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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.

A Brief History Of The Club Over Twenty Five Years

1956-1981 Silver Jubilee

This was a booklet produced by The Committee for the 25th anniversary events in Bradford in 1981, price 15p, and faithfully retyped here.


The Folk Club, meeting in a room for the enjoyment of music and song, has become a regular feature of the folk scene nowadays. Few people, however, realise that 25 years ago such clubs did not exist outside London, and the TOPIC Folk Club, in Bradford, was the first in the provinces. Founded by Alex Eaton, with his wife, Louise, together with Paul Tattersal, Rennie Pickles, Alan Emmett and Dave and Marion Dalmoure, the Topic is the longest-running folk club in the country and has become almost a tradition in 25 years of existence. During that time it has only been closed on 7 occasions - and then only because of Christmas Day or the New Year!

1956 was a year of great social awareness; the CND movement was leading up to the Aldermaston Marches, skiffle was all the rage, and the folk boom, influenced mainly by American artists, was on. Records and record players were not enough, television sets were few and far between and people were keen to get out and entertain themselves. In the midst of all this, the small group led by Alex and Louise, and inspired by a book of folk songs by Alan Lomax, got together on Friday evenings to sing folk songs, and talk, and such were the beginnings of the TOPIC Folk Club. The Topic recording company was just getting established and the Club, wishing to be easily identifiable with British folk music, took its name. At this time Bill Leader, a friend of the Eatons, was involved with Topic Records and stimulated interest by loaning a record player and some early folk recordings. The music and songs had a more international flavour then than now; Red Army songs from Russia, student protest songs from Budapest, and so on, but the "working class folk songs" from Britain, exemplified by Ewan McColl's "Shuttle and Cage" book, held the greatest interest.

Very quickly the Club grew in numbers until the original meeting room - the Laycock Rooms above the "Golden Dragon" Chinese Restaurant - was too small and the Club moved to a larger room in the Oddfellows or Unity Hall in Rawson Square, Bradford. By this time the TOPIC had 304 members recorded on its books, and the first AGM was held on Friday 19 September 1958. No longer was the TOPIC a small group of enthusiasts meeting informally for a song and a natter, and so the singers amongst the Club members began to be supplemented by special guests from elsewhere. The first guest was Dr John Hasted in 1958 who seems to have impressed the members with a variety of songs from all over the place, accompanied with Appalachian 5-string banjo, 6 and 12-string guitars, balalaika and a bass lute. Being a friend of the Eatons, the Club paid his fare from London and probably for a porter to carry all his instruments as well. John obviously liked the TOPIC and came back many times.

The Club performers were obviously in great demand around Bradford at this time, and the Friday Club Nights began to be supplemented by Saturday evening concerts. The first paid guest for one of these was Ramblin' Jack Elliot from America and from then on, the emphasis swung further away from the informal club nights to the concerts with well-known artists from all over. As well as these concerts, the Saturday nights were also taken up with the "Hoots" which seemed to have been "reet good do's" put on by the Club residents.

In 1959 the clubroom was established in the Fox and Goose pub, Canal Road, Bradford. Among the performers brought in for the concerts were Steve Benbow and Jerry Silverman and the minute book records a resolution to to "try and get a good attendance ... to show interest in folk music in the North"! Jimmie MacGregor and Shirley Bland came along in 1960, Hamish Henderson, Bert Lloyd, Elton Hayes, the ever popular Steve Benbow and the Spinners were all booked to appear, and about this time Shirley Collins first came along with John Hasted and made a lasting impression on a least one TOPIC committee member!

By 1962 the idea of folk clubs had caught on and the TOPIC and the Harrogate Folk Club (now sadly defunct) ran regular exchange visits. Guest lists for the concerts became longer, displacing the "Hoots", and in 1964, when the Club met on Fridays in the Sun Inn, Sunbridge Road, the guests included Dave Brady, the Spinners, the Crimple Mountain Boys (from Harrogate and including those familiar names Robin and Barry Dransfield), Cyril Tawney, Martin Carthy (who later made history coming up from London with Louis Killen on a Vespa for 10 plus expenses), Tony and Dave, Sandy and Jeanie and Jackie McDonald and Bridie O'Donnell. The TOPIC was the first folk club at which Jackie appeared as a floor singer.

The Club affiliated to the EFDSS in 1964 and with one brief interruption, has remained affiliated ever since. In 1965 the now regular arrangement of booked gustes performing on Friday Club nights, supported by "resident" or local singers or groups was established. Thus in 9 years from its small beginnings, the TOPIC had almost completely left behind the informal "song and natter" origins with which it began in 1956. The programme for 1965 is, even by today's standards, impressive, and the unsalubrious surroundings of the Sun Inn Clubroom must have seen many a good night:

Roy Harris
Jackie and Bridie
Nigel Denver
Sandy and Jeanie
The Stewart Family
Crimple Mountain Boys
Joe Heaney
Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl
Barry Skinner
The Islanders
Tom Gilfellon
Mark Newman
John Freshwater
Harry Boardman
The Spinners
Pete Sayers
Gerry Lockran
Hedy West
Ian McCann (of the Malcolm Price Trio)
Robin Williamson and his Incredible String Band
Bert Jansch
The McPeakes
New Lost City Ramblers

The 1960's continued to be good years for the TOPIC while other folk clubs formed and flourished around the area. Many of these were "breakaways" from the TOPIC; the Bradford Folk Club (Paul Tattersal), the Bradshaw Tavern Folk Club (Denis Sabey), the George Folk Club (Cleckheaton, Jackie Richardson) later the Phoenix Folk Club at the Richardson's Arms, Oakenshaw and then at the Armytage Arms, Clifton - of these only the TOPIC and the Bradshaw Tavern are still running. The TOPIC and the Leeds Folk Club became affiliated to encourage interchange between them and although a ceilidh organised jointly with the local EFDSS was proposed in 1967, the idea did not come to fruition until the first TOPIC ceilidh of 1976!

Promising new names on the folk scene were encouraged then as now by the TOPIC, and in 1968 a certain Christy Moore became a semi-resident singer and guaranteed two club nights a year, while a new group, the Humblebums - Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty* (Stealers Wheel) - appeared on 18 October.

Late in 1968 the five-year stay at the Sun Inn ended and the Club moved to the Market Tavern in Godwin Street. However, due to inadequate fire precautions, the room was closed after 6 weeks and the TOPIC was on the move again. A total of 4 venues were tried in 1969, the Rawson Hotel for one night, the Ukrainian Club and the Market Tavern again, but the final venue, the STAR Hotel, proved to be a permanent base for the TOPIC.

For 12 years the Club has enjoyed excellent relations with the Landlord and Landlady of the Star, Marion and Friedal. Members, visitors and guests of the Club, and even Roger Sutcliffe, receive a friendly welcome and many artists call to see "Mine Hosts" while in or near Bradford.

In 1974 the committee, which had continued the TOPIC success story, consisted of Mick Wheeler, Mick Walker, Dave Illingworth, Roger Sutcliffe, John Shackleton, Dave Hamer and Pete Timmins, and were joined, by co-option in October of that year, by Trevor Charnock. Since his appointment as Secretary in 1976, Trevor has been a dedicated worker for the Club and there can be few people who are as well known throughout the folk club world as the Secretary of the TOPIC Folk Club.

We are all looking forward to the next 25 years.

The Committee of the TOPIC Folk Club, 1981:

Frank Cahill
Trevor Charnock
Andy Day
Dave Dobson
Ian Passey
Roger Sutcliffe
Ronnie Wharton
Alan Wilkinson

1981 The Topic Folk Club

*In fact, memories were in error here: Gerry Rafferty had not yet joined the Humblebums and it was Billy Connolly and Tam Harvey who appeared

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