Alvar Smith

Alvar Smith - An appreciation by Derek Simpson

Alvar is not quite certain where he was born but he knows that he was born on 23rd August 1942, within the District of Wickham Market. The only child of Florence May and Thomas William Smith, he attended Tunstall School and then The Wickham Market Regional School until the age of fifteen. His father had been a career soldier in The Royal Artillery, and Alvar wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, after a month he had decided that it wasn't the life for him, and asked for a discharge. But the Army's loss was Marlesford Service Station's gain - as that's where he learned his skills as a mechanic. It was at this time he began to take an interest in music; playing guitar and singing in a local rock 'n' roll band The Spiders who performed at village hops.

Alvar Smith - working gamekeeper

Read more: Alvar Smith

Hobgoblin and My Concertinas - Simon Haines

In the early-1970s I lived in Devizes, Wiltshire. It was then that I became interested in folk music and went to my first festival. The year was 1972 and it was the first Chippenham and Lacock Festival - held in the delightfully picturesque village of Lacock. Among the guests I remember well were June Tabor, The Ian Campbell Folk Group and the hilarious John Alderslade, who went on to become the organiser of Trowbridge Village Pump Festival. But for me the star weekend was Tony Rose. After watching his set I decided I had to have a concertina like his. Of course I knew nothing then about the different types of concertina or where one could buy one. Someone told me the best places to look in were junk and antique shops, something I dutifully did wherever I went. There were plenty of ancient, battered one-row melodeons, mostly with leaky bellows and broken reeds, but could I find a concertina?  Finally I did find one in an antique shop in Bath but, at £30, it was out of my price range. In the end I gave up and made do with a a leaky old melodeon my then brother-in-law had bought me one Christmas. After weeks of futile attempts I finally managed to play Monks March - after a fashion.

Me, my Jefferies and my son Tom - now an established jazz composer

Read more: Hobgoblin and My Concertinas - Simon Haines

Hunter Muskett


People of a certain vintage will remember Hunter Muskett playing the folk circuit alongside Fotheringay, Fairport, Pentangle and Steeleye way back in the early 70’s. The band comprised Terry Hiscock, Chris George and Doug Morter and following their debut album release, Every Time You Move with Pentangle’s Danny Thompson, Rog Trevitt joined on bass guitar.

The four-piece gigged at home and abroad for five years releasing a second album, Hunter Muskett, produced by Keith Relf of The Yardbirds. During that time they claim to have played virtually every club in the British Isles whether invited to or not, including a major UK concert tour with Ralph McTell. Eventually Doug joined Magna Carta and the Albion Band among others but the group reformed when Cherry Red released the albums on CD in 2012.

Read more: Hunter Muskett

Traditional Music in Blaxhall

The village of Blaxhall, south west of Aldeburgh and Leiston, has long been associated with traditional Suffolk folk music. Cyril Poacher, Wicketts Richardson, Geoff Ling, Fred Pearce and many other now-departed old-timers brought considerable fame to Blaxhall, and specifically The Ship Inn, in the 1950s – 1970s when their rich tradition of folk singing – stretching back into the previous century – resulted in visits to the village by individuals and organisations who wished to record this musical heritage before it disappeared.

 Bob Scarce and Albert Wickets Richardson - The Ship 1953

The history of traditional singing, playing and step-dancing in Blaxhall and the surrounding has been well documented by Keith Summers in his book, Sing Say or Play A survey of East Suffolk Country Music,  which is now available to read online in its entirety on the Mustrad.org website, here and here.

Read more: Traditional Music in Blaxhall

SlackFolk - Live acoustic music in Colchester

SlackFolk has been running in Colchester since 2010, on the second Saturday of every month between 2.00 and 4.15 pm. We run it as a “folk drop in centre” - the audience comes and goes across the afternoon, which makes for a very relaxed environment for playing and listening. It provides a platform for acoustic artists, bands and poets to showcase their material and offers a chance for everybody to escape the chores of Saturday afternoon and listen to great, local music and poetry. Admission is free.

SlackFolk was started by folk musicians, Tom and Emma Hardy and is now run by Richard Brazear, singer, guitarist and mandolin player with Colchester groups The Four Blokes Trio and Grasshopper.  Performers are booked in advance for sets from 15 to 30 minutes. There are no headline acts, but performers from across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire (even North Yorkshire) come to play. At many SlackFolk sessions, as well as music, there will be poetry, street theatre or spoken word.


East Creek Union play SlackFolk, Piatto Café, Colchester

SlackFolk developed from Slack Space - a not-for-profit, volunteer-run initiative that transformed empty shops and buildings into community art and entertainment spaces in the town centre. As well as SlackFolk, Slack Space had regular art exhibitions; French folk dance, tango and belly dancing sessions; poetry, art, computer and acting workshops; and was home to ‘Annie’s Fantasies’ Clog Morris Team. In 2015, Slack Space closed, because the landlord terminated the lease on the existing venue (the Old Police Station) and there were insuperable problems in finding a suitable new venue. It no longer exists as a formal organisation, although quite a few of the artists involved in it still maintain an informal Slack Space network.

SlackFolk continued at the Piatto Café, at the corner of Queen Street and the Priory Walk pedestrian precinct in Colchester town centre, initially on a temporary basis, but has been established there since. The performers and volunteers who manage the sound system and publicity provide their services for no fee, which enables free admission for the audience. Audiences usually run at around the 50 -70 level, often with over 100 people dropping in to the session over the course of the afternoon.

During the last two years, SlackFolk has additionally run mini acoustic festivals in the Spring and Autumn at the Firstsite Gallery in Colchester, which are progressively becoming more popular. The next one is scheduled for Saturday 6th October between 12.00 noon and 5.00 pm.

If you’d like to know more or would like to perform, contact:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or
Richard Brazear on 07850 773291

Website - http://www.slackfolk.co.uk/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/SlackFolk

The Piatto Café is at 17-19 Priory Walk, Colchester CO1 1LG
www.cafeincolchester.com/

Coffee, tea and food (as well as alcoholic drinks) are available at the Piatto Café at commercial prices.

Suffolk Folk

Norfolk Folk Association

Admin