It was a fresh, sunny, lunchtime when we set off from St Albans to perform at the first of our ‘2018 northern tour’ venues - the prestigious Topic Folk Club in Bradford. We had had the pleasure of performing a floor spot and joining a singaround session at the club over the previous couple of years but tonight we were going to be headlining at the oldest folk club in the world.
Established in 1956, the Topic Folk Club is situated at the heart of Bradford city centre, in Glyde House on Glydegate and takes place in a nicely sized room in which tables are set out café style for up to 50 to 60 people. The space is welcoming and intimate - you can even have a glitterball if you are so inclined.
The journey north was straightforward enough apart from a Sat-Nav excursion right through the centre of Leeds to get to a close relative’s house where we were staying that evening. However, we weren’t delayed too long by ‘Camilla’s’ decision-making and arrived in plenty of time to have some excellent soup and a quick catch up on family and other news before making our way to the club.
We arrived at the Topic not long after 7.00pm for an 8.00pm start and so had plenty of time to chat with club officers Rahel Guzelian and Tony Charnock (who together form folk duo Otra) and with Ron, our excellent MC for the evening.
As 8.00pm approached, the room began to fill and, by start time, in addition to a good crowd of regular club goers, we had relatives, friends from St Albans who happened to be in the area and friends from university days who now work in the area, turning up.
Numbers that evening were potentially boosted because on the previous evening, the local newspaper, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, had featured the story of what happened to the Basque children of 1937 and how some of the niños had been catered for in ‘colonias’ in Bradford and nearby Keighley. As the son of one of the Basque child refugees from the Spanish Civil War, we had arranged for Rob to be interviewed about the subject by a local journalist and the resultant article also made mention of our gig at the Topic and the fact that we would be singing songs about the experiences of the niños.
The evening began with three excellent floorspots from Mike, Stuart and a female singer whose name I didn’t catch (sorry). Together, they certainly entertained the growing audience and got them in the mood for singing.
We then went on for our first set and were very well received. The audience was certainly in good voice.
At the break, the organisers held the raffle and, almost inevitably these days, when it came to making the draw, I ended up picking my own ticket out of the bucket. I, of course, requested the organisers draw the raffle again and the red wine went elsewhere.
After some more excellent singing from the floor, we returned for our second set and, again, I’m pleased to report we were well received, finishing the night with a rendition of The Maid of Culmore as our encore. After that, audience members were seemed keen to engage with us with questions about a number of our songs and, I’m pleased to say, to purchase CDs.
As people began to disappear, it was nice to chat again with Rahel and Tony and with our dispersing group friends and family before turning for our accommodation for the evening. By now we were quite hungry and on reaching home for the evening, we were treated to a fabulous cottage pie followed by cheeses, all washed down with cold beers and wine. We eventually retired to bed at around 1.30am and, speaking personally, I did not take much rocking to get me off to the land of Nod. Many thanks to Chris and Gaynor for their continuing and bounteous hospitality whenever we are in the Leeds-Bradford area.
Many thanks also to Rahel and Tony for the invitation to perform a full set at the wonderful Topic Folk Club, and to MC Ron and all the floorsingers for helping make our first headliner at the club a really memorable evening.