item1a item1b item1c item1d item1e item1f item1g FBfLogoblue29

At: Groove Pad, 48 Saltaire Road, Shipley BD18 3HN
Venue (not Club) Tel: 01274 586542

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.

Topic Venues Over The Years

Glyde House

The Topic started here on January 2nd, 2014.

Glyde House has had a full career. Built as a church, the building became a school, then the NALGO / Unison office, then the base of Yorkshire Arts. It is now home to Business Innovation Start Up Gumption, is host to a variety of art organisations, and is also the official office of Gerry Sutcliffe MP. 


The Bradford Irish Club - six years

As our time here went from March 6th 2008 to December 19th 2013, the Irish Club is in third place in terms of longevity, after the Star (22 years) and Melborn (10 years).

The photo shows a signboard with the event for the last club night here, Pat Sherry and Stuart Douglas, along with The Holbeck Mummers, Christmas 2013.


The Cock & Bottle - two years

The Topic was here only from January 2006-February 2008.

Just a room in a pub and without a dedicated stage, it was a good fit for the 50-year old Topic, being a venerable pub: an inn of some sort was first licensed on or near the site in 1747 and ale is said to have been brewed there at the time. The name The Cock & Bottle was in use by 1822.

More on the pub's history here.

The Melborn Hotel - ten years

The Melborn was built in White Abbey Road in 1935 with a music performance room part of the plans. Originally it was Melbourne, by connection with the local brewery, but after a dispute the spelling changed. The landlord of 15 years, Eamon Halloran, hosted a range of other live music nights, especially Irish music.

The Topic was here until December 29th 2005, when the building was sold and ceased being a pub. For most of those years Philomena Hingston ran the club.

The piano and the door to the music room were transferred to the Cock & Bottle.

The Peel Hotel - four years

The Peel in Richmond Road, not far from the University, was the home of the Topic for only just over four years, from March 8th 1991 to July 8th 1995.

Club organisers during its sojourn here were Deanna Norman, Brenda Baldwin and Roger Sutcliffe - who was the first to play in the new venue - and Philomena.

The Star Hotel - twenty-two years

The Star in Westgate was the record-holder for the Topic, hosting the club for 22 years until the move to the Peel in March 1991.

The Topic moved there after a year of turmoil. A total of 4 venues was tried in 1969 - the Rawson Hotel for one night, the Ukrainian Club and the Market Tavern, but the Star proved to be a permanent base, with the enthusiastic support of the Landlord and Landlady, Marion and Friedal.

Cockersdale was the last act to play here.

The Ukrainian Club - 7 months

The Ukrainian Club at 4, Clifton Villas, was our host for seven months from February 7th to September 19th 1969.

The club is still a going concern, and indeed has a 200-seat performance area these days, but is no longer at this location.


Market Tavern (6 weeks) and Rawson Hotel (one night!)

1969 was a very strange time, a good year for spaceflight, a poor year for wine, and not looking good for Topic venue longevity at the start of the year.

We were in the Market Tavern for 6 weeks in total... now called Balanga, on Godwin Street, and I doubt it looked like that in 1969. Then just one night in the Rawson Hotel


Sun Inn - five years

The Sun Inn in Sunbridge Road (now Sun Hotel, and Bradford's premier gay pub) hosted the Topic for five years, from mid-1963 to the 22nd November 1968.

Denis Sabey wrote in Tykes' News back in1968 that at 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 a hearing even on singers' nights."


Fox & Goose - 6 months

The Topic was here from August 1959 to April 1960, or thereabouts, and apparently the pub was demolished around 1990, after the ring road was built.

According to the report from a later landlord (1980s) on Closed Pubs , the pub was near the old Bradford Canal and Basin and used to stable horses for the barges that came along the canal to the centre of Bradford in the late 19th and early 20th century. He remembers one of the old regulars telling him that when he was a child, pre-WW1, that boxing matches were held at the rear of the pub.

Oddfellows' / Unity Hall - five years

The Topic moved here for the period mid 1958 - August 1959, then again from mid-1960 to May 1963. Unity Hall, in Rawson Square, was leased by the German community in Bradford and was known as Schiller-Verein. Later it became a Masonic Hall and in 1910 became the base for the Oddfellows firendly society.

Unity Hall is also the name of a journalist who has been writing about the royal family since the 1950's. But she has nothing to do with this building.

Laycock's Rooms - 18 months

This is where the Topic first started, back in 1956, in an upstairs room. Laycock's in Albion Court had been a hotel and a cafe and a centre for political debating - GB Shaw spoke there, and JB Priestley, Kropotkin and William Morris, and Philip Snowden from Cowling, who went on to become Labour's first Chancellor of the Exchequer.

According to Topic founder Alex Eaton, the room they used was dingy, dusty and depressing, with heaped up chairs at the back and a table covered with green stained baize.

item7a item7