A History of the Club
|The Hale End Clubs first leaflet. Click for a larger image.|
Back in 1991 one of London's best established (and arguably "best") Folk Clubs was the Chestnuts Music Club which had started around 1978 in The Chestnut Tree pub on Lea Bridge Road but had moved around various venues over the years. That Club was the latest in a line of Folk Clubs in the Walthamstow/Leyton area dating back to the heyday of the sixties, such clubs as the Tower, The Three Blackbirds, The Navvy Boot as well as The Chestnuts which has now ceased, are fondly remembered by many local enthusiasts and artists who performed at them.
By 1991, however, the Chestnuts had grown into a relatively large, more concert than "traditional folk club", venue and a number of people decided they would like to establish a club closer to the older style of club in a more informal (but not "amateurish") setting with main guests booked plus local and visiting performers encouraged to take a turn from the floor. So in September of that year Gail Williams and Jim Younger, Kevin Sheils and Ken and Sue Lees set up the Hale End Folk Club at the County Arms, Highams Park with the help of a number of enthusiastic locals, many of whom are still involved in the club to some degree. The club opened on Thusrday September 12th 1991 with Dave Burland as the Guest Artist. Other guests who appeared in that first programme up to the end of the year included John Foreman, Chris Wood, The Rakes with Freddy McKay, Ray Fisher, Reg Meuross and Martin Carthy.
All of the original founders were regulars at the Chestnuts, in fact Kevin was one of the three regular MCs there along with Chris Pitt and Keith Rusby, and all continued to support that club as well as the new one. There was never any intention of competing with the Chestnuts but rather complementing each other and the two clubs worked well together over a number of years, even being jointly involved for a while in promoting the monthly Walthamstow Barn Dances at the Assembly Room, which had a succesful spell around the mid 90s.
The nature of the licensing law at that time meant that the club had to be members and guests only (a situation that continued until relatively recently) and potential members could register for the Thursday Club at the Chetsnuts on the previous Sunday.
The Club went from strength to strength and towards the end of the century Ken and Sue gave up their direct involvement in the club and the formal organisation was taken over by Frankie and Terry Cleeve. Frankie had by this time become an important member of the team both as a singer in various combinations and as a musician (fiddle) who played solo as well as in the club "band" and in various line ups. However after a couple of years Frankie and Terry found that they were unable to give as much time as they would have liked to the club organisation and there was the possibility that the club might have closed.
Kevin asked Ken if he would like to return as Club organiser after his break and Ken agreed. Circumstances, however, dictated that a move away from the current venue would be required and a new home was found at The Old Rose and Crown, Walthamstow where the relaunched Old Rose and Crown Folk Club opened in January 2002 with Martin Carthy as the Guest.
Ken Lees had been the founder in the 70s of the Florence Folk Club and The Islington Folk Club both of which had a resident band who performed the role of playing at the start of the evening and during the interval to provide entertainment throughout the evening. Ken was keen for this to continue and that situation has continued to this day at various levels of formality and informality.
here for a picture of Ken Lees & Mick the Pole playing in the
band at The Old Rose and Crown