Was I visionary or foolhardy? Planning a new folk club when so many are struggling seems more like foolhardy, but I was feeling brave. I had been in a few folk clubs in the past, and helped in the organisation of a folk festival, and my job entailed organising events. My main folk involvement had been as a Morris dancer (someone has to !).
So how did I go about it? The first decision was what sort of club? I decided on one which is a blend of open mike/singaround sessions and evenings with paid performers. It would be more likely to appeal to a wide group of folk enthusiasts and those on the fringes.
We needed a venue! None of the Fordingbridge pubs has a suitable room, so I approached the Avonway Community Centre in the middle of town. They were positive and welcoming, have a variety of room sizes, and a bar! (Can you have Folk without a bar ??!!!)
Then for publicity - social media has been great. I have put regular updates on Facebook, and have created a website (cost £60 for a year) and learned to do the design myself. I opened a separate email, and called everything FordingbridgeFolk. Again FASH has been fantastic by putting updates in Solent Waves. I know a friendly printer who has designed and printed posters and leaflets at a low cost.
I was taking a risk with the finance — but FASH generously gave us a small grant for set up costs which has been a great help.
I contacted all the folk clubs in the area with details, and distributed posters and leaflets to organisations I know - I play in the Wessex Folk Orchestra and my wife Sings in One Voice - so that adds up to about 50 contacts. We dance with Fordingbridge Country Dance Group and Salisbury Folk Dance, and those groups became my poster and leaflet distributers. It helped me to build a mailing list of about 50 interested people.
As the first night approached I was holding my breath - i admit to a degree of trepidation! Would anyone turn up? Would anyone perform? Otherwise it would be me playing my recorders for two hours! I hoped for 24 people so I could break even for the evening. As early as 7.00 there was a man with a guitar - phew! by 7.15 there was a steady trickle, and by 7.20 we were putting out extra chairs …. then we opened the partition to the next room as a long queue developed. The bar was doing well too ! By the time we started at 7.45, 82 people had paid £3 each to come in! I was astonished! We had 12 acts - groups, duets and singles playing a wide variety of music and songs, and the atmosphere was relaxed and frindly.
Since that night i have had dozens of messages saying how much the evening was enjoyed, and promises from lots of people to be regulars. Out next meeting is the Portsmouth Shantymen, for which we will charge £10.
So far the club has exceeded my wildest hopes - now we have to work to keep it successful.