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At: Hullabaloo, 41 Westgate, Shipley, BD18 3QX

Est: 1956



Club Constitution, History,
Memoirs, Records,
Facts & Trivia

Club Constitution

The Club's Beginning
By Alex Eaton. A report on the earliest years of The Topic Folk Club written for 30th Anniversary and published in 1990 in Tykes' News in three parts.

The First 12 Years
By Denis Sabey, Tykes' News 1968

The First 25 Years
Booklet produced by the club in 1981

The Club in 1970-72
By Trevor Carolan. A personal memoir with some photos

The Topic at 60
The view from 2016, by John Waller

Three T&A Articles
Written by John Waller in 2022

Historic Photo Gallery
A selection of photographs from the very early days of the Club

Songs for The Topic at 60
Songs written by club members to celebrate The Topic's 60th anniversary, performed 3 November 2016

Gigs List
Club nights from 1957 to last week

Compiling the Records
Trevor Charnock on tracking down sources for the gigs listed

Guest Artist Links A to Z
Web links for 732 Topic acts

The Club's 15 Venues

Sept 1956 to 11th Apr 1958:
Laycock's Rooms, Albion Court

18th Apr 1958 to Aug 1959:
Oddfellows'/Unity Hall, Rawson Square

4th Sept 1959 to ?Apr 1960:
Fox and Goose, Canal Rd

May 1960 to mid-1963:
Oddfellows'/Unity Hall again

Mid-1963 to 22nd Nov 1968:
Sun Inn, Sunbridge Rd

29th Nov 1968 to 24th Jan 1969:
Market Tavern, Godwin St

The year of 4 venues: The Market Tavern, 6 weeks, Rawson Hotel (Jan 31 only), The Ukrainian Club (Feb 7th-Sept 19th), and then the start of the 22-year stay at The Star Hotel.

Sept 26th, 1969 to Mar 1st, 1991:
Star Hotel, Westgate

March 8th, 1991 to Jul 8th, 1995:
Peel Hotel, Richmond Rd

Jul 13th, 1995 to Dec 29th, 2005:
Melborn Hotel White Abbey Rd

Jan 5th 2006 to Feb 28th 2008:
Cock and Bottle Barkerend Rd

Mar 6th 2008 to Dec 19th 2013:
Bradford Irish Club Rebecca St

Jan 2nd 2014 to Aug 22nd 2019:
Glyde House, Glydegate

Aug 29th 2019 onwards
The Merchant Bar, Peckover St

--20 month Covid Break--

Nov 4th 2021 - ongoing
Groove Pad, Saltaire Rd, Shipley

Club Night
For nearly 40 years the club met on Fridays - also with Saturday concerts in some of the earlier years - but it has been Thursday nights from March 24 1994.

Logo & Straplines
June 1995 - first appearance of the Wandering Fiddler logo
September 1995 - "Probably" dropped from "Probably the oldest Folk Club in the World".
January 2009 - Wandering Fiddler dropped. New strapline

Drinking & Smoking
The club was a non-booze venue at the very start, with a lot of school-age attendees, but moved to a pub (the Fox and Goose) in 1959, so U-18s no longer allowed. March 1995 saw "Thank you for not smoking" appear, and 1st July 2007 smoking in pubs was made illegal.

The raffle started on 26th August 1966, after the Committee had noticed funds depeleting. The first prize was a 15/- record token, and 1 6/8 was taken in ticket sales (a little under half what was taken on the door that night). It has continued ever since.

Secretaries & Bookers

Club Secretaries
1958 to 1982

Isobel Arlott
Sept 1958 - Sept 1959
AM (Molly) Brown
Sept 1959 - ?
Sandra A Kitchingham
April 1961 - ?1962
Malcolm McGeorge
?1962 - Aug 1964
Hilary Stevenson / Tideswell
Sep 1964 - March 1966
Pat Butterfield
April 1966 - June 1967
Jan Heatherington
July 1967 - March 1968
H Denis Sabey
April 1968 - May 1970
Jim Boyes
May 1970 - Nov 1971
Roger Sutcliffe
Nov 1971 - June 1972
Ken Hall
July 1972 - March 1974
Mick Wheeler
March 1974 - March 1976
Trevor Charnock
April 1976 - April 1982

Booking Secretaries
1982 to now

Ronnie Wharton
May 1982 - May 1988
Deanna Norman

June 1988 - March 1992
Brenda Baldwin
March 1992 - March 1993
Roger Sutcliffe
March 1993 - Nov 1994
Philomena Hingston
(sometimes with Finola Hingston)
Nov 1994 - Dec 2003
John Waller
Dec 2003 - Dec 2008
(with Simon Alexander Jun-Dec 2006)
Rahel Guzelian
Jan 2009 - Dec 2010
Joe Grint
Jan 2011 - Jan 2012
Anthony Charnock
Jan 2012 - Sep 2013
Sue Gaffney
Oct 2013 - Dec 2015
Rahel Guzelian
Jan 2016 - Jan 2018
Sue Gaffney
Jan 2018-Jan 2020
Martin Richards
Jan 2020 on


NB: The first few months of a new booker's reign were generally booked by the previous incumbent.

The Topic in 1970-72
by Trevor Carolan

On August 30th 2010 Topic website manager Nick Waller received an email from one-time regular Trevor Carolan about his memories of the early 70s, and also permission to reproduce it here. He also sent some photos from the time. It would be great to have more memories of The Topic from other regulars over the years, so please do write in if you have something to contribute.

Howdy Nick

Trevor Carolan here from Vancouver. I've discovered your Topic Folk Club web-site with great pleasure. I used to sit-in there pretty regularly with blues guitarist & singer Josh Grundy from late 1970 thru 1972.

Born in Bradford, I emigrated with my family to Canada in '57, then returned to Bradford for three years in 1970. My first week back in Yorkshire I met Josh, who was a pal of Roger Sutcliffe, at the White Horse Pub on Great Horton Road that used to have a Thurs. night music session. I was a young blues harmonica guy and had sat in on the West Coast here with T-Bone Walker and others; that seemed to work with the English fellas and I played regularly with Josh in a blues duo for two years. We played clubs all over the north, getting to gigs in his old motor.

I lived with my Irish relations a few streets up the road from the Star Hotel on White Abbey Road in the heart of the old Irish district. I recall the Polish owner very well with his comb-over hair-style. Roger S. and another big, booming-voiced/guitarist fellow named 'Baz' were both polished regulars back then. Josh, by contrast, has a very scrappy style style, although he was terrific as well. There was actually a regular rota of gigs back then: the White Horse on Thurs., the Topic on Friday, a pub on Canal Road on Sunday nights. The Otley Folk club--got in a tremendous punch-up there one night--and the Three Nuns at Mirfield also had regular folk nights. There was a club at Queensbury where Swan Arcade sang fairly regualry with Jim Boyes. They were as trad as the broad Yorkshire crowd got. Dave Burland invited us down his neck of the woods to a gig in Barnsley and we played a couple of very large Workingmen's Clubs in Leeds. The best tiems, I think were in the warm weather months when there'd be runs out to the Dales, and people used to camp over for a couple of nights at one ancient pub or another and sing and drink pints all weekend. Kettlewell, stands out in mind as the best of the lot. Other gigs at Appletreewick and Settle--that's nearly 40 yrs. ago now.

It was always a scuffling time in the U.K. back then; I earned 13 quid a week and spent 5 of that on rent for a bedsit-flat while working at St. Luke's Hospital. Finally came back to Canada, then moved to California for a couple of years. Returned to university and began writing. Have since published 16 books. In my first book, a poetry collection back in '85, I included a poem entitled "Bengley Moor" that I wrote after a weekend run in spring of 1971 out to Bingley Moor. From time to time during my readings I resurrect it, out of old affection. The key person in it was a Topic regular too. Among the other local singers who used to get up and do a turn, I recall Neil Ingram, whose wife Kathy would join him on their signature tune "A Sailor's Life". Big Mick Hanson, a former boxing champ in the British navy used to look out for us all. Another regular fella who'd stand up and do a turn back then--and it was always a highlight for me--was an older fella, a workingman sort of bloke who would stand up with a pint in his hand and deliver a long recitation--a story of the Battle of Hastings. He had a punch-line in his narrative that he'd deliver every so often--an old memory-aid of oral tradition people said--and it went "'Arold with iz 'Awk in 'iz 'And". Whenever he came to this, right on cue the crowd would take any empty glass on the table and rap the bottoms on the table 4 times--tap/tap/tap-tap. As a result of my travels and ongoing studies I became a university English prof, and for more than 25 yrs I've told my students in poetry classes here about this narrative display that clearly tied ordinary working people and students into a centuries old bardic tradition. It was unforgettable.

When I first arrived into this scene I was lost: everyone else seemed to know the words to the tunes, when to bang glasses, what the chorus was...but it didn't take long to get the hang of it. There was quite a sense of camaraderie in it all, and it stood in juxtaposition to the flash music scene in London. Nevertheless, the folkie crowd mixed easily with other music communities. I think it was the innate respect for both an old English, and especially a northern English heritage that set the Topic kind of scene apart, even thought the touring headliners came from all over the isles--down south, the midlands, sometimes Scotland, and people like Therapy from Ireland. Most of the performers knew each other. They respected each other's abilities, sometimes swapped songs, and maintained loose, but friendly rivalries. It was a culture entirely alien to what I'd come up with as an immigrant kid and young hippie on the west coast of North America.

A fair bit of drinking took place with the folkie crowd, and a lot of them still smoked like chimneys back then, so the air was often blue. The Topic was a good scene though, and well run. It was not an especially big music room, but people packed in together and there was denseness to the packed bodies. The vibe was significantly different among Yorkshire people than what I'd experience down south, particularly in London. It may seem curious now too, but in a chat with John Renbourn who played Vancouver two or three years ago, he mentioned that back in the late sixties/early seventies you never heard anyone talk about "Celtic" music. Now, he noted, there's a whole Celtic renaissance underway around the world. Oddly, my first awakening to the new "Celtic" culture came specifically at The Topic in 1971.

I've often wondered what became of Paul "Josh" Grundy. He taught school and was a vice-principal or something in Halifax. His wife was called Angie and they lived off of Great Horton road. He was good pals with many of the touring acts who came thru the Topic Club. He introduced me over the years to Dave Burland, John Pashley, Roger Sutcliffe, Vera Johnson, Martin Carthy, Sam Bracken and Fiona from Therapy. We'd often go off for a few drinks after the Topic closed and eat at a place called the Kashmir Restaurant run by a Mr. Bashir behind the Mandeville Arms further downtown near the bus station not far from the university--in those days meat curry was three shillings, chicken curry four shillings, and you got a small dish of mint chutney and all the chappatis you could eat. Oddly enough, over the years I had chance to renew acquaintance with Vera Johnson and Martin Carthy when they were visiting and playing here in Vancouver. Vera had actually come up as a singer in Vancouver, where she worked for the big Vancouver daily newspaper, The Sun. I don't think anyone knew that she'd been the secretary to Bob Hunter, a popular alternative-culture columnist in the city. Bob was one of the original six or seven people who founded the Greenpeace organization here in town that has since become the best-known Eco defence outfit on the planet. He was a guy I admired a lot as a young writer, and we became friends later on. It was in fact Vera, who introduced me to Bob in '73. Vera loved singing and used to take her holidays in the U.K., where she toured the folk scene. Two other acts I particulary recall among the glittering best were Ann Briggs and Rab Noakes. They had powerful singing styles. Diz Disley was another tremendous performer, but he may have played a bigger show with the Peggs who had a band called Mr. Fox. We opened for them and Diz at a theatre over that way not too far from the Alhambra. Stefan Grossman and Duster Bennett, both wonderful bluesmen came and played at St. George's Hall as opening acts for blues shows, and I recall many of the topic gang turning out to hear them as well.

Anyway, from time to time I still pass thru Bradford, visiting relations there while on holiday or book tour visits to Europe. We'll likely be over there and in Ireland & France again next year. I'll have a scout thru my old photograph colletion and see if there's any likely memorabilia. I did contribute a chapter about those years, when Bradford had a very compelling social dimension and the multi-culture vibes felt a lot different than now, in 'Bradford Chapters: Episodes in the History of a City', a book edited a couple of years ago by Bob Duckworth, the city archivist for Propagator Press in Leeds. If you might have any news of what become of Josh Grundy, I'd love to pass a hello along to him. Regards from Canada's Pacific Coast.

My author web-site address follows,

Trevor Carolan
Vancouver, CANADA

Since sending that letter, Trevor got back in touch to say that someone who'd known Paul Grundy from school days had written to him with the news that, unfortunately, he died some years ago - NW

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