Strawberry Hill

Me, Roger Sutcliffe and Dick Stevenson from Bradford, and Tim Shepherd from Clithero ran the Folk Club at St Mary’s in Twickenham, the college known universally as Strawberry Hill.  I became involved with the folk club pretty well against my will as the previous regime under Jim Bainbridge and others was very traditional.  Our club took a while to find its feet relying on the disparate interests of we four and the tastes of our student floor singers. Our direction was largely formed by Roger who knew more about folk clubs than the rest of us and was a heavily claw-hammer based blues man. He was much involved in the Topic Club in Bradford and through him we began to book people he liked and we came to like. Maddy Prior came along as did Dave and Toni Arthur. Stan Boardman was off the wall funny long before he became known nationally through his German first war helmet persona.  We booked the likes of Maddy Prior,  Dave and Toni Arthur, and most importantly Hamish Imlach….  and thus a young lad called John Martyn!

Hamish, aware of his rotundity, billed himself as Scotland’s biggest all round entertainer.  Hamish was a great laugh, a super performer and one night he brought with him a young lad (he was 17, we were 20!) and told us he was good. ‘Give him a decent spot’.  So we did and were blown away by his genius.  We booked him for the major concert of the year during rag week which was to happen the following week.  Thus I met John Martyn for the first time.  We were probably the first club in the south of England to book John and I worked with him many times after that.  Along with John, the Rag Week Concert included Bert Jansch and John Renbourne and a brilliant blues singer we had met a couple of weeks previously called Joe Banks.  He had come along with Alex Campbell to a gig at the Crown in Twickenham.  I always enjoyed Alex Campbell but we booked Joe Banks!  And I never saw him again.  Life’s like that. I was young enough to be embarrassing, probably still am, and asked Joe for advice.  He told me ‘Just sing yourself, kid.  Don’t try to be anybody else.  Sing it YOUR way!’  I think I still do.

This was a time when you’d meet people like Jackson C. Frank in the street.  They would drop by for a floor spot.  Jackson was a nice guy and lived for a while in a house near Twickenham station with some students from Maria Grey College.  ‘Take a trip to England, baby’… and a train into London too.

Next… The Hanging Lamp in Richmond