Monday, December 03, 2012

Ye Olde Folke Clubbe

NEFC 1981
Notwithstanding a short-lived association at McMurdo Sound, I believe the New Edinburgh Folk Club (my club here in Dunedin) is the Southernmost folk club on the planet. I've been active in it for 30 years, both as a performer and organiser, and it is interesting to me how the beast has changed over those three decades.

When I came upon the club in my early twenties, I was about the mean age of its constituents. It was a club in the true sense. It had its own clubrooms, enthusiastic volunteers and committed members. It was the place to be on Friday night. The stage was buzzing with musicians, often in combinations thrown together at a moment's notice for that one performance. There was much banter, a wide variety of performers and instruments and healthy competition to get onto the stage. There were also well organised and highly regarded concerts, barndances and the Whare Flat Folk Festival. From time to time we'd hire a big bus and the more intrepid of us would head off en masse to festivals in Canterbury, Cardrona or even Wellington.

Over the years all these qualities atrophied as folk got older, made families or just got on with life. The clubrooms became an expensive luxury for a once-a-week endeavour and had to be let go. Ever since, the club has been nomadic, finding sanctuary in cafes, pubs and community halls. From time to time good arrangements are made with landords to remain resident in one place for a year or two, usually as long as the vagaries of the hospitality industry allow. We are in such an oasis now.

Interestingly, 30 years on and I'm still the mean age of the parishioners. The club membership is about 3 times the number it used to be and the appeal and patronage of our clubnights and concerts is wide and varied. What has changed most significantly is that we are essentially a committee-run entertainment organisation. There are many club members I don't know or recognise, that don't involve themselves any further than paying their subs and turning up occasionally. The amount of money we deal with annually is large enough to require the oversight of accountants and auditors and the machinery of the club, everything from websites to sound systems, requires a dedicated and knowledgeable committee.

We now pay most of our performers; a significant change from the old days. We're privileged to have artists play for us, whereas it used to be a privilege to get to play at the club. All this, I suppose, is as it should be given the way things are now. These days our punters demand a comfortable, quiet venue where a pinot noir or latte can be obtained and supped to the accompaniment of quality performers, starting on time and finishing at the socially respectable time of ten-thirty or so. And that, by and large, is what they get.
Mike Moroney

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