Starting a Folk Club


Make it clear from the word go that this is a non-smoking club (even if you are a smoker yourself). Most artists (especially singers) and audience members will love you for it. Don't be put off by the odd complaint. If a club gets a reputation for being too smoky, it will suffer the same fate as many of the people creating the atmosphere.

That's a bit strong. The most successful folk clubs that I've been in have been held in the pub, with normal pub rules about smoking - i.e. it's allowed. I can understand that you have personal views about this, but don't make the mistake of thinking that they necessarily constitute good advice for a new folk club.

Quite often, the people who do most to damage the atmosphere of a folk club are the control freaks and in-crowd cliques. If a club gets a reputation for that, it will go down hill a lot faster than it will for the lack of a few hard-line anti-smokers.

Get a good room. If necessary, encourage smokers to sit at one end of it. Don't start making rules to pander to the minorities. (On this question the division is between anti-smokers and the rest rather than non-smokers and the rest.) Your public will thank you for it.

I have to disagree with you there. And I guess this will bring out the pro and anti smokers for the semi-regular debate.

Smoking has always been an issue for us (Artisan) as a trio because Hilary only has one fully functioning lung, so right back in the late 80s when we first started singing together our one stipulation was that the club had to agree to a non-smoking night. Because we had medical grounds, even though non-smokers were probably in a minority then, everyone was very co-operative.

Even back then we had people coming up to us and saying how nice it was to be able to breathe in a folk club and a few people said they were never worried about coming to our gigs because they knew we'd be a smoke free zone. (Of course some of the smokers may have stayed away if they preferred smoke to singing.)

Gradually, over the last fifteen years we've seen a complete turnaround. Most clubs (as opposed to sessions in open bars) are now smoke free. No- one makes a fuss; no-one has to be heavy handed, but the smokers go into the other bars or outside. Brian, who is an unrepentant smoker goes out and joins them all behind the bike shed in the interval, but even he appreciates not having to suck second hand smoke into the bottom of his lungs when performing.

Now it seems rare to find a club with an audience that expects to smoke as a God-given right.

In the USA and Canada all the venues we've ever played are non-smoking as a matter of course. No-one would dream of lighting up in a concert.

And I'd go along with those who advocate a non-smoking club, if you have the sole use of a room. Most people, and the vast majority of singers, don't smoke. And most smokers are used to having to wait until the interval for their fix. But if it's a public bar, there's not much chance of getting the publican to agree.

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