we sit in the folking room the door was thrown open wide,
And it wasn't the lovely Rose of Clare who charged her way inside.
"Who's got a green Citroen car and left the keys in the lock?"
Kevin faltered mid-song, his face frozen in shock.

I said, "I'm a menopausal woman - don't you remember how it is?
You get a hot sweat and develop dropsy and then your memory's in a tiz.."
Not getting the effect she'd hoped for she retreated to the bar
And soon the Chief Barmaid came bounding in, with the keys to the car.

The Lovely Rose of Clare once again faltered in her tracks
As the harridan dangled my keys before she gave them back.
Upper Morris barmaids have fire and brimstone on their breath -
It only needs another one and you've got the Scottish play Macbeth.

At least menopause women don't lose their sense of fun,
My car was safe, no one's hurt and it could've happened to anyone.
She told me I was lucky, yes, I do agree, then thought to myself,
I'm very lucky I don't have to work with this banshee.

A hush had come over the room, poor Kevin was transfixed,
And as she left the room, Tom whispered,
It won't be taxis taking them home, it'll be two broomsticks!

More memorable still was the attempt by Joan to 'train them up' in basic folk club courtesy. On her arrival one Tuesday evening around 8.30pm Joan pinned a polite notice on the door, suggesting folks should wait until the artist had finished before entering. Next to arrive was the fall guy Monologue Joe: innocently he approached the bar to acquire a drink…
The welcome he received was engaging to say the least.

First barmaid: "Have you put that notice on the door - I bet you have - who do you lot think you are?"

Second barmaid: Artistes…they call themselves artistes - they think they're Johnny Meadows."

(For those not in the know, Johnny is local vocalist who 'did the club circuit' and was considered big in the 70's and 80's on the local club scene. He was like Marilyn Manson - NOT)

Joe, not being put down said, with some personal affront to his pride: "Of course we're artists, there's a lot of talented folk in that room…"
Rising to his full height he continued:
"I've just got back from performing at the Glastonbury Festival - has Johnny Meadows ever done Glastonbury?"

First barmaid - looking disdainfully at Joe:
"Well, he could if he'd wanted, but he's too busy wi't clubs."

Ah, happy days….

The nice thing about Wigan folk club is that every one is given a warm welcome - even Johnny Meadows if he's happy to wait his turn. But some folks must have strange ideas about what a singers night is. No names no pack drill but an elderly person would turn up on folk night,
and sit like stone without speaking until it was his turn. He expected total silence and everyone to remain in their seats whilst he did his own rendition of a song in the style of Mario Lanza. Unfortunately his voice had suffered through the passage of time and alcohol. The problem became a bigger problem after a number of weeks when this gent prepared to sing and unfortunately a number of folks decided to go to the bar. Whether it was coincidence or not I can't say. I have my own ideas though! Well he was outraged. So much so that he waited until they returned from the bar! And from this point on he was tetchy and paranoid when it was his turn. Unfortunately a certain Neil Baxter, a young man with a degree in mischief - making was sat on the other side of the room facing me. Neil could not be seen by our Prima Donna but I could. Neil began to pull faces and 'gurn' as he began to sing. I began to get hysterical whether with laughter or fear I'm not sure but I covered my face with a tissue as I could contain myself no more. I was choking quietly and I didn't think anyone was aware of my problem except Neil. Unfortunately, our techy paranoid performer saw my state, stopped singing glared at me and said,
I have to say, I think I deserved an Oscar that night as still weak and even more corpsed, as Neil was now losing control himself, I blew my nose and in my most wavering voice said
"I'm sorry but that was my dad's favourite song and I can't hear it without…."
Sniff, sniff. Our performer was much moved and said "oh I'll sing something else then…"

From across the room there was a sudden scraping of chair as Neil forced himself out of the room holding back his laughter with great difficulty. Now please understand, no one shows disrespect for any performer but this guy saw our club as his personal stage and was often quite hostile, specially in drink. It's very difficult to feel comfortable with people who create an atmosphere. Fortunately after some months his visits dwindled away. There are many more tales that other folks could tell I am sure given the long history of Wigan Folk Club, I for one, would love to hear them.

Sheila Mellor Barnes

(Jan 21st 2003)
Thanks to Sheila at Verse and Worse for -

"For the past three years one weekend in August, members of Wigan folk club head off for Wasdale in Cumbria to spend the weekend as the guests of Maureen and Vince, former members of the club who relocated to Cumbria about five years ago. Lucky things! They live in the beautiful Wasdale Lodge Cottage which is about one hundred yards from the three mile long lake known as Wastwater. The dale is a beautiful place; it is quite inaccessible compared to the other lakes and is therefore the quietest, even at the height of summer. Wastwater is the most foreboding of the lakes in Cumbria, it is the deepest lake in England, being over 250 feet in places. The great 2000 feet high screes dropping down into the south eastern shore can be a forbidding site, although the evening sunlight transforms them into a magical place. At the head of the valley the view is of Great Gable flanked by Kirkfell and Lingmell. This silhouette is the emblem used on the National Park Badge. Tourist bit over...

Basically first campers to arrive get the best tent space; take note: best means a slope of one in ten, then it really is downhill from there! One year Martin Baker and Kevin Brady arrived late...so late that it was dark and they had a drink as soon as they arrived...until they were too drunk to put their own tent up and I reluctantly did it for them as best I could - in a confined space at two in the morning! They finally retired as dawn arrived... I got up soon after as I could hear strange noises. The noise turned out to be poor Kevin sliding down the one in four slope of the tent then drunkenly forcing himself back up the other end! Other folks have the benefit of their own camper vans or caravans so their accommodation is more luxurious - not that it matters as the focus of the weekend is to go to bed happy but drunk enough to cope with 'roughing it!' On the Saturday evening the craic is shared with any of Maureen and Vince's musical friends as we fill each nook of their tiny living room. The photo's I hope, show how fine a time we all have! "

(photos added to Events Pages)



Easter Monday 2003 - Day Of Folk at Wigan Folk Club.


I had luckily met Clive on one of the singarounds at Wigan Folk Club, and immediately became a fan. I am fairly new to the folk scene of the Wigan area, but when Joan Blackburn told me that Bandersnatch would be performing at the Day of Music, I made sure I was there.

I was not disappointed, in the slightest.

Prior to the band setting up, Dennis took the floor as part of the singaround, and played Blind Blake's Rag (at least I think that's the title). I was totally blown away. Fantastic.

Once the band had set up and started their gig, I could understand why they are so popular:- The songs were performed in what I call an "easy" way. The playing skills are obvious, the close harmonies blend together seamlessly, affection for the music goes without saying - the ease with which they perform lets you concentrate on the song; if that makes sense.

This was the first time I had seen them, I certainly hope it is not the last.

Bandersnatch, you have a new fan.


Some Pictures