Here’s a little secret: ‘Downend Folk Club’ was ALMOST called ‘Downend & Frenchay Folk, Blues and Acoustic Club’. Quite a mouthful, which was only one (there were a few!) of the reasons that the organisers settled on the simpler title. 

But folk and blues have always been comfortable bedfellows, and July’s headline guest proves that this great local live music venue are committed to bringing you the best up-and-coming performers from the very edges of the ‘folk’ genre.

You could be forgiven for thinking, at first listen, that SUNJAY is older than his 22 years.

With a relaxed and confident manner, vocal style and mastery of his instrument he walks onto stage and addresses the audience as though he is sitting down to play music with a group of close friends; a completely natural approach for a young man who picked up the guitar when he was just 4 years old and hasn’t put it down since.

Sunjay’s style has that natural drift between folk and blues and both camps have recognised his obvious flair. There have been a clutch of award nominations, including winning the Wath Festival Young Performers Award. He also made the final selection for the BBC’s Young Folk Award in 2012, had three nominations at the Exposure Music Awards 2014 and was also recognised by the 2014 British Blues Awards.

Drawing from a rich, musical and cultural background, it is hardly surprising that Sunjay has quickly become recognised as one of the UK’s rising stars. His performances have been described as “mature & confident”, while his guitar playing has been hailed as “superb, brilliant, experienced, intricate & faultless”. Sunjay clocked over a hundred tour dates in 2013 supporting the likes of Steeleye Span, Martin Simpson, Passenger, and Terry Reid. With three albums already to his name, (‘Seems So Real’ in 2011, ‘One Night Only’ in 2013 and 'Sunjay' in 2014) Sunjay has just recorded his fourth release, ‘Black & Blues’ and his gig at Downend Folk Club is part of the official album release tour.

Downend Folk Club’s Steve Johnson said: “We’ve always tried to put on a range of music, and we’ve featured blues-type acts in the past. Gren Bartley was an early guest, and Chris Cleverley last summer showed that our audience have an appetite for the bluesier end of folk. Sunjay is one of the forefront acts that straddles the narrow divide between folk and blues. It promises to be a great gig!”

Support on the evening will come from LARA CONLEY. Lara's career has been a mix of solo and collaborative work as well as being a featured vocalist on the works of other bands including Audible, The Summertides and Slow Falling Sun. 

Unifying all these works are the central threads of equality, tradition, stories, songs and protests. Lara wrote an album in support of the global gender equality movement 'Thursday's In Black' and was recently involved in running a workshop tent at Thirteen Moons Festival with Seventh Wave Music.

After her solo album 'Apple Tree', Lara formed the collaborative folk world fusion duo 'The Alchemist's Wardrobe' who are currently touring the UK; Lara’s appearance at Downend Folk Club is a rare chance to see her perform solo. 

The event takes place at Downend Folk Club’s regular home of Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 15th July. Doors open at 7.30pm, with the music starting at around 8.00pm. There will be a full bar, serving locally-brewed Great Western Brewing Co. real ale, Severn Cider, wine and a full range of soft drinks, tea and coffee. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket(!) as part of the club’s drive to be environmentally sustainable. There will also be the classic folk club raffle! For more info, please visit the Downend Folk Club website, www.downendfolkclub.co.uk, or find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and any other social media platform that you happen to frequent!

Tickets for the event are priced at £11 each, but if you buy before Friday 8th July, you can get them for the ‘Early-Bird’ price of just £9 each. Tickets are available from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend or online from www.downendfolkclub.co.uk. Members tickets are a bargain £8 each (before Friday 8th July) and are available from the Members Area of the website or direct from the folk club’s chairman Ant Miles. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

We are thrilled to reveal our programme for Autumn/Winter 2016. it’s jam-packed full of the finest folk musicians in the country… so much so that we honestly believe it’s our best yet!

Kicking off the programme in September will be the incredible LEVERET, which features three of England's finest folk musicians in an exciting new collaboration. Andy Cutting, Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron are each regarded as masters of their instrument and together their performances combine consummate musicianship, compelling delivery and captivating spontaneity.

Returning to the club in October will be a firm DFC favourite, this time as part of an exciting new duo. ANGE HARDY & LUKAS DRINKWATER formed as a duo for the 14-night tour that accompanied the multi-award winning ‘Esteesee’, and their appearance at the club will be part of an October tour of their new duo album ‘Findings’.

Our headliners in November will be the spellbinding LADY MAISERY, as they too tour a new album, ‘Cycle’. With their unique approach to harmony singing and thoughtful, striking arrangements of both traditional repertoire and original compositions, Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans are skilful explorers of the power, beauty and vitality of folk song. Each member is also an accomplished instrumentalist; they expertly create a rich tapestry of fiddle, banjo, harp, concertina, accordion and foot percussion.

Rounding off the programme as part of their annual Winter tour will be BELSHAZZAR’S FEAST, a duo hailed by R2 Magazine as “a bona fide English classic”. In 1995 Paul Hutchinson (accordion) and Paul Sartin (oboe, violin and vocals) shared a musical passion borne out of the desire to earn sufficient money to support their extravagant lifestyles. Their amazing musicianship coupled with wry humour has stunned audiences around Europe and the States.

As you've come to expect, we've also got some great support acts lined-up as we welcome THE HUT PEOPLE to open proceedings for Leveret in September, MIKE WEAVER supporting Ange & Lukas in October, while ASHLAND will kick off Lady Maisery's show in November. The final support slot of the year will be provided by Bristol-based old-time string band THE NINETREE STUMBLERS (in duo form) in December.

Tickets for each event are £14 each, but each one is available for an 'Early Bird' rate of £12 up to the Friday before each gig. available online now here. And we’ve listened to your feedback, too, so now, for the first time, you can purchase a ‘Season Ticket’, which gets you tickets for all four gigs in one easy move, which you can get here, but be quick... it will only be available until Friday 9th September. Due to the high-profile artists we’re bringing you, we’re anticipating a huge number of tickets to go quite quickly, so early-booking is strongly recommended.

 

We hope you’ll be as thrilled with this programme as we are!

I was pleasantly surprised when ANT MILES messaged me this morning to ask if I’d like to review the evening’s gig – I’ve been a supporter and member of the excellent Downend Folk Club for a couple of years now, and I continue to be amazed by the quality of live acts that they attract – nearly all have been personal favourites, and, although it’s nearly 30 miles away from my home in the Forest of Dean, it is very convenient to get to (road closures permitting!), and I think of it as my local club – always a friendly, appreciative crowd, and usually a sell-out.

The evening started a with the support act, singer/songwriter STEVE PLEDGER, whose songs  have ‘something to say’ – he started with a very lyrically powerful, poignant song about the relationship between a son and his father, and the feeling with which it was delivered seemed to me that it was auto-biographical. He then treated us to a series of emotionally charged songs, stripped back to basics with very delicate, yet effective arrangements – his emotional voice grabbing your attention to the subject of each song.  ‘This Land is Poundland’, perhaps a parody of the famous Woody Guthrie song with a similar name bemoaned the death of our High Streets and consumerism reducing goods to cost, not value, and he finished up with  ‘Striking Matches In The Wind’, dedicated to Jo Cox and Idealism. All the songs make you think, and are written & delivered sincerely, skilfully & emotionally – very impressive.

 Photo: Alan Cole

After a short break, SW Australian based LUCY WISE took the stage with her ukulele, the mics & instruments tastefully decorated with Flower & Fairy lights. Her first song is very upbeat and we know we’re in for a treat… She switches to guitar for her next song ‘Song for Shanti’ -, this, and the next song ‘Sleepwashed Morning’ were inspired by poems written for the National Schools poetry competition for 6-17 year olds, and the imagery evoked is enchanting. She tells us that her father is a Luthier, and she also makes instruments – all the instruments she is using this evening were made by her family – impressive! She sings a song for her Dad, reminding her of their walks in the Indian Ocean. Well travelled, she tells us of volunteering with little/no experience for an Ocean-going yacht trip from Darwin to Ambon, and sings a very delicate song recalling the trip. SIMON DUMPLETON (piano/accordion), whom she only met yesterday, then joins her on accordion for the next song – ‘Little Bag’, into which everything that is important can be fitted, and they play together like seasoned professionals – superb.

KIRSTY BROMLEY now joins them on stage, and they explain that this is Part II of their Two Hemispheres tour, and that they have in common The Spookie Mens Chorale, whom each of them supported on UK tours. Lucy had flown in from an extensive solo US tour just a couple of days ago, so rehearsal time has been at a premium.  They sing together ‘Neighbourhood Song’ with delicate counterpoint harmonies, and understated accordion.. lovely – the 1st half ends with rapturous applause….

"Another triumph for all the hard work of the volunteers at Downend Folk Club!"

Restarting after the raffle, as announced by Ant’s son Josh, Kirsty sings, unaccompanied, a song 'Season of Peace, Season of War' about hope / joy, a poignant tribute to recent world events. Lucy & Simon then join her to sing ‘The Valley Song’, very harmonious & atmospheric, with delicate percussion from Lucy on the shiny red egg! Kirsty then sings a traditional chorus song English Ground including an accordion solo William Tailors Table Top Hornpipe from Simon. Kirsty tells us that she’s spent the last 6 months touring Aus/NZ with Lucy & Simon Taberner – the first half of the 'Two Hemispheres Tour', and we hear that Ant Miles has organised all the UK dates on the tour. Kirsty then sings the title track of her recent album ‘Time Ashore’, a sailor’s lament, and we all join in the chorus… very atmospheric song. Kirsty then sings a new song which she wrote in a café in Melbourne, simply called ‘I cannot write this song’ – a gentle, beguiling song with metaphorical imagery – when she finishes, she tells us it’s the first time she’s sung it in public. Next is the trad. song ‘Twas on One April Morning’, about the fickleness of young men – another opportunity for us to add our voices. Kirsty then sings unaccompanied her new Single ‘Absent Mother’, about the relationship between a mother & her daughter… enchanting. Next is a very soft & gentle song penned by Kate Fagan – ‘Roll Sweet Rain’ about rain & bush fires in the Aussie Outback. It’s time for the last song! ‘One more Time’ about friendship, and we add our voices to the best chorus of the night.. superb. To enthusiastic applause, they return to the stage for an encore, and the trio sing accapella ‘Row On’ to finish the night in style…. Another triumph for all the hard work of the volunteers at Downend Folk Club.

Kirsty sings traditional & self-penned siongs with a maturity way beyond her years, and has enthralled me since first hearing her back in 2011, when she did a short support slot for Nancy Kerr & James Fagan at Ruskin Mill – she was travelling nanny to their children at the time. Her voice is used as an instrument, and many of her songs are sung unaccompanied, beautifully, and poignantly – she deserves every success.

- Chris Hedges, DFC regular