HISTORY OF THE MILKMAID
The Milkmaid Folk Club started its life at the Milkmaid Tavern in Willingham in October 1996. The club was opened by the wonderful Dave Burland and continued for three very successful years with memorable evenings with the likes of Martin Carthy, John Renbourn, Alan Taylor,Last Nights Fun, Kate Rusby, Rory McCleod, Anam, Craobh Rua,Vin Garbutt,etc etc. Singers nights were popular (Rory McCleod and Paul Downes turning up on different nights for a floor spot) magic days indeed. Sadly the pub didn’t have the success the folk club enjoyed and with lots of sadness it was sold it de-licensed to a travel agency.
For the next eighteen months The Milkmaid came out on several occasions at the Cambridge Folk Festival where we ran and organised a floor singers stage at the Coldhams Common Campsite. This stage is similar to the Club Tent where attendees of the festival can book a fifteen minute spot and perform to an audience. We regularly played to five or six hundred people a night Thursday to Sunday.
The Milkmaid then moved to the Railway at Wymondham Norfolk, where it was again a great success with lots of big names weekly. Saturday and occasional Wednesday nights were concert nights, weekly Sunday lunch sessions (thirty players plus audience sometimes) and Monday was Open Mic.
Another case of Folk great, Pub crap. So it ended up in Bury St Edmunds where one day in 2003 it was suggested we have a folk day with local performers playing all day and an evening concert with professionals. A great day was had at The Rising Sun with music and local Morris dancers all day culminating with an evening concert featuring Andy Wall, Jane Walden, Derek Brimstone, Wiz Jones and John Renbourn.
After the success of the first folk day it was decided to start a regular folk club as a fund raising exercise for Headway. We had a good year (2004) at the West Bury Social Club and raised £3400 for the Headway charity. Unfortunately the management committee of W.S. Headway felt they couldn’t underwrite the clubs expenses so we’d have to close.
Then up stepped several club members who each pledged £50 each to keep the club going. This money was put into a separate account to be used in an emergency. I’m pleased to say that we never touched it and after a year was offered back to the donors.
We moved to the Royal British Legion Club (2005) in Guildhall Street Bury and had eighteen wonderful months there before sadly they went into liquidation and closed. The Constitutional Club further up the road in Guildhall Street came to our rescue and offered us their comfortable facilities for which we were extreemly grateful. Since then the Milkmaid we moved to the Railway club and now to the Risbygate Sports club.
There’s a great folk tradition in Suffolk and the likes of The Milkmaid, Everyman, Ely and Waveney plus the session pubs can keep the music (and dance) alive.
At the end of the day though, it’s you that will keep it going by coming along, joining in, or simply just being there.