As you can see, we’ve taken the opportunity this Summer to give ourselves a bit of a glow-up.
We’re thrilled to reveal our new look, as well as a slight change to the name. We’ll now be known as Downend Folk & Roots, and we’re sure you’ll agree that our new images, featuring a fox and accompanied by the strap-line "The Village in the City" give us a striking new presence. All of the logos and images were designed by NICK SMITH ILLUSTRATOR DESIGNER, and we’re very grateful to him for all the time and effort that he’s put into getting this just right for us.
Regulars need not worry, though… all the things that you’ve come to know and love over the last eight-plus years will still be in place when you head back in September.
When we started back in April 2014, we used the name Downend Folk Club… but in truth, we never really were a folk club at all! What we do is put on monthly, professionally run concerts, and we’ve found that the words "folk club" conjures up certain images for some people… images that aren’t really a reflection of what we do.
We’ve also had our original logo since we began, and whilst it has served us well, the organising team felt that it was time for something fresh. The fox, and the idea of urban wildlife, and "The Village in the City" strapline are both intended to nod to the idea that Downend has its own identity as well as being part of Bristol. In the silhouettes in the background you will see factories, houses and our Christ Church Downend HQ.
As well as the name and the logos etc, there are a few other minor changes that you’ll spot. Firstly, all of our concerts will now be held at Christ Church Downend, which becomes our permanent home. Frenchay Village Hall has served us well, and we loved it there, but the flexibility that the church gives us, and the better accessibility, has made it an obvious choice to relocate there on a permanent basis.
Finally, there are a few changes behind the scenes and to our constitution but nothing that will make any difference… please ask if you want to know!
What’s not changing?
Our concerts will still feel very much the same as they always did. We’ll still have two artists each month (a support and a headline), there will still be the same great beer and cakes on offer, and the “stealth raffle” stays too, although it will now be called the monthly prize-draw. You’ll still be welcomed in the same way that you always have been, and the other thing that’s not changing is that we still need your support! Downend Folk & Roots remains “not-for-profit”, so without you, it doesn’t work!
We hope you like the new name and logos. Please let us know what you think!
Voting is now open as we decide on the recipient of the inaugural Cliff Woolley Memorial Award.
All of our support artists from September 2021 to July 2022 are automatically entered into the award, with the winner awarded a small bursary for them to spend on the advancement of their music career, as well as the headline slot at the Cliff Woolley Memorial Concert, where they will be joined on the bill by Bristol Morris Men and The Magnificent AKs… two groups with whom Cliff loved to dance and sing. This concert will take place on Friday 20th January 2023 at Christ Church Downend, and tickets will go on-sale along with the rest of the Spring programme in mid-October.
The award has been created to honour the memory of our dear friend Cliff Woolley, who sadly passed away last Summer. Cliff was a long-serving member of our committee, membership co-ordinator, bar volunteer and much, much more.
Cliff was a passionate music lover and could most often be found, with his wife Gaynor, at many concerts around Bristol and beyond, at loads of festivals. And if he wasn't singing, dancing or listening to music, he was usually talking about it (or about his other passion, Aston Villa FC (hence the colour scheme!). His musical tastes were very diverse; from Jethro Tull and Neil Young through to Jackie Oates and Martin Carthy.
He remains sadly missed, but we’re thrilled to be able to do something to reflect Cliff's passionate support of emerging talent on the folk scene.
VOTE ON FACEBOOK
"Can we just gig here all the time?", the trilby-wearing fiddle player asks the audience towards the end of the concert. Judging by the reaction of the gathered music-lovers, they’d be absolutely fine with that.
KIT HAWES & AARON CATLOW have been pillars of the Bristol folk music scene for years now, although they tell us a few times that they've now been priced out of Bristol and forced into North Somerset. Nonetheless, it’s astonishing to realise that this is their first visit to Downend Folk Club, and my goodness, it was worth the wait as they proved an absolute triumph in the relative coolness of Christ Church Downend on this hottest of hot days.
Kicking off the first half very aptly with The Fox (if you know, you know… if you don’t you’ll find out soon!), it’s clear from the outset that this is a duo at the top of their game. Aaron Catlow is a ball of energy… probably the most animated fiddle-players I’ve ever seen. His body twists and turns, his legs fly out at every angle and yet, despite this blur of movement, his playing is perfect, his fingers moving at a similar pace to the rest of his body as he effortlessly flies through tune after tune, reel after reel.
Sporting long blonde hair, Kit Hawes is less-animated but not by much, with rock-god guitar shapes and leaning and crouching in evidence plentifully. As the duo launch into their second number, a tune-set called Sullivan’s Hay, it’s very quickly apparent that they are both masters of their instrument. There’s none of the instrument-switching, here’s-one-on-the-banjo/harmonium/ukulele etc that we often see at Downend Folk Club. This is fiddle, guitar and two voices all night long… these two know what they’re good at.
Not that it’s one-dimensional; far from it. The tune-sets thrill and delight, but there’s variety even there… there are those where the pace seems unbelievable, the pair’s fingers moving in a blur, but there are also moments of quiet beauty. And then there are the songs. Both Kit and Aaron can sing… and I mean, they can really sing. Their voices compliment each other perfectly, and whether harmonising on old numbers like Hard Times of Old England ("this was first a hit in the 1800’s and then again in the 1950’s”, quips Kit), John Barleycorn or on one of their own songs, it seems they were born to sing, and play, together.
Aaron takes lead vocals just once, for the title track of their latest album Pill Pilots, a song about a group of highly-skilled mariners, who for over a thousand years guided tall ships through the treacherous waters of the Bristol channel and the river Avon. You could hear a pin-drop.
January’s concert will be a tribute to Cliff Woolley, a long-serving member of the Downend Folk Club team who sadly passed away last Summer. It will be headlined by the most popular support artist featured between September and July, as voted for by the regulars, the committee and Cliff’s wife Gaynor. If GOOD HABITS aren’t right near the top of the list, then the heat has clearly gone to people’s heads.
Made up of Bonnie Schwarz (cello, vocals) and Pete Shaw (accordion, backing vocals), they are the perfect foil to the headline duo, with their thoughtful alt-indie-folk vibes and energy charming the audience from the first note.
Their set almost takes the form of a story, with Bonnie cast as narrator as Pete provides the musical interludes. They take us on a journey; their journey, as they head for a couple of months in New Zealand and end up stuck there for a year due to you-know-what’. Their newest song The Earth Has Moved, about Bonnie's experience of an earthquake, and their take on Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill are highlights in a short set full of highlights. Surely we'll see them again, whether they are here in January or not, as the audience are clearly up for more of Bonnie's driving cello and Pete's sensitive musicianship.
But the last word goes to Kit and Aaron, much as it did this evening as the entire crowd demanded an encore. Downend Folk Club takes its annual month off in August, but what a way to wind things up for the Summer. They may have been priced out of Bristol, but they'll be welcome back here any time.
Words: Bea Furlong
Photos: Ant Miles/Barry Savell
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