An emotional night at The White Hart Folk Club, Mickleby, 24th September 2016

After two excellent nights at the Topic Folk Club in Bradford and Folk at the Grove in Leeds, we set off in good time from our base in Rawden to travel, first, to have something to eat in Saltburn with senior club member at The White Hart Folk Club, Kevin Hall, and then to travel on to the club itself.

This was a nostalgic journey for me and a voyage of discovery for Rob. As a boy living in Middlesbrough, I used to go camping near the beautiful villages of Castleton and Danby. So, having pretty much the full day to ourselves, we chose a route that would take us over the North York Moors through Castleton and Danby and on to the folk mecca that is Whitby. This was Rob’s first time on the moors and the weather for the trip could not have been better to show him the immense beauty of this area. Whitby was similarly ravishing in the clear autumn air and the 199 steps to the ruined Abbey were a joy to climb and the view from the top every bit as stunning as I remembered it.

We then travelled up the coast road, stopping briefly in the lovely village of Staithes, to meet up with Kevin who provided us with a great meal at his home in Saltburn. Kevin’s knowledge of folk music generally and Teesside-based music in particular is compendious and it was wonderful to hear him talk of both the recent celebrations in the Teesside area of the songs and artwork of the sadly departed local folk hero and polymath, Graeme Miles, and his ongoing work to ensure Graeme’s legacy is properly remembered.

Fully nourished, the three of us set off for the White Hart Folk Club in Mickleby.

Mickleby is a small village but boasts a fantastic pub with the White Hart Inn. The landlord is demonstrably very supportive of the folk club and it is clear that the club members relish getting together in a cosy side room in the pub for a good singsong on a Saturday night.

We arrived with plenty of time to say our hellos and to tune up properly. Kevin had already told us about the excellent chorus singing in the club and that proved obvious from the very first song of the evening (led by him) and lasted for the entirety of the evening. The floor singers were consistently excellent throughout the evening. We weren’t the only visitors for the evening. There was a young man now based in Norfolk who came along and performed an excellent version of Richard Thompson’s song Beeswing and, gracing the evening with a beautiful solo, was Hazel Richings from well known Hull-based folk duo, Hissyfit.

I am pleased to report that our own two 45 minute sets went down extremely well. There was something about the warm atmosphere in the room that brought the best out of us.

Knowing the chorus singing abilities of the club, we decided to put our song (English Penny) about Spanish Civil War medic and hero, Penny Feiwel, second in our set. As we began to introduce the song we could see two club members become particularly agitated until one called out “We know her. She stayed with us.” Giles and Mary then proceeded to tell us how, when they were young and living in London, Penny Feiwel had lived with them. They also recalled how she came to be called Penny in the first place. This was a most delightful intervention and, in truth, an emotional one – to meet people who actually knew the great Penny Feiwel.

Not surprisingly, after the show we stayed on for a long time chatting to Giles and mary and to a number of other club members. The feedback on our music was very supportive and the atmosphere was so lovely. However, eventually, we had to say our goodbyes and set off back to Rawden; our third late night in a row.

The history of our being booked at the White Hart Folk Club was that Kevin Hall had attended a Folk 21 showcase event for North Yorkshire and thought that we would be a good fit for the folk club in Mickleby. So, not only would we like to thank Kevin for his invitation to perform at The White Hart but we would also like to thank Folk 21 for organising the original showcase event that led to this booking. As I wrote in my blog for October 4th 2014, the idea of facilitating folk acts to get gigs outside their home regions is beneficial not only for folk acts but for folk audiences and folk music in general.

We would like to thank Kevin for all of his wonderful support in getting us to The White Hart Folk Club and for nourishing us in advance with a fine chilli con carne, and we would like to thank all the club members, including MC for the evening, Alan, for their warm welcome and kind words throughout the evening. Finally, we would like to thank club members Giles and Mary for telling us more about a hero of ours, Penny Feiwel.

We sincerely hope to make our return to The White Hart Folk Club at some time in the future. It is a great club, in a great location.