Thursday, 13 September 2018

Reconnecting with Birmingham Folk Music scene

I'm an ex-Brummie. (I lived in Birmingham, England from 1965 to 1977.) In my last few years as a Brummie I got involved with the Birmingham folk music scene through folk clubs The Grey Cock, The Old Crown Folk Club, the Black Pig Folk Club, and then Birmingham Traditional Music Club (BTMC) from early 1975 to my departure from Birmingham in October 1975. (My introduction to the clubs other than BTMC was a friend Maggie Whetnall whom I met via a New Year 1975 'Folk Revels' event at the Mayfair Ballroom; so Maggie was the first in a chain of links.)

Over the decades I kept faith with BTMC by visits around Christmas time as long as I had family living in Birmingham or Solihull, and kept the vinyl album BTMC regular singers made at the time of my departure in 1977, of which I had a leaving gift copy. Dave James of BTMC and his then wife Janet remained on my Christmas card list even after BTMC folded a few years ago.

Now that I'm
  • an Herefordian (again a West Midlander)
  • more musically accomplished person than I was as a Brummie, and 
  • approaching State Pension entitlement that brings with it fewer restrictions
I've got the urge to reconnect with the Birmingham Folk Music scene. So I found History of Folk Clubs in Birmingham by way of an Internet search, and then the website of Black Diamond Folk Club. It turns out that Black Diamond Folk Club is another name for what I knew as The Old Crown Folk Club but at a different location.

E-mail contact with Paul Ryan of Black Diamond Folk Club helped update me about the BTMC regulars I had last seen at BTMC. And I told Paul that I treasured the memory of a "You should have kept on singing" pep talk he gave me one day on a bus after I'd fouled up in singing the verses of a chorus song but been pulled more in tune by the audience while there were two people laughing embarrassingly at my performance.

Paul also asked me for a photo that he could share with the BTMC regulars who had known me. Though I e-mailed two photos — one from 1989 and one from a recent Wye Ruin It? demonstration against Herefordshire Council's proposed 'Western Relief Road' — Paul told me the photos did not come into his inbox okay.

So the big cue for this blog post has been to make these two photos more accessible to those now with Black Diamond Folk Club who would remember me, and also celebrate the support that experienced performer Paul Ryan gave me way back in 1975.

Alan (top right) in 1989 with Jean-Marie Lavillard, Marianne Segal,
Julie Felix and Sjoukje van der Luit.
Photo: Adapted from Watford Observer

Alan at the start of the 'Wye Walk' organised byWye Ruin It? on Saturday 4 August 2018

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