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It takes a worried man

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‘Welcome to the Hathersage Folk Train,’ the woman with a clipboard called out as we pulled away from Manchester Piccadilly. ‘Is there anyone with us who hasn’t been on the Folk Train before?’ A few hands went up. ‘The Full Circle Folk Club are going to play for us all the way to Hathersage and then we’ll all go down to the pub and –’ Someone interrupted to ask if we’d be stopping at Dore. ‘Nobody panic, this is a normal train to Sheffield!’ The band started playing.

The train shuffled out into the low autumn sunshine and picked up speed past the scrapyards and warehouses, branching off the main line at Ardwick beside a stack of shipping containers. The band – guitar, mandolin, flute, voice – felt their way into the songs, especially at first, and there was something pleasingly shambolic about the way they picked out the tunes and took turns with the lead vocals. Some of the audience joined in with the choruses, staring absent-mindedly at the M60 as they murmured: ‘It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.’

The Folk Train has been going for about 15 years, run by volunteers as part of a partnership between Derbyshire County Council and Northern Rail. It happens once a month or so. There’s a whip-round for the band at the end, but apart from that it costs nothing more than the price of a return train ticket.

The repertoire is mostly familiar: Maggie May, The Belle of Belfast City, To the Begging I Will Go; but there are some tunes I don’t know too. The oldest band member performed an a capella version of a Matt Armour song called Generations of Change. ‘I knew Matt,’ he explained, ‘but I first heard this performed by a fellow called George Balinski who used to play at the Crumpsall Folk Club. That might have been 1968. Actually Matt didn’t perform it the way I do…’ On the way back into Manchester the band played Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town. Everybody joined in with the refrain.

Comments on “It takes a worried man”

  1. Phil Edwards says:

    They’re fine things, the Folk Trains (there are different trains on different routes). You do hear a fair bit of proper traditional stuff along with the tried and tested folk-clubbery. (More proper traditional stuff.)

    Come to think of it, that’s the first I’ve heard of the Full Circle club in some time – and the last I heard was that they’d closed, after being forced to move out of their city-centre venue. Was this a reunion gig for the regulars?

    • Harry Stopes says:

      Yes, I’ve been on the Manchester to Glossop train before, and there’s a Sheffield to Edale too that I know of. It’d be fun to go on some others at some point.

      I’m not sure how regularly the Full Circle club play together now, but a little bit of googling suggests that they found a new venue in Crumpsall after they moved out of Shudehill so perhaps they’re still going strong. In any case, the host introduced them as ‘folk train regulars’ and they didn’t mention anything about not playing together anymore.

      Thanks for the link to the tunes.

  2. mummeynell says:

    From the “woman with the clipboard” you can find out more about the folk trains by visiting http://www.hvhptp.org.uk/folktrain.htm. The best way to find out more about them is to come on one. If you would like to see the Full Circle Folk Club again they are performing on our Glossop Folk Train on Thursday April 26th leaving Manchester Piccadilly at 18.48. I’m sure that Kevin Tarpey will be delighted to give you more information on the night as to where the club now regularly get together.

    There is indeed a Sheffield to Edale train which is run from the other side of the Pennines and to see details of their events please go to http://www.folktrain.org.uk

    The two trains which my son and I organise are the Manchester to Glossop on the 4th Thursday night of each month and the Manchester to Hathersage train which runs on the 2nd Saturday of each month and is the 11.45 train from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield. Hope to see you on one.

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