Folk Music and Folk Dance at Keele

Keele has been remarkably active and influential in the folk scene over the years.

An early precursor of the Keele Folk Culb was the Keele Kolliery Khorus - Colin Thomas (1962) tells the story....

‘Sospan Fach’ – ‘Little Saucepan’ – was the very first item in our repertoire. A group of Welsh men in the Keele Rugby Club had got together to sing it at the Rugby Club’s annual dance in 1959 and the poster for the event labelled us as the ‘Keele Kolliery Khorus’. Wearing glowing miners’ helmets and singing in semi-darkness, we were surprised to find that the rowdy audience fell silent and listened respectfully, as if we were indeed an archetypal Welsh male voice choir.

Keele Kolliery Khorus in rehearsal So bass Lynn Jones (1962) from the Rhondda valleys and I, Colin Thomas (1962) a tenor from Cardiff, decided to keep our little choir going. I continued to wave my arms about as the conductor while Lynn, a much better musician than I, provided quality control. He had an uncanny knack of being able to pitch every piece without the aid of a tuning fork, not too low for the basses and not too high for the tenors.

The choir grew rapidly both in numbers – you didn’t have to be Welsh to join, just male – and in repertoire – a piece didn’t have to be Welsh to qualify, just singable.  We borrowed "That Lucky Old Sun" from Buffalo Bill's Barbershop, "Avante Populo" from Italian partisans in the Second World War via Aberystwyth Rugby Club and the absurd but touching "Whiffenpoof Song" from the alumni of Yale University -

“…See the Whiffenpoofs assemble
With their glasses raised on high
And the magic of their singing casts a spell.”

The Kollieryemn reformed in 2007 Embarrassed by our jokey title, I pompously tried to change our name to "Cantorion Cymru" in the Students Union handbook. But by then we were known and - dare I say it - loved as the Keele Kolliery Khorus and couldn’t shake it off. We sang regularly at Keele events for the next three years, including at a Royal Ball to an enthusiastic Princess Margaret, and once toured the pubs of Newcastle as part of Rag Week’s charity fund raising. We were tolerated by the drinkers rather than rapturously received but at the end of that evening we found the back room of a workingmen’s club where, lubricated by pints of beer, we sang only to and for ourselves. I will never forget that sing-song which somehow symbolised Keele comradeship – each of us listening attentively to each other as we sang, our voices seeming to blend in perfect harmony.

Lynn Jones and I have remained good friends ever since and, nearly fifty years after our formation, we gathered together as many members of the choir as we could for a 2007 Pioneers' Reunion at Keele, among them Colin James (1962) all the way from Canada and Tudor Jones (1964). By then all our voices had become worn and faded but the audience, no doubt stirred by nostalgia, demanded an encore. We settled on "Avante Populo" but I rather regret now that we didn’t make it the Whiffenpoof Song, dedicated to the owner of a Yale bar -

“…We will serenade our Louis
While life and voice shall last
Then we’ll pass and be forgotten like the rest.”     

Tom Todd (1962) was also a Kollieryman: "​Great to read about the Keele Kolliery Khorus - and indeed to see my own photo among all the other singers in that memorable group! It brought a lump to my throat and reminded me of heady days at Keele. For the record I still remember most of the songs we sang with the KKK!  I know you will not mind this Yorkshireman recalling that at least one of the 15 KKK members was not from Wales!"

Photo above right: The Kollierymen reform in 2007 for the Pioneers' Reunion - Colin Thomas conducting with Keith Anderson, Geoff Shakespeare, Cedric Parry, Moray Stewart, Tudor Jones, Ray Costello, Lyn Jones, Keith BonhamJohn Samuel....

Keele students were also among the pioneers of the revival of the "Rapper" dance. But what is Rapper?

Rapper (or "short sword") dance belongs to the family of hilt and point linked sword dances found in several regions of Northern Europe. However it is danced with a most unswordlike strip of spring steel with a handle at each end (the "rapper"). Many teams use rappers with a rotating handle at one end and a fixed handle at the other, Hawksword prefer two fixed handles. The introduction of the rapper had a major effect of the dance, allowing for much tighter figures and a faster, more exciting performance. Rapper is danced by a set of five dancers in a linked "hilt and point" ring accompanied by one or two characters (traditionally "Tommy" and "Betty") and usually a solo musician. (Wikipedia)

Rapper News Article by Mike Baldock Keele Rapper and Keele Folk Dance Club

"Keele Rapper was started by Steve Linstead who, like me, started at Keele in October 1970. Steve had previously danced with Barnsley Longsword who danced both longsword and rapper, the two main “families” of English sword dance.  Page 186 of Phil Heaton’s book “RAPPER The Miners’ Sword Dance of North-East England” gives 1969 as the start date of Keele Rapper but this must be at least a year early as Steve Linstead did not arrive at Keele until 1970, and I am pretty sure that 1971 is the right year.  The first dance-out was a walking tour (hardly anyone had cars then) on 4th December 1971 at a number of spots in Newcastle-under-Lyme. The names were Steve Linstead (Singer) - he sang the Calling On Song which Steve usually sang at the start of each performance and, in the full version, introduces the dance and each dancer’s (fictional) background; Tim Beasant (Musician) - he played the piano accordion for rapper. Tim was a brilliant musician who played most musical instruments, and played them very well; Tudor Crum (Dancer No 1); Grant Glanville (Dancer No 2); Gadfan Edwards (Dancer No 3); Nigel Birchenough (Dancer No 4); Roland Goodbody (Dancer No 5).  The side danced at a ceilidh in the evening in the Union Ballroom organised by the Folk Dance Society. Keele wore red shirts, yellow sashes (tied around the waist) and black breeches with red socks but the waistcoat was the eye-catching item. It was black with a narrow yellow bias border and the crest of the university on the back. I think it was modelled on a surviving waistcoat from an earlier Keele side about which I know nothing. Before the first dance-out, the girlfriends (including Karen Umpleby and Jane Burridge) worked very hard to get the kit finished in time. There were a number of changes in the following year when some people dropped out but we had a strong intake from the year that started about October 1971 including Alan Green, Mike Baldock and Derek Wood. In the early 1970s there was a strong interest in folk music, song  and dance at Keele and the rapper side danced at the ceilidhs organised by the Folk Dance Society and at the Keele Folk Festivals (organised by students) in the summer of 1972 and 1973. We also danced at other events, some of which were outside the university. 
Bill Howarth (with beard) On 2nd July 1974 we danced at the Senior Common Room Summer Ball before Princess Margaret who, as Chancellor of Keele, was attending the graduation ceremony. The names listed in my newspaper cutting are: Tim Bloomfield, Mike Baldock, Alan Green, Derek Wood, Ian Rycroft, Grant Glanville, Steve Linstead and Bill Howarth (musician).  In 1976 Keele Rapper became a member of the Morris Ring at the Nottingham Ring Meeting from 23rd – 25th July. From the photos, the side was: Mike Baldock, Alan Green, Derek Wood, Nick Partridge, John Young, Grant Glanville (Tommy) and Steve Linstead (Betty). (The Tommy and Betty “clown” as the rest of the side is dancing). None of my photos includes the musician and I can’t remember who played for us. I think that the Nottingham Ring Meeting was the last time I danced with Keele until Mike Baldock’s 40th birthday celebration around 1994. Many Keele dancers went on to dance with or found other rapper sides. I started a rapper side within Bristol Morris Men with whom I have danced since 1974, and Mike and Alan founded and/or danced with other sides." Grant Glanville (1974)

Photo right: Bill Howarth (with beard)

Rapper by Mike Baldock 1 "Tony Barrand (1968) and I both were rapper dances in our time – a sword dance tradition from the north of England. He also danced morris and wrote a book about it, but he was very curious about how I got into rapper (it was at Keele through Steve Linstead, from Barnsley)." Roland Goodbody (1975)

"Keele Rapper!!! Absolutely fantastic.  It would, be great to know what became of them all.  I was concertina player for Keele Rapper 1974 to 1977." Bill Howarth (1977)

Photo left: "A number of my friends were very busy with Rapper. Some names to go with the black-and-white picture of Keele Rapper.... On the Left is Martin Barrett, I shared a Hawthorns flat with him in 1978-9, next is Ed Charleton who moved to the USA some years ago. The man in the middle I don’t know, Mike Baldock is second from the right and on the right is Chris Pitt, who left after his second year. They folded around 1979 and the archive was given over to the university." Peter Meade (1979)

"The black and white photo of the 5 of us – Peter Meade names people, but let me correct him – on the left is me, then Ed Charlton, Derek Wood in the centre, then (can’t remember his name but he was a postgraduate studying Russian), with Chris Pitt on the right.  This photo was taken in, I think, 1977 at the Sidmouth Folk Festival where we were booked for the whole week.  Sidmouth was at the time THE festival of the UK folk world.  Every morning we ran a two hour rapper training workshop for all comers and I remember on the last morning we took them all down to the seafront to perform and marshalled about 70 people dancing all together.  In the late 70s we had some local Potteries members, and I am trying to remember their names:  Graham Awty was one, Chris Algar, Albert something, plus another guy.  The late Ken Lovelace was an honorary member – we met him through rapper and the Folk Club." Mike Baldock (1976)

Rapper by Mike Baldock 2 "I was at Keele for two years but I'm afraid my folk activities finally overwhelmed my protestant ethic re: studying, and I failed my second year exams and was cast into the wilderness. I well remember the rapper side because I was a founder member. As I recall we had Steve Linstead, Roland Goodbody, Gadfan Edwards, Grant Glanville and me, with Tim Beasant playing piano accordian (there were others but memory fails me I'm afraid). We were joined in the second year by Mike Baldock, Alan Green and others whose names escape me, and after I left such folk luminaries as Chris Pitt and Jon Hayward (fiddle) became part of the side. I recall the night we danced £200 out of the Students Union. SU meetings in those days were relentlessly left wing and worthy, so we decided to introduce a spot of physical into the proceedings. We got one of our girlfriends to propose the grant to the rapper side, and we then seconded it with a dance right there in the meeting. Didn't half go down well with the rank and file although some of the more politically inclined tut-tutted a bit We got our grant by a big majority. We also ran a thriving folk club in the Hexagon, booking the likes of Martin Carthy, Dick Gaughan, Diz Disley and Leon Rosselson. The Folk Club committee under Karen Umpleby achieved great things in organising folk concerts and other activities, and subsequently restarted the Keele Folk Festival which had flourished in the sixties but died a few years before we got there." Tudor “Ted” Crum (1972)

"Those photographs bring back memories.  I was fairly keen on folk music when I first went to Keele in 1970 and was persuaded to go folk dancing by Rachel Annand (1973) (who lived next door to me in 'Thorns M block). Steve Linstead was in the same year group as me and I remember the rapper group being started by him in the early months of FY. I was a regular at the folk club and the Tuesday folk dance sessions. Many of the people I saw at the folk club are still around today.  I remember seeing a very young Vin Garbutt, Bernard Wrigley, Martin Carthy and many others.  Jason Hill (1971) singing the same song almost every week also comes to mind.  There was a folk festival at Keele in 1973 or 1974. For the folk dance club there was a band of sorts and Jan Guyatt (1972) taught most of the dances; I believe we even went to the Intervarsity folk dance event although I have no memory of where it was held. We used to meet in a room in the Union on the first floor and I think it was every Tuesday. It was always lively. How I wish I could still dance all evening as I did in those days! After Keele I went to work in Cambridge and continued to folk dance and go to the local folk club. It was through this that I met my husband and we still folk dance and go to concerts and folk festivals now that we are in our 60s." Anne Copley (Readshaw) (1974)

Rapper by Mike Baldock 3

"Mike Baldock is correct that the start date was 1971 rather than 1969 as we both came up in 1970. Neil Darlington was also an early member. In I think 1972-73 we temporarily acquired a visiting American cellist, Tom Kanter, who learned jigs on the fiddle but played it sitting down, between his legs – another talking point of our performances. We were mindful that some years earlier the University of Newcastle had spearheaded a Rapper revival and we were given some advice by Professor Bill Fisher Cassie on swords. We had the wrong ones, and I remember hitching down to Cecil Sharp House in London to get the right set. We improved instantly. At Keele we practised in the gym on mats until we felt grown-up enough to try on hard floors! When David Gadfan Edwards joined us in 1971 from the Men of Sweyn’s Ey (Swansea University) he made a big impact and coaxed and cajoled us out of the gym. His energy and experience came at a critical time for our development although we never anticipated his winning "Mastermind" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?". The tumble figure became our trademark and we experimented as the team grew and incorporated Tommy and Betty characters, moving on to “double tumble” and even “triple tumble” (three dancers simultaneously back-somersaulting over the swords, whilst still linked). I don’t think any other side ever did that, but we went one better – we did it twice with different tumblers each time. One consequence of having six tumblers was that we had the lowest alcohol consumption on tour of any side in the country. We also invented two other figures, one of which was called “Windmill”, which featured variations in stepping. Gad introduced us to some variations in formation and stepping that we incorporated and improvised around. I don’t recall the waistcoat being based on an earlier rapper team, but it could have been based on an international dance team outfit. A couple of the dancers customised the Keele motto, which became “Thanke God for Al” (Al Green) and “Thanke God for Ale” (Derek Wood, whose father was a publican).

Morris Ring 1976 with names The original red shirts were a matter of myth too – red shirts were really expensive so we bought white ones and I was responsible for dyeing them. Unfortunately I forgot to put the salt in to fix the colour, so our second dance was in salmon pink. We danced as a guest display side at the Inter-Universities Folk Dance Festival at Oxford and did some street displays too, and also at the Newcastle-under-Lyme Octocentenary celebrations. We were memorably manifest at an event at Chester College of Education, supporting the band Dando Shaft (led by multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins, later of Fairport Convention) and guitar god John Martyn. We also danced at the Barnsley Easter Folk Festival around 1973 and again in 1975. I sang the calling-on song (“Good people give ear to my story”) and for the Morris Ring induction in 1976 wrote a humorous supplement (“The Keele Rapper Team” to an Irish jig learned from Sean Cannon, who later joined The Dubliners). The legendary Keele Folk Festival moved to Loughborough in 1970, but in 1972 the folk scene was so strong on campus that the folk club launched a Mini-Keele Festival as we called it, for one day, which the following year became a weekend, and the Rapper team were a core part of that – including leading a dwile-flonking team one Sunday morning to challenge the High Level Ranters, no less. We had big feet, but bigger ambitions." Stephen Linstead (1974)

Photo right: Same photo as above with names provided by Mike Baldock - the Morris Ring Meeting 1976. Rear L to R: Tim Beasant (accordion), Grant Glanville, Steve Linstead, John Young, John Fletcher, Chris Pitt, Alan Green, Nick Partridge. Middle L: Will Howarth. Middle R: unidentified. Middle R in shorts: Rev Ken Lovelace Front kneeling L to R Tim Bloomfield, Derek Wood, Mike Baldock.

"I was an avid member of the folk dance society, and supporter of Keele Rapper. I persuaded some of Keele Rapper to run a women’s rapper sword workshop - not realising that women dancing Rapper and Morris was “frowned on”. However, we later learned that we were part of the groundswell across the country at the same time to change those attitudes - synchronicity! I have memories of the Keele folk festival circa 1973-76, and the time Keele rapper seconded a motion to give the festival a grant by dancing at the student union meeting!" Janet Dowling (1976)

Rapper by Mike Baldock 4 "I was at Keele for eight years, and a member of Rapper for a bit over seven of those. When I last saw Tim Beasant he had a mound of material that he kept promising to organise and present back to the Library. One of Keele Rapper's founders went on to win both Mastermind and Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Another Rapper member – Nick Partridge - was knighted." Mike Baldock (1976)

"I was bagman from about 1980 until it faded away and have photos, videos and film from a fondly remembered period of my life.  I was the musician at the inauguration to the Morris ring and have a cassette recording of the occasion." John Fletcher (1974)

A Swarthmore College Connection

"I attach a photo (left) of some of the members from 1969-1970.  I am pretty sure it was taken at the Intervarsity Folk Dance Festival, held at Reading that year.  I am afraid I can’t identify everyone, but here are some names:  Back row, far left as you look at the photo is Gilles Berthiaume (glasses and beard); Back row, exact centre is me, Paul Brownsey (1970);Keele Folk Dance Club 1969-1970 Back row, far right is Michael Parry (1971), I’m about 95% sure;  Front row, far left is Janine Wilkins (1972).  I discovered  folk dance when I was exchange student at Swarthmore in 1968-9.  I had never done it before.  Previously, at Keele, I’d attended the ballroom dance classes run in the sports centre by the lovely Vera Baxter. When I got to Swarthmore I looked for the same.  No-one did ballroom dance but I was steered towards folk dance. On May Day the Swarthmore folk dancers did English dances on the Swarthmore town village green; we marched on to Elgar Pomp & Circumstance No. 1, which felt surreal.  When I came back I looked for folk dance at Keele.  The dance we did at Reading was a German schuhplattler I’d learned at Swarthmore." Paul  Brownsey (1970)Rapper by Mike Baldock 5

Identified Members of Keele Rapper and Folk Dance Society and associates:

Tony Barrand (1968); Paul Brownsey (1970); Gilles Bertiaume (?); Gadfan Edwards (1971); Michael Parry (1971); Tudor “Ted” Crum (1972); Jan Guyatt (Wilkins/Beasant) (1972); Nigel Birchenough (?); Tim Beasant (1973); Anne Copley (Readshaw) (1974 ); Neil Darlington (1974); John Fletcher (1974); John Dunlop (1974): Grant Glanville (1974); Tom Kanter (?); Steve Linstead (1974); John Young (1974); Karen Ralph (Umpleby) (1974); Ian Rycroft (1974); Jane Burridge (1975); Roland Goodbody (1975); Mike Baldock (1976); Ed Charlton (?); Janet Dowling (1976); Alan Green (1976); Jon Hayward (1976); Chris Pitt (?); John Atkin (1977); Tim Bloomfield (1977); Nick Hammond (1977); Bill Howarth (1977); Derek Wood (1977); Nick Partridge (1978); Chris Pitt (1978); Anne Armstrong (1979); Ed Charlton (1979); Martin Barrett (1980); Ian Radcliffe (1982)

Rapper by Mike Baldock 6 And a thread found on Facebook....

Peter Graystone: Did there use to be a Keele rapper group?
The Full English: Did there used to be a Keele Rapper group?! wash your mouth out with soap... They were Keele University personifed... plus Princess Margaret, she was a dancer! (folk not Rapper Dancer... she might have been a rapper though)... her and Nibs whisking around C# HQ.... what a sight.... if you could see through the chain smoking darling... HRH was the chancellor... non of yer brother pot bank wallahs or Hon ex-'head of POP' eco pundits..... top class performance... the bees knees... and the real skilled trick... continued a tradition through changing student intake... as Keele like/with Staffs Poly (sorry Uni ) has an community & development grant engagement plan & paid persons in/migrating to post perhaps time to encourage Keele to revive its premier folk dance tradition.... grant aided? (Stop Press... try Deloittes)... Keele had The National (Folk Festival)... till booking problem so it moved to Loughborough (plant breeding campus)... Sutton Bonnington... the likes of Scan Tester played at Keele! the musician was Will Howarth, concertina... key members Tim Beasant... Mike Baldock... BRING BACK KEELE RAPPER....
Ted Crum: Roland Goodbody, Steve Linstead, Gadfan Edwards, John Dunlop,  (together with yours truly) were the earliest manifestation of Keele Rapper. Started around 1969/70 and stayed the course pretty well I think.
The Full English: “See Bill Howarth, musician KR on various posts from Brighton these days.... on his hammered dulcimer.”
Bill Howarth: Yes - Keele Rapper were great!!!

Lady Sneyd's Swans Lady Sneyd's Swans

Chris Dixon "There was a female counterpart to Keele Rapper, Lady Sneyd’s Swans. Chris Barrett (Dixon) (1979) married Martin Barrett (1980) and they live in Ireland. In the Swans image, Chris Dixon is in the foreground and the one in the background was (I think) a Chemistry graduate at the same time as me, but I don’t remember her name." Peter Meade (1979)

"I was one of Lady Sneyd's Swans and I still have my little embroidered waistcoat". Camereen Graham (1979)

Photo left: Lady Sneyd's Swans - Chris Barrett (Dixon) 1979 foreground

Photo right: Chris Barrett (Dixon) 1979 plays recorder

The New Universities Festivals

Keele initiated a cultural festival known as the New Universities’ Festival, which allowed all the new campus universities to show off their musical, dramatic, poetic and artistic talents in June, after Finals but before we all departed for the long vacation.  NUF was supposed to rotate between them. We had kicked off in 1964, and Sussex had done a decent job in 1965.  1966 was the turn of, I think, York. Round about the middle of March 1966 their Union informed us that their own university authorities were appalled by the logistical problems on a half-built campus and were not prepared to support the venture.  After hurried visits to all the other potential hosts I took the risk of offering Keele’s hospitality a second time round (and took the precaution of issuing a public statement to this effect before returning to face our own university authorities).  For the next four months I was occupied fulltime (and often more or less round the clock) in co-ordinating the event, finding commercial sponsors, producing and generating publicity, and working out how exactly we were to accommodate an additional thousand students on campus for a weekend.  With a small team of lunaticly committed first and second year students we pulled the event off: plays, hops (with big bands), films, debates and original poetry readings (with John Wain adjudicating) ran continuously in all venues for forty-eight hours, and the university refectories and the Union snack bar closed only for the occasional clean-up.  The projectors in the new Chancellor’s Building spectacularly overheated as a result of a continuous forty-eight hour showing of The War Game, the notorious drama-documentary about the aftermath of a nuclear attack which had been banned by the BBC and was not otherwise made public for twenty years thereafter.  Without a fulltime officer to take charge we could not at such short notice have achieved all this, with the added bonus of two hours of favourable documentary coverage on Midlands ITV (from whose crew I received the personal reward of a whole crate of bottles of Glenfiddich, from which I have never really recovered)."  Bill Proctor (1968) Students' Union President 1965-1966 and First Sabbatical Officer of the Union

Keele students held the Biggest Folk Festival in Britain in 1965

“In July 1965 the Guardian reported ‘the biggest folk festival ever held in Britain’, attended by 500 people at Keele University.” Mentioned Here.

“The folk festival in Britain had become a serious proposition with the first Keele and Cambridge events, although it was still a fragile concept – potentially large, organisationally complex events run by amateurs.” .

“The Keele folk festivals were held in 1965 and 1966 at Keele University. There was a booklet produced with lots of pictures - I can't remember if it was made for sale or was part of the programme for the second festival. There were many wonderful traditional singers present and there are some great pictures of them in the booklet. I was at both of the festivals and appear in the background in several of the pics. I'm trying to get hold of the booklet - or any other memorabilia of those festivals - which metamorphosed into the National Folk Festival - of blessed memory and sadly missed! It was a revelation to a young singer like me, and I met people there with whom I'm still friends - and I'm sure there must be other Mudcatters who were there too. They were all great festivals - particularly as the emphasis was on 'traditional' performers and I really miss the National for that.” Dave Hunt

The Strawbs performed at Keele Folk Festival: Sunday 16 - Tuesday 18 May 1965 - Keele Folk Festival, featuring Bill Clifton, Rev Gary Davis (with Maddy Prior as his minder) and Hedy West, amongst others. From StrawbsWeb.

“There is a framed copy of the festival flyer on the wall of The Musician in Leicester. I've begged them for a copy but to no avail. I've also heard a possibly apocryphal tale about the original Keele Folk Club having decamped to Loughborough Uni sometime in the mid-60s, and another having been set up in its place sometime afterwards. One of only many reincarnations it has affected down the years.” Mike Coll

“The Keele Festival, with its emphasis on traditional, as well as revival singers, moved around to Loughborough, back to Keele, back to Loughborough for many years and then, as the National, to Sutton Bonington. A different festival took place in Keele in 1972 or 1973 with Nic Jones and others - I was there, I remember! I wasn't there in 1965... too young! But I have the booklet, which was published by Eric Winter's Sing magazine, and contained photos by Brian Shuel. I have a copy of the programme as well.”  Derek Schofield

“I was involved in running the Keele folk club from 1967 to 1971, it was held in Lindsay Hexagon. It was the Keele Folk Festival that relocated to Loughborough.” Jason Hill

“Early 80s it the Keele Folk Club in the Alright Bar, KRA, or the 'Quiet Room'. Then it went off the radar till about 2001 by when it had kind of permanently relocated to the new KPA clubhouse, where it still convenes.”  Mike Coll

“There was a Festival in 1975, I think. I saw Bernard Wrigley, Bill Caddick, Martyn Wyndham Reed amongst others - I was 26. It was the year probably the month I started floor spotting. Early summer. I was a teacher in Brum. But from my first floorspot, i had the performing bug.” Alan Whittle

Keele's part in the Origins of Steeleye Span?

"It was at Keele Folk Festival that the discussions took place which led to the foundation of Steeleye Span. Terry Woods became a member of Sweeney's Men, who played English and American folk music, plus their own compositions. That summer the band performed at Cambridge Folk Festival. Gay Woods was not in the band. The following summer, the couple went to Keele folk festival where Woods met up with Ashley Hutchings who was then still with Fairport Convention. Terry Woods and Hutchings had an instant rapport. The first tentative rehearsal for the new band which was to become Steeleye Span took place in early November 1969. Johnny Moynihan, the Woods, Andy Irvine (back from his travels in the Balkans) and Hutchings met at the Prince of Wales pub in Highgate. The following day, Moynihan said he wouldn't be joining Steeleye because of his dislike of Terry Woods. Irvine also dropped out, resuming his solo career prior to meeting Dónal Lunny, with whom he would soon form a duo. To replace them, Hutchings then asked Bob and Carol Pegg, then the Dransfield brothers, and finally Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, who accepted. Ronal Ronsbury Fairweather. Or, if you believe a different version... In 1969, Prior and Hart took part in a conversation at Keele folk festival about electrification of traditional music. Another participant in the discussion was Hutchings. As Hart told John Tobler in 1996, "We all sat around and expressed our annoyance that the electric input to folk music was coming from the rock side rather than the folk side...After that, Maddy and I gave Ashley a lift back to London and we got talking further." The result of these conversations was that, by the time he was sure of the Sweeneys' break-up, Hutchings knew whom he wanted in the band." Ronal Ronsbury Fairweather

Money no object at festival of pure folk. This article was originally published in the Guardian 17 July 1965.

"KEELE, FRIDAY - Leaving behind the pubs and the houses where they normally perform, five hundred "traditional" folk singers, some strumming guitars, others with Jew's-harps in their pockets, converged this afternoon on Keele University for the biggest folk festival ever held in Britain. There is a distinctly purist air about the festival, organised by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, coming as it does in the same week that a song ("Mr Tambourine Man") written by Bob Dylan, leader of the "commercial folkniks," slips smugly into the top of the hit parade. For two days the singers will listen to established singers, exchange songs with each other, go to lectures and demonstrations on song-writing and instrument playing – in an attempt to create a focal point for the rapidly increasing number of people turning to folk music…. Mr Michael Dewdney – treasurer of the West Country Folk Club – commented: "We keep away from commercial songs. Folk should be of the people, by the people, and for the people; it fails when it is written for commercial gain. Bob Dylan will never be remembered for his protest songs 40 years from now. The flavour of his songs is communistic, but he lives like a capitalist, having been pushed into a mould by the people behind him." Meanwhile, the singers continued to arrive at the university to sing their own favourite songs to whoever wanted to listen, seemingly content with that. Some of them protested that not even the arrival of a talent scout from a commercial record company could spoil the purity of their intentions."

From the archives: Performers at Keele Folk Festival

There's no doubt that the first two Keele Folk Festivals (1965 and 1966) gave a great boost to many of us involved in folk clubs at the time.  Those who were there heard traditional singers from Ireland, Scotland and England for the first time; we felt this was 'the real deal' and were keen to find a place in the clubs for traditional music and song. Read More.

Arlo Guthrie appeared at Keele Folk Festival. Mentioned here.

Hedy West made regular visits to England and lived in London for seven years, making tours of the country's folk clubs, and appearing at the Cambridge festival and the first Keele folk festival as well as regular visits to Europe, especially Germany. Mentioned here.

Surviving Recordings

There are audio recordings in the national Archives of part of a talk given by A.L. Lloyd on "The Ballad" at Keele Folk Festival. Read More.

There is a recording of  THE FOX CHASE by FELIX DORAN. Felix Doran was an outstanding player of the Uillean bagpipes. This recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1965 at the Fladh Cheoil, Clones and the First National Folk Festival, which he organised at Keele University. At Keele he introduced, to a young and excited audience, the descriptive piece, THE FOX CHASE, and held their interest with his dance tunes and slow airs: THE COOLIN and BODENSTOWN GRAVEYARD. Felix Doran (1915-1972) was a famous "traveller", originally from Wexford, well-known for his appearances at fairs and football matches in Ireland, and, with the coming of competitive festivals, as a champion and prize-winner on many occasions. He was one of a number of Irish traditional singers and instrumentalists invited to the first Keele National Folk Festival, which included, amongst the musicians from Ireland, Margaret Barry, Michael Gorman, the McPeake Family and Packie Byrne.

There is a book too: "KFF: Keele Folk Festival 1965 by Winter, Eric (Editor) London: Sing Productions, 1965."

Here are some links to photos: Photo One.   Photo Two.   Photo Three.    Photo Four.

Did you enjoy this? Why not read more stories from the Keele Oral History Project?