5 Reviews 2018 and looking back to 2014/2013


On Saturday 30th June 2018 we hosted Acorn Open Stage at West Somerset Folk Festival in the afternoon, al fresco, with tea and homemade cakes.  This was absolutely brilliant.  We staged no less that 27 spots involving over 30 people between 4 pm and 5.45 pm.   All on the veranda at the back of Carhampton Recreational Hall, this makes a natural stage and the generosity of everyone in providing cakes is just amazing, weather glorious, all performers excellent.   For the whole festival see www.westsomersetfolkfestival.co.uk and for our part in it - please click on photos in the left hand column.    



It is a gratifying thing to have the guest, French blues/jazz/folk singer Flossie Malavialle,  say that she had a fantastic time with the wonderful audience at Acorn Acoustic Music Club on Sat 19th May in the United Reformed Church Hall.  She had just returned from the Ibiza Folk Festival where she had been performing alongside Show of Hands, and has also supported Fairport Convention, so it is great that she will come to a small town like Minehead and perform in a totally committed way from her amazingly wide repertoire – she has produced no less than 12 albums.

Part of her charm is that between songs she has her Franglais patter, telling how she taught English in France, and came to England 16 years ago to improve her English.  As it happens she quickly became part of the thriving music scene in the North East of England, and learned an entirely different type of English from "that which she had been teaching" - finding that most English do not worry about where in a sentence a preposition is, and making everyone roar with laughter - really at themselves - with oxymorons such as "Now then" and "Awfully nice" and "British Summer"; also at our idiomatic terms such as "bless your cotton socks" (why not woollen socks?) and describing how there are no such equivalents in France, so this humour was all part of the magical evening alongside her stunning ability to use her velvet voice accompanied by her gutsy guitar playing in a wide range of genres.

To mention just a few from her two 45 minute sets, she opened with "More Hills to Climb" by a contemporary songwriter Keith Pearson, following on with Paul McCartney's "Early Days" from his comparatively recent album "New" about the time before The Beatles were famous.  There followed a superb rendition as per Edith Piaff "La Foule", followed by Abba's "Slipping through my fingers".  Throughout her performance she drew in her audience and encouraged all to sing with her choruses so that everyone was moved by her Roberta Flack's version of "Killing Me Softly".

Her second set, when again she joked about speaking English with her both French and NE accent, and how she's learned to say "me Mam" and tack "like" to the end of sentences.   Then she wowed us with "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson, but of course, Janis Joplin style.  Yet she can change the mood with an emotional song about a statue of an English soldier Tommy, known as The Tin Man on Seaham Harbour written by John Wrighton.  Too many to describe all in detail she sang a spine tingling version of Edith Piaff's "Je regret rien", to receive a standing ovation (a first for any guest at Acorn Acoustic - yet guests of both international and national standing on the acoustic music scene are booked by the club), which of course led to a demand for an encore, and Flossie completed a ragingly successful evening with her Louis Armstrong style "What a Wonderful World".  

This last could not have been more apt after the wonderful weather for the Royal Wedding showing England at his best.  The evening was charmingly MC'd by Geoff Williams, juggling the very able floor spots, who could produce two or three songs as necessary "off the cuff" - notably himself the Cornish "Away Down to Lamorna",  Rita Tremain - a couple of Irish songs, Benn Banks - his outstanding one "The Smuggler's Song", Mike Dibble singing English traditional about Grace and Beauty, Eileen Ann Moore "Plaisir d'amour" especially for Flossie, Jim Parham reciting an old poem in authentic Somerset dialect, and The Somerset Nightingales giving two romantic songs in honour of the Royal Occasion, one being the traditional "Searching for Lambs" – with  the final line  "We'll join our hands in wedded bands, and married we shall be".   May the Club have many more such evenings, and thanks are due to all attended.



This was originally advertised for 18th March but we were snowed off, so after much phoning and emailing around, the occasion was re-arranged for the following Sunday 25th March.  Not quite so many people were free then, but nevertheless we had 14 people here which made for a very happy afternoon of songs and poetry, lots of cakes, tea and laughter and very generous raffle - I think all went home with a prize.   And we raised £55 for our funds.   So thanks to everyone who attended. 


“Everyone has made us feel so welcome” exclaimed Appalachian duo Alice and David Wylde, who were the guests at the Acorn Acoustic Music Club’s Annual Party held on Saturday 20th January in Minehead’s United Reformed Church Hall.   And why not – as so many listeners said they could have listened to Alice all evening, and that they wanted more.   From a large singing family with the West Virginian tradition of singing, Alice said she had been brought up singing, and that her mother said you must always include a Gospel song when you perform.   Although English, David has adapted to the style of unusual harmonies and sometimes sings a drone accompaniment, but also plays guitar very competently alongside her true old time banjo style playing.

This couple encouraged the audience to join in during their two hugely varied sets: “Sweet Fern”, “West Sassy Fresh Tea” – a good old Southern brew which cures whatever ails you, “Just as Good as Gold” –  very humorous anecdotes about a docile husband, “Cockeyed Girl who lived on the Hill”, “West Virginian Love Story” and an excellent yodelling number, bringing in the Springtime, this being the Gospel number.   All of these were sung and played in stunning style, and more too numerous to mention.   Something very nice which Alice remarked upon was the “Bring and Share” supper which is a feature of an Acorn party, and how much community spirit that added to the rather superb evening, everyone there being so generous.   

Supporting Alice and David was the Welshman Greg Rowlands, who has a rich baritone voice with good rhythmical guitar, who was kind enough to say “It’s a privilege to perform at the Acorn”.  His two sets included a journey from Australia to Philadelphia and ending up in France with a touching song “Refugees” by The Young ‘Uns, a very much up and coming group on the current music scene.    We also had the pleasure of hearing Greg’s friend Paul Frowen accompanying himself on the enchanting autoharp for two numbers, one being Mr Bojangles so everyone could sing along.

A good number of people took part in the annual fun decorated hat competition with a prize for best man’s and best woman’s hats – though many were very innovative especially a decorated turkey shaped hat with “turkey crown” labelled on the back! 

Fred Povey is a great MC because he is full of fun, writing amusing poems and interim jokes while musicians or singers come on and off stage, thus maintaining a very light hearted and happy atmosphere – “laughter is the best medicine” comes alive in his presence.

There were also 12 floor spots, all very able performers, some of whom researched an Amercian song for the themed evening, and those floor spots add to the whole evening’s participatory atmosphere.  Some of these loyal performers travel from beyond both Taunton and Bridgwater, such is the Acorn’s following.

The evening ended with the Acorn Shanty Crew leading a rousing shanty session, and inviting the guests, both Welsh and American, to join them for the double finale of “Rolling Home” followed by the Sailor’s Farewell “It’s Time to Go Now” as sung by Yankee Jack.     EAM



Acorn Acoustic Music Club hosted the internationally renowned singer/songwriter Jez Lowe on Saturday 16th September in the United Reformed Church Hall with its excellent acoustics.   He plays a variety of stringed instruments, and is a master practitioner of them all, but it is his moving and sometimes humorous song writing that is astounding.

He gave rather charming introductions to his songs, too, saying at some festivals he’s been before 3,000 people alongside big bands like Lindisfarne, and toured Australia and the continent, and has worked for years on BBC 2 Radio Ballad programmes.   For this, usually people are interviewed, and then Jez will write fitting songs.  For this year on Remembrance weekend, past recorded interviews with war veterans will be used speaking of 1917, 100 years ago, which material Jez will use for his writing.  He described how extraordinary it was that young soldiers should travel by nearly 1200 red London buses to the Western Front, with less than 250 returning.  This lead to his, on the surface, amusing but underlying serious song "I caught the wrong bus", which some listeners said afterwards they had had both tune and words going round in their heads all night!  It was tremendously effective.  

He performed two 45 mins sets to great applause.   He is from County Durham and told of his father and uncles being miners, from which his famous song “Black Diamonds” (the sparkling coalface), originates. His father worked the early shift at 3 am all his life, and his mother got up at 2 am to pack his lunch (known as bait) - there followed an emotional song about an older man "having no-one to put his bait up".   From the mining community many songs and poems were written by the workers, and Jez is part of a quartet known as the Pitman Poets.  

 Also he spoke of the Finnish boat “The Bergen” which was lost at the mouth of the Tees after a struggle in a storm up the East Coast of England, and being inspired to write “The Bonny Boat, the Bergen” thinking of the Finnish wives waiting for their men at home.  This song made such an impression on the area that it was decided to dive and discover the wreck,  the anchor was found and is now on display.

He spoke of the North East people being very romantic and sang his beautiful song “London Danny” (by request), telling of the NE lad who returns from London with a threat to a settled marriage[EAM1]  “now don’t you take her from me, London Danny ..”.  All his tunes are different and really appealing, and he encourages the audience to sing with his choruses, which draws people in even more.

His whole programme and the soft quality of both his speaking and singing voice captured the Acorn Acoustic audience. Another notable song, this time amusing, was The Austerity Alphabet – A is for Austerity, B is for Bankers, C is for Credit and D is for Debt etc. – a very clever composition, as indeed all his work is.

Fred Povey’s two spots on twists in the English language carried on a similar theme, with hugely funny puns like “why do we say smelly feet and runny noses?”  Also in his second spot: little sister to big sister “why do we have to be quiet in church” – answer “because they’re all asleep” !

The floor spots took up the contemporary feel with Eileen Ann Moore singing songs by award winning Dougie McLean, Mick Ryan and Graham Miles and one of her own compositions; Geoff Williams upholding his tradition of singing Ralph McTell songs and also MCing the evening so well.  In contrast Jim Parham sang the shanty “Spanish Ladies” collected by Cecil Sharp here in Minehead from Captain Vickery, and told two interesting local stories about Culbone – hint – why is Porlock church spire unfinished and Culbone Church spire looking as though it would exactly fill the gap?

Three birthdays were celebrated with the club’s traditional chocolate cake, and of course for Jez there were calls for an encore – when he said he is presently recording old traditional songs not self-penned, so finished with the fine example of “Bobby Shaftoe” – so moving with all present singing with him.  Thanks as ever to all who attended this wonderful evening.   

EAM www.acornfolkclub.co.uk (for photos and further details).



On Saturday 12th August The Acorn Acoustic Music Club hosted the excellent husband and wife duo Issy and David Emeney, in the United Reformed Church Hall, Minehead.  It has been noted before that this venue has the most excellent acoustics, with high ceiling and wooden floor.   There was a really good attendance, with 11 floor spots, a set of well known shanties with audience participation from The Acorn Shanty Crew and two 40 min sets from the guests, and a finale of all performers on stage for John Tams’ “Rolling Home” with the roof raised as virtually everyone in the hall was singing. 

The evening was also partly for founder Eileen Ann Moore’s birthday party, and there was cake in the interval.  Fred Povey MC’d with charm and humour, and gave one of his hilarious poems.


Eileen Ann began the evening with a self-penned song about her childhood and in particular her father’s pony and trap and giving rides at the annual village feast day in Buckinghamshire; this song beginning each verse with “My old Dad”.   So it was rather fascinating that the guests Issy and David talked about attending a fair in their childhood when they might have both been present but unknown to each other, a fair about which  Issy had written an excellent song “Winchester Fair”, and that she also had written a beautiful song when David’s father was very ill, which also began with “My Old Dad.”

These guests had a very pleasant way of speaking to the audience, of their lives, of their three daughters, of meeting each other, saying that the excellent song Rita Tremain sang “Geordie” (trad and well known through Joan Baez), was a key factor in their falling in love when Issy heard David sing it for the first time.  The reference to their daughters was being on holiday on a beach in England and having such a relaxed family time, when they heard of the Malaysian air atrocity in 2014, leading to Issy writing “One Hundred Years” remembering the war to end all wars, and which can be heard on youtube  https://www.youtube.com/c/IssyEmeney

Issy has three melodeons (you can never have too many said she) and is a very accomplished player, often accompanying while David sings.   She is a teacher and leader of a choir in Cheddar.  David also is a very sensitive guitar player.  Issy composes sophisticated and descriptive melodies, one being about a little boy’s day from waking, to being busy and then bedtime and fading away to sleep.  David spoke of working in archives in their home county of Suffolk, and discovering the story of the Red Barn Murder, which was a very engrossing tale – song again by Issy - and likewise since they have lived in Somerset working in Bristol archives. 

Within their repertoire they also had some traditional songs, one in each set about mole catching.   Again there was a link with Jim Parham having sung earlier Tim Laycock’s song “The Carter”, in which a brown horse is described as being “as smooth as a mole”.    Other excellent floor spots came from Geoff Williams with sensitive guitar playing, Benn Banks who travels all the way from Westport, Jenny and Rob Williams of Cossington, who are wonderful performers of songs collected on the Quantocks and key members of the Shanty Crew.  Also a very welcome visit from Peter McDonald, a Morris man and melodeon player, on holiday here, and who performed two very amusing songs, one being Love in a Launderette by John Kirkpatrick.

The organisers welcomed new faces and many regulars and the evening was most delightful.   Next date 16th Sept – see www.acornfolkclub.co.uk  


Acorn Acoustic Blues Night

Many people bought a CD and like us would want to relive the evening the very next day, because the guests, Pete Harris and Jon Vaughan, who appeared at the Acorn Acoustic Music Club on Sat 13th May in the United Reformed Church Hall, were just so sensational!

Southampton Jazz Club had commented “to get better you would have to go to Chicago”, and this was certainly true of their amazing performance on guitar, blues harp, and metal guitar played bottle neck style, which Pete described as his urban assault bullet deflector – this used for Mississippi hill country blues!

Pete – exceptional guitarist and vocalist – who has been to the Acorn before with Mick Ryan, has in the last five years found a new soul mate in virtuoso blues harpist Jon Vaughan, and the duo is remarkable.   Refreshingly, Jon’s wife Yuki also played two blues harp solos and made a big impression on the audience with “The Midnight Special”.

The floor spots were well liked, Eileen Ann Moore, Jim Parham, Rita Tremain, Fred Povey with his own poetry, Mike Dibble with a May song (he always chooses aptly), Geoff Williams with excellent guitar playing, and The Somerset Nightingales in good voice and harmonies,  encouraging the audience to participate in choruses.   This laid the scene that the Acorn is a singing club, and likewise Pete and Jon were only too happy for everyone to join in well known blues numbers.

The evening made us feel young again, as the stunning guests opened with Lead Belly’s “Good Morning Blues”, continuing with East Coast finger picking style “Angels Laid Him Away”, a Gospel item “I’m Going Home on the Morning Train”, Pete’s own composition in traditional blues style with a contemporary twist “I-phone Blues”; their programme was so diverse and included Cajun from Louisiana in old French “The Back Door”, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” viz Bessie Smith from the 1920s, more Gospel from Sonny Terry with “O What a Beautiful City”, and an outstanding blues harp boogie from John Vaughan including effects from a drinking glass as from Chicago blues harmonica player Big Walter Horton.  Naturally in a review not all items can be included, but terrific audience applause led to a Ray Charles encore.

New listeners were attracted on this occasion as the Club is widening the musical genres booked,

and this evening can be classed as a great success for the Acorn Acoustic Music Club, though still not quite viable in attendance numbers, yet in most respects we could not have had a better evening – look out for forthcoming concerts www.acornfolkclub.co.uk  


Review for Acorn Acoustic Music Club Review of Celtic Party 21st Jan

In one evening at the Celtic Party, the Acorn Acoustic Music Club hosted many genres of music from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England and America, featuring songs from leading contemporary song writers from all over the British Isles, and music hall items, after starting the evening with Robert Burns and finishing with some of our national treasure of local sea shanties collected by Cecil Sharp from Yankee Jack of Watchet.   

There was a good number of amateur floor spots to support the guests who were Eileen Ann Moore (representing Scotland), Greg Rowlands of Wales, The Hummingbirds – Ian Hudson and Su from Devon, and The Acorn Shanty Crew.  There was also a good and generous audience who helped to swell the superb “bring and share” spread and also the chorus singing in many of the songs. 

First came Eileen Ann, opening with the Celtic grace – “May the road rise up to meet you”, and following with Radio 2 Folk Award Lifetime Award winner for song writing, Dougie McLean’s “Caledonia”, and the traditional “Gypsy Rover” based on a true story of the gypsy Johnny Faa who stole the castle’s lady.    Jim Parham sang duets with her in Robert Burns’ “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” and “Call the Yowes”.  Immediately there was rousing participation in choruses.

The moment “The Hummingbirds” started their harmony singing with “Tall ships” by Steve Knightley of Show of Hands, we knew we had made an excellent choice in asking them to so kindly stand in for the advertised Cornish singer Roger Smith, who was unable to attend because of a knee operation.   Their next items “Liquid lunch” (led by Su with Ian’s splendid guitar accompaniment) was ideally amusing for a party night, followed by the relaxed “Peaceful easy feeling” and “Mr Bojangles”, “Back home again”, excellent harmonies in “Love hurts” and calling up previously unmet Greg Rowlands, the Welsh guest to join them in Steve Knightley’s “Cousin Jack”; it is wonderful to see the instant rapport between like-minded people.  Finishing with “Sitting on a dock of the bay” this delightful duo thanked us for inviting them to perform and said how thoroughly they had enjoyed the evening.

Likewise, Greg Rowlands of the rich Welsh baritone voice and fitting own guitar accompaniment, thanked us for inviting him to sing “at our great club”.   He chose such a clever programme with a wealth of meaningful contemporary songs, all of which were moving from his opening “Annie McElvie[EAM1] ”, “Take us Down” describing a young lad’s first day working in the pit with his father, “Drift from the Land” by Graham Miles which includes the words “all the young men have gone to the city”, John Tams’ “Snow Fall” from Warhorse, “The Wrong Bus” written by Jez Lowe (to be guesting at Acorn in September), which tells of a young man being recruited to the first world war in by accident, “Another Harvest” by Mick Ryan from his Folk Opera “A Day’s Work” – again a first world war story and an artist who has been booked at the Acorn, finishing with the renowned Kate Rusby’s “Old Man Time”.  What a programme and what a singer and what a night – there was not a person who didn’t go home joyful.

Excellent floor spots came from Benn Banks of Westport with American material including the hilarious “Hit the Road Cat”, and Rob and Jenny Williams (also members of the Shanty Crew) who travel from Cossington, with such well-rehearsed music hall, ideal for party night, who were also the winners of the decorated hat competition (see photograph).

Irish items came from Rita Tremain and Alan Jones, who included some typical Irish jokes, both also members of the Crew, and last, but certainly not least, Geoff Williams – Crew member and terrific MC – with his so apt rendition of the ideal Ralph McTell song telling of the decline of mining in Scotland, England and Wales.

The organisers would like to thank all those who attended, gave so generously of party fare and prizes, and all the fantastic performers.  EAM & RJP



On Saturday 15th October the Acorn Folk Club hosted the superb duo Mick Ryan and Paul Downes in the United Reformed Church Hall, a charming venue with excellent acoustics.  Mick is renowned for his fine baritone voice and his outstanding song writing talent, and has composed several folk operas; Paul’s accompaniment is second to none, moving freely from banjo to guitar.  Mick gave informative introductions about the inspiration for his songs, but there is also a fair amount of banter between them which makes for a very pleasant atmosphere.   The opening number “The Road to Dorchester” from the Tolpuddle Martyrs by Mick and fellow composer Graham Moore gave a rousing start, followed by a delightful story of a woman who was born at midnight 1899, at the turn of the century leading to Mick’s song “The Bells Rang” with exquisite bell ringing effects in harmonics on the guitar.  An amusing item was “The Pig and the Parson”, and heartfelt items “The Passing Hour” – the title track of their new CD and “The Thankful Village” – a place where all the young soldiers returned from the war safe completed their first set.  

The evening opened with birthday cake for four Acorn Folk Club members, and was supported by regular floor spots Eileen Ann Moore, Jim Parham, Geoff Williams who also MC’d, Mike Dibble and Rob and Jenny Williams (fine singers who travel from Cossington).   An additional surprise visit from professional Appalachian singers Alice and David Wylde were the icing on the cake!

Mick and Paul continued their second set with requests “South Armagh”, noting his Irish heritage, “Summer is a Coming in” which comes from his current folk opera “A Day’s Work” a story of the first world war, “Love is Life” written at a very emotional time for Mick when his father passed but he observed that other peoples’ lives go on as though nothing has happened, and “The Pauper’s Path” from his work about the Victorian workhouse, where the workers had a separate path from rich owners – “The Paupers’ Path to Hope”.   A huge ovation from the appreciative audience led to a requested encore “Poppies” with an equally touching introduction of how poppies grow on disturbed earth, and comes from his show “The Navvies” which tells of Britain’s canal building.     

Whilst the evening was magical, numbers were a little down, although this is believed to be coincidence, and the Club organisers thank all who attended and performed and look forward to the next meeting which will be a Celtic Party on 21st January 2017 – a date not to be missed!  All details www.acornfolkclub.co.uk



The Acorn Folk Club held a sell-out revival meeting at the United Reformed Church Hall in Minehead on Saturday 13th August, hosting the internationally respected folk singer/songwriter Pete Morton, who has a wealth of great songs, an enlivening stage presence and delivery of his own dynamic and thought provoking material.  Although he didn’t sing “Courage, Love and Grace”, an older song from his repertoire, as someone who has admired him for over 30 years, and indeed booked him at the Acorn Folk Club for the fifth time, this being more than any other artist during the 14 year life of the club, I always think of him as having courage – the courage to write his songs with emotional and humanitarian content, and to have achieved becoming a professional musician for a living; then there is love in many of his songs, be it for his own family, his son, his parents, or for the human race as a whole; finally he has the grace to be quite modest about his over flowing talent and the rich timbre of his singing voice and his own perfect style of guitar accompaniment.

In two forty minute sets he gave us 15 songs, from his opening number describing the life of the poet John Clare who walked to London to get his work published with “The Shepherd’s Song”, to the “The Love of You”, “Land of Time” (for his 5 year old son), “The Luckiest Man” (for his mother and father), to hilarious items “Seven Billion Eccentrics” and “Related to Me” (of an ape thinking about the human race). As he opened his second set, his song “When we Sing Together” virtually brought the roof down with not a silent voice in the room; he then moved on to his own miraculous invention of a folk rap version of “Farmer’s Boy”, followed by the heart searching “Shores of Italy”, which was a comment on the current refugee crisis.   Many other songs were requested of him such as “Listening to my Boots” for walkers, and he finished with his most famous song “There’s Another Train”, the pathos of which could bring tears to anyone’s eyes.  Many other leading folk artists have recorded this song, but so has The Harvard University Choir – so widespread is its appeal.

The evening was supported by 3 songs from The Somerset Nightingales, Eileen Ann Moore (founder) and Jim Parham, one of which was “Maybe Nothing’s Spoken” written by Pete.  The Acorn Shanty Crew also performed 4 shanties, with great audience participation, and no less than nine other floor spots of extremely high standard performed, including two visitors, one from Glastonbury and the other from Warwick.  But generally many people, especially floor singers, travel good distances to attend – from Cossington, Westport, Taunton, and outlying villages. All were able to share in a wonderful cake baked by “Queen of Cakes” Di Dibble.  

Next morning there were immediate messages: eg “I found Pete Morton very sincere and liked his personal philosophy expressed in his songs – charming” and “An excellent night and good to have Acorn back”.

The Club will be hosting four evenings a year, the next one will be on 15th October 2016, with equally prestigious guests. 



A Summer Evening Concert

The Concert on 17th June at the United Reformed Church began with the
Somerset Nightingales, Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham singing a Victorian
Set ably accompanied by Jeannette Owen on the piano. This might sound a bit
stuffed shirt, but far from it. Immediate audience participation was
achieved with such old favourites as "Just A Song At Twilight", "Little
Brown Jug", "Oh No John" and "Lass of Richmond Hill", and many, many more
Victorian parlour songs.

The traditional sombre moment was beautifully delivered by Jim's solo
rendition of Handel's "Silent Worship" which might have been sung at such a
Victorian evening, and a nice delivery of "Home Sweet Home" from Eileen Ann.
The first half was brought to a close with The Nightingales singing their
signature tune of The Sweet Nightingale. The audience was cleverly led in
the chorus with the gents then the ladies singing in canon.

An interval feast set up by the church ladies was much appreciated by all
after such a busy first half. The second half was totally down to The Acorn
Shanty Crew - namely Eileen Ann and Jim with his stuffed parrot, Mike
Dibble, Geoff Williams, Alan Jones, Rita Tremaine, Rob and Jenny Williams.
They are a group formed at the Acorn Folk Club with a vast catalogue of
songs locally collected by Cecil Sharp from Yankee Jack of Watchet, and they
are performing more and more around the Somerset area. It is worth
mentioning that a "good shanty man" was worth his weight in gold to the
ship's company. His job was to ensure that the efforts of the hauling men
was kept in time and rhythm with simple songs and choruses that the men
could join in, as they also had amusing lyrics to keep them entertained,
thus making the exhausting work regime more bearable.

The Shanty Crew took us on a world voyage commencing with the boarding of
Watchet's "Rosabella", then a visit to "Frisco Bay", following an encounter
with "The Drunken Sailor", when ashore. Then back on board for the journey
home and whilst sailing in the Southern Ocean Geoff gave us a lovely solo
about the Albatross or was it Albert Ross - I still haven't worked out that
one yet!
Onward via "Spanish Ladies" and "The Bristol Channel Jamboree" to home. In
all a shanty programme of seventeen songs with many old favourites and much
audience participation. The crew finished with "The Padstow Farewell" sung
in harmony, but an encore was called for and off the Crew went to "South

Some of the Crew are also musicians, seen here in the photograph, Mike
Dibble - banjo, Rob Williams - melodeon, Geoff Williams - guitar and Jenny
Williams - fiddle, who gave a good rendition of tunes as part of the
interval break.

It didn't pass without notice that both the Victorian set and the Shanties
consisted of songs set around drinking and women! In all a great evening's
entertainment; what talent we possess locally. The Acorn Folk Club who are
affiliated to the English Folk Dance and Society supported the event and the
sum of £176 was donated to the United Reformed Church Fund. Review by
Fred Povey
GEOFF LAKEMAN - 6th June 2015


These were the words the fine artist Geoff Lakeman, guest at the Acorn Folk Club on 6th June wrote in the autograph book.  He also emailed next morning saying how much he had enjoyed the club and that there was a fine singing audience.   Geoff Lakeman is a leading international exponent of the rare Crane duet concertina, which he bought many years ago when he wanted to learn an instrument to accompany his wife Joy’s singing.  Hailing from Newlyn as a local reporter, Geoff left his beloved Cornwall to work in London, but also had access to many famous music clubs.   Since returning to the West Country and now living on Dartmoor, Geoff has been able to follow his musical writing and performing full time, with a variety of songs and music on home and international stages.

There was a really good turnout for this amazingly versatile artist who played some of his own compositions from the story of a Cornish mining disaster, to a protest Sea Shanty concerning the loss of fisherman’s livelihoods because of restricting quotas, to an hilarious finale “You can’t take your doggie down ‘ere” – meaning on the beach or to any tourist area!   Then there was a Scottish item written by Phil Cunningham based on Sir Walter’s Scott’s “Lady of the Lake”, an Irish ballad, American old time tunes and songs – several learned from the fine American concertina player Jody Kruskal who has also been a guest at the club.  Geoff’s amazing dexterity even included some jazz and blues which would be rarely or almost never heard played on a concertina.   Geoff was also charming in his introductions and manner, and very modest about his renowned three sons - all world-class musicians in today’s folk scene – Seth Lakeman and his band, Sean Lakeman (married to the beautiful Katherine Roberts), and Sam Lakeman (married to the delightful Irish singer Cara Dillon) – a veritable folk dynasty, who of course, gained their love of music from their parents.

This guest was supported by The Acorn Shanty Crew, dressed the part in striped T-shirts, complete with ship’s dog and parrot, giving the listeners more opportunities to join in.

All MC’d by Geoff Williams, there were also excellent floor spots, a topical poem from Fred Povey, and a reading by John Henden from Charles Dickens’ about the workhouse, having been studying his family genealogy.  It was fitting then that the guest Geoff mentioned his relative’s workhouse experience – and for making the strong point that our folk arts generally, reflect our past origins and are a living heritage for future generations.

The final item of interest is that some of our performers were going on to Halsway Manor, national centre for the folk arts, to take part in a 24 hour singathon to raise funds for the planned extensions there.  Rob & Jenny Williams were able to take with them £38.86 in contributions collected at the Acorn.

The Acorn’s 14th Season begins on 5th September, in its regular venue of The United Reformed Church, Bancks Street, Minehead, and throughout the summer there are several other activities which can be located by visiting www.acornfolkclub.co.uk  AND WE GOT THIS RESPONSE BACK FROM THE ARTIST:

 Eileen Ann -
That is absolutely splendid- captures the evening perfectly. Like I said, I'm not a young thing on the folk scene trying to become famous or sell loads of CD's , I just enjoy entertaining people and performing the music I love, so when someone like yourself makes the effort to write such a super review it is all the more worthwhile. Geoff


The Acorn Folk Club hosted Notts Alliance - 3 very talented singers; Stephen Bailey, Phil Hardcastle, and Chris Orme on Easter Saturday in the United Reformed Church Hall. 

Their well-crafted, tight and inventive harmony singing, dynamic delivery and an ability to engage with the audience have earned them a position of high respect on the UK club and festival circuits.  They have evolved into one of the foremost acapella harmony groups in the country, and have a prestigious forthcoming booking at Baliol College in Oxford alongside the great Martin Carthy to celebrate 100 years since Sidney Carter was born on 6th May 1915, writer of The Lord of the Dance to a Shaker tune, which is in fact still in copyright and the fifth most sung copyright song in school assemblies.

Such prestigious guests, (Stephen being the Vice Chancellor of Nottingham University), were quite happy to call into the Acorn Folk Club last year for a “floor spot” – and of course were consequently booked.  

Their performance, which included a vast variety of material from “A Ballad for Katherine of Aragon” (C. Causley/Atterson), “Malt is Come Down “ (Trad), “Putting Out the Dustbin” (S. Carter) ie hilarious material, “Gone, Gonna Rise Again” (Si Kahn), resulted in glowing emails next morning – to quote:

 “Wonderful night...........variety is the spice of life at the Acorn – we suddenly thought about the variety of songs we hear .... in years never the same one twice from all the guests” (PP) and  “What an excellent evening - Notts Alliance sang very good harmonies and lovely singable songs” (GW).

The pleasant Spring evening brought fitting and romantic songs from the floor spots:

“Spring Song” (Alan Bell) sung by Eileen Ann Moore, “’Twas on one April Morning” (Trad. Somerset) sung by Mike Dibble, “Sally Gardens” (W B Yeats) sung by The Somerset Nightingales (Eileen Ann & Jim Parham) plus in particular Jenny Williams with “The Call and The Answer” (P Colclough), the first song she ever sung to her husband Rob, and Rob in turn having chosen “The Banks of Sweet Primroses” (Trad), the first song he ever sang to Jenny, these items not being pre-arranged between them.  Other equally excellent floor spots were performed by Geoff Williams and Benn Banks.

An outstanding item was the really humorous poem “He won it in the Raffle at the Acorn Folk Club” – written by Fred Povey, who is a prodigious contributor to folk club evenings.    

The evening was also special as the Club provided a 90th birthday cake for regular member Joan Elsmore and everyone there was very pleased to share the occasion with this charming lady.

The second set from Notts Alliance really built up with their tremendous songs – “A Jug of This” (Trad), “A Tree Song” (P. Bellamy/R Kipling), “Back in Durham Gaol” (J. Lowe who has performed twice at the Acorn Folk Club) and their rousing encore “Doll-i-a” (Trad).

The Acorn Folk Club does not meet in May, so the next evening to look out for will be on 6th June.


From Coleford, Combe Martin, Cossington, Taunton, Westport and Williton, not to mention local hamlets like Old Cleeve, Timberscombe, Withycombe and loyal supporters from Minehead itself, came enthusiastic followers of the outstandingly talented American folk singer Jeff Warner on tour in this country from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, bringing his banjo, guitar, two concertinas, and pocket instruments, to accompany his huge repertoire of American Old Time music, the stories and songs from the Applachians, from the lumberjacks and mountains, rivers and coastlines of America. 

Jeff was the guest at The Acorn Folk Club on 7th March in the United Reformed Church Hall, and opened with two local shanties from Yankee Jack, John Short of Watchet – “Won’t You Go my Way” with banjo, and “Fare Ye Well” with concertina, which songs of course, travelled back and forth to America with the sailor, and immediately won a singing response from the audience – setting the scene for the rest of the evening.  Jeff spoke of the first great songwriter Stephen Foster who started the banjo craze in 1845, and went on to 1860 when there was ore and mineral exploration in Idaho and songs like “Our Four Horse Team” emerged.   Then to 1863 with a song from the American Civil War “Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground” which bears the line “the right to see the dawn and peace”.   This war helped to spread different styles of music as the Irish and Scottish immigrants came down from the mountains.

Jeff’s parents were avid singers and song collectors, and his father, from the Deep South, passed on “One Little Story that the Crow Told Me”, with jew’s harp and hilarious verses.  He also sang songs from the lumberjacks in Canada, sending logs on the river through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to the mill towns, and thrilled the audience with his jig-doll – a jointed wooden carved puppet on a stick which dances on a board – commonly seen in Dartmoor and East Anglia here.

His mother was from the Mid-West and met his father in New York; in the 30s and 40s they travelled from Virginia down to South Carolina and collected songs from boatman Tink Tillett such as “We’ll Go Down to Tennessee”, and the most beautiful song “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still” from Tink’s wife Eleazor – a very biblical name.  This song was recently featured in the English Folk Dance and Song magazine with a lengthy article about Warner’s UK tour. 

Jeff opened his second set with “My Dixie Darling”, and spoke of when songs were first recorded in 1909 in Tin Pan Alley and became more commercial.   The song “Somebody Waiting for Me” sung by Harry Lauder in 1917 travelled all the way to America and was collected by his parents.   He went on to describe the Black Virginia Minstrels who took songs to New York.

He spoke of the 7 foot snow drifts presently in Boston near his home town, and 5 foot drifts in Washington, before coming towards the end of his programme with the African influenced Gospel song “In the Storm Lord” from the 1928 hurricane. Throughout he gave us superbly rhythmical playing, to include foot tapping and thigh slapping; he finished with “I’ve Been a Long Time Travelling” – and a fantastic encore with spoons, in fact there was a request – couldn’t he go on until midnight?!   

His warm, friendly and relaxed manner almost humbled his enormous talent which, as well as a listening audience, also drew in many excellent floor spots and performers such as Tom & Barbara Brown who performed three ideal songs from their Minehead projects – the Three Sea Captains including items from Captains Lewis and Vickery, and “Just Another Day” from their Minehead Schools and Community Shanty Sessions.  Also terrific were Jenny & Rob Williams, Brian & Jackie Ross, John Grey, Benn Banks, Geoff Williams, Fred Povey, Mike Dibble, Jim Parham and Eileen Ann Moore, who also MC’d the evening.  Sadly although so many had traveled a long distance for this renowned international artist, there was a comparatively small audience actually from Minehead.  Although those that did come are much appreciated, the Club needs just a few more to help keep music live in Minehead …  all details can be seen on www.acornfolkclub.co.uk     EAM  

Saturday 7th February 2015 - CLAUDE BOURBON - Medieval and Spanish Blues French Guitarist

The Acorn Folk Club hosted the international artist Claude Bourbon on Saturday 7th February in the United Reformed Church Hall, which is an excellent venue, both for acoustics and comfort. Claude is a classically trained musician who performs every conceivable genre of acoustic guitar music. He is known throughout Europe and America and is acclaimed by BBC UK. On his well-travelled Gibson guitar he performed an amazing selection from an early medieval English tune, through some of his own compositions to Latin, Gypsy and Spanish Blues. The latter we may all have heard in a Spanish restaurant or concert, but to have such playing here live in Minehead was an absolute treat.

The titles of his songs “Over the Mountains”, “The Road is Long”, “Gonna sit here playing all night” were so descriptive of his playing, as he led on from one melody to another, and gave his entire being to the music, in effect forgetting his audience and not seeking applause, but just playing for the sheer joy of it. After a long round of applause from the full house, Claude said modestly “Oh, you liked that one” and an audience member replied “We recognise talent when we see it” – and that was so true.

The next morning an email asked if all the performers were professional as they were all so good, so that is a great compliment to the floor spots – Geoff Williams playing Ralph McTell songs, Benn Banks performing Bob Dylan material, Mike Dibble singing romantic songs as it was the nearest date to Valentine’s Day, and Eileen Ann Moore with Jim Parham performing a whole selection of Robert Burns and Dougie McLean Scottish material which was fresh from a recent Burns Night celebration. Added to this was the variety of Fred Povey reading his own hilarious poems and Rosemary Hanson giving a taste of Pam Ayre’s terrific sense of humour.

Geoff Williams, the charming MC, arranged the spots and gave excellent introductions, and at the end encouraged the stunning Claude Bourbon in his encore “Keeping Faith”. It is so heartening to have such a good attendance on a cold February night, and organisers Eileen Ann and Jim are all fired up to plan and book the Acorn Folk Club’s fourteenth season as there are just are three forthcoming guests presently arranged to complete this their thirteenth season, the club having been founded in 2002.


$sturday 3rd January 2015 - ACORN ANNUAL PARTY WITH DARREN JAMES HODGE & Home Grown Talent Concert.
The Acorn Folk Club's Annual Party on 3rd January 2015 in the United Reformed Church Hall was great fun with one of the leading young guitarists in the country, Darren James Hodge as the featured guest. Darren, who was a finalist in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards Competition 2014, opened his first set with "Classical Gas" from his hero Gordon Giltrap, and played two excellent sets during the evening including some of his own compositions and also sang to rapturous applause. His performance was enhanced by Paul Dawson's superb sound equipment and engineering.
The theme of the evening was A Home Grown Talent Concert with The Acorn Shanty Crew performing 2 sets of four local shanties, The Somerset Nightingales (Eileen Ann Moore & Jim Parham) rendering their own seasonal compositions, The Triplets (Jeannette Owen - keyboard, Paul Dawson - vocals and guitar, Ian Anderson - harmonica) adding to the variety with 1930s/40s material, Rob and Jenny Williams, Geoff Williams and Mike Dibble (also members of the Shanty Crew) giving absolutely apt floor spots, either for the season or for the party mood. Mike in particular always pulls out the right song for the right occasion - this time "The Bells are ringing the Old Year out and the New Year in" with actions. Benn Banks performed "The Greek Farmer" by the Greek folk song writer George Papavgeris who guested at the Acorn during 2014.
Additional traditional crafts included a fascinating story from John Henden, two seasonal poems from Rosemary Hanson and Fred Povey's own hilarious poetry. Fred also kindly MC'd the evening.
A great hightlight was the bring and share buffet for which members were just so generous that it could be described as a "feast", the big raffle - many prizes donated, and the decorated hats competition judged by Darren Hodge, choosing the winner Rosemary Hanson (centre of photograph) with her "Partridge in a Pear Tree". Other hats by Alan Jones and Ron Clarked would also have deserved a prize! Long may such evenings Keeping Music Live in Minehead continue. EAM

Saturday 19th November 2014 - Acorn Shanty Crew Concert in Aid of Minehead Museum
PRESS RELEASE – 23.11.14


On Wednesday 19th November the Minehead Museum Committee hosted a Concert featuring The Acorn Shanty Crew, who performed a selection of Sea Shanties in the Maddison Suite at the Beach Hotel to raise funds for Minehead Museum, which has been established this year in that newly beautifully decorated building, along with the Tourist Office.

The Crew sang two three-quarter hour sets, to include working sea shanties, mostly collected by Cecil Sharp from John Short of Watchet, and some items from Captain Lewis and Captain Vickery of Minehead, all in the early 1900s.

There was a very good variety of 12 items in each set, which were led by different members of the Crew, with harmony singing on the choruses and encouragement for the 50 strong audience to participate, which they willingly did.  Jenny Williams opened with “The Rosabella”, the name of a genuine ship, followed by her husband Rob with “Eagle Alley”.  There followed “Noah’s Ark” collected from Captain Hole of Watchet, and sung by Mike Dibble, with the introduction to the crew of “Bounce the old sea dog”, as the shanty tells the story of the bull and the cow having a row, the side of the ship being holed, and the dog’s nose being used to block the hole - hence “ever since then dog’s nose has been cold”! Alan Jones gave a good performance of “The Watchet Sailor”, which is very relevant to him as he lives in Watchet.   Some of the material had been used the night before when the Acorn Shanty Crew was invited to sing for the Watchet Conservation Society’s AGM, and the week before when they gave a live interview and performance on 10Radio, a local station based in Wiveliscombe serving ten villages. 

Throughout the evening Eileen Ann Moore, founder of the Acorn Folk Club of which all the Crew are members, and also inspired to set up the Acorn Shanty Crew, gave informative introductions and snippets of information – for example Captain Lewis had a fine strong voice, Captain Vickery would sell the steamboat tickets opposite the Quay Inn after he had retired, and how the Captains would sing songs for leisure in the evenings, not the shanties that John Short would sing.   The purpose of the shanties was to keep the men in good cheer and in perfect rhythm, so that the sailors’ effort in heaving and hauling whether for capstan, anchor, halyards and foresheets, their work was co-ordinated and a good shanty man would be worth his weight in gold.   Starting on the coastal vessels as a young man, John Short travelled all over the world, and came to be known as Yankee Jack when working as a shanty man on the American ships which carried a wide variety of goods from tea, spices, textiles and ceramics to name but a few.  There were also treacherous journeys taking six weeks around Cape Horn sailing to South American ports like Valparaiso and Callao.

Eileen Ann led a short shanty “Cheerly Man”, which was the first shanty Jack ever learned on his first voyage in 1857.  Geoff Williams brought variety with his “Albert Ross, the Albatross” with voice and guitar solo.   Jim Parham and Eileen Ann led everyone in “Sweet Nightingale”, which was the only song of 57 items Sharp collected from Yankee Jack which was not a shanty.

After great humour, with “Plymouth Town” led by Mike with Jim Parham posing as his woman, Jim then sang  “Farewell Ye Well” which is sung when the ship is leaving the land.

The second half again had a huge variety of items with Jenny telling us that a Kanaka was a Polynesian sailor prized for his sailing skills in “John Kanaka”, Rob giving us “Bristol Channel Jamboree” and  playing both the concertina and later the  melodeon to accompany Jenny’s moving “Mollymawk” – another name for the albatross. Jim’s “Stormalong” with the words “I hear King Neptune calling me”, was touching, and then back to the fun with Alan leading “Drunken Sailor”, Mike’s excellent versions of “Spanish Ladies” and “South Australia” – fitting as Jenny is Australian – and Eileen Ann leading the encore “Padstow Farewell”.       

The evening was a great success with plenty of audience participation, and Dr John Godrich commented that there were times when he felt as though he was on board ship!

Over £175 was raised, which will help towards much needed equipment for the Museum and the fitting out of new displays for the coming year. The museum is open for its final weekend of the year on 29th/30th November. For further information contact mineheadmuseum@btconnect.com and www.acornfolkclub.co.uk as well as www.acornshantycrew.co.uk  JL/AA/EAM

Saturday 1st November 2014 - The Exmouth Shantymen


The Acorn Folk Club’s 78th Guest Night on 1st November hosting the Exmouth Shanty Men, was a full house at The United Reformed Church Hall.   Again the guests commented on the  good acoustics of the venue, wooden floor, high ceilings, lovely clean surroundings and the ambience of being laid out café style.

Since the group formed in 2007 to breathe new life into the rich maritime heritage of their home port, they have found themselves much in demand and have ventured far and wide across the UK and from Eire to Germany via France, Belgium and Holland.  Bedecked in the garb of early 19th Century merchantmen to place their songs onto a tall ship’s deck, they have a superb back drop of mast with silhouetted sailor climbing the rigging, and they have many props including oars, capstan, ropes and chains so that each song can be acted out and set in a scenario. With cargo boxes to sit or stand on, they can represent a dockside tavern too.  Their repertoire splices together hard-bitten work shanties such as “Boney was a Warrior”, “Chicken on a Raft”, and “The Roseabella” which are sung with gusto, with a different member of the group taking the lead each time.   Alongside this they can deliver excellent harmonies for moving sea songs sung with appropriate pathos, an example here is Tim Laycock’s setting of “Row On, Row On”, the words of which were found in a ship’s log book in 1845.

Amazingly their programme consisted of two sets of 13 songs or shanties, plus two encores,   opening with “Randy Dandy O”, and during the first set “Roll Alabama Roll”, a pirate ship which was sunk by the Royal Navy after two years of terrorising cargo ships.

Their one female member has a perfect folk voice for singing the ballad “Lowlands Away” or the saucy song “Barque in the Harbour”, and when she sings the Shantymen arrange themselves as in a vignette painting when on shore from a hard journey.

Geoff Williams, Benn Banks, Mike Dibble, Eileen Ann Moore, who set the scene from the beginning with “The Sleepless Sailor”, and Jim Parham all performed interesting floor spots, in particular The Shantymen themselves praising Jim’s rendition of “Tom Bowling”.  There were two sets of poetry readings from Fred Povey (his own amusing work), and Rosemary Hanson – who read a poem written by a visiting friend last month in praise of the Acorn!   A fine singer with a resonant voice, Greg Rowlands visited from Wales, and gave us two good spots, one being “Snow Fall” by John Tams from Warhorse.  He and his wife also brought a huge box of delicious shortbread which was shared by all to celebrate the golden weddings of no less than three Acorn member couples.

The Acorn Shanty Crew gave a taste of their forthcoming concert in aid of Minehead Museum by singing “The Noah’s Ark Shanty” from Captain Hole of Watchet, and “Heave Away my Johnny” from Captain Vickery of Minehead.  To conclude this splendid evening the Exmouth Shantymen included the Acorn Shanty Crew in their finale of “The Padstow Farewell”.    Thanks go to all who helped to make the evening such a success in keeping Music Live in Minehead.    EAM  

SATURDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2014  - "INU" - Band from Bath

Spontanaeity, improvisation and raw talent are the key words to describe the band "Inu" from Bath who played for the Acorn Folk Club's 77th professional Guest Night on 4th October in the United Reformed Church Hall.
Marick (extremely talented flautist) and Louise (of the most beautiful voice), husband and wife duo, led the band, supplemented by excellent melodeon player Richie and adept guitarist Tim. The well-travelled band who have played many festivals at home (including Glastonbury) and abroad, opened with a Norwegian tune about a troll, following on with two French bourees, with Marick talking about the ancient traditions in French music. Louise sang an old English song from the 1500s "The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird", an Irish song "Step it up Mary", and, by request, a Scottish song "Black is the Colour". Her outstanding performance of "Franklin", lost seeking the North West Passage in 1845, and realising that their ship has only been discovered in the last three weeks, brought tears to the eyes, to think of what a big and brave, but unsuccessful expedition it was. The song is written from the point of view Franklin's waiting wife.
However, so buoyant was the rest of their programme with Irish jigs and reels from Conemara to Donegal, a superb Balkan set learned on Marick's travels to Macedonia, Turkey and Hungary, these countries also having a rich heritage centuries old of traditional music, and their encore of three polkas, the evening could not be serious for long. The finale was so lively that a visiting couple from the Midlands got up and polka-ed to the clapping of a virtually full house.
Regular floor spots, including the Somerset Nightingales gave a good variety of support, all nicely introduced by MC Geoff Williams. The band thanked the Club organisers and the audience for keeping music live in Minehead, and there was lots of interest in their CD "A Thousand Mile Journey", on which they had taken their listeners. For details see www.inu-music.com EAM

All praise must go to Richard Neal for envisaging, planning and making this event happen, with a vast programme of open air entertainment, plus 11 am - 11 pm live music in the restaurant and the ball room of the Beach Hotel, beautifully renovated inside by YMCA apprentices.  The Acorn Shanty Crew at 2.30 on the Beach Hotel forecourt drew a large audience and had a great sing - 11 shanties in all!   In the evening the free Acorn had nearly 50 people through, with a birthday dinner going on, plus The Somerset Nightingales (Eileen Ann & Jim) - 6 songs, The Acorn Shanty Crew (Rob & Jenny Williams, Geoff Williams, Alan Jones, Mike & Di Dibble, EA & J) - 7 shanties, Benn Banks - 4, John Middleton - 3, Crew as individuals - 6 (this time with Alan including his wife Ellie's Acorn debut, and extra floor spots from Robin Watson & Jacqui Chiplin- sax & dance, Bob Gaille - 2, Richard Neal - 1, and the Crew finishing with "Rolling Home" - this adds up to no less than 32 items (43 with the afternoon) - a great time we all had and thanks to those who supported us. 

On Saturday 6th September in the United Reformed Church Hall, The Acorn Folk Club opened the thirteenth season with American guests on tour, Dana & Susan Robinson. The genius in their performance lies in their ability to take their audience on a road trip across America and convey the mystery and wonder of the places they visit, plus they display the confidence of excellent musicians thoroughly rooted and proud of their own tradition, which is American Old Time. This style of music precedes American Blue Grass and comes from the Celtic Irish and Scots settling in the Appalachians.
Maverick Magazine stated "the best acoustic fiddle, mandolin and guitar players can embrace a rhythm (Dana), coupled with beautifully understated banjo and vocal harmony (Susan), are worth travelling distances to see" - and many people did just that - there were fans from Ashford in Kent, Combe St Nicholas and Combe Martin in Devon, Bristol, Cossington and Taunton - nearly all of those also excellent floor spots, Dave and Eileen Masterson, Malcolm and Ceri Harris, professionals Tom and Barbara Brown, Rob and Jenny Williams, and Benn Banks. These wonderful performers, alongside local amateurs Eileen Ann Moore, Jim Parham, and Mike and Di Dibble were all well able to support these critically acclaimed guests. Eileen Ann welcomed everyone by singing "Peace in Minehead" with recently adapted words to suit the Club's changed venue. Barbara's performance of John Connolly's "Farewell to the Fields" was extremely moving.
Now to describe these guitar picking, banjo frailing, fiddle sawing and harmony-singing interpreters of the American Experience: they started with a tune from Nashville on fiddle/banjo, and moved on to their version of "When this Old Hat was New" mandolin/harmonica, Mike having sung a different version. Next Susan takes the guitar from Dana for "When First Unto This Country a Stranger I Came". They described crossing over the Cascade Mountains and reaching the Columbian Plateau where Woodie Guthrie wrote many of his songs. Dana sang un-accompanied "Spokane" describing a city in Washington State, then a brand new song written in Indiana in June about crossing the great divide, staying in a cabin by the Ohio river on a beautiful relaxed and peaceful evening, but being able to see a power station - Dana calls it his carbon song - "The River Flows On". Equally able to change instruments and harmonize, their songs led the audience to join in choruses, and on this Dana and Susan complimented the Acorn Folk Club and remarked that they just loved the acoustics and atmosphere in the venue, where it is laid out "cafe" style and refreshments can be brought in. The title of their new CD is "American Hornpipe"; after playing this they ended their first set with "Who Killed Cock Robin" - this time on mandolin and guitar, a song very conducive to audience participation.
Two members' birthdays were celebrated during the interval with cake for all. The guests opened the second half with "The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird" fiddle/banjo, introduced some Irish humour with "Sink the Cheerio", and described how a folk song can still be a successful protest in arresting a redevelopment of an historic graveyard, by using the Epitaphs on the stones - gone to a brighter home where grief cannot come - for the song "Gone, but not Forgotten". Next a Kentucky fiddle tune "Glory in the Meeting House" with very compelling foot-tapping. Then Dana described travelling to festivals in North Carolina and West Virginia collecting fiddle tunes, and gave us "Red Rocking Chair". Susan described a Disney fairyland, where the tale of Cinderella is told by her sister "Griselda" and magic really happens, because all the sisters get along!
Their penultimate number "The Mocking Bird" and finally their demanded encore "Safe Home", back to their trademark guitar/banjo sound, were totally conducive again to audience participation, and everyone left with the warm glow of it being a privilege to meet and hear this talented American roots duo.

At the Festival Folk Club held on Saturday 9th August 2014 in St Mary's Church from 5 - 7 pm hosted by Eileen Ann & Jim of the Acorn Folk Club, there was an international flavour wih a German couple in the audience and Peter, a singer/guitarist and flautist from Holland, now living in Dorchester. There were 18 singers in all, and altogether some 31 songs as some performers who arrived early were able to sing again. The afternoon opened with Jim and Eileen Ann singing the quintessential English folk song "Searching for Lambs" and the Northumbrian lullaby "Bonny At Morn" and instantly it was clear there was a participating audience - about 30 people including singers in that beautiful tiny church. Many people remarked on the quiet and peaceful atmosphere and terrific acoustics for singing. Delphine from Plymouth sang "The Widow", followed by items from Trilby both as a soloist with guitar and as a duo with Peter, mentioned above. Ian followed on with "Composed in August" from Robbie Burns, then the Mad Harpers - Susie and Bill from Brixham (met before in Teignmouth), who gave another lovely rendition of "Searching for Lambs" as one of their two items with voice, harp and recorders. There were also very good performances from Mark of Exeter Morris, Megan (who said "maybe" but happily did sing), another Mark, Charlie from Cheltenham, Brian Lucker and Colin from Hertfordshire with a version of "Wild Rover" from that area; Michael Fennessy played "Westering Home" on his fiddle for all to sing along, and then Valerie and later Jackie were just in time to be included. Most delightfully the penultimate numbers were sung by the ever loyal Ted and Ivy Poole whose club in Swindon is 53 years old, and, except for one or two, they have attended all of Dartmoor's 37 festivals. Everyone present was happy to run a little over time, and Jim and Eileen Ann led the "survivors" in the singing of "The Padstow Farewell". What a charming early evening Festival Folk Club.
The Festival Folk Club held on Sunday 10th August 2014, same place, same time, was somewhat quieter to start with but equally pleasant. With just four singers at the beginning and a listening audience of 10 or 12 people who'd enjoyed the Club the day before or last year, (and another German gentleman), the performers drew on their repertoire for spots of 2 songs at a time, the first four being from Eileen Ann, Delphine, Dave Wood and Jim. There was some very interesting material with Delphine's traditional "Scarborough Fair", and Dave's self-penned items with descriptive introductions. Jim talked about the Minehead area, Exmoor and The Coleridge Way - a walk from Nether Stowey to Porlock following Eileen Ann's own song "The Colours of a Dragonfly" partly inspired by a line from Wordsworth and the chorus "On Exmoor's Green and Pleasant Land", and one of his items was "The Lark in the Clear Air". Then there was a good influx of extra performers (and a couple more listeners) - Anthony Rose - vocals and guitar, Roger Smith of Bodmin with his banjo and guitar talking of how he likes songs with singable choruses for audience participation, so another 4 songs were readily forthcoming, and those first singers were able to come up with third numbers, and a little later in came Jackie, Ted and Ivy, so they could bring the two hours towards a really varied finish. However, with ten minutes to spare Eileen Ann & Jim led the whole room of 15 or so to close the evening with three shanties - "Shiney-O", "Heave Away My Johnny" - one of their favourites as it was collected by Cecil Sharp from Captain Vickery in Minehead in the early 1900s, and "Fare Ye Well" - collected by Sharp from Yankee Jack (John Short) of Watchet. Well 7 pm came round too soon, and generally no-one was in any particular hurry to leave, so there was time for a friendly chat and the event had the intimacy of a "club". Again there were comments about the ideal venue and the peaceful atmosphere to listen to some jolly good singing - there are so many talented amateurs for whom it is good to give a platform and performance opportunity. So - look out for Festival Folk Club next year and come and join in - a warm welcome for everyone!


The Acorn Folk Club hosted ex-Strawbs rather brilliant guitarist Brian Willoughby accompanying the utterly stunning singer/songwriter from Virginia Cathryn Craig on Saturday 5th July in the United Reformed Church Hall. The guests complimented the venue and acoustics and remarked that "the Acorn is one of the best clubs around and everyone wants to play here". This is becoming true, and future artists booked have indeed made the approach for bookings. From an audience member came this email next morning: "What a wonderful night. Minehead's Glastonbury without mud and tents." The same person also wrote "The Acorn Shanty Crew sound brilliant ... really into it ...... Mike (Dibble) is great with his enthusiasm" - but first let me describe the guests.
Brian plays a Yamaha guitar cleverly amplified in the most subtle way; Cathryn also plays guitar and together they make an enchanting background to her strong singing voice and superb songwriting. The particular songs I would like to pick out are "Malahide Moon" about an evening motorbike ride, "Eastrien Lane" - a song of Cathryn's childhood with her sister on her grandfather's farm; "Old Stone Walls" - a song they wrote together when Brian toured Ireland with an old uncle who had not returned to his Irish homeland for 65 years - his words being "if only these old stone walls could sing"; Cathryn also sang a wonderful song telling the story of Pocohontas, the introduction being well worthwhile to precede such an interesting song and how Pocohontas had died here in England. The songs and words are so very meaningful and sung with energy and yet great feeling. This applied particularly to "Whatever is For You" a song about what life brings when Cathryn has unfortunately had bouts of depression, and she brought tears to her own and the audience's eyes with "Goodbye Old Friend", as Brian has experienced bereavements of old school friends in recent weeks. There was a point in the evening when Cathryn gave the floor to Brian, and he spoke in a "meet the artist" style about his career and whom he had played with - Roger Whittaker, Mary Hopkins, Monty Python, Joe Brown and 26 years with The Strawbs, and then he played his showpiece "Fingers Crossed", which he told us launched his professional guitaring career from the age of 22 years. When these two remarkable talented and charming artists concluded their two engrossing sets with Brian's breathtaking and so imaginative and inventive accompaniments, there was the loudest and longest applause there has been to date in the Acorn's comparatively new venue of the Church Hall. The hall has excellent acoustics, is clean and airy, and laid out in "cafe style" with the audience finding easy parking and able to bring their own refreshments - somehow all that gives a really pleasant ambience to an evening.
The wide selection of floorspots also commanded respect and it was good to have the praise for the newly formed Acorn Shanty Crew who opened the second half with a set of three shanties - "Noah's Ark", "Heave Away My Johnny" and "Jamboree". The Crew will be performing on Saturday 12th July at the Minehead Harbour Festival when the sailing barge "The Irene" comes in, and across lunchtime. Floorspots included Mike & Di Dibble, Geoff Williams, Benn Banks, Rob & Jenny Williams, Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham, and there was a good and enthusiastic audience including visitors from Plymouth who follow the Strawbs website.
The Acorn Folk Club will be closed during August and resumes with the Opening of its 13th Season on 6th September.

The Acorn Folk Club hosted Dan Cassidy (fiddler) and James Hickman (guitar and vocals) on Saturday 3rd May at the United Reformed Church Hall, which they immediately complimented as having excellent acoustics and a very nice ambience. Such guests of international standing drew a large audience, and an excellent selection of floor spots, some of whom travel from well into Devon and further afield to attend. Hickman’s emotive, soaring vocals and driving guitar is complemented by Cassidy’s ingenious and virtuosic fiddling. Their sound flows from the connection between British and American folk and is bursting with all the humour, heartbreak and excitement of these genres. The lively English wit of Hickman is set against Cassidy’s bone-dry irony and American drawl as they take audiences on a dynamic and unforgettable transatlantic journey. Originating from Maryland USA, but now living in Iceland, Dan travels to Shropshire to meet James where they rehearse and then go on tour, having been to Torquay and Wales and on to Minehead, they will be travelling to the Scottish Isle of Egg and many other venues.
Opening with an American blues number, James then took us to the Scottish Clyde for "The Fairfield Crane". and Dan took us to Ireland with his most exquisitely played Irish Air "Innisheer". We then had James' self penned song in Swing Style, and their first set closed with a Cajun Waltz fashioned after the music from Louisianna. For their second set James opened in his clear tenor voice with "North Country Fair". There followed "The Painter's Jig" and a reel "The Tempest" both composed in Celtic style by Dan. A moving Irish song "Bound for Van Dieman's Land" was followed by another compostion by James - "Battlefield of Shrewsbury" to which he gave an interesting historic introduction, and the piece gave his true talent on the guitar an opportunity to shine through. Dan has this remarkabe drawl and very dry sense of humour, so that he joked ~"the end is the best bit of the evening" - but musicially this was really so, as they fiinished with 1870 Dance Music from Louisiana which was first recorded in 1918 and was recognised as the first ever Jazz recording, which Louis Armstrong took up and kept in his repertoire throughout his career. Dan played it in true Stefan Grapelli style. This charismatic duo were booked by the Acorn Folk Club only 18 months ago, and it was at their request that they were back to Minehead, and it was great to hear them again.
Geoff Williams acted as a very busy MC performing himself and fitting in all the floor spots, from whom Cecil Sharp songs collected in Somerset were performed, and also a Cornish and a Northumbrian Lullaby which fortunately didn't send the audience to sleep as the evening was much too enjoyable!
And there was traditional chocolate cake to share all round for Geoff's May birthday.
Acorn Folk Club's June meeting is postponed as the guest Cathryn Craig, accompanied by Brian Willougby (ex-Strawbs), needed to alter her flight from America. Therefore the next date is 5th July 2014, 7.15 pm at United Reformed Church Hall. EAM

5th April 2014 - Guest Night No 74 with Phil Underwood

The Acorn Folk Club’s guest Phil Underwood attracted a large audience on Saturday 5th April at the United Reformed Church Hall.  Phil is a multi-instrumentalist, and also a talented composer and singer.   Although living in Louisiana for many years, he has been coming regularly to Minehead for over 25 years to play for the Original Sailor’s Horse over the May Day celebrations, an ancient and much respected custom to welcome in the summer.

However, Phil gave us an incredibly wide variety of music, opening with the Cajun “Red Lady” on his one row accordion, leading on to English tunes on the same instrument.   He later explained his two and a half row melodeon which plays in the keys of D and G, and another for C and F, before playing excellent renditions of Irish, American and French tunes.   His bodhran and triangle suited his voice perfectly, the former for an Irish love song in Gaelic and the second for raw Cajun.   He accompanied his own singing in French while playing the fiddle for “Mardi Gras viens de l’Angleterre”.  His version of “Pretty Little Girl with a Blue Dress On” Applachian blues was a tremendous contrast in his ability and style.  

A wonderful addition to his present programme is his performance of The Songman’s repertoire written by the songwriter John Tams for the acclaimed show “Warhorse”.  Phil spoke of his steep learning curve at a course for which he auditioned alongside James Findlay, who has also guested at the Acorn Folk Club.  They were tutored by leading artists on the current folk scene – Saul Rose (the original Songman),  Bob Fox and Nancy Kerr – a hugely talented Northumbrian whom the Acorn was able to stage in her early career some years ago.   For these songs about Joey the horse, a hunter, having to learn to plough, and “The Snow Falls”, Phil played exquisitely pianissimo introductions and sang in a very moving way.  He also described how he had written music for a mystery play whilst attending the course inspired by the Abbotsbury Morris Horn Dance (the Morris men danced right through the night at Midsummer until the building of the M25 which ploughed through their site) – his song being named “Midsummer” followed by his own tune “Morning Light”.

Again the Acorn Folk Club was blessed with a wonderful variety of floor spots, with a young man, Sam Patten travelling from Bridgwater to perform songs learned from Barry Dransfield and Nic Jones most professionally, Tim Brown making his Acorn solo debut with George Butterworth’s arrangement of A E Housman’s “The Ploughboy” (rather apt for following on from the Warhorse items), Mike Dibble giving us “’Twas on One April Morning”, Di Dibble a moving anti-war song, John Henden proving himself an excellent storyteller, Rosemary Hanson making us really laugh with an hilarious poem about dog owners, our usual regular floor spots Benn Banks – a Dylan rendition, Geoff Williams – the traditional “Sally Gardens”, The Nightingales – Eileen Ann Moore & Jim Parham in harmony with “The Blue Cockade” – and this all MC’d so well by Fred Povey, who is also a poet and a comic, so that the evening was filled with both pathos and laughter. 

And in anticipation of May Day, Chris Thresher pounded his drum alongside Phil’s expertise  for The Minehead Hobby Horse tune to close the evening.  Long may such evenings continue.     EAM

1st March 2014 - Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer - Guest Night No 73
On the 1st March there was a rather magical evening at The Acorn Folk Club in the United Reformed Church Hall, with international guests Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, Vicki playing Scottish small pipes, Swedish nyckelharpa, flute, English border pipes and Swedish bagpipes. Following in her father’s footsteps Vicki is a second generation piper, and, after studying at the Royal College of Music, has returned to her Swedish roots by translating Swedish ballads, which she sings in beautiful harmony with her equally talented husband Jonny Dyer. As well as vocals, Jonny played guitar, bazouki, accordion and cow horn. He is a composer and competition-winning guitar player; Jonny’s outstanding technical ability, coupled with a wide-ranging musical taste has made him a tireless and forceful musical innovator.
Their exquisite two sets began with tunes written by Vicki played on small pipes and accordion, an old 1800s song "The Oxford & 'Ampton Railway", with guitar and nykelharpa accompaniment, "The Sheffield Apprentice", when Jonny then displayed his talent on bazouki. Vicki explained the keys and playing technique of the nyckelharpa, and recommended a programme on Radio 3 when classical nykelharpa would be played; however Vicki is promoting the instrument on the folk scene and runs classes and courses - look out for one such course at Halsway Manor in 2015. To buy her instrument she has crotcheted hundreds of warm hats which she sells at her gigs. Jonny gave good and interesting introductions referring to a 1500s song of business monopoly with the East India Trading Company, leading to war through greed in spice trading with the Dutch East India Company Later in the evening the audience was enthralled by a musical "conversation of love" between Vicki on the Swedish bagpipes and Jonny on the cow horn, and he is probably the most eminent (if not the only) cow horn player in the country, producing exquisite sweet trumpet-like tones.
Part of the evening was given over to hammer dulcimer and hurdy gurdy player Damien Clarke, who had travelled some distance to the Acorn especially to hear the wonderful guests. However, he was rather good himself and certainly added to the multi-talent of the evening.
As well as innumerable floor spots to be squeezed in, the newly formed Acorn Shanty Crew, who are rehearsing to perform at the Minehead |Harbour Festival in July, made their debut, by singing three shanties, the first being led by Mike Dibble and the second by Jenny Williams. The third shanty was of special interest, as Acorn organisers Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham had sent a recording to Vicki and Jonny, who then harmonised with their two voices in the lead for "Heave Away My Johnny", which was collected here in Minehead by Cecil Sharp from Captain Vickery in the early 1900s. A recording of this was made at the request of Halsway Manor, the national centre for the English Folk Dance and Song Society, who have a Heritage Lottery grant to research the music of Minehead. The recording, among others presently being collected by folklorists Tom and Barbara Brown, will be used to inspire artists to create plaques to be unveiled at the Minehead Harbour Festival in July.
Vicki and Jonny's second set included a 1650s Purcell melody collected by John Playford, (the two men, one classical and the other a folklorist being friends) which he saved for us all when Cromwell banned music and dancing. As well as playing wooden flute, Vicki played nykelharpa accompanied by Jonny on accordion, making it sound like a medieval organ ... one could look around the audience and only see utterly engrossed faces, both watching and listening. They closed the evening with an 1800s love song collected in Somerset - "Billy Boy" with simply beautiful guitar playing and harmony singing. Naturally there was a call for an encore, which was Jonny's own very successful compostion of a mock shanty - a very fitting close to a splendid evening. EAM
Mad Hatters at the Acorn
Well, there we were again, another year, another party plus a bunch of "Nit Wits" wearing crazy hats and enjoying a veritable feast of the kind of food we had all vowed to give up after the New Year. All in all, along with the wonderful musical talents of the Acorn Folk Club local floor spots and visiting guest artiste James Findlay, added up to the Acorn's annual party, in the United Reformed Church Hall on 4th January 2014.
The evening began with with a number of Acorn's own supporting floor spots varying from traditional folk to Wassailing songs and on to utter fun and nonsense with a couple of poems of a similar ilk thrown in.
A special Acorn welcome was made to local girl Ange Hardy on her debut at the Acorn, who sang her own composition dealing with the badger cull from both sides.
Then over to James Findlay, the BBC Radio 2 award winning folk artist, who presented a most varied programme of local folk and traditional songs and tunes perfectly fitting for a party evening. James proved himself to be a master of the acoustic guitar, the melodeon and fiddle, but most of all, an accomplished singer without musical accompaniment. To hold your audience with voice alone is talent indeed.
During the interval the "Mad Hatters" had their head gear judged by James - the best way to make more enemies than friends, but he cleverly called for the audience to help and share the blame. Seen here with James Findlay are winnners Ron Clarke with his hat made from recycled materials, and Jenny Williams sporting her hat sewn like oak leaves, representing The Acorn Folk Club.
The second half included the "Somerset Nightingales" (organizers Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham) singing "Sweet Nightingale" with great audience participation.
The remainder of the evening was handed over to James Findlay whose vast repertoire of songs and associated stories ensured we ran out of time before we ran out of entertainment. Had Craig Reville Horwood of Come Dancing fame been present and asked to describe the evening, he would have said FAB-U-LOUS.     Review by Fred Povey
7th December 2013 - TOM LEWIS
On Saturday 7th December the Acorn Folk Club saw the last guest of 2013 – maritime singer Tom Lewis.   He is well respected in both Folk and Shanty circles, and drew an audience from as far afield as Wales, Cheddar, Cossington, Bridgwater and Taunton.  A native of Belfast, Tom spent most of his working life at sea, though mostly under it in submarines.   From a base in Canada he has toured the United States and Europe for several years, singing shanties and sea songs, accompanying himself on melodeon and two fine Gibson ukuleles.   He has recently moved “150 Days out from Vancouver” as Cicely Fox Smith has it, back in Great Britain. 

Tom Lewis treated his audience to a splendid variety of traditional and self-penned songs in the first set, including “Spanish Ladies” (Trad), “Radio Times” (Lewis), “Old Grey Squirrel” (Alfred Noyes), but thankfully he didn’t have to play his ukulele “as the ship went down”, like the Captain in the song “The Nancy Lee”!

In the second set he sang “Christmas at Sea” (R L Stevenson/Lewis), “Happy New Year said Ginger” (C Fox Smith), but started with a tale of Christmas piracy in which “Captain White Beard” in his sleigh robs the pirates of their treasure.  This must be how Father Christmas pays for all those toys!  He finished the evening with his song “The Sailor’s Prayer” to loud applause.

The Acorn’s floor spots ably supported Tom – The Somerset Nightingales (Eileen Ann Moore & Jim Parham), Ben Banks, Geoff Williams, Mike & Di Dibble, John Henden, Rob and Jenny Williams, and Crispin Bartlett from Newport, who also joined the Dunster Carolers in the singing of The Dunster Carol.

Although the Club’s Annual Party is still to come on 4th January, there was a very festive feeling to the evening with a raffle of mostly donated generous prizes and the serving of mince pies – so it was great for the organisers to receive an email next morning from visitors stating “such was the atmosphere at your club that it was a very memorable evening for us”.    RJP


“Super evening – my daughter was most impressed” said an audience member after the Home Grown Talent Concert staged by the Acorn Folk Club in the United Reformed Church Hall in Minehead on 2nd November, which was brilliantly MC’d by Fred Povey making his debut in that role.

The Somerset Nightingales (Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham) opened and were the penultimate act with a moving selection of current contemporary songwriters’ work – and having produced a programme for the event the chorus words were supplied so that the full house could participate in “Your Singing Land” and “Garden Valley” by Dougie McLean, “The Miracle of Life” by George Papavgeris and “The Shepherd’s Song” telling of the life of the great English poet John Clare, written by Pete Morton, to mention some of their selection.  A thrilling combination of clear singing “like a nightingale” with solos from each and close harmonies.

There followed some well chosen 60s/70s songs including Tom Paxton;s “The Last Thing on My Mind” performed by David Shevels and Steve Mottershead who met at the Acorn and have since formed a duo.   Tenderness and sadness followed in some of the other acts – Gwyneth Lorimer (looking, with her fair hair, and sounding beautiful) accompanied by fine guitarist Brian Bennelick – their highlight was Christy Moore’s “Ride On”.  It was observed that regular floor spot Geoff Williams absolutely excelled himself both in performance and choice of Ralph McTell and Tom Bliss songs, developing a story of love, romance and loss.

Then you could have heard a pin drop whilst the totally engrossed audience listened in absolute silence to the red haired Irish singer Marianne McAleer, who gave two spellbinding sets to include old traditional Irish ballads such as “The Banks of the Nile” and “She Moved Through the Fair”, alongside what everyone was agog to hear – her award winning lilting – which has led her to win many competitions, to sing frequently on Irish radio and at the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, and to be the current All England Champion at Lilting.   For the uninitiated this is “voice music” – creating sounds to fit the rhythm and tune with no words.

The main guests “The Triplets”, Ian Anderson - Harmonica and Guitar, Paul Dawson - Vocals and Guitar, and Jeannette Owen - Keyboard and Flute gave us two fabulous sets of 30s and 40s standards – “Stardust”, “Sleepy Time Girl”, “I Got Rhythm” – interspersed with amazing instrumentals “Dill Pickle Rag” featuring Ian on the Harmonica, and “Black and White Rag” featuring Jeannette on Flute.  After their so apt finale “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” in which Marianne gave us some different mouth music – spontaneous trumpet obligato – there was of course, a call for an encore “I’m Shooting High”.   This style of music was a diversification from the usual folk music at the Acorn and it was commented that the two styles mixed extremely well.

There are still two names not to be omitted – Mike Dibble who gave an inspiring performance of “There Will be Rest for Horse and Man” – set to music by the late much loved Sarah Morgan, and two songs lamenting war by the late Keith Marsden – Mike always chooses the right songs for the time of year.   And lastly, but certainly not least, Benn Banks – referred to as “always magic” chose two songs related to the time of year in particular Sidney Carter’s “Crow on the Cradle” which brought tears to the eyes.

So the conclusion is that the whole evening was a great success and that it is fantastic that we have such a variety of superb local talent, and that such a showcase should become an annual event because everyone was so warm, friendly and responsive, the messages in the mix of traditional and modern songs and music building up to one huge, life affirming, inspirational sweep of music.   Eileen Ann and Jim were both congratulated and thanked for their hard work in making the event happen.   (Review compiled by members of The Acorn FC).

ACORN FOLK CLUB REVIEW  5th October 2013

 The Acorn Folk Club was priveleged to host two professional guests on Saturday 5th October in the United Reformed Church Hall. George Papavgeris, originally from Greece, but now quoted by Harvey Andrews as being "the best thing in UK Songwriting in many a year", attracted not only usual club members, but also the traditional singing trio Notts Alliance who had performed at Bodmin Folk Club the night before, and travelled on to Minehead especially to hear him.
 They, and everyone present, were well rewarded by his passionate delivery of songs with a heartfelt conscience. David Kidman states "Songs for tomorrow's tradition", and Martyn Carthy "George is something special".
 One of our own performers Gwyneth Lorimer wrote next morning: "We really enjoyed it...there were some songs of George's that I couldn't sing along to just because they brought tears and a lump to my throat, they were so beautifully expressed. Particularly, "Memory", which brought back so many sad thoughts of my father and what he went through. I would definitely love to see George again some time!"
 George introduced himself as someone who had decided to "document life as in his lifetime" in song and music. And what a wonderful job he has made of this with some 200 songs and 8 albums to his name. He opened with "Miracle of Life", "Lucky Living Down Our Street", going on to "Love in the Workplace", and "Sell Your Dreams for Two Weeks in the Sun". He described how young divers for sponges could be permanently maimed by the bends, and a father's plea "Johnny don't go walking with the fishes" (leave the sponge just where it ought to be). He finished his first set with his most covered song "Settlers in Australia" accompanying himself for this number on 12 string guitar. His second set, if at all possible, was even more stunning than the first as he responded to a warm audience to whom, except for a few, he was previously relatively unknown. Wonderfully moving songs here included "Watermelon Seeds" - referring to children in the family, "Just You and Me" - when last girl leaves home, "Beware of the Bite of the Underdog", and finishing with "The End of the Day". There was of course, a huge call for an encore and George stood to deliver a fantastic rendition of his "When I'm Blessed with Friends like Those" - the audience uplifting their voices with him.
 Notts Alliance, a close harmony trio, gave two stunning sets of traditional songs and it was a great delight that they could come along and deliver such good music, swelling the floor spots and the audience, both of which were somewhat affected by late holiday goers and, it was mentioned, competition from our local theatre with their production of "Calendar Girls". We might not have got our tops off but we certainly had a compelling emotional and moving experience from listening to George Papavgeris!
 As always, wonderful loyal floor spots and listeners came from all over West Somerset and Devon, and the evening was ably MC'd by longstanding club member Geoff Williams, and aided by a great team of willing helpers. EAM

The Acorn Folk Club opened its 12th Season on 7th September in the pleasant environment of the United Reformed Church Hall with the charming Askew Sisters, both excellent musicians who look so young, but have actually been on the folk scene for some years now since their music degrees, and last played for the Acorn in April 2011. Living and working in London, they both teach, and work separately - Emily with early music groups and Hazel with folk projects at Cecil Sharp House. This booking was the start of a nine folk clubs tour, travelling all around Britain.
Hazel, the singer with a sweet clear voice and a tremendous word repertoire, is inclined to ballads with a somewhat ominous flavour - "Henry Martin", "The Bonny Bows of London Town", "The Wife of Usher Well" and "The Young Girl Cut Down in her Prime" - mostly accompanied by Emily on fiddle and with Hazel playing melodeon, but occasionally with just the fiddle. On only one song did Emily harmonise - and I would like to hear more. I very much enjoyed Hazel's rendition of "I Wish the Wars Were All Over". Her final song "If I were a Blackbird" was truly beautiful, although still with the theme of lovers being separated. The audience members certainly showed how much they like to sing, and it is very uplifting to hear a nearly 50 strong group joining in with choruses.
One of the Askew Sisters strengths is how they intersperse all these dramatic ballads with superbly played jolly jigs and dances, many specifically collected and secretly written down and saved by John Playford in Cromwell's time when he banned music and dancing. Titles such as "Our Cat has Kitted" and "Crimson Velvet", "Dick Iris's Hornpipe" and "Little Polly Pollock" had feet tapping, and spontaneous hand clapping along to "Beaux from London" and "Room for the Cuckoo". They gave a stomping good encore with "The Dusty Miller" and "The Presbyterian Hornpipe".
A thoroughly genial evening MC'd by Mike Dibble, celebratory chocolate cake for his wife's birthday, (the Acorn's hospitality was remarked upon) and a good selection of floor spots. There was very much a feeling of "glad to be back" after a summer break in August, and hosts Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham were very pleased to welcome organisers from other organisations - Under One Sun, Porlock Arts Festival and Wiveliscombe's Silver Street Sessions. A number of people also travel to hear such repected guests, eg from Crediton, Taunton and other outlying places, but there was a good contingent from Minehead too! And next morning an email "We all enjoyed yesterday evening, the music was good and the ambience very friendly. JH"




The Acorn Folk Club staged a Concert as part of the Minehead and Exmoor Festival 50th Anniversary Celebrations on Saturday 27th July in the beautiful sanctuary of the United Reformed Church.   “Brilliant evening” said the festival chairman, David Yates.

The guest, Pete Morton, who is a totally original singer/songwriter, has been booked all over England, the continent and in America, and yet he was utterly charming in thanking organisers Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham for bringing him to Minehead again – having been previously booked by the Club, and he was their first ever professional guest back in 2003.   His songs have been recorded by many other artists and a fabulous version of his song “There’s Another Train”, which closed his first set, can be found on Youtube sung in harmony by Yale University students.  Music magazine fRoots state “Morton is amongst the best that the British roots music scene has produced in living memory”.  

I don’t know if he personally invented “Frap” (Folk Rap), but in some of his songs, such as a skit on “To Be a Farmer’s Boy” and “Nationalise the Railways”, he produces an absolute torrent of words – how does he remember them we ask?   Alongside this he writes and performs with passion really moving songs such as “The Shepherd’s Song” about the life of John Clare - Northamptonshire poet whose most noted collection of poems is entitled “The Shepherd’s Song” – one of my favourites of the whole evening, but then so was “Disobedience” inspired by Ghandi subtly related to peace in the world, as was his song about his birthplace “Leicester” – three hours from the sea but many more from Idi Amin.  His songwriting is full of in depth concepts, yet he intersperses his programme with great humour “I’m Listening to my Boots” (marching through Dorset on a dark night), “Seven Billion Eccentrics” and “Related to You” (after eye contact with a female gorilla at Twyford Zoo). Then come the romantic songs “The Love of You”, and his song for his parents’ diamond anniversary “You Make Me Feel Like the Luckiest Man” – very emotional sentiments.  Throughout his two stunning sets Pete drew in the good sized audience so that to hear the recording which was made at the concert is really uplifting, with all voices raised especially in his finale of “When We Sing Together” – in which he states “that‘s the best of all”, and indeed it is.

However, such a world class guest did not overshadow the supporting artist, the superb young guitarist Darren Hodge from Taunton, who is considered to be one of the best up and coming young talents in the country and is being sponsored by Tanglewood guitars.   Darren gave us an absolute cascade of notes in two 15 minute sets and the audience was utterly amazed at his ability, both in his own compositions, such as “The Western Shuffle” written for a secondary school teacher, and “Sixteen Years Young” written for a friend, and the standard “Classical Gas”, his mind-boggling finale.

There was a taster of Acorn floor spots – The Triplets (Ian Anderson,  Jeannette Owen and Paul Dawson who also worked as a first class sound engineer throughout the evening), The Acorn Crew (Mike & Di Dibble with Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham), The Somerset Nightingales (Eileen Ann & Jim) singing one of Pete’s compositions “Maybe nothing’s spoken” in harmony -which Pete said really moved him - also Benn Banks, Ali Cooper and Saffron Summerfield, all of whom, as well as performing, worked as part of the team to serve wine or juice and delicious “Queen of Cakes” Di’s homemade birthday cakes for Jeannette’s birthday, the actual day, and Pete’s to follow in a couple of days.   A member of the audience asked “is it true wine and cake is included” – the answer was yes – any excuse to have cake at the Acorn has become a tradition!    What a rewarding occasion for the club and the performers and those who attended!    EAM & RJP   Photo by Douglas Hodge



The Acorn Folk Club’s 11th Anniversary event hosted the totally inspiring singer/songwriter Jez Lowe, who is an international ambassador of his home in the North East, the beauty of the area and the genuine working people who live there.  Jez has travelled the world with his own material, is booked at festivals and other clubs continuously, and his work has been recorded by Fairport Convention, The Dubliners and countless others.  The Acorn Folk Club certainly felt utterly privileged to stage him in the beautiful Ballroom at the Hobby Horse Hotel on the Esplanade on 1st June, where the staff served an appetising buffet beforehand to mark the occasion.

The large audience was spellbound by Jez’s descriptive introductions, by his ability as a wordsmith and poet, by his humour, his dulcet singing tones, and his dexterity in instrumental playing of guitars, bazouki, harmonica and mandolin, his performance being very subtly enhanced by the fine sound equipment supplied by the Hobby Horse manager, Benn who with his staff, was extremely helpful throughout the evening.

The songs Jez writes and performs are about the mining, fishing and shipbuilding industries – such as the “Pitman Poets Told Me So”, and the lives of ordinary working men and women “The High Part of the Town”,  relationships in families – a man warning his son not to enlist “You Won’t Make Old Bones” an anti-war song, “The Bonny Barque the Bergen” – about a Finnish ship sunk in the River Tees after a Finnish wife had had a premonition of disaster in a dream, “Old Hammer Head” – the crane’s point of view of being made idle in the shipbuilding yard, one of the ballads he wrote for the ongoing BBC revived programmes of Radio Ballads started by the late Ewan McColl, and to a young fisherman, the benefit of “The Net My Father Left Me”.

A spine-tingling song is “London Danny” which tells of the successful returnee – the one who got away – and what a threat he is to an ordinary working man who may lose his wife to the “show-off”.   “Taking on Men” – a lullaby straight off the water – how eager the men were to get work, and a wonderful description of games and sport for working men and communities in his unusual song “The Morpeth Olympics” - which those games were named – it contained such clever rhyming and rhythm to represent movement and sporting activities.

Jez Lowe was undoubtedly “the icing on the cake” of the Acorn’s 11th Season, which, whilst there have been some weather/cancellation/venue problems, has culminated on an absolute high: the icing was even decorated when Kate Bramley, partner to Jez in life and in his band The Bad Pennies, joined him on fiddle and voice for the final three numbers: ”Jack Common’s Anthem”, “Looking for the True North” and the demanded encore “Greek Lightning”, in which although sadly working mens’ dreams don’t always come true, they can at least have dreams.

There were some 15 excellent floor spots, an indication of a thriving folk club, one of them being Sheena Yates – a perfect complement to Jez Lowe as she is from the North East with the same sense of humour, when she recited “Tommy’s Ganny”.  Thanks to all who supported in anyway.  EAM & RJP




REVIEW FOR ACORN FOLK CLUB - 4th May 2013 with Rupert Kirby, Tony Piper and Geoff Hocking

How good it was to see three families as part of a full to capacity audience in the United Reformed Church Hall for the Acorn Folk Club’s second evening there on 4th May, when the very popular Devon musicians Rupert Kirby, Tony Piper and Geoff Hocking were the guests.

All three can lead songs and sing in harmony; Rupert is a multi-instrumentalist giving their two forty minute sets tremendous variety; Tony is a dab hand on the percussion, and Geoff a good guitarist. Tony and Rupert were part of the much loved, but now retired Hearts of Oak, and Geoff worked with them on their recordings. Tony spoke of the wonderful evenings at Brendon with genuine Exmoor farmer Jim Sanders, now passed on, who had asked him not to let the “Exmoor Hunt Song” be forgot – particularly as it is on the side of the stag – who escapes into Porlock Bay, having traversed a huge number of local villages, hamlets and vantage points – 27 miles in all which Tony has walked and can recommend!

Their version of the Yetties’ humorous song “Fling it here” which drew laughter from all, was followed by a wonderful instrumental set to include young Jack Lintern, Rupert’s violin pupil, who had earlier brought the house down with a solo. The instrumental set drew hand clapping and extra rhythm from the audience – I doubt if there has ever been such a round of applause in this delightful new venue for the Acorn Folk Club.

Other superb items such as “The Drover’s Road” by Reg Meuross, with a very nice line in it: “her eyes were as black as the sloe in the hedge”, a marvellous Beatles’ set “Eight days a week”, “We can work it out” and “It’s been a hard day’s night” – from the Beatles’ first album of 49 years ago (!) – as Tony said “They’re just songs – why not sing them in a Folk Club?” – equally brought the house down.

Other marvellous items followed such as “The Rare Old Times”about Dublin town, the Scottish whaling song “The Bonny Ship, the Diamond”, and “A Ship Sailed up to Bideford” lyrics Herbert Asquith and tune Rupert Kirby, and, perhaps my favourite, "The Mira” by McGilvary from New England. To look around the audience and see all ages smiling and participating is very uplifting. The secret of the Acorn’s success I believe, is how this atmosphere has steadily built, and there is no doubt that to hear absolutely unadulterated acoustic music, both instrumental and solo voices or in harmony, is a treat in this day and age.

Geoff Williams with his charming renditons of Ralph McTell songs also did a great job as MC, welcoming an experienced folk singer, new to this area, Saffron Summerfield. Saffron, on visiting this part of the world a while ago, decided to sell up in Kent and move here – so the Acorn Folk Club certainly hopes to hear more of her.

Other highlights were Fred Povey making his debut as a poet, reading his own hilarious material, and Rupert’s beautiful fiddle accompaniment for Eileen Ann Moore’s “The Rose” – a lovely song from the film about the life of Janis Joplin. There were other excellent floor spots and so much help with the running of the evening, that Eileen Ann, founder, would like to thank all who attended and indeed joined in the spirit of the Acorn Folk Club.



 All’s Well That Ends Well

 What a tumultuous but ultimately triumphant week this has been for the Acorn Folk Club. First we had to say good bye to Vera Dibble a dear and faithful member and a reader of hilarious poems, sadly died at the ripe old age of 93. Then a tragedy in the family of our booked act caused us to search for a new guest at 7 days’ notice, new posters were scarcely distributed when the Old Ship finally went aground. and we had to find a new venue and again produce new posters for Saturday 6th April. However all’s well that ends well: The United Reformed Church Hall was available and proved to be an excellent venue, and John Watterson, performing as Fake Jake Thackray, gave us one of the best evening’s entertainment we have had this season.

Whether to support us in our hour of need, or the guest, or the new venue, the hall was filled (literally) with as John said “lovely people .. in a friendly atmosphere”.  Floor spots were of a high standard with some regular performers and some new, giving a nice balance to the evening, all charmingly MC’d by Geoff Williams.

Jake’s songs are exquisitely funny, satirical, incisive, irreverent, witty and gloriously un-PC – and sometimes all of these at the same time. Jake was a one off, his poetry broke the rules yet worked beautifully, as was his idiosyncratic performance style. John demonstrated these to perfection giving an eerie feeling that it was Jake and not John.


“The Bantam Cock” a great opener the over sexed bantam with an eye on larger prey.

“The Widow of Brid” a hilarious morality song of intolerance and triumph of the persecuted and the loss intolerance begets to the intolerant.

“Isobel Makes Love Upon National Monuments” -  the clue is in the title.

“Sister Josephine” -  a very strange nun indeed.

“The Castleford Ladies' Magical Circle”

“The Blacksmith and the Toffee Maker” - a tale of unrequited love and divine intervention.

“Our Dog” - an affectionate tribute to mans’ best friend however antisocial it may be.

“Nurse” -  sadly the blond nurse was unavailable for this duet, so Jim Parham undertook the part with a fine falsetto.


The evening ended with the non PC but endlessly funny “On again, on again”, even the ladies were laughing at this scurrilous lampoon of the fair sex.

The organisers of the Acorn Folk Club would like to thank the Old Ship Aground for the use of their venue for eleven years, the United Reformed Church for allowing the use of their ideal and cosy hall, and all the friends and members who stepped in to help on the night and make the evening so positive for the continuation of the Club, which will again be held in the new venue.  EAM/RJP




At the Acorn Folk Club in the Pier Room at the Old Ship Aground on Saturday, 2nd March, singer/songwriter and clever guitarist Joseph Topping rendered two eye opening sets of mostly his own material, delivering a message for today – the dilemmas of youth both in this country and America.  His song “Circus Girl” came to him after seeing a TV programme about girls as young as 11 being dissatisfied with their bodies and wanting cosmetic surgery.  “How High” … (will the water rise … how long can we carry on … how big the hole we dig), although he joked that it could be applied to any crisis like the banking one, protested about youth’s boredom because of unemployment, which in turn led to another song “Trouble”.

Heavy stuff you might say, but not so in any way.  Joseph is so personable, has such a good voice and guitar style both on steel strung folk guitar and metal dobra playing bottle neck blues style, sometimes with harmonica, that his listeners were completely engrossed. 

He was very taken with the Acorn Folk Club, abandoning his amplifying equipment on realising he could hear all ten floor spots beautifully, and found it a privilege to give an acoustic performance to a hushed room where courtesy is always shown to guests – not a bit like singing in a noisy bar.

Joe has deputised for War Horse songwriter John Tams, played with Fairport Convention and is in the band Elbow Jane.  He attracted fans from as far as Coventry and other two hour journeys, and his CDs fairly flowed from the shelf during the interval.   Most interesting and why he was booked, is that Joseph Topping walked 1400 miles from Chicago to New Orleans (downhill he joked) to raise money for musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina – his view being that if musicians could play then tourism would return and regeneration ensue.

So, to introduce his songs, one being “Walking to New Orleans”, he talked of his three months and three pairs of shoes on the road passing cotton fields and corn fields, large towns like Memphis and remote posts; of how the young in such places can fall into drug abuse and crime; of his need for water and refusing lifts – determined to walk; of staying with a Five-Day Adventist family with three daughters and therefore being asked to sleep with the chickens and later meeting a red neck covered in blood who encouraged his chickens to fight (did I say eye-opener at the start of this review?); of meeting a released prisoner who wanted to get home and probably receive a good whack from his mother!

Joseph opened with the traditional “She moved through the fair”, spoke of falling in love with his wife at a Liverpool Disco inspiring “The Last First Kiss”, and ended with his a capella version of Combe Martin songwriter Andy Barnes’ “The Last Leviathan” – so spine tingling was it that a remark was made that it was worth coming for the last song alone.

What a night!  Lots of tickets sold on line and fans being prepared to travel to hear him, but a good nucleus of local people too and regular floor spots all ably MC’d by Mike Dibble, with Joseph himself appealing “Keep coming and keep music live at this lovely club”.

EAM    And from Joe:

Hi Eileen Ann, thank you so much for the great review and for having me at the club. I really enjoyed myself and met lots of lovely people!
Best wishes to you and the club for the future,

ACORN FOLK CLUB REVIEW 2nd February 2013 HAMISH CURRIE supported by Maria Barham and Carole Palmer


After the Acorn Folk Club on Saturday 2nd February, this email was received from guest singer and guitarist Hamish Currie: “Thanks again for the fine hospitality and for the booking at you brilliant club. I had an absolute ball.” Hamish has a fine Scottish brogue, a lovely selection of songs, a gentle and subtle sense of humour, and can only be described as a “gentleman”. His interaction with the audience throughout the evening with songs such as “Midshipman’s Boast” (Helen North), “Ae Fond Kiss” (Burns), and “Everyday I write the book” (Elvis Costello) with his superb guitar accompaniment, gradually drew everyone in, so that by the end he was holding listeners in the palm of his hand.


This was a promotional evening with Maria Barham and Carole Palmer also being booked as a supporting act. Both play guitar and sing beautifully in harmony and write their own songs as in “Siren” by Maria and “The Minstrel and the Rose” and “Play Soft” by Carole. Their material was delightful. Maria was surprised by a delicious birthday cake made, as always, by “Queen of Cakes”, Di Dibble.


To make a club “brilliant” one needs a good audience, and the organisers of the Acorn Folk Club would like to thank all those attended and to trust that having experienced such a successful evening those people will become or continue to be regular supporters.


Also the fine number of floor spots certainly added something, and it is great how amateur performers will travel here to Minehead – Benn Banks (Taunton), Geoff Williams (Old Cleve), Mike and Di Dibble (Timberscombe) – all absolute stalwarts since the Acorn’s inauguration in 2002. David Shevels (Porlock) and Steve Mottershead (Holford) made their debut as a duo, having met at the Acorn. Rosemary Hanson has taken on the role of reading amusing poems – this time Les Barker’s material. Ali Cooper travelled one and a half hours from Ufculme to give us her own song and her able guitar playing. Eileen Ann Moore, (founder) and Jim Parham (co-organiser) also draw the audience in with their fine renditions of self-penned and traditional songs, this time Jim singing “Tom Bowling” as he’d come hot-foot from performng at the Lifeboat Dance, held on the same evening.


At the end of the evening Hamish called up Maria, Carole and Eileen Ann, and a spontaneous singing quartet was formed for the beautiful song “Caledonia” written by Dougie McLean who this week won the 2013 BBC2 Radio Folk Lifetime Songwriter's Award. The song was heard on radio and seen on TV for the Award night, and made a great finale for this rewarding evening at The Acorn Folk Club, which was held in The Pier Room at The Old Ship Aground. Photographs and video clips can be seen on by clicking on the relevant headings in the left hand column.  EAD


Rob Barratt from Cornwall, who was Acorn Folk Club's 11th Annual Party Guest, is a stand up comic poet, though some of his jesting has its serious side. Such a guest was a diversion from the norm at the Acorn, but well worth booking because he was hilarious and a good and unusual guest for a party night.

Rob has been booked at many Folk Clubs, Festivals and Literary occasions and is fast building a name for himself. With his likeness to Joe Brown the first poem in his book "Men From Mars in Bumping Cars" is entitled "I'm Not Joe Brown". Rob heard the weather forecast stating "Seventeen in Aberdeen" ('ah there's a line' he thought) and thus came another hilarious item. Rob occasionally sings his poems - as in"The Napoli" to the tune of "Lord Franklin" about the morals of looting beaches after a shipwreck - a poem mixed with some element of truth - as possibly, however amusing, is "Jordan's Had a Boob Job", "Welded to her Mobile" and "Ticking Boxes" about the dilemma of teachers dealing with the National Curriculum.

Rob, with his striking presence, wasn't alone in creating such a good ambience, as Damian Clarke, also an up and coming professional, visited all the way from Dorchester, and rather fascinated the audience with his hammer dulcimer and hurdy gurdy playing, and kindly played tunes during the Hat Competition parade which Rob judged, the winner being a very colourful "witch-type" hat worn by Jill Norris.

Folk enthusiasts travel from Tiverton, Taunton, Timberscombe, Old Cleve, and other places further afield, with 9 amateur performers covering some sixteen floorspots between them, and yet the support from Minehead itself was rather disappointing, and those not present missed a wonderful evening and slices of Christmas Cake. 

The Acorn Folk Club is held on the first Saturday of each month, and over the past eleven years has introduced to the area an absolute wealth of traditional and contemporary folk music, booking extremely prestigious guests. However, this will be unsustainable without greater support - so this review also contains an appeal to KEEP MUSIC LIVE IN MINEHEAD - in other words - use it, or lose it. EAM
And from Rob:   Thanks very much for everything and for the lovely write-up. Just got back. Thanks for the photos too. See you at Bodmin FC soon.
All the best, Rob 
And from Damian: 
  Thank you for your hospitality, it was nice to feel so involved. I had some lovely chats with your members and a lot of interest in the instruments and particularly the sound of the dulcimer. I was just sorry that I hadn't got my hat decorated, but that was a great idea. Your local folkies are missing out on the fun, as you say!
Thank you for sending me Jim's pictures. I like the one with the gurdy and can I maybe use it on my website?  (Jim's answer was "yes" of course).