Starting a Folk Club


One thing we haven't covered yet is the club's floor spot policy.

This really depends on what you want to present and the way you want to present it. If you are going to book good guests and expect to draw an audience from outside your club regulars, then you owe it to your paying audience to make sure that any music presented is 'of merchantable quality.' If you have floor spots to support the guest, then try to hand pick them for their talent and don't feel obliged to put on the first person who asks unless you know they are good.

If you are having a singers or open mic. night, then anyone and everyone should be encouraged to have a go and maybe the talented, audience- friendly performers should be encouraged to become regulars and be nurtured to do support spots for your guest nights.

If you haven't got anyone good enough, you may have to pay a local semi- pro or up and coming artist a few quid to do support. If you really haven't got anyone good enough, don't be afraid just to put on the artist without support. Most performers will be happy to extend their set if you warn them in advance.

Some floor spots, if not quality controlled, will either drive your audience away, or folks will start to turn up later and later, just to miss the floor spots, which is very bad for business.

Everyone should be encouraged to perform to the best of their ability - but have a care when and where. Horses for courses!

A sheet of paper is useful. The chairman writes down people's names as they come in, and there are two columns; he ticks an entry in each column after they do their bit, so everybody gets at least one go and maybe two (there are rarely few enough people for a third circuit). The order goes: seating order (clockwise after the person who volunteers to start) for those who were seated before the gavel bangs, then order of arrival for latecomers.

Perhaps this is a way of doing things that could only have been thought up by an ex-miner used to counting men down and back up again, but it works. If we need to send down search parties with breathing apparatus after a roof collapse in the Song Mine we'll know just who's missing.

Hmmm. Maybe we could pick up an old clocking-in machine from somewhere...

Think about how you are going to cope with godawful floor singers/players, who can spoil either sort of club if given too much exposure. And how to encourage the ones who have potential. Roving poets, too, can turn up anywhere. I'd go along with whoever said that poetry belongs at a poetry reading, and that a folk club is not the place for poems, or showing your prize plants, or your holiday slides. (Except Les Barker, for whom I'll make an exception. I bet his holiday slides are great).

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