History Of the Folk Club

There are two schools of thought as to the beginnings of the Folk Club in Newcastle.

One is that the club began as a result of some bush walkers who were also musicians and singers, wanting to have a place where they could get together and learn from each other.  The details of how that developed into the Folk Club of today, to date, has not officially been made known.

The second school of thought is detailed below.

The Folk Sanctum opened on December 1964, a commercial ‘coffee house’ entrepreneured by Claude Moore and run by Gil Teague.  This was followed by a New Sanctum in a former Greek Club in Newcastle in 1965, run by a group of enthusiasts including Brad Tate.  It lost money and closed in late 1965.  Around this time a club was running at the Newcastle University (the current Tighes Hill TAFE college) with some Communist influence.

Warren Fahey started a folk club at the YMCA in King Street Newcastle in 1967, and later that year, as Activities Officer at Newcastle Technical College Union, opened the Purple Parrot Folk Club in the basement of the W E Clegg Building, which became known as ‘The Cage’.  With the change of name to the Newcastle Folk Club (sometime during 1968/1969 )  the basement  then became known as ‘The Dungeon’.

During the early 1980’s due to a change to the Newcastle City Council’s fire regulations, it was considered too dangerous to allow the Folk Club to remain in the ‘Dungeon’, and as there was no suitable alternative accommodation at that time, the Club moved initially to various members homes, then to the S E S buildings at Newcastle East.  In the mid to late 1980’s the Folk Club returned to Newcastle Technical College until the earthquake in 1989 when the Club once again left the Tech.   During the year 1990 it was decided that the Club was to become incorporated, and this was achieved on 27 September, with the Club’s name being changed to The Newcastle Folk Club Inc.    In  August 1991 The Newcastle Folk Club Inc. became the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club Inc.  After brief stays at a number of venues including The Masonic Hall at Hanbury Street Mayfield and the Broadmeadow Tennis Club, the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club Inc. finally settled at the Wesley Senior Citizens Hall in April 1995 and then moved to the Wesley Fellowship House in April 2006.

This history was compiled by Trevor McIlveen from Club records, with the assistance of Brad Tate, and other past and present  members of the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Folk Inc. whose contributions have made this historical account possible.



Members may be nominated for Life Membership of the Club prior to the AGM. Members can only be nominated by another current member and must receive a seconder for the nomination to be eligible for consideration by the Committee


Must have a minimum of 12 years Club membership overall AND have provided ‘substantial input’ to the running/organisation of the Club/Festival. (‘Substantial’ and ‘input’ being at the discretion of the Committee. May include performance on behalf of the Club.)

However, Life Membership may also be granted by the Club in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the Committee.


Ø     Members to be asked to put forward a maximum of 2 names per member at a time appointed by the Committee – preferably at the last 2 Club nights/events prior to the AGM.

Ø     Nominations are to be provided to a member of the Committee.

Ø     Nominees must meet Life Membership Criteria however members do not have to establish if the nominees have met the criteria. The Committee must determine that.

Ø     The final decision is to be made by the Committee, in consideration of members’ preferences ie if a particular nomination has been made by several members.


A maximum of 2 persons may be granted Life Membership in any financial year.


Ø     Free annual single/family membership (and including newsletters where appropriate) according to what the Life Member had previously been paying. Does not include children as from when they become eligible for adult membership.

Ø     Life Members will be issued with a special ‘Life Membership’ card, which will be presented by the Club President at or as soon after the AGM as is practicable. (a supply of blanks is to be held by the Club Membership Officer,)

 (Note - Life Members will still be requested to make the appropriate donations at Club nights/events.)


Ø     The names of Life Members are to be recorded by the Membership Officer on a page set aside in the Membership Book/Record, and the information carried forward to ensure constant and current listing.

Ø     As there are only 2 Life Memberships granted each year, it is generally intended that Life Membership be generally given to those who are current members or that will gain some benefit from being given one. ie if a person has moved away or no longer (or rarely) attends Club events, bestowing the Life Membership will be of little benefit. The Club incurs additional costs for every Life Membership granted so the viability of any nomination should be considered.

Ø     Members should note that Life Memberships are given via a nomination process. Members should actively participate in the process if they feel someone is worthy of nomination. Whilst the final decision rests with the Committee, input from those making a nomination regarding a persons eligibility is welcomed and should be taken into account by the Committee when making a decision.

Ø     Life Membership may be bestowed on a couple (or family) if appropriate eg if a partner has assisted in Folk Club activity or has in some way enabled someone to carry out Folk Club activity.



Neville Cunningham


John Day *


Kay Cogan


Trevor McIlveen


Lisa Parkinson


Brent Rodgers


Ron Brown


Julie Castles


Marie Inzitari *


Colleen Shipman


Allan Thompson


Cecille Coan


Dave Marley


Neil Kilgour


Jeff Marley


Vicki Wiseman


Margaret Kenning


Lainey Velt


Shane and Roz Kerr


"Folk Music is as much a way of life as a traditional form of entertainment”

The Folk Scene in Newcastle is currently the strongest it has been since the ‘boom times’ of the early 1970s.  Explore our website to discover the rich variety of regular activities, including –
    ·        informal instrumental or singing sessions

    ·        poetry / bush poetry

    ·        open mic concerts

    ·        monthly more formally structured concerts with outstanding Australian and International performers

    ·        annual ‘SessionFest’ camping weekend

We gather to entertain and learn from one another about folk lore and folk music in its many styles, to develop our skills, and help keep our traditions alive.  

We sing, play instruments, dance, tell yarns – and basically have a good time in a social atmosphere of mutual support and acceptance.  Many accomplished folk performers come to our club, enhancing friendships and making new ones.  

You are invited to join!
The many benefits of Club Membership include:

    ·        Reduced door entry to most Club nights and events

    ·        Bi-monthly newsletter ‘Coaldust’

    ·        Public Liability Insurance covers all Club events – performers and audience

    ·        12 months membership, with up to 6 months free upon first joining (caused by our renewal date structure – 30 April and 31 October each year)

    ·        Children are welcome at all Club events. Those under 16 get free entry to most events

    ·        You belong to an organisation helping to keep our culture alive

Membership Fees:
Single:   $20 per year
Family:  $25 per year
Concession Single:   $15 per year
Concession Family:  $20 per year
To become a member simply print off the membership application below, complete and return as per instructions on the bottom of the document (note: to print click on the form to highlight it, press Control+C to Copy, open a blank Word document, press Control+V will paste it into your document.  The form should display on the page, then just print the page as per normal)

For further information  contact our Membership Officer, Allan Wright on 4957 1486

Membership Form

Every financial member is entitled to a copy of the Constitution of the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Folk Club Inc, We make this available via email and to secure your copy please contact our membership officer direct on the above contact number or alternately send a webmail requesting a copy.

Guidelines for Concerts and Sessions

Guidelines for Concerts and Sessions at the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Folk Club


For: Concerts, House Concerts, Sessions, Blackboard Sessions, Come-all-ye Sessions, Open Muso’s sessions, Fireside Sessions and at SessionFest.

These notes have been prepared to assist with peoples’ enjoyment and understanding of the way things are currently done at our Folk Club. It has been written in response to enquiries we have received in this regard. Generally speaking, if it is a Concert the performer has the floor and can invite people to join in if they choose. If it is a Session, the performer at the time has the lead but people can join in as long as they respect the performers lead, version and turn.


Generally these events have an MC and the actual performance is not participatory. We don’t join in the performance unless invited to do so and this usually just means the chorus only. Where invited, harmonies are often appreciated but please don’t sing or play louder than the performer. A house concert is an intimate way to enjoy a performer. With only limited places, it is an opportunity to be up close and personal with the artists but please respect the owners’ house, personal property and space, as well as that of other members of the audience.


 Sessions are usually participatory in a ‘take your turn around the circle’ style of event, however they don’t normally have an MC. Please don’t drown out the lead player or singer, or impose your own version on the way the music is being played or sung if you are not leading the piece being performed. A person who is next in the circle may choose not to participate but can request someone in the circle to sing or play in their stead, either so that they can join in or have something they like performed. When this happens, the next performance should come from the next person in the circle from the one who made the request.


A blackboard session event is usually MC’d where a performance time is allotted, and each performer is given a nominated start time for a specified period of performance. It will often be 15 minutes or 3 songs but this can vary according to the MC. The performance order will usually be written, having been recorded in advance, where performers choose their desired time slot. They can be participatory or non participatory, depending on the MC or the performer whose turn it is, or whether the particular event is a formal or informal one. Where the audience is invited to join in, remember to respect the fact that it is this performers turn and participate reservedly. Participation is usually just in the chorus.


Performances at Come-All-Ye Sessions are always participatory unless the performer whose turn it is requests otherwise and often feature chorus songs for people to sing along with. They are often lead by an MC who will ensure that everyone gets a go so please respect the version being performed. Come All Ye Sessions are usually a ‘take it in turns around the circle’ event although people may choose not to participate but remain a member of the audience.


Open Music Sessions are usually a general free-for-all, usually have no MC and mostly apply to the playing of tunes. This is the type of event that one might find in the bar at the National Folk Festival. It is often a jump in when there is a break in the music between tunes situation, where you start the next tune and every one will then join in with what you are playing.


Fireside session is usually one where people may contribute (jump in) with a song or tune whenever a gap in performance occurs. There is no MC and whilst it often goes around the circle, the idea is for those who want to perform to do so whilst the others remain audience (and try to keep warm). It is generally a Come All Ye type session where everyone may join in at any time unless it is requested otherwise.


Where there is a ‘structured event’ at SessionFest, (eg blackboard concert or theme concert etc,) please participate where possible. If however, you chose not to be part of one of the few structured events, please ensure that your sessioning does not interfere in any way with those events OR other people’s sessioning. The wishes of the many must outweigh the wishes of the few sometimes. People with loud instruments such as accordions and percussion items etc, please show consideration for fellow sessioners by playing reservedly, OR far enough away from other sessions to ensure it won’t interfere with the enjoyment of others.

  • If unsure about the etiquette at any event, please check with an organiser or a local to such an event.
  • Please give special encouragement to newcomers and first-timers.
  • Playing and singing in the correct key is preferred. If you are unsure of the key, ask someone or simply watch or listen until you get the hang of it before joining in.
  • Remember no-one likes a performance hog!
  • We try to avoid performing a piece that is part of someone else’s usual repertoire - ie we don't sing the song they are most well known for if we can help it but there is a bit of lee-way there. (It is a bit hard if you don't know the group of regulars so sometimes it is best to ask if anyone knows the piece you want to perform and if anyone minds if you do it.)
  • We request that people with loud instruments show consideration for quieter instrumentalists during performances.
  • Please try and stay within the various folk genre when you are at a Folk event.
  • Except for some concerts, backing tapes and electronic instruments are usually not appreciated as these are generally acoustic events.
  • Please avoid talking during ‘performances’ or at least do it out of earshot of the performer and audience.
  • If you feel that someone is crossing any usual etiquette boundaries, please let them know quietly and respectfully. We are all here to have a good time.
  • Please try and remember to switch off your mobile phones at organised events, particularly during concert performances.




- Admission to Folk Club events is subject to the following conditions:

The Folk Club cannot guarantee that the artist/s will appear even after advertising and confirmation by the artist/s. The Folk Club reserves the right to, without prior notice, add, withdraw or substitute artists and to vary the programme as necessary. All attempts to notify members prior to the performance will be made but with last minute withdrawals, advice might only be available at the door on the night of the performance.

The right to refuse admission is reserved.

  • It is our Club policy to take into account individuals financial circumstances. Therefore we will not refuse entry to those who cannot afford the entry fee to an event. We will however, accept a donation if you can manage it. Door entry fees are charged to cover the costs of rent, insurance and performer payments etc.
  • The Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club offers members of other folk Clubs and related organisations, discounted entry to our events at the concession rate.
  • It is a regular occurrence at our events for Folk Club officials (and sometimes performer’s friends) to take photographs of performers and audience. These photographs are occasionally used in media advertising and/or printed in our newsletter ‘Coaldust’ and/or posted on our web-site. If you observe that your photograph has been taken and do not wish for it to be printed or used, please advise a Folk Club Committee member. Members and guests are asked to check with the performer/s first if it is okay to photograph them, particularly during their performance, due to ‘flash’ issues.
  • Video and audio recording devices may not be used at Folk Club events unless prior authorisation from at least two Folk Club Committee members and the performer/s has been obtained.
  • Our Folk Club welcomes people who would like to perform one or two songs or tunes in the folk genre, at times allocated for walk-up performances, usually at the start of the event or straight after supper. Please speak to the host of the event if you would like this opportunity. Permission will depend on time being available in the planned programme for the event.
  • A supper by donation is provided about half way through our Folk Club night activities. Members and guests are welcome to bring a plate to share in lieu of a donation.

Guidelines On How The Club Chooses Its Performers



The Folk Club gets a large number of enquiries from people wishing to perform on our Club nights and events. These enquiries come via word of mouth, email, website enquiry, letter and telephone calls.  In fact, we get far more requests than we could ever possibly accommodate.

In the past, Folk Club Bookings Officers approached performers, particularly locals, to provide the entertainment for members.  There was a period when fewer locals were available and the Club needed to look further afield for its performers.  The result of this has been that for a long time now the Club has not needed to approach performers but has chosen them from those who have contacted the Club to request a gig.  The exception to this is when a support act is required.  The Bookings Officer may then approach a performer/s directly.

Occasionally the Bookings Officer may see an act in the course of their travels to festivals, other Clubs and events, that they consider is worthwhile and different to what is generally showcased at our Club. In these circumstances the Bookings Officer may approach a performer/s directly.  Also, if a member has requested a particular performer/s be considered or if someone recommends a particular performer/s, then again, a direct approach may be made.  There are some performers that may be asked to return more often due to their popularity with our members.

On top of our usual Club nights we hold an average of 4 'bush' dances spread throughout the year.  The Club also holds an occasional additional event such as a special concert or house concert for touring artists when members get behind the event and help to run it.  Our annual festival 'Sessionfest' is a 'no paid performers - no festival fee' event.  It is a genuine session style event where the audience are also the performers.

The decisions about who gets to perform at our Club nights and events are made by the whole Committee following input and recommendation from the Bookings Officer.

The current payment arrangement is that we pay 80% of the (net) door take, ie after all Club night/event related expenses have been paid.  These expenses include the rent, the provision of sound equipment and the Support Act, who is generally paid $50 or the performer/s are granted one year's complimentary membership to our Club.  These payments are considered to be the regular expenses paid from the door take before the Main Act payment is calculated.   [Performers are often able to supplement their income  with CD sales where applicable.]  The remaining 20% is retained by the Club to assist in covering the costs of Insurance, our newsletter and advertising expenses etc.

Other income such as canteen sales, raffles, supper donations, membership payments etc are not taken into account when determining the costs for the event as these items produce their own income and expenses and go towards covering the overall costs of running the Club.

Our Club is a community based not-for-profit group and it is our desire to ensure that performers receive a reasonable payment for their services.  Sometimes a greater percentage of the door take is paid where the Club has made satisfactory profit for the event.  The Club will also, where possible, pay performers a reasonable amount even when insufficient audience numbers attend to make any profit on the event. ie we occasionally run at a loss when audience numbers are low.  When this happens the total door take may be given over to ensure that performers get some reward for their efforts.

Performers wishing to apply for a gig at our Club should contact our Bookings Officer or email us via the contact page