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Folks bringing it all back home to Cov

The Coventry All-Stars Folk Show, Albany Theatre, Earlsdon, October 14.

Pete Willow, folk musician and Chair of the campaign group CVFolk, looks forward to a new musical venture in the heart of Coventry.

To paraphrase the late John Lennon, you may think I’m a nostalgic old folkie but I’m not the only one. A tour of the city often brings back memories of how every other pub seemed to host a lively folk club or music session. The City Arms, Old Dyers Arms, Malt Shovel, Binley Oak, Pitts Head – many a name of pubs past and present crop up in misty-eyed conversations with fellow old folkies over a pint in any pub still standing today. But isn’t that the problem with the image folk music – it’s too rooted in the past? With Coventry gearing itself up to celebrate its status as the City of Culture, now seems a very good time to focus on folk’s place in the future of this metropolis. With a group of fellow folk fans – young and old – I’ve been busy working on that. Earlier this year we launched the campaign group CVFolk to encourage and support folk musicians and folk dancers and ensure that the city’s thriving folk scene is recognised and appreciated as a major part of our cultural life. We hosted a public consultation event last July at the Albany Theatre, attended by some 70 folk fans and musicians taking the opportunity to chip in with ideas for future projects and action. Our Patron, Pauline Black, came along to share her perspective – her career as a rock star started out in Coventry’s folk scene – and several musicians took part in an exhilarating music session to wind up the evening. One verdict of the very enjoyable evening was that the Albany Theatre Studio was an ideal venue for live and informal music. The proof of the pudding will be in the staging of the first of a series of monthly events in the Studio this Sunday afternoon (14 October).

‘CVFolk Presents…’ features a programme of concerts, sessions, dance displays and masterclasses in a friendly and informal environment, where folk in all its formats can be accessible to all communities and age groups.

Billed as ‘The Coventry All-Stars Folk Show’, this Sunday’s show runs from 4pm to 7pm and features singer-songwriters Kristy Gallacher and Rob Halligan (pictured), multi-instrumental duo Poacher’s Pocket, and my own line-up Willow & Tool Band. We’ll be performing songs in our own right, but there will also be a conversation between artists and with the audience to give some insight into the stories behind our material and our approach to music generally. Coventry University music graduate, Kristy Gallacher has already established an impressive career having played support to Ed Sheeran, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze and Show of Hands, among others.

She won the LG Arena's singer/songwriter competition and played before Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and John Mayer on separate nights at the Birmingham venue. Rob Halligan has appeared at festivals and folk clubs across the country and has also had airplay on BBC1 Television, BBC Radio 2 and a host of local TV and radio stations. With a conviction to use his music to make a difference, Rob has supported the children’s charity, Global Care, visiting Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Lebanon to raise awareness and money for some of the world’s most disadvantaged children. Poacher’s Pocket consists of two talented and popular Warwickshire singers and musicians, Colin Squire on guitar and Campbell Perry on accordions. Willow & Tool Band sees me singing and playing guitar, alongside veteran double-bass player John ‘Tool’ McIntosh, harmonica, ukulele and percussion wizard Keith Eardley, and Tool’s daughter Laurel McIntosh who refines our sound with her excellent singing voice and flute-playing. You don’t need to buy tickets in advance, but do expect to be approached by a man with a jug asking for financial contributions – preferably bank notes as coins are far too noisy! Next month’s show features young award-winning folk singer and musician Rosie Hood in concert. This will be a ticketed event starting at 7pm on Sunday November 11.

You can find out more about these events and CVFolk’s overall mission by visiting One reassuring thing about CVFolk Presents… is that most of the musicians taking part are considerably younger than me (and Tool!), suggesting that in Coventry at least, folk does have a future.

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