On Friday, we finally paid a long-awaited visit to the Barnet Folk Club - our local folk club. We initially planned to attend the event as audience members, but were kindly offered a slot to perform!
A brief history
Barnet Folk Club was founded in 1990 (!) by folk enthusiast JJ Dunne. The venue has moved around over the years, but has come full circle, moving back to The Bull Theatre where it all began. The event takes place on the last Friday of every month, and is hosted by JJ and his wife Jenny runs the bar.
It was a busy night and proved to be a popular event, filling out fast with the host rushing off for more chairs. Although many audience members seemed to be returning attendees, the night also drew in a few newcomers suggesting it’s on the radar of Barnet’s music-loving locals.
As newbies to the club, we were first to perform and opened the night with a traditional Irish folk song, followed by a couple of songs from our debut EP and a contemporary folk cover. The audience were very respectful and silent - you could hear a pin drop. It was a good job too as all performances were entirely acoustic, making it a unique and somewhat more intimate experience; the kind of environment we enjoy playing in.
We’re not sure how many acts usually perform at the Barnet Folk Club, but there were three acts including us on this evening. JJ usually plays a set of traditional folk songs and did so on the evening. A special guest is also invited to every event to play an extended headlining set, and on the night of our visit, we saw a performance from concertina player, Steve Turner.
Steve Turner travelled from Nottingham to perform an hour-long set on the evening, comprising traditional folk songs of American folk, celtic, and blues origin. He was a fantastic storyteller and encouraged the audience members to sing along.
Steve Turner playing the concertina
As with many traditional folk clubs, the Barnet Folk Club drew in an older demographic, and as noted by the host, there is a need for the attendance of younger people, both as performers and audience members.
It would be a shame to see these folk clubs die out (see our last blog on this). Compared to many other events and open mic nights we have performed at, there is something very special about folk clubs which emit a strong sense of community and mutual appreciation for music. The attendance of younger people is imperative in keeping these folk clubs alive.
The night was very traditional, yet, while we enjoy traditional folk, it would have been good to have also seen some more contemporary performances. However, this was our first time at the club, and previous nights may have been more varied.
In our experience, folk clubs do tend to stick to more traditional songs and we’re usually the only performers to contribute non-traditional folk. It can be intimidating and difficult to gauge whether it is welcomed, and we fear performing contemporary folk may be construed as a lack of appreciation for traditional folk by young people.
However, we had an audience member on the night tell us that they appreciated our choice of writing topical songs, as few musicians today write about current affairs, and many traditional folk songs are not relevant today.
Host, JJ performing
Through a bit of digging around online, we discovered the Barnet Folk Club, and it’s in need of better marketing to spread the word. Posters around the local area, better use of social media, a website, and advertising on Barnet music resources such as the Music 4 Barnet Facebook page (which posts upcoming gigs and events) would give this night the much needed push. This would certainly help to keep this established club thriving and known to both young and older people, in and around Barnet.
Overall, we had a lovely evening at the Barnet Folk Club. We enjoyed the performance by the special guest, Steve Turner as well as performing to the friendly and welcoming audience. It would have been good to see a variety of folk music being performed, and perhaps having more performers playing shorter sets as we did, would have allowed for more variety and a wider age demographic to attend.
Nevertheless, we highly recommend this event to folk music-lovers and performers alike. It is worth a visit if you’re a fan of traditional folk. As for performers, whether you play traditional or contemporary folk, it seems that this folk club appreciates both.