Thursday 25th January 2018 at 8:30 Entry: £6 (£5 members)
Sally Ironmonger & Brian Carter
Sally Ironmonger & Brian Carter have been writing, performing (and, they say, bickering) together for nearly 20 years. Based in Medway, Sally has been described as a superb songwriter with a voice that doesn’t back down, along with fine guitar backing. Their material is contemporary, with a nod to traditional themes: stripped down, unplugged story-based.
Brian has worked as a professional and semi-professional musician all of his adult life. Over the years he has developed his own style which produces a unique mix of melody and bass rhythms.
Over the years they have written commissions for BBC documentaries and Broadstairs Folk Week, they ran the First Friday Folk club at the Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate, and have been supporting artists for Belshazzar’s Feast, Barbara Dickson, Jacqui McShee, Chris Wood & Jez Lowe. They also won the Milkmaid Folk Club Folk Song competition in 2016.
Sally and Brian are an absolute one off. They have a quirky and distinctive style. Brian’s accomplished and sensitive guitar is the perfect accompaniment to Sally’s unique voice and their songs will make you laugh, cry and think - Lynne Heraud & Pat Turner, regular guests at the Topic
Topic Historic Photo Gallery Last year The Topic had its 60th anniversary. Each week during that autumn we posted a different historic photo taken in or relevant to the club during the 60s, 70s, 60s and even 90s, with some historical context. Many photos were by Eddie Saxton and Brian Lawton, and others centred on the 21st and 25th anniversaries. Finally they are 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 - insteadJohn 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 60th Song Lyrics Club members and attenders were invited to write a song to mark our 60th birthday. Those who did were able to sing them at a special Singers' and Musicians' Night on the 3rd of November 2016. The lyrics of the various songs performed are now available on the website here.
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.
PS: CASTLE HOTEL Plenty of Topic regulars play and listen at the Castle Hotel in Bradford on Fridays - why not join them? January: Jan 19 - Simon Kelly; Jan 26 - Henry Parker
Singers & Musicians
A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.
Ninebarrow are a multi-award-winning folk duo, who are impressing audiences across the country with their innovative and captivating take on the folk tradition. Described by Mike Harding as sounding ‘damn fine’ and by Kate Rusby as ‘absolutely amazing’, Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere combine breathtaking vocal harmonies and melodies, delivering original songs that are inspired and rooted in the landscape and history of the British Isles. As well as crafting unique and engaging original material, Ninebarrow also take a wide-range of traditional folk songs and rework them in their own, distinctive way. Not only exceptional singers and musicians, Ninebarrow are also equally passionate about the stories behind their songs - combining their music with history, folklore and storytelling.
The duo were nominated in the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award ‘Horizon’ category for Best Emerging Artist and also for ‘Best Duo’ in both the Fatea Magazine Awards 2016 and the Folking.com awards of 2017.
Take three girls. Name them Cathryn, Angela and Jennifer. Bring them up in a home where someone is always singing. Listen to them start to sing in harmony from a very young age. Realise that nature has blessed them with rather beautiful voices. Give them a guitar. Discover that they have a natural musical ability. Mix together; and you have a promising musical trio – The Hayes Sisters.
Three young teenagers start to make a name for themselves in local pubs and clubs; reality intervenes… They go off to University, start families – do the serious grown up stuff! They pursue careers in different cities, in different fields; in teaching, nursing, and acting (you may have seen Jen (Stage name – Jennifer Hennessy) in The Office, Coronation Street, Doctor Who, and lots more; in fact, she appears soon as Mrs Cratchit in the BBC’s new epic serial, “Dickensian”)
They decide to “have another go” at the music…And then they’re back together on stage; appearing at festivals and gigs across the North West. They are spotted by Nashville–based, Clive Gregson; one of the most-respected names in the music industry. And things go from there…The Hayes Sisters soon have a producer; and an album in the making.
Another Man’s Shoes is produced by Clive Gregson and John Wood, and features the awesome musical talents of Andy Dinan, Andy Seward, Fiona Lander, Simon Whitbread, and Clive Gregson himself. The album is a collection of songs borne from personal experiences and emotions; by history, politics, art, literature, the traditional music of England and Ireland, always influenced by groups or songs where vocals and harmonies dominate: as kids they were brought up singing in harmony because “ that was just what you did. It was natural”
Steve Turner is known as a pioneer of highly sophisticated English concertina song accompaniments, stretching the boundaries of traditional forms, with one of the best voices in the business. He is a multi-instrumentalist, who also accompanies himself on the cittern, and also plays mandolin and banjo.
After a thirteen year break, building up an internationally known stringed instrument business, he made a welcome return to performing in folk clubs and festivals in 2005.
Steve’s 7th album “ Spirit of the Game” was released in January 2016.
...total intensive musical focus and a vast serious repertoire – Nancy Kerr
A shining example of the music the British folk scene is capable of producing - Folk Roots
Singers & Musicians
A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.
Duncan McFarlane & Anne Brivonese
No stranger to the Topic, Duncan McFarlane of many collaborations brings his long-time fiddle player Anne Brivonese for what is guaranteed to be a night of varied and quality entertainment.
If you don’t know him and you get a chance to go and see him ‘live’, then do go and see him because he’s absolutely terrific - whether he’s doing his acoustic set, or doing the folk-rock set with his full band, he’s a favourite at festivals all over England and beyond. - Mike Harding
Duncan has an obvious feel for the tradition and a deep-rooted belief that it has a place in the current folk scene. His own songs show a canny grasp of, and response to, the tradition. To the already full sound of Duncan's own tremendous guitar playing, Anne contributes excellent, sympathetic yet punchy fiddle. - The Living Tradition
Karin Grandal-Park & Karl Robins
Karin Grandal-Park is a singer/songwriter with some 30 years experience in the Jazz/Blues field. She has sung with numerous bands over the years including After Hours, Riva and Heartland. She also has worked as a session singer with various studios. Several years ago after going to a folk festival in Dumfries & Galloway, she became enthralled with folk music and its diversity. Karin started to experiment with writing folk songs and went to many folk sessions up and down the country including the session run by Mike Harding at The Lion in Settle. Now teamed with Karl Robins (singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist) she devotes her time solely to writing and performing within the folk genre. She has performed at several of the Costa Del Folk Festivals in Spain, Portugal and Mallorca, as well as a number of folk festivals and folk clubs in the UK.
Karl Robins is originally from Leeds but now lives in Northumberland in Spittal, near Berwick Upon Tweed. He has been playing for many years in a variety of bands with many different line ups, playing music in the acoustic folk/ folk rock genre. A songwriter since his late teens, Karl likes to experiment with different rhythms and styles playing acoustic and electric guitars, Puerto Rican Cuatro and singing melodies and harmonies.
Karin and Karl have recorded their first CD entitled The Snows They Melt the Soonest. This 12 track CD includes 10 original songs (written by Karin, with two collaboration songs where Karl wrote the music, plus two traditional songs)
Mike Silver’s songs are of longing, love and loss, perceptive and thoughtful, with haunting melodies and heart stopping lyrics. This most accomplished acoustic artist sings and records a series of thoughts and feelings that are special and magical, yet his music addresses every day issues without being trite, reaching out to a wide audience. With a voice that is as warm and inviting as the fire in the fireplace on a cold winter’s night, Mike is an outstanding treasure amidst the crowd. Recommended to all who thrive on the sensitivity of our existence; all in all he’s a wonderful musician.
Janet Russell first made a name for herself on the folk circuit in the 80’s as a young singer songwriter writing with hard-edged humour about issues affecting women. Her work on Scottish traditional material with Scottish singer Christine Kydd has received huge critical acclaim, particularly in her native Scotland, and in the US.
Janet has now worked on the folk scene professionally for more than 30 years, starting in Edinburgh pubs, in 1980/81, and has experience of folk clubs, arts centres, concert halls, church halls and village halls of all sorts and sizes in the UK, Europe, and the USA.
Throughout this time Janet has worked with other musicians, such as Sisters Unlimited colleagues Sandra Kerr, Rosie Davis and Peta Webb, and Scottish singing partner Christine Kydd, and also toured the show Take These Chains from My Heart, written by partner Jim Woodland with storyteller Taffy Thomas.
Janet worked as musical director for Mikron Theatre for ten years, and is recognised as an accomplished vocal harmony workshop leader. She is a member of the Natural Voice Practitioners’ Network and a director of Yorkshire Dales Workshops, “promoting participation in folk arts”.
Janet leads three community choirs, in Silsden, Burnley, and Settle and continues to perform and to facilitate voice and harmony workshops.
The most striking feature of Janet Russell’s arresting voice is a lower register whose distinctive power and edge make dramatic listening - Tony Rose, The Guardian
Singers & Musicians
A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free
If the measure of a songwriter is the number of artists singing their songs – then Kieran Halpin must be considered a great modern writer of songs. There can be few writers on the acoustic/folk scene in Europe today who have had more songs covered. Names like Ilse De Lange (All The Answers), Vin Garbutt, Dolores Keane, The Battlefield Band, John Wright, Flossie, Niamh Parsons, Chris Jones and countless more have recorded his songs. In fact his songs can be heard in folk clubs, pubs and festivals all over the world sung by the famous and not so famous. Often the songs are better known than the writer himself.
Kieran’s songs cover every conceivable subject from love, loss and celebration, to the more global concerns that face all of us today and is often described as a modern protest song writer. He is never afraid to tackle topics that will provoke opinion and debate. If you are a fan of lyrics – then Kieran’s music is for you.
But whilst his albums are always something to look forward to it is live on stage where Kieran makes his mark. At once powerful and passionate, intimate and intense, he has managed to marry his intelligent and thought provoking lyrics with great melodies and has developed over the years into a writer with a unique style. All this is underscored by an incisive wit in his introductions which helps an audience understand where the song comes from and hint at where it might be going.
Kieran is equally at home playing to a small folk club audience and a large festival crowd. He is also one of the hardest touring musicians on the scene today with upwards of 160 shows per year all over the world.
Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer
With their unique onstage-chemistry and their widely praised harmonies, the Anglo-German duo Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer entertain and engage their audiences wherever they perform. Combining their original material with a fine choice of folk favourites Paul and Karen craft a show of "songs with groove and goosebumps guaranteed", as the Stuttgart press put it recently. Karen’s voice, clear and yet so powerful, leaves audiences mesmerised. She adds with alto recorder, tin whistle and percussive instruments to Paul’s vocal and individual guitar style. In addition to their UK tours, these two exceptional musicians (Stuttgart press) have established a significant reputation in Ireland and Germany and therefore sometimes the odd German folk song, or even a German ‘joke’ will find its way into a "fantastically entertaining night" (Secret Sounds).
The duo hails from Staffordshire although Karen is originally from Stuttgart, Germany, where Paul discovered her busking in a city centre park. He invited her to perform in England and the two of them have now been playing music together since 2012.
The Twangles are: Kevin Loughran: Vocals, Guitar; David Bowie Jr: Bass; Phil Snell: Mandolin, Fiddle, Guitar.
Kevin Loughran has been a face on the West Yorkshire scene since the mid-1970s. He has long been resolute in presenting a variety of song entertainment but is a notable interpreter of ‘vintage’ popular song from the 30s and 40s.
Dave Bowie Jr is the go-to bass player for many well-known performers. He brings his formidable technique and impeccable good taste to such diverse ensembles as The Phil Cockerham Trio, regular performers on the local acoustic music scene, including of course The Topic.
Phil Snell appears in many different collaborations are perhaps currently capped by the solid and highly entertaining duo Gerry Cooper and Phil Snell -also familiar to Topic audiences -and is also much admired and hired for his excellent sound engineering and recording skills.
As a trio, The Twangles are all about musical enjoyment for their audiences and themselves. Recently asked what “genre” they could be introduced as, they were reduced to muttering and foot shuffling. Clearly they didn’t know what the word meant …
Singers & Musicians
A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free
Phil Hare’s solo music career began almost 30 years ago and he is now widely regarded as one of the finest and most distinctive guitarists working on the current UK acoustic / folk music circuit. In addition, many years of gigging have resulted in Phil evolving into a perceptive and heartfelt songwriter as well as a 'freestyle', humorous troubadour who puts on a great show.
Phil originally came from Wirral and as a teenager in the 1970s, his first musical influences came from the popular music of the day. Playing guitar and bass he was involved with various bands playing around the Liverpool scene at that time; a scene that spawned bands such as OMD and Teardrop Explodes. Phil realised that his real love was acoustic music, mainly influenced by the likes of Roy Harper, John Martyn, Dylan and Joni Mitchell amongst others so was drawn to the (still vibrant) folk scene at that time. Whilst exploring the folk scene, Phil was greatly inspired by hearing the virtuoso guitar playing of Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, Martin Simpson, Bert Jansch and Dick Gaughan, as well as by the traditional music of Ireland and Scotland.
Phil’s song-writing often reflects his own social/political views, not in a ‘tub-thumping’ way but in a more thoughtful, often humorous and chorus-based style, reminiscent of his folk roots. On stage Phil is an accomplished performer mixing his virtuosity on the guitar with songs highlighting his rich, husky voice. He is a hugely entertaining performer and uses his humorous stage banter to foster good audience participation.
Peter and Barbara Snape
Peter and Barbara Snape have a great love of traditional British folk music especially that of the north of England where they live.
All of their traditional songs have been carefully researched from their native north (Lancashire) and likewise with the 'quirky' stuff, a northern resonance prevails as they bring back to life songs from late music hall/early variety hall 78rpms.
Barbara has exactly the right sort of voice for folksong with many years of solid experience and love of singing on her personal CV. Originally from Birkenhead, she was a young observer of the many singers that performed at the Spinners Folk Club in Liverpool during that legendary period of the 'revival'. Inspired and excited, she later became involved in the Liverpool Traditional Club, where, as a teenager she began singing herself, both solo and in various duos and groups.
There is a synergy with Peter and Barbara and a bounce and a lift in what they do. They have a refreshing and individual approach and their performances are varied, interesting and enjoyable.
Topic favourites Plumhall (for those who don’t know) are Michelle Plum and Nick B. Hall, a feisty Yorkshire based duo whose award winning self-penned songs are already winning them plaudits from the likes of R2 Magazine (4 stars), Miles Hunt (The Wonder Stuff), Steve Knightley (Show of Hands) and many more. The pair deliver guitar and harmony driven textures of folk, Americana and pop, and have have been wowing audiences on the live acoustic circuit in the UK. Winners of the Yorkshire Gig Guide Outstanding Songwriters award 2014, Plumhall were recently joined on stage by Bob Dylan's legendary guitarist Larry Campbell for a performance of Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) at the BBC Radio 2 award winning folk club The Black Swan in York.
Michelle Plum is a former member of Chumbawamba, Waking the Witch and The Accidental Tourists, and in her own right has supported Aimee Mann, Capercaillie, Ralph McTell, Nerina Pallot, Texas and Shane MacGowan to name but a few. She also provided guest vocals for Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts' UK spring 2013 tour. More recently, Michelle's other session work has taken her on tour all over Europe.
Nick B Hall has been a member of the Hall Brothers band nearly all his life, and has supported Fairport Convention, Hugh Cornwell, Show of Hands, Kate Rusby, Glenn Tilbrook plus many more.
Together as Plumhall Michelle & Nick have supported more top names than can be mentioned here, among them Peter Tork of The Monkees who invited them onstage to perform Daydream Believer with him. A very special moment!
Recently, Michelle and Nick appeared as special guests on a pair of shows on the Al Stewart UK tour - at Manchester Bridgewater Hall and the London Palladium (where they sang a verse on one of Al's songs). Another very special moment!
Plumhall have consistently wowed critics and audiences with their live performances on the UK acoustic circuit, delivering outstanding guitar playing, smart lyric writing and wonderful harmonies which set them above most of their contemporaries - Miles Hunt - The Wonder Stuff
Louise Jordan - No Petticoats Here
Louise Jordan is no stranger to the Topic, having already made a name for herself as an exceptional songwriter performer and musician. No Petticoats Here is her own project which tells the inspirational stories of remarkable women of the First World War through songs and narrative. But this is no dry history lesson, and no dogmatic feminist pronouncement: it is merely a seeking out of the truth, bringing hitherto unknown facts into the public domain: Louise brings the women and their stories to life through anecdotes from the time and her original songs in an emotional and passionate presentation. Each of the stories illustrates the bravery of these women in the face of physical danger and their determination in the face of prejudice.
The research, songwriting, composition and delivery took eighteen months and has taken Louise from Portsmouth to Pervijze and from Ulverston to Ypres by way of many museums, battlefields, private collections, libraries and research centres and she has had the support of the women’s families and leading historians.
Since first touring with No Petticoats Here she has won funding from Arts Council England to develop the project and take it to wider audiences. Her meticulous research and obvious passion for the subject shine through this unique performance: it is without doubt an absolute must see. Reviews, including from the national press, have been full of superlatives.
Jordan has approached her subject with the diligence of a scholar and the heart of an artist…. it is in responses like this set of songs that our collective cultural memories are kept alive… - R2 Magazine