Other boroughs have begun to envy the live music scene in this area in recent years and that’s in no small part down to a dedicated group of performers who have been bringing regular infusions of funky folk sounds to venues across Greenwich, writes Nicky Sweetland…
Folk Mob was established in Woolwich over 20 years ago and has continued to invest in the procurement of live music in Greenwich ever since. The group, which meet weekly at Blackheath Rugby Club, has inspired hundreds of would be singers-songwriters to pursue a career in music.
Dave Kenningham first created the club with a few friends and for many years they called the Crown and Cushion in Woolwich home. But after the pub was demolished and they spent a ten-year residency at The Tudor Barn, Folk Mob found its way to Blackheath Rugby, which is here they now meet every Wednesday evening.
The friendly bunch welcomes a diverse group of musicians to perform acoustically and I popped along to find out for myself, just what Folk Mob is all about.
Organisers, Dave Kennington and Zahira joined me for a chat as the other members of the group set up their instruments and it was lovely to talk to a pair, who are so interested in making this type of performance accessible to all.
Dave told me: “We embrace all types of music and all aptitudes. I’ve seen a lot of people come here as beginners, who have gone on to play as groups in other places and release albums.”
Zahira added, “It’s a nice place to start because we’re friendly.”
But they are also very keen to add that the type of music people are encouraged to play isn’t just from one genre. Zahira explains, “The word folk is quite a loose term. We do get a lot of traditional folk music but it’s really an acoustic music club. We have people doing punk, which acoustically sounds quite folky these days.”
The format of the group is really quite simple. All you need to do is turn up and Zahira tells me, “We have a sing around, so we pass the stick. If you get given the stick, you can either choose to do something, or you can pass it on. If you’re a nervous performer you might not want to do it to start with.”
Dave interjects and says, “It follows on from a lot of traditional sing arounds where you sit in a circle and go one after the other and do a song or just listen.”
And after we head into the function room, I start to understand what they mean. I’m first treated to a beautiful song performed by a chap with just a guitar before he passes the stick to D-day veteran Jim Radford, a regular member since the Woolwich days, who enriched my experience with a chilling rendition of the Robbie Burns standard “Green Grow the Rashes”. It was then Zahira’s turn to take the stick and I was enthralled by just how fabulous a performer she is. Dave then struck up his guitar with the John Denver classic “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and I was able to nervously sing along.
The group don’t just limit themselves to acoustic performances either, as once a month they run an open mic event, where you are able to go along and sing your heart out with a bit of amplification.
And they have been ‘instrumental’, along with Eltham Arts, in establishing Passey Place as a hub for live music during the summer. This year they are also again involved in the song challenge, a now annual event, which sees local songwriters submitting their material to be performed in public and recorded as part of a community project. The 2018 song challenge is in conjunction with Eltham Arts’ multimedia Wall project and will reach fruition at a live event in July.
Folk Mob meet weekly at Blackheath Rugby Club and everyone is welcome to join in.
You can find further details about all of their performances and projects on their website. www.folkmobonline.co.uk