Hitchin Folk Club

- a brief history!

 

  In the early 60’s Hitchin had two folk clubs, one at the Hermitage Ballroom and the other a small singers club at the Railway Hotel (later renamed the Talisman hotel).  It was these two clubs that influenced Roger Pearson, a reporter with Hitchin & Letchworth newspaper ‘The Pictorial’ and Mary McGannan, a student and part time singer from Luton , to open ‘their’ club. Their first venture was at The Tudor Café in Upper George Street in Luton .  The club was hugely successful and acts like Davy Graham and Shirley Collins, Alex Campbell, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy played there.  The two clubs in Hitchin closed around the same time, and as a suitable venue in Luton was proving hard to find, in November 1963 the club moved to the Railway Hotel in Walsworth Road, Hitchin and become the Hitchin Folk Club!  Mary moved to Ireland after 18 months and Roger moved to Kent in 1966, so the club was left in the hands of Maureen Ryan (now Jones) who has been its organiser for  53 years!  Roger’s young brother Keith Pearson, a very talented guitarist and songwriter, became the clubs first Resident singer along with Patrick Rogers, and together they formed numerous musical combinations locally.  Keith also moved to Kent after 4 years but by that time, the club had a healthy band of local performers and had built up a fantastic Resident team.  Although professional artistes were booked weekly, they were often in awe of the popularity of Hitchin’s home-grown talent, whom the audiences loved.  When Flaky Pastry emerged from various combinations of the ‘local’ performers, they were a huge success with audiences locally and nationally, drawing big crowds wherever they played.  The ‘Railway Hotel’ was renamed ‘The Talisman’ not long after the club moved there and for a number of years it was known as ‘Talisman Folk Club’ but reverted back to ‘Hitchin Folk Club’ after it had to change venue in 1980.  After just three months at the Nightingale Public House, where the room was not at all suitable, the club was invited by the Manager at the Sun Hotel to move to the wonderful Ballroom at the hotel, and after 39 years!  The venue was considered to be the most comfortable folk club in the country by the singers and musicians who play there.  The acoustics were excellent, and the music is still enormously popular, with the club celebrating its 50th birthday in November 2013.  Over the years some very well known acts have played in Hitchin - the most famous being Paul Simon and Billy Connolly.  Folk music is very popular with the media at present time, thanks to singers like Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy and Seth Lakeman, but for the past 56 years, artistes of equal calibre have performed most Sunday evenings on the stage of Hitchin Folk Club!  Check out our web site, www.hitchinfolkclub.co.uk  for full copy of our programme, or request to join our e-mail list for details of the club, and other local folk events, goodmusic@hitchinfolkclub.co.uk.

Maureen celebrated 50 years running the club in January 2017 and has continued to do so but, in 2019 due to concerns with her health and issues that were beginning to show at The Sun, the decision was made to run on a monthly basis from January 2020. The club had continued to thrive at The Sun until 2019 when, after multiple changes in management and policy changes at the brewery, the situation became untenable and the club decided that the new monthly policy would be accompanied by a move to its current venue, the Function Room at the new Pavilion of the Hitchin Cricket Club.

 

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