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Directions

At: The Merchant Bar, 25 Peckover Street,
Little Germany, Bradford, BD1 5BD Tel: 01274 721100

Est: 1956

Map

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Ruth Nielsen is influenced by jazz and blues having completed her degree in Jazz Studies at Leeds College of Music 10 years ago, though she tends to rely on her own style rather than trying to fit into any particular idiom, improvising and playing by ear to feel her way through the songs to express what they mean to her. Since settling in West Yorkshire in 2010 Ruth has also acquired influences from folk music. She has acquired a reputation for making each cover song her own.

Ruth performs as solo act on piano and vocals as well as collaborating with various musicians from time to time, namely Emi Hall, Joe Drury; and Reuben Wilkinson & Ian Kinsella (trio also known as Reubik).

The Mermaid of Zennor is a “mystery folktale” based on a Cornish legend, told in narration and song by well-known local singer/songwriter Kath Reade (also a published poet and sound healer) and Alison Dhuanna, astrologer, storyteller and poet. This unique presentation features songs written by Kath and Alison, some specifically for the presentation, as well as some by other noteworthy songwriters. A feature of the presentation is the use of unusual props, such as sacred sound instruments, ocean drum, Tibetan Singing Bowl, blue whale gong, wind chimes, guitar and shruti box (a kind of Indian harmonium).

Please note: start time of 8pm to finish at 10:30 pm

New Venue from August 2019
The Merchant Bar (
See the Special Newsletter about this here ). Directions here and some maps here. Also check out Google: Google Maps and what3words: ///thinks.fresh.likes

Topic Historic Photo Gallery
Pictures from the 50s, 60s, 70s and more on the website
in a single gallery here.

The Topic at 60
The view from 2016, by John Waller. This is not a comprehensive history - instead John has put together a snapshot of the Topic as it is now, telling the story of how those currently responsible for the club's running came to be involved.

Topic Club Membership
£5 a year from 1st January. That gives you £1 off concert tickets, and you can get more involved with running the club too if you are interested.

Clicks since 03-2-2004:

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Oct 24

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Chris Cleverley

At times we see artists who have crafted a unique place for themselves within the genre. Chris Cleverley has emerged as a songwriter, performer and character who defies comparison. His innovative brand of 21st Century Alt-folk is characterised as much by his challenging songwriting as his blistering fingerstyle guitar technique. Described as ‘Impressive’ by The Telegraph, Chris is fast gaining the accolade of being among the most masterful, inventive and unique players on the scene. Continuing the legacy of heroes Nic Jones and John Martyn the essence of the folk revival abounds in his memorable songwriting and energetic traditional arrangements.

Haunting – The Sunday Times

Any tune could warrant a mention – R2
 

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support: Atlas Bridge

Brand new acoustic 3-piece Atlas Bridge bring together the tuneful talents of Uilleann Piper and multi-instrumentalist Becky Taylor, with sensitive, honest vocals and melodic 5-string banjo from Madeline Smyth underpinned with inventive and energetic accompaniments by Steve Lacey who also adds a song or two to the mix.

Expect engaging, high energy, lively tune sets interspersed with thought-provoking songs with a multitude of different instruments between them and a fresh approach to more familiar material as well as vocal variety.

Oct 31

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Dan Webster

Dan Webster is described as ‘one of the U.K’s best kept musical secrets and one not to miss!’ and an ‘An insightful lyricist with a great voice’ (Acoustic Magazine). According to Americana UK - ‘He is the missing link, the joining point, where folk fuses with country – as good as you’ll hear on any record out of Austin or Nashville - beautiful – he is Anglicana’. Dan is a road seasoned English singer-songwriter, his music is influenced by the sounds and storytelling traditions of American and British Folk music, which he uniquely blends into his own distinct fusion of Folk and Americana.

A formidable live performer, having played too many shows to count over the years, Dan has shared the bill with acts such as The Levellers, Seth Lakeman, Glen Tilbrook, Martin Carthy and Midge Ure to name a few. Live, Dan inspires attention; pulling you into his work with finely crafted melodies and lyrics - delivered with a powerful and honest vocal...fantastic solo, or with his band.

Nov 07

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Singers' and Musicians' Night

A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.

Nov 14

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Double Header: Henry Parker and Katie Spencer

Henry Parker

Influenced by the sounds of 1960’s folk guitar, progressive rock and modal jazz, Henry Parker creates a modern sound from these archaic influences, writing songs that lyrically entwine landscapes, people and politics. Traditional folk music contributes strongly to his sound, whilst a distinctive finger-picked guitar style calls to mind players as diverse as Bert Jansch and Bill Frisell.

Over the past four years that Henry has been performing live he has had the privilege of supporting many of his musical heroes including Wizz Jones, Michael Chapman, Bridget St John, Lau and Soft Machine. This cross over of folk and progressive rock is where much of his influence lies, informing his writing style and guitar playing.

His debut album Silent Spring was released in July 2019, recorded by David Crickmore (Steve Tilston, Pete Coe) and featuring the phenomenal flute talents of Theo Travis (Soft Machine, Travis & Fripp, Gong). It is set to be one of the most exciting folk debuts of this year.

Henry Parker has a beautifully clear and precise finger picking acoustic guitar style…this isn’t background folk club music, or filler, it’s quite simply gorgeous – FATEA

A gifted young guitar player who has been impressing local audiences with his dexterity and choice of material – Tykes News

A really excellent young guitarist/ songwriter – Steve Tilston

Bloody excellent – Wizz Jones
 

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Katie Spencer

Drawing on influences such as John Martyn, Roy Harper and Laura Marling, Katie Spencer creates modern progressive folk music which owes as much the songwriters of the 60’s acoustic music heyday as it does the East Riding landscape where she has always felt a strong spiritual connection. Her striking vocals and deft songwriting are backed by an evocative and complex guitar style that takes her music to places that are both esoteric and beautiful.

Still in her early 20’s, Katie has already built up an extremely respected profile within the national acoustic music scene, receiving praise from the likes of Ralph McTell & Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople. She has shared the stage with world-class musicians such as Ted McKenna & Foss Paterson, and is due to be a part of next year’s Celtic Connections celebrations alongside Paul Weller & Eddi Reader playing at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.

With various releases already under her belt, Katie was awarded with the Yorkshire Gig Guide Outstanding Emerging Artist in 2018 and continues to receive glowing reviews of both her live performances and recorded works.

​Weather Beaten is Katie Spencer’s debut full-length album, a flawless and flowing ten track journey that encapsulates her mesmerising live performance style, subtly embellished by the world-renowned instrumental dexterity of Tom Mason, Miles Bould and Martin Winning on double bass, percussion and woodwind. Produced by Spencer Cozens, long-time collaborator of John Martyn and Joan Armatrading, the sound of the album is clear and bright, bringing a precision and boldness reminiscent of the best ‘ECM’ modern jazz albums, which naturally pairs with the warm and hazy folk sound that envelops Katie’s style.

Katie’s guitar playing has echoes of my dear friend the late great Bert Jansch. Like a musical weaver she threads her poetic lyrics through the guitar’s strings and produces little tapestries of song – Ralph McTell

A fascinating evening in prospect….

Nov 21

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Kimber's Men

Audiences everywhere rave over the harmonies of Kimber’s Men. They have appeared at Festivals in Ostende, Appingedam, Portmagee, Portsoy, Fano in Denmark, and all over the UK. Featured twice on Sunday brunch for Channel 4, they also starred in the BBC2 and BBC4 production of Sea Songs, with Gareth Malone; the latter being the most viewed programme of the year, on BBC 4.

Kimber’s Men possess probably the finest bass singer on the British folk scene today, in John Bromley. John has been singing folk songs since he was sixteen and has sung in several folk bands and is a solo artist. John plays guitar, whistle and bodhran.

Neil Kimber has been performing and singing since the late sixties and has a massive repertoire of songs at his disposal, he plays guitar and is the only real sailor in the group. Neil and Ros Kimber composed the wonderful song Don’t Take The Heroes, which is now being sung by many shanty bands all over the world, and describes the aftermath of the Penlee lifeboat disaster.

Kimber’s men are lucky to have long standing member Gareth Scott. He has a powerful and bluesy voice and is an accomplished guitarist, bringing another dimension to the sound they produce. Not forgetting Steve Smith the recent stowaway, who, as sound engineer and multi-instrumentalist, completes the group with his high harmonies.

Expect to laugh, sing and be generally entertained.

Nov 28

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Dana & Susan Robinson

From Cabot, Vermont – Americana-roots and folk duo Dana and Susan Robinson combine vivid songwriting and storytelling, with fiddle tunes, banjo grooves, elegant melodies, and rich harmony singing.

Drawing upon experiences of more than twenty years of touring, Dana and Susan craft a performance that conveys the mystery and wonders of their journey. Their unique blend of original songwriting and traditional Appalachian music, bring to their performances a deep understanding of America’s musical heritage, and how it relates to our contemporary lives.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Dana relocated to New England where he discovered both a thriving songwriters scene and the deep well of traditional mountain music. In the early 1980s, Dana settled in northern Vermont and built a house “off the grid” on 30 acres near the Canadian border. There he founded a popular bakery, café and music venue. Dana launched into full-time touring after the release of his 1994 debut CD, Elemental Lullabye, and after receiving a request to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City for Putumayo’s Shelter benefit project.

Susan grew up with her dad’s jazz big band rehearsing in the basement in Manchester, Vermont and learned classical piano as a child. As an adult she turned to oboe and Scottish fiddle. After Susan and Dana met in 2002, she took up old-time banjo and learned from the banjo-greats in and around Asheville, North Carolina. Since 2003 Dana and Susan have performed hundreds of concerts across the United States, Great Britain and Canada.

Dec 05

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Singers' and Musicians' Night

A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.

Dec 12

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Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne

Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne is a folk musician and singer. He has been a musician since the age of 6 and took to squeezeboxes in his teens and has since developed into a fine player of both the melodeon and anglo concertina. In 2014 he won Bromyard Folk Festival's Future of Young Folk Award for singing. 

Cohen's solo repertoire consists mainly of traditional songs with accompaniment from anglo concertina or melodeon: he also performs traditional tunes and the occasional unaccompanied song. An average solo performance includes traditional ballads, historical songs, industrial songs, sea songs and shanties all firmly rooted in the English tradition, with a fair amount of material linked to the West Midlands where Cohen has lived for much of his life.  

Cohen has performed in numerous line-ups over the years but is probably best known as a member of BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award nominated trio Granny's Attic.

He demonstrates considerable drawing-power as a captivating, bold and striking solo performer. - The Living Tradition
 

Dec 19

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Crickmore Crewe

Crickmore: Crewe is a four piece band who, each December, perform a programme of Gallery Carols and Christmas Curios.

The line up consists of ex-Wenchall members Emma Crickmore & Virginia Crewe with husbands Pete Crewe (ex Brillig) and David Crickmore (The Durbervilles). The programme of festive songs they perform is drawn from different sources, many familiar, some not so, but all designed to conjure a rustic atmosphere. Their four part seasonal vocals are complemented by a selection of instruments including vintage harmonium, mandolin, guitar, whistle and percussion.

In Wenchall, as well as countless live performance up and down the country, Emma and Virginia put out three albums, did two live sessions for BBC Radio 2 and sang the theme music to a BBC Radio 4 play.

Dec 26

CLUB CLOSED!

2020

Jan 02

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Singers' and Musicians' Night

A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.

Jan 09

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Phil Cockerham Trio

Philip Cockerham is a singer, performer and songwriter based in West Yorkshire, but plays nationally on the folk and acoustic music scene. His songs contain a range of sometimes humorous but always thought-provoking themes, with memorable hooks and irresistible choruses. There are also some familiar traditional songs, but delivered in a refreshingly different way. It's not surprising then, that Phil has been gaining a deserved reputation with his original material and his entertaining performances.

Supported with his collection of acoustic instruments, Phil Cockerham captivates audiences with his music in a range of styles. His relaxed and confident personality instantly engages and puts people at their ease. Whether he is performing solo, or as most often is the case when he is accompanied by ace double bass player, Dave Bowie and percussionist/harmonist Dickie Dixon, an enjoyable night is promised.

Since his emergence in recent years, many people have discovered Phil and his songs, and other musicians are now covering songs he has written and recorded.

His music is charismatic and powerful...totally traverses the old and new, yet Philip has his own style and take on things too... Jumbo Records

...he is an impressive performer and songwriter... with engaging songs ranging from topical and catchy tunes to thoughtful ballads -Craven Herald and Pioneer

Jan 16

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Mockingbirds

'Mockingbirds are Cath Harney and Pam Johnson who say “ We both love singing and writing songs together. Although we both  perform solo we seem to spend most of our time enjoying being ‘Mockingbirds’”. We’d both been singing and playing guitar and ukulele for years before getting together and realising how well our voices blended.  Now we sing and play together as Mockingbirds whenever we can at local venues, open mic nights and charity fundraisers”.

“Mockingbirds are a very vocal bird. They love to sing and often do it every evening throughout the year.”

Cath and Pam kindly stood in to play at the Topic at very short notice earlier in the year following a last minute cancellation with little or no time to publicise their appearance. At the time they were already booked for tonight’s gig, so we have no hesitation in welcoming them back so soon after their previous performance.

Jan 23

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Hazjak

Hazjak are Steve Chapman Smith and Lynne O'Malley, both well known and respected on the Northern music circuit and have decided to bring their musical talents together .

Steve has performed and recorded with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Susan Herndon, Ghostdance, The Troubadors and has recorded 4 John Peel sessions with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and Ghostdance. He writes gritty songs about real life - some political rants, some heart-wrenching love songs, and plays guitar, banjo and bouzouki.

Lynne is known for her harmony singing with a capella folk trio Yan Tan Tether and arranges harmonies for Henry Priestman and Les Glover. She writes songs about experiences and people she has met, and arranges harmonies for Steve's songs. She plays banjo, piano and percussion. Together they write songs and create a sound that is varied - from close harmony country rock to stark thoughtful folk to fun upbeat numbers.

Jan 30

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Sam Kelly Duo (with Jamie Francis)

Sam Kelly is a Cornwall-based singer, song-writer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. As a young child Sam spent many a night enraptured, listening to his Irish grandfather tell folk tales, sing folk songs, and play folk tunes on his melodeon. Having caught the bug, Sam has dedicated his life to rediscovering and renewing the sounds of his gaelic heritage, and creating exciting new music that transcends the boundaries of traditional and popular music.

Sam’s debut EP – entitled ‘Your Way Home’ was released in March 2013, featuring Beth Porter (Eliza Carthy Band) on cello. This created a buzz of interest in the folk scene for Sam’s music, being described by Bright Young Folk as a ‘captivating introduction to a name we’ll be sure not to forget.’, and gaining him support slots with the likes of Cara Dillon, Jim Moray and Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, as well as numerous folk clubs around the country.

Coming from a family largely made up of dairy farmers has left Sam with an unmatched experience for performing in front of hurtfully disinterested Friesians – and his musical journey ranges from reaching the final of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, to being selected for the first ever EFDSS Artist Development scheme.

Sam has such a beautiful voice and sings with so much soul. I’ve seen him perform live a few times and he’s amazing…he’s so talented. Cara Dillon

A captivating performer, Sam Kelly has one of the best young male voices in British acoustic roots music. Seriously…Check him out! Sean Lakeman

Jamie Francis is a Bristol based banjo player, guitarist and songwriter. He started gigging at the age of 12, and grew up surrounded by both the blues music popular in his home town of Maryport, and the Irish folk music played by his father. His playing and songwriting styles reflect these varied influences.

From the duo expect to hear haunting harmonies, soaring tunes and melodies, charming anecdotes and instrumental performances of the highest calibre, all led by Sam’s unmistakable vocals.

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