People & Places
A look at the venues and the people who help to make the country and roots musc scene happen
TwickFolk: Music for the Folks!
or twenty-five years now,the affectionately namedTwickfolk’ has beenpresenting live acoustic music from a large rambling pub, the CabbagePatch, in the heart of Twickenham, nottoo far away from a stadium whichhosts major rock acts and the occasionalrugby match!Situated in a central location, withineasy walking distance of the railwaystation, what we know as TwickFolk today began its modern incarnationin January 1983 under the catchy nameof ‘Twickenham Folk and Singers Club.’That was a little too much of a mouthfulso the ‘and Singers’ bit was droppedfirst, although more recently they havestarted to use the TwickFolk brand,partly in response to people who wouldphone up asking if they needed to bea club member to attend shows—farfrom it—audiences from near and far arewelcomed to the concerts which takeplace on Sunday evenings.The local area itself has a longtradition of folk clubs and former Strawb,Brian Willoughby (who acts as anunofficial non-executive director) saysthat there has been a folk club in thearea dating back to the 1960s when aclub under a similar name functioned ata nearby pub and booked the likes of Ralph McTell when he was first staringout on the concert trail.Since the 1983 re-launch,TwickFolk has been run bya succession of enthusiastic volunteers forming an ad-hoc committee and holding veryoccasional meetings (often inIndian restaurants) to discussand review activities. Therewas no formal constitution assuch until late 2004 and theonly reason one was drawn upwas to apply for a lottery grant.At this point and for this verypurpose, the committee roleshad to be formally drawn upand ratified, and the name waschanged to Twickenham Folk Club. It has never been a formalclub in the sense that membershave voting rights at an AGM.However, enshrined in theconstitution is their intent tobe inclusive to ALL sectors of thecommunity and to actively encourageand provide a platform for emerginglocal talent.True to their constitution, theclub hosts charity nights withorganisations like the British HeartFoundation, Children in Need aswell as local charities such as TrinityHospice benefiting from such events.Encouraging local talent, TwickFolk provides performance platforms to localartists, often in the form of ten-minutefloor spots either in the early eveningor between the support and main act.Because the committee prides itself onthe quality of the performers presented,these short floor spots are regarded as aprivilege, not a right.TwickFolk is very closely modelledon the ‘listening rooms’ so prevalentin the US, for example the Cactus Caféin Austin, Texas or Club Passim inCambridge, Massachusetts. Artists areactively encouraged to play acoustic rather than electric and what you get atTwickFolk are concerts in an intimatesetting where the connection betweenthe artist and the audience is almostpalpable. With many musicians thesedays dispensing with record companyinvolvement and putting their music out independently, audiences havealso changed their expectations andare now wanting to engage withmusicians on a one-to-one level; tosomehow feel part of the creativeprocess so the accessibility afforded bythe TwickFolk model, when musiciansmake themselves available to theaudience, during set breaks and afterperformances, allows a fan to spendsome time talking with the artist andetting to know them a little, rather thanaving an arms length, one way artist/fan relationship.I caught up with Chairman, GerryEvans over a drink, just ahead of afabulous evening of music where theclub presented Eliza Gilkyson, very ablysupported by Robert McEntee. Evanssays: “When we present high profilemain acts, the support artists, who playfor up to thirty minutes, are hand-pickedto ensure that they complement theeadline act so in the past we have forexample booked Welshman Jack Harris,a Kerrville New Folk winner in 2005, insupport of the more widely establishedJeffrey Foucault.”Approximately five or six years ago,TwickFolk started to actively book musicians from across the Atlantic who up until then had not been ableto break into the folk club scene in theUK. Evans believes that this was whenTwickFolk started to assume an identityand personality of its own…”Initially, I