Scottish Folk Arts Group
A N - I N F O R M A T I O N - R E S O U R C E - O F
I have to say that I started the Scottish Folk Directory in 1968 in sheer self-defence, because everyone - artistes, club and concert organisers, hotel-keepers and every man and his dog - kept phoning me up for the kind of information that I included in the Directory. At that time, I was in touch with most of what was going on, as well as being part of it, as a singer and club and concert organiser myself.
To begin with, the Directory was just a Xeroxed list of artistes and clubs, but soon acquired a proper cover and a printed format. It proved to be a difficult job that I swore every year that I would not do again but always did. Artistes moved about or toured, club venues changed, group line-ups re-formed or disappeared, contacts and committees did not stay the same. Trying to keep up with it all was a nightmare! At that time there were no computers to allow updating information through a website.
But more important than all of that was the fact that the existence of the Directory proved a boon to all those on the folk scene who needed the information it contained. Artistes and club organisers, in particular, told me repeatedly that they benefited from it. Nowhere else could you find lists of performers and what they did, with addresses and phone numbers, clubs and their locations and times of meeting with organisers' phone numbers, and other useful addresses, like recording companies, instrument makers and repairers, radio programmes and festivals once they started to proliferate, as well as hints for club organisers.
Advertising was cheap (£3 for an entry, £5, £10 and £15 for quarter, half, and full pages) but it paid for the printing of the Directory every time. It sold at 50p to begin with, but rose through time to the dizzy heights of £1.75. Profits (and it did make a profit) I put into donating cups to festivals or other worthwhile projects. Some people always forgot to pay for their entry or ad, but most were completely reliable. I particularly liked those who gave photographs because they improved the appearance of the booklet. Misprints haunted me (the Wellpork Suite or "chancer" for "chanter" after a musician's name) particularly if phone numbers appeared incorrectly.
A glance through a few of the early Directory's not only affords a picture of the Revival in action, but also helps to recognise trends in its development. In 1977 there were 46 clubs listed and 9 festivals, while in 1986 there were only 21 clubs but 15 festivals. In 1977 the Foreword observed that "The folk scene shows an increase in the number of artistes performing traditional material and also in the number of traditional festivals. This shows that Scottish folk music is for the most part healthily rooted in its native soil and is not an artificial commercial product."
The ominous date of 1984 came and went, with me taking the opportunity to draw a contrast between George Orwell's warning about the loss of individuality and the Folk Scene's assertion of that very quality. I am reminded of the complaint by one of the editors of the Broadsheet, that folk clubs were full of oddballs and misfits. Long may they be so! In 1986 I was writing "Another year and still the folk clubs hold their own, more and more festivals are on the go and artistes continue to keep up the high standard." That year, folk clubs were raising money for charity with twenty-four hour singarounds and the TMSA was about to get a paid National Organiser, funded by the SAC.
Names of groups (now called bands) never ceased to amaze or amuse me. The Railway Pudding Hillrunners, Noveau Pecunious, The Honky Tonk Ceilidh Band, Kilts and Co-op Sandals, Ramstougar, the Teetotallers, Skiin Doo, The Whole Hog and a Pinch of Snuff come to mind, along with individuals like Almost Blind Boy Banovich and duos like Pigmeat. Matt McGinn described himself as "Scotland's Patron Sinner", while Hamish Imlach liked to be featured as, "the all-round folk entertainer."
All kinds of music was played from Scottish to Irish dance tunes to Cajun and Blues, and songs form modern protest to ancient ballad. Some people count it as a fault that folk clubs allowed the whole range to be heard (quite a lot of it not folk music at all) but I think that was their strength. You can't appreciate what is best if you have not heard good, bad and indifferent.
Over the years the Directory tried to build bridges and be as inclusive as possible, adding lists of organisations, dancers and storytellers. In 1978, it featured a list of the Fiddle and Accordion Clubs, while in 1983 it ran a songwriting competition. It also highlighted different ways of being involved in folk music, from festival concerts to informal sessions, and from the traditional as exemplified in source singers and musicians, to the contemporary creation of new songs and tunes. I had to point out to one club organiser that just because someone had paid for an entry in the Directory, it did not mean that they were worth hearing, although it was flattering that he should think so.
Although I ran the Directory single-handed, I was grateful to people who helped me including Andy Ramage and Gavin Anderson, who designed covers, and Citty Finlayson and Doris Rougvie, who collected information on media programmes and festivals. The Directory was sold through clubs at a concession rate (fine, as long as the organisers remembered to send me the money) and by myself on my rounds of clubs and festivals (much more successful). I was always indebted to my printer, John McKinlay, who annually made a November deadline stretch to the end of January, in order not to leave anyone out.
In 1988, I decided the time had come to hand the Directory over to someone else, as my early retirement from my job meant that I was suddenly on seven committees, had books to write or edit and felt that times were a-changing.
Projects of the Scottish Folk Arts Group
Song book 'The Singing Tradition of Scotland' (1992)
Scottish Folk Directory hard-copy (annually 1984 to 2002)
Scottish Folk Directory on-line (2000 to 2008, currently under reconstruction)
Information leaflets Folk Around The Forth, A Guide to Folk Music in Scotland.
The first Edinburgh Bagpipe Festival (2008)
Concerts from Scotland/England, Pentangle (1986), from Brittany, Bagad Kemper (1988)
Tours from Ireland, Wild Geese (1988).
Fund-raising ceilidhs The Thistle and Shamrock Ceilidh Band (1984)
Ceilidh/concerts with City of Edinburgh Pipe Band (1998 to 2001)
Appearances of various performers at local Gala Days, community events, hospices,
Exhibition of instrument makers at the Edinburgh Folk Festival (1999)
The inaugural Hamish Henderson Lecture with Hamish as Speaker.
Pub sessions in Edinburgh and Ettrick.
Presented a two-hour programme on AllEdinburgh Radio also called Folk Around The Forth
Databased the titles of 3500 Scots songs from our antiquarian book collection
Set up Eurofolk, a project to encourage low-cost swaps of folk performers between Scotland and Europe (1998).
A trip by Edinburgh folk group Cantara to Keltia Festival in Italy was organised under Eurofolk.
Here is the downloadable list of the ScotSong in pdf format for you to peruse.