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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: A History
by Denis Sabey

Tykes' News, 1968

This is from an article in Tykes’ News fourth quarter 1968 and was written by Denis Sabey, who had been a member of the club from 1958 and was the club secretary from 1968 until June 1970. Denis also founded the now defunct Bradshaw Tavern Folk Club.

On leaving Bradford he founded a club in Southwell near Nottingham when they moved there in 1974. He was also a co-founder of The Micklebarrow Morris Men, which was an offshoot of the folk club. During his years at Southwell he played with a four-piece band called Cudgel who were well known at the time in the East Midlands. He co-founded a Ceilidh Band called Uncle Bernard’s Band who was still playing until recently, though without Denis. He went to live in Brighton for a few years but has now returned to live in the Nottingham area. He still sings and is involved in the folk music scene in the Nottingham area and organises a regular folk night called Nottingham Focus at The Maze and is also a regular at The Carrington Triangle Folk Club. He is involved with two bands, one called Waffle and the other One True Saxon. Playing accordion, he is also one of the musicians with a dance side called Sullivan’s Sword who appear most years at The Cleckheaton Folk Festival.

As you can see Denis is still a devoted folkie and has no intentions of giving up singing or playing anytime soon. - [Trevor Charnock]


As the oldest folk club in Yorkshire (or indeed in England outside London) it is not difficult to imagine that the Topic has a chequered and at times, bizarre history.

Such records as there are indicate the club was started at the latest around mid–1956 (the first formal annual general meeting was held in 1958) but I have heard suggestions from long- standing members that there was some activity before this time, even as far back as 1953.

Whatever the date was, it seems to be agreed that the first premises occupied by the club consisted of a room above the Green Dragon Chinese Restaurant in the Albion Court, Bradford. Amongst those who seem to have been around at this time were Ed Saxton, "Dad" Tattersall, Vince Lacey, Rene Pickles, John Pashley and Alan Emmett (to mention only these names which may still ring a bell).

The late fifties were, of course, the era of skiffle and trad jazz and the Topic didn’t escape the influence. This was before my time but I have heard it said that there was a time when you couldn’t get into the clubroom for the tea chests, jugs, washboards etc. Purists may cringe at the thought but to my mind some fine music was played by, for example, the Delta City Spasm Group, which included such names as John Pashley, "Tet" Powell and John Hockney (John is the brother of David and Paul who are perhaps better known round Bradford than him).

By the time of the first A.G.M. the Topic had made its first acquaintance with the Order of Oddfellows, having moved a couple of hundred yards to Unity Hall in Rawson Square. With the exception of a short spell at the Fox and Goose the club was to stay at Unity Hall for over five years, and to many, who like myself were not founder members, "Unity Hall" and "Topic" must sound like one and the same thing.

It is not easy to put one's finger on what it was that made the five years at Unity hall so outstanding. There was no shortage of good singers. Such names as Alan Emmett of the Heritage Singers, Dave Brady, Mark Newman, Neil and Sue Roc, Martin Cummins and Rene Pickles (later of the Cropper Lads), to mention but a few, were all regulars. But singers are not all that makes a club go. The clubroom also played its part in creating the right atmosphere. The stair to the basement went straight into the room which held about 80 jammed in tight (as they always were) and the atmosphere just hit you as you walked through the door.

To my mind, the great thing about The Topic in those days was it lived up to the name of "Club". It was more than just a place you went once a week and paid 1/- to hear folk songs. Most members became friendly with most others and went to the same parties, pubs etc, during the week. As many as 30 or 40 would set off together "up to the dales", for a weekend's camping. Many tales come to mind about such expeditions e.g. the night someone (no names mentioned) ate the landlady’s plastic Daz roses at the Kings Head in Kettlewell, and the night a Very rocket went off on the campsite causing something of a commotion around the Dales.

The club also had its own collection of books and records, which were loaned to members, but unfortunately these together with other equipment etc, were eventually "misplaced". Another aspect of the club’s corporate life, which continued till fairly recently, were evenings of music provided for any local organisations with enough members who were prepared to listen. The Y.M.C.A., British Council and Zionist Federation were amongst those who singers from the Topic took their music to.

But perhaps I am sentimentalising a little too much and giving the impression of too much harmony within the club. In fact one of the things which made the early Topic such an interesting place was the difference of opinion within the membership as to what its ends should be. A glance through old minutes gives plenty of evidence of these. As early as 1958 Alex Eaton, who was president, resigned “in view of the hatred that existed for him by several members of the club”. One A.G.M. which I remember lasted until 11 o’ clock one Friday night and was then adjourned to the following week since no agreement had been reached on any of the matters on the agenda, although the audience had been treated to lengthy quotations from Trotsky. Another classic row amongst the committee concerned a donation of 5 made by the club to the newly formed Harrogate C.N.D., causing lengthy arguments and some resignations.

Despite what has been said so far, however, the Topic was far from being an insular group of individuals arguing amongst themselves. Few will appreciate now how small the number of followers of folk music was before the boom, or the consequences of this fact. Singers from different areas travelled around to a far greater extent, as they had to in order to find any activity in the folk field. The Topic benefited from this by establishing a wide contact with singers from various parts of England and beyond. In the sphere of bookings, the small following for folk music generally had the effect of making fees unbelievably low. Many singers who later became top names were prepared to turn up purely for the chance of singing. Amongst singers heard by Topic audiences in those days were for example, Rambling Jack Elliot (whose fee is reputed to have been 5 plus free whisky), Carolyn Hester and Dick Farina, Jerry Silverman (who was paid petrol money), Robin Hall and Steve Benbow (both for around 8) and Martin Carthy and Lou Killen who both travelled up from London by scooter for a joint fee of 5. Of course professional singers were relatively few in number before the boom and bookings were therefore less regular but to compensate for this the floor singers included many who work professionally or semi-professionally nowadays (or would do if they were still around).

Around late 1963 the Topic was forced to leave Unity Hall as the room was taken over for business premises. For a short while a different room was hired from the Oddfellows, but this lacked the atmosphere of the old basement and was more expensive. Finally after a police raid which resulted in the bar closing down (although only orange juice was discovered in the club room it has to be said that not all the members were teetotal. An alcohol-free room was due to a tip off we had received about the raid), the club moved to its present meeting place at the Sun Inn, Sunbridge Road.

In the five years since we moved to the Sun the club has fluctuated between some of the best nights of folk music I can remember and some which I would rather not remember, but I am happy to be able to say that over the past year or so both audiences and singing have taken a marked turn for the better-so much so that the "House Full" signs have been dug out and dusted and singers coming in after 9 o’ clock have been lucky to get an hearing even on singers' nights. So, folk fans take note. We meet every Friday and a list of bookings until December is in this issue of Tykes News.

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