Orpington Folk Club
A Brief History of Orpington Folk Club
Three local music enthusiasts launched Orpington Folk Club on the 17th May 1965, Kevin McCabe, Chris Andrews and Terry Sparkes. To advertise the club they performed in Orpington, Bromley and Sidcup High Street. With Kevin on guitar, Chris on a rare Washburn banjo and Terry dressed in a town criers outfit. They were to be pleasantly surprised on their opening night. Note from Chris, Sept 2009 : It was Ralph May who gave Kevin and I the bug to go traveling and ended up on the road for years. Did Terry ever play the fiddlle? Who is the fiddle player in the photo? Ralph McTell in conversation with John Beresford, January 2008.
The Levee Breakers Link...
Photograph :- Harry Pattullo.
The first evening featured a group called "The Levee Breakers"supported by the resident group "The Poachers", photograph left. It was held at the "Royal Oak", Green Street Green. This was to be the clubs home for more than fourteen years, until the pub was refurbished in 1979.
Above some of the club members get together and decorate a float for the Whitsuntide bank holiday Fifteens association carnival parade 31st May. They played and sang all the way up Orpington high street to Goddington Park. For four years running the club entered a float in the Orpington carnival in late May, singing and playing well known standard folk songs like "Goodnight Irene". For their efforts they even won a prize one year.
Lorry supplied by :- Tommy Farrant
Photograph :- Kentish Times
No prizes for recognising Harry
On that first night, over two hundred people attended. So many that the guest group performed outside for 60 or more of those who were unable get into the room. In its infancy the club regularly featured such notables as Ralph May later to become Ralph McTell (Ralph had his first ever paid gig at Orpington) John Renbourn, Davey Graham (who wrote the guitar tune "Angie"), Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick. David Bowie and his side kick Ken "Wild Man" Simons did several floor spots, Wally Whyton, Bill Clifton and many more have all played at the club.
(See our Gallery of Fame page)
While at the "Royal Oak" the opportunity arose to decorate the room. The Resident musicians, organiser and secretary painted the ceiling mat black with star clusters resembling the constellations. Lighting was installed to improve the mood of the room and the use of a microphone and sound system to assist the guest(s). The wall was covered in posters and record sleeves. A part of the wall behind where the guest(s) performed was covered in the autographs of the performers. One such autograph written by Stan Arnold said, “Stan Arnold outwitted by a cat.” The pub cat had sat on a stool next to Stan during his performance and Stan said, to the cat "what do you think of the show so far" the cat responded by licking itself where only a cat can reach.
To advertise the club one of the residents made a billboard and placed it alongside the A21 main road, which runs adjacent to the pub. Vehicles traveling between Bromley, Sevenoaks and Orpington via Green Street Green were able to see it. He also climbed on to the roof of the clubroom and painted the words "FOLK CLUB" in large bright letters, which could be seen from the road and by low flying aircraft. The club members went out several times in the dead of night to stick posters up around Orpington and the surrounding area. They also spent many a cold Saturday morning giving out handouts in Orpington high street.
Due to a change of ownership and renovations in 1979 the club moved. It found a new home at the 'Royal Albert', Lower road, Orpington and changed its meeting night from Monday to Friday evenings. A group of members got together to bring chairs and tables from "The Royal Oak". traveling in convoy to the new venue with items of furniture including a stall sticking out the windows. The change of venue at this time spawned a change in organisation. Some of the mainstays of the club got together to spread the work load and each chipped in £5 to help with the cost of advertising the different night for reopening the following Friday. Such is the faith and enjoyment in the club that by 1982 a substantial following built up. Unfortunately the change in day from Monday's to Friday's meant that Dave Plane was unable to commit to the weekly meeting at the club.
Due to alterations, on the 5th November 1982 and the need for more room, the club moved to 'The White Hart', Orpington, situated centrally in the High Street, in the upstairs function room. Finally changing from a Friday, to Thursday evenings, on Thursday 2nd December 1982.
There have been many memorable moments over the years. One highlight for the club was in September 1997 when Sydney Carter ("Lord of the dance" 1963) arrived with Jeremy Taylor our guest for the night. Sydney was persuaded to sing. He performed "My Last Cigarette" which he had written in hospital. A memorable evening.
After 20 years at The White Hart, Orpington Folk Club had to move. The White Hart changed to Spirit 'Q', a different arm of the Spirit brewery and was refurbished and turned into a sports pub. We where able to find a venue at the 'Anglesea Arms' Kent Road, Orpington from 26th September 2002 until 16th December 2004. It was decided that evening to find some where else as the previous landlords had left and we were not made as welcome. After much traveling around looking for a venue and false promises we have found another home at the 'Change of Horses', Farnborough Village, Orpington. Pete and Margaret our hosts enjoy our music and are happy to have us there.
On that first night 3rd March 2005, "Triality" were our guests. Unfortunately only two of the brothers could make it. Charlie and Ted Handle but not Dvae
During March 2007 some great news came our way, the pillars supporting the club roof, 'the restaurant' were to be removed. Although very grateful for the use of the restaurant the pillars were a nuisance and blocked the view of guests and floor singers. We are glad to see the back of them. The Change of Horses has to be one of the best folk venues around.
Mike Stapley - Anne Halford - Ted Handley - Ken Bridgeford - Steve Jennings
Organisers and residents at Orpington Folk Club, April 2015 before Ken & Mike's retirement.
Tuesday 26th March 2019, bad news arrives Wisdom & Michaela are leaving the Change of Horses at very short notice. This unfortunately leaves the venue without a licensee, so has had to close for an undetermined time. After much searching by us all, Anne was able to find us a venue at the Rosecroft Social Club, St Mary Cray, for as long as we need it. It is hoped that we will be able to return to the Change of Horses, soon. As of 12th March 2020 we are still at the Rosecroft, and it looks like we will be staying there.
Sadly during the 1st wave of the Corona virus, Wisdom died on the 10th April 2020. Youtube:- Wisdom
Orpington Folk Club's Opening Night at the Farnborough Social Club 10th June 2021
After 13 months of the dreaded Covid19 lockdown and subject to government guidelines, the OFC has been given the go-ahead to open. We are now based at The Farnborough Social Club.
Many thanks to all those who came on Thursday evening; it was good to see so many of you.
The Scratch Band started the evening off with a few old favourites before handing over to Marco Lenzi.
From left to right in the photo; Anne Halford, Ted Handley & Steve Jennings.
Those appearing :
Marco Lenzi - Mike Stapley -Ivan North - Keith Halford
Graham Watts - Paul Reeve - Liam Fitzpatrick - Curtis Savage
Please let us know if I left anyone out.