Clive Pownceby

Tue, 03/29/2022 - 11:10
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Pete Coe has described him as “a prince among folk club organisers”, and those of us who work the circuit would agree unanimously

Clive Pownceby, the longstanding organiser of the Bothy Folk Song Club in Southport, died suddenly on 4th January 2022..  This came as a great shock to the many performers, lovers of folk music, and personal friends in North West England and beyond who held Clive in enormous affection and respect.  Over 200 of them turned out for his funeral at the Methodist church in Birkdale, of which he was an active member.  That tireless performer and activist, Pete Coe, has described him as “a prince among folk club organisers”, and those of us who work the circuit would agree unanimously.

Clive’s early musical stirrings were in skiffle and especially blues, playing drums, harmonica, and singing in a teenage band.  Enticed to the Bothy by his friend and bandmate Dave Whitehead, Clive quickly developed a love for folk music and, by the mid-1970s, had become the main organiser, a role in which he flourished for 45 years both as MC and booking secretary, establishing the club into one of the country’s best.  As its front man, Clive combined a deceptively laid-back approach with his own distinct charisma, aided by a droll, self-deprecating wit and his famously dapper dress sense - the glittering jackets were legendary!  Supported by his team, he made sure the club ran smoothly and professionally, and attracted consistently high-calibre resident singers and musicians.  In booking guest performers Clive showed great discernment, keeping the tradition to the fore while remaining open to other styles, never letting the quality slip, and always supporting new acts.  I suspect my own experience is not unique; having made my Bothy debut in the 1980s to a disappointingly modest crowd, I was feeling somewhat disheartened until a letter arrived from Clive just two days later: “I really enjoyed the night - there may have been 20 there, but you played like it was a hundred.  Keep it up!”  I’ve never forgotten that.  His many friends have spoken likewise fulsomely of his kindness and generosity; Clive was truly one of the good guys.

The man who as a teenager had belted out Smokestack Lightning never lost his love of the blues, and Clive could talk knowledgeably about soul, pop and other music besides.  Whitby Folk Week regulars will remember him as a popular concert MC, and also for his Wednesday ‘Lunchtime Legends’ session in the Elsinore, at which he played drums behind a regular band of friends - plus whichever unlikely festival guest he might strongarm into letting their hair down to sing some rock’n’roll.  He also played drums with local dance bands, and at the club would often produce percussion instruments to jam with the main act’s encore.  At the same time he was no mean singer of a traditional song, and a member of the shanty group, Stormalong John.

Clive’s wife Jean was a cornerstone of his life for the many happy decades of their marriage.  As a couple they were enormous fun, and often to be found at the centre of the Whitby festival party scene.  The folk world will be considerably poorer for Clive’s passing and we send our heartfelt condolences to Jean and his family.

Brian Peters