Rob and I have long wanted to play more concerts in the south-west of England and, as such, we were delighted to be invited to perform at the Highworth Folk Club near Swindon.
We set off good an early to make sure we’d be there in plenty of time. With conditions being pretty grizzly on the M4, we peeled off onto the M40 and decided to travel round the south side of Oxford and follow the scenic route. The decision paid off and we arrived in Highworth a couple of hours ahead of the gig.
For those who don’t know it, Highworth is a very pleasant Wiltshire town. Albeit ancient in origin, it is blessed with lots of attractive Georgian and Edwardian townhouses. So, having arrived early, we took a walk past the evening’s venue and around the town centre. It was a warm, still, evening and we saw the town at its best.
As is increasingly the case, if we know we’re going to arrive at a gig early, we take ourselves some sarnies and fruit and, so, after our walk we sat and had a very pleasant little ‘picnic’ on a bench in the town square.
We knew we couldn’t gain access to the venue - a room attached to St Michael’s Church Office - too early because there is a regular pilates class that uses it before the folk club meets. However, around 7.40pm, we started to see people arriving in the square carrying musical instruments and knew it was time to make our way to the venue. As we opened up the car to get our gear out, a friendly voice said hello and offers of a helping hand to carry things to the clubroom were made. David and MC Bryony Garmont’s warm welcome to us set the tone for what was to be a delightfully friendly evening.
As the pilates students came out of the club room, the folk musicians went in. We were met with a hubbub of noise and action as the medium sized room was set up, café style, in the minutes before the 8.00pm club start time. Everybody gave us a hearty hello and it was great to meet and chat briefly with organiser, Chris, who had extended the original invitation to us.
The Highworth Folk Club has a lot of talented regulars and in both the first hour of the evening and for twenty minutes ahead of our second set, we were treated to some great music. This was all kicked off by Bryony herself. We then had traditional songs, the Ink Spots/Sandy Denny classic Whispering Grass, Tom Paxton plus a whole host of others - including one of my very favourite Richard Thompson songs, Keep Your Distance. Whether as soloists, duets or trios - all of the club musicians performed very well indeed and everyone was very supportive to each other and the banter was gentle and fun to be a part of.
I’m pleased to report that the support given to fellow club performers was very much extended to Rob and myself and our two 40 minute sets seemed to go down extremely well. Audience members were very interested in the stories we were telling through our music. They joined in the various choruses and seemed to particularly like the tune sets we performed. Some of the comments after the gig and on the club website and Facebook were very reaffirming and a delight to read subsequently.
The evening proceeded through until just after 11.00pm and we were more than happy to perform Time Wears Awa’ as an encore. After that, it was a further round of action and noise as the folk club was quickly dismantled and the room freed for whatever activities the following day was promising. Bryony and David then kindly volunteered to help us carry bits of our gear back to the car and we were able to say our goodbyes in the town square.
Thankfully, the journey home was fine. The M4 wasn’t blocked but, jeez, there were a lot of people working on that night.
Many thanks to Chris and Derek for the invitation to perform at the lovely Highworth Folk Club. Many thanks to Bryony for her excellent MC-ing throughout the evening and to David for taking some photos that will certainly serve as a reminder of a truly enjoyable evening. We very much hope to return to the Highworth Folk Club at some time in the future and to play some more concerts in the general Swindon area.