Colchester Folk Club 1964 - 2018 - Elaine Barker

The folk club opened at The Recreation Hotel (‘The Rec’) in 1964 during the ‘Folk Revival’. It was the brainchild of the late Brian Hughes who had strong connections to CND and the sixties protest movement. That first night 16th March, the audience seemed to consist largely of Brian’s personal friends but by December that year membership stood at 300 and weekly audiences were between 80 and 100. Its first guest artist was a young Julie Felix who was about to become nationally known for her appearances on That Was the Week That Was. The following year, The Essex County Standard reported that Julie Felix had verbally agreed to play for the first birthday on 22nd March but in fact was booked by The Troubadour and Dave Moran of Chelmsford Folk Club to play in Colchester’s Moot Hall on the same night. After this mix-up the club went ahead and celebrated the first birthday with Sandy and Jeanie, Bob Davenport and other residents performing to an audience of 300. To the folk club’s delight, Julie Felix turned up (along with The Spinners) towards the end of the evening after the concert at the Moot Hall and treated the audience to a few songs. Organizer Brian Hughes claimed it as a triumph for the club pointing out that only 98 had attended the concert at The Moot Hall!! The third time Julie played, her agent phoned the organiser to say she’d like to play the club but there was to be no publicity and it was to be for members only. By then she was filling big concert halls. The fee was £50 so the ticket price had to be doubled. Many years later Julie returned (in 1999) to play for the club’s 35th birthday.

In the early years guests booked included Mike Harding (formerly of the BBC Radio Folk Programme), Arlo Guthrie (of Alice’s Restaurant fame), Long John Baldry, Jasper Carrot, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger, Louis Killen, Alex Campbell (a regular visitor), Sandy and Jeanie, A.L. Lloyd, Anne Briggs, Nadia Catoose, Bob Davenport, The Strawbs, Alexis Korner, The Watersons and Martin Carthy. Many artists were repeatedly booked since there wasn’t the network of professional artists there is now and with the explosion of folk clubs starting up and down the country the few professionals were very much in demand.

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