The Yirdbards @ The Cellar Bar, Swan Hotel, Bradford; Original Multi-media Entertainment – In A Folk Club?

by Andy Fawthrop

 

What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night if you’re after some top-notch musical entertainment? There was nothing happening (musically) in Devizes that night, so a venture out into the wild and woolly West into the splendid old town of Bradford on Avon was called for.

The venue was the Cellar Bar in the Swan Hotel, right in the middle of town. The place is now a regular haunt for all types of music – jazz, folk, blues, poetry, Irish traditional, with each one settling into a regular weekly or monthly slot. James Sullivan-Tailyour has been the landlord here for a few years now, and has done much to support and promote regular musical (and other) events in the pub/ hotel, and in the town generally. The beer’s not great (it’s a Greene King place) but they do excellent Thai & fusion food in the restaurant.

Tuesday nights are given over to Bradford Folk Club, but don’t be fooled by the title. Whilst there is certainly some traditional and contemporary folk stuff performed, it’s more of a general Acoustic Club where pretty much anything goes. Three or four Tuesdays a month it’s an Open Mic affair, but once or twice a month there’s a guest act. The great thing is that it’s FREE to get in (although they do charge you an arm and a leg to get out!) Joking aside, they pass round the glass half way through the performance for contributions. What that means in practice is that you only pay what you think the music’s worth. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, people tend to very much like what they hear, going by the average amount that they put in. “Playing for the door” is still very much alive and well.

But to the music – last week it was the turn of local group The Yirdbards. Yes I did spell that right, and it may just be deliberate. The “Yirds” (as everyone knows them) consist of some pretty damn fine musicians – Iona Hassan on fiddle, Verity Sharp on fiddle and cello, Patrick Randall on guitar/ mandolin/ accordion/ whistle and the irrepressible Paul Darby on guitar and vocals. You might recognise Verity in particular, as she’s a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

yirds1.JPG

Whilst the Yirds can knock out some damn good traditional folk songs and tunes (some great jigs and reels), they also tend to showcase quite a bit of contemporary writing from such songsmiths as Paul Metzers and Peter Please, and they’re not above writing and arranging their own material.

Last Tuesday they presented a complete show (the acoustic equivalent of a triple-disc concept album) entitled “Great Clattinger.” It chronicled the seasons and the farming year of that place, the wildflower meadows, the people and the traditions. Surprisingly it was a multi-media affair, featuring tapes, songs, spoken word, and instrumental passages. Many of the words were taken from the writer Elspeth Huxley (who lived there in the 70s) and Joan Ody (who farmed there for nearly 40 years in the earlier part of the 20th century) describing country ways & customs, and the resistance to those who wanted to exploit the land for commercial gravel extraction.

Thanks to their efforts, Clattinger Farm is now owned by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. All very “worthy” of course, but the music had to speak for itself, and it soared way above that. The Cellar Bar was packed out and the whole performance went down a storm – superb musicianship, well sung and well presented by four great performers.

It wasn’t rock n’ roll, and this music wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you’d been there you would have been amazed at the variety and quality of the performance. Simply stunning.

Next gigs coming up @ Bradford Folk Club:

• Tuesday 26th March Reg Meuross – singer/ songwriter/ story-teller
• Tuesday 30th April Lightgarden – Eastern influences, Mongolian overtone singing
• Tuesday 28th May Jackie & Felix Byrne –contemporary & tradition folk

 

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