Doncaster folk club that turned down Kate Bush celebrates 40th birthday

Kate Bush
Kate Bush

It was the year of the three day week, two General Elections, the arrival of Bagpuss on TV and catastrophic IRA bombings on the UK mainland.

But away from the misery and hardships of power cuts, death and destruction and politcal upheaval, the first seeds were sown in the back room of a pub for an ongoing musical odyssey.

For back in September 1974, the organsiers of a weekly musical meeting could scarcely have believed that 40 years on, their little folk club would still be going strong and attracting top musicians.

Doncaster’s Roots Music Club has just celebrated its 40th - and the club’s very first performer returned along with one of Britain’s best loved stalwarts of the entertainment scene to mark the occasion.

Folk star Roy Bailey, who performed at the opening show, took centre stage at the Ukrainian Club in Beckett Road while joining him was Graham Fellows, better known as quirky stand-up John Shuttleworth.

Music lover Jonti Willis was among the audience in those early days but now has the job of bringing musicians from across the globe to Doncaster.

He said: “A lot has changed since those early days, but the main focus is still the music. That’s what we’ve always been about.”

From its birthplace at The Rockingham Arms in Wentworth, the club has had several homes but is now firmly established at the Ukrainian Club, attracting audiences from far and wide to its weekly Friday shows with Fairport Convention star Richard Thompson and Lindisfarne frontman Billy Mitchell among those to have walked the boards.

It was the brainchild of one of Jonti’s old school pals Rob Shaw - and in 2004, the club reached its pinnacle when it was named the BBC Radio 2 Folk Club of the Year.

“That was voted for by the artists themselves,” said Jonti. “So there is no higher honour than that.”

However, despite showcasing the very best in blues, rock, folk, jazz and scores of other types of music, the club hasn’t always got it right.

“We got sent a tape in the 70s of a young girl who wanted to do a gig for us, but it wasn’t our kind of thing so we wrote back and said ‘no thanks.’ She’s since gone on to do quite well for herself as Kate Bush though.”

The club prides itself on to notch musicianship - and chatting during concerts is a strict no-no.

Further details about upcoming acts at www.rootsmusicclub.co.uk