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

Est: 1956

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Map

FAQ

1. What is The Topic Folk Club?
2. What range of music is on offer?
3. Where is The Topic?
4. When is club night?
5. Members and non-Members all welcome?
6. What price entry? Where do you get tickets?
7. Where does the ticket money go?
8. How does a typical night pan out?
9. Can I perform at The Topic?
10. What's "Double Header" and "Floor Singer"?
11. Who has played at The Topic?
12. When was the club started?
13. Booking policy for professional guests?
14. Who runs The Topic?


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1. What is the Topic Folk Club?


A Bradford-based weekly live music club that provides a stage
for performers broadly in the area of folk music and song (but not folk dance). The Topic books a lot of professional artists but also, like most folk clubs, offers amateurs and budding professionals of various levels of experience a chance to perform in public. The current pattern is for roughly equal numbers of alternating Guest nights and Singers' and Musicians' night - about 25 of each over the year. S/M sessions are held on the first and third Thursday of each month, and through most of August. Depending on how the dates fall, we may be closed around Christmas and New Year.
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2. What range of music is on offer at the club?

Quite a variety, from traditional unaccompanied singers to contemporary electrified bands. We have singer-songwriters like Jez Lowe or Becky Mills; performers with a guitar and a political attitude such as Robb Johnson; folk-rock bands like Plumhall; specialists in concertina and melodeon such as Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne; enthusiatic interpreters of traditional song collections such as Bryony Griffith and Alice Jones; 60's blues veterans like Roger Sutcliffe; shanty masters like Kimber's Men; and young groups of instrumentalists such as Auka. Guests are mostly from the UK (many from Yorkshire and the North East) but also from the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa. Take a look at the A to Z
links to websites of our past guests
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3. Where is the Topic?

At Groove Pad, 48 Saltaire Road, Shipley BD18 3HN Tel: 01274 586542 . A
map is here.

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4. When is club night?


Every week, on Thursdays, from 7:30 to end at 10:00. Doors open at 7:00 pm. The club is closed only very rarely, generally only when it clashes with Christmas Day or New Year (or a Global Pandemic, obviously).
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5. Members and non-Members all welcome?

Even though the Topic has all the formal club accoutrements such as members, an elected committee, an annual general meeting, a treasurer and a club chequebook with two signatories, anyone can come along to club nights without being a member (subject, that is, to normal licensing laws regarding entities like young children). Membership costs 5 pa, traditionally running from January 1 to December 31. Membership saves you 1 on the cost of entrance and gives you a chance to get involved with running the club. Ask about membership when you visit.
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6. What does it cost to get in? And where do you get tickets?

Most people pay on the door as they arrive. This can be with cash or (preferably) by card. Tickets for our Guest nights are also available in advance from We Got Tickets - the link for the Guest on any specific night can be found in the list of upcoming gigs on this site's Home page.
Entry prices on Guest Nights are always the same, whoever is performing - 6 for members and 7 for non-members. Our policy is to hold them at this affordable level as long as we can. Even if you are performing a floor spot on Guest nights you still pay the normal amount. On Singers' and Musicians' singaround nights, where there are no paid guests, entry is 1 for everybody, including singers and musicians.
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7. Where does the money go?

We pay our professional guest artists, of course, and that generally accounts for 100% (occasionally even more!) of the entrance money on the door on any one night (depending on artist and the minimum guarantee required). The club is otherwise financed out of membership fees and the raffle (and occasional items of merchandise) which pays for things such as ads in TykesStirrings, printing flyers, paying web costs, and an emergency pot in case the audience take does not reach the agreed minimum guest fee.
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8. So how does a typical night pan out?

It varies according to the type of night (See Section 10 for types) but the evening starts at 7:30. On Guest nights, the MC will perhaps introduce the floor singers, and/or a Featured Support artist, and then the main act will perform for 40 minutes or so. After a short break the structure will be repeated - floor spots, main guest - with the aim of finishing up around 10:00pm. There will also be the raffle. Singers' and Musicians' evenings also start at 7.30 and end at 1000, are also run by an MC, and have an interval and usually a raffle. The MC aims to allow everyone to sing at least two songs (if they want to) during the course of the evening.
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9. Can I perform at the Topic?

Yes. Floor singers are welcome to on every club evening (though we can't guarantee a turn), but please sign in before 7:15. The easiest time to get a chance to play is on a Singers' and Musicians' night when everyone can have a go; see the next section (10) for more details. If you want to play on a professional basis as Main Guest or on a Double Header evening first see our Bookings Policy in Section 13 and then write to us at info4topic@gmail.com
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10. What do you mean by terms like "Double Header" and "Floor Singer"?

We have a variety of club evenings and types of performer, with levels ranging from solo first-timer having a go to international touring professionals, and here they are:

Singers’ and Musicians’ evenings.
These
are sometimes called singarounds and are held every first and third Thursday in the month (and every week in August) . Attendance anything from 15 to around 30. Most people go to the front and standup to perform, but if you prefer you can tackle your song from wherever you are sitting. Sing what you like. Not many people turn up just to listen, but you can if you want to, for fun or, for instance, if you want to get a feel for what goes on before attempting a song at a later gathering. Admission charge 1, and there is a raffle only if there are enough people there. If you're new, just show up and introduce yourself and see what happens.

Floor singers.
Floor singers are unpaid performers on the nights when professional acts are booked.
Floor spots are not booked, though you might want to let someone know in advance if you want to perform (especially if it involves lugging a double bass over to the venue...). We can use up to four floor singers in an evening, usually more available in the first half of the evening. Floor singers generally perform two numbers, and come to the front of the room to perform to the audience. As well as there being no fee payable, floor singers pay the normal entry charge to come in. Please be sure to sign in with the MC by 7:15 on club nights, so the MC can work out a running order. There are some online tips for what to do/expect in Floorsinging for Beginners; some of the contributors to that have, as it happens, played the Topic in their time, but there's no other connection.

Featured Support.
This is a formal support act to a Main Guest, attracting a (small) fee, and might be booked weeks or even months ahead, affording the chance to get into Topic printed advance publicity (as well as onto the website and into the historical archives of gigs since 1957!).

Double Header.
This features two acts of equal billing co-headlining, each performing two sets of about 25 minutes each. Double headliner slots are only offered to performers of a standard similar, or very close, to full Main Guest ability, and are generally booked six months in advance. The arrangement is much as for a single headline guest: they get the door take, split between them, and there will be floor singers on the night .

Main Guest.
This is the standard format for professional artists, who perform two 40-minute slots. Such bookings are reserved for well-established performers and/or performers who have worked their way up through one or all of the stages outlined above. Main guests can be booked approximately 9 to 12 months in advance, and all the door money goes to them.
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11. Who has played at The Topic?

Quite a few over the years including, in the old days, Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl, Ramblin Jack Elliott, Bert Jansch, Shirley Collins, Robin Williamson and his Incredible String Band, Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol, Martin Carthy, Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty, Christy Moore, Mike Harding, Vin Garbutt and June Tabor. More recently Julie Felix, Kate Rusby, Jez Lowe, Artisan, Pete Morton, The Durbervilles, Maggie Boyle, Kirsty McGee, Plumhall, Jon Palmer Acoustic Band, Rod Clements, Roger Sutcliffe and Wizz Jones have played.

There is anecdotal evidence that a very young Bob Dylan, on tour with Ramblin Jack Elliot, once played a floor spot, to very limited contemporary approval. However, it looks as though Paul Simon never did show up - despite the persistent legend that he was refused even a floor spot, presumably on his "tour of one-night stands". On the website there is a list of hundreds of weblinks to various known past guests, and also a comprehensive gig list since 1957.
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12. When was the club started up?

September 1956, by Alex Eaton and friends. It was not the first folk club in the UK, but it is the only survivor from then and now claims to be the oldest continuously-operating weekly folk club of its type in the world. By our reckoning, it has only been shut on fewer than 100 of more than around 3,300 possible club nights in that time (mostly for Christmas and New Year), not counting the 20 months closure for the 2020-21 Pandemic. It has been in fifteen venues, having moved to Groove Pad in 2021. See the History page of the website for more background.
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13. What is the booking policy for professional guests?

a. First performance
We could fill our schedules two or three times over, and while we don't want to get stuck repeating the same programme over and over again, we only have a little room to experiment with artists who are unknown.
One route to a headline booking is by attending a Singers and Musicians session, or asking for a Featured Support slot.

Headline performers who have followed this route to Headline status include Duncan McFarlane, Roger Davies, Stuart Douglas, Yan Tan Tether, Trials of Cato, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and Bella Gaffney. All these now-established Main Guest artists appeared at the Topic first at Singers' and Musicians' evenings, and most then also performed as Featured Support, when we had that option, before being booked as a main guest.

b. Return policy.
It is rare that a Main Guest will be invited back or booked again earlier than 18 months after their last performance. Policy for Double Headers is more relaxed, but as demand for these slots increases, it is unlikely that a booked return earlier than a year later could be expected. Floor singers perform according to demand, and absolutely anyone can come and perform any time at a Singers' and Musicians' evening.

c. Payment.
Main and double-header guests are paid 100% of the door take on the night or an agreed minimum, whichever is higher. All other club costs are paid out of the cost of membership, the raffle and the admission charge for the Singers' and Musicians' Nights.

d. How to approach us.
If you’d like to appear at the Topic, please do get in touch.
Write to us at info4topic@gmail.com

You can just turn up at a Singers’ and Musicians' evening, or email to request a floor spot at a guest night. If you are looking for a more formal booking, by all means send a demo CD (they will be returned, or paid for, on request). This should be accompanied by as much informative blurb as you can muster: performance style, history, previous performance venues, reviews, website address and so on, including your geographical location - all grist for the marketing mill.

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14. Who runs the Topic?

There is a Constitution, under which a committee of eight members is elected at each Annual General Meeting. The Committee meets quarterly. Specific roles such as Secretary, Treasurer, and Committee Chair are appointed by and from the Committee, and other Committee members agree to take on the crucial roles of Guest Artist booker, Publicity, and Door Manager.   There is a solid core of Committee members who have been active for several years (though none prior to 1996); but every year one or two Committee members step down, so there is always room - and encouragement - for any member who'd like to help run the club to join the Committee.

 

 




 

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