A HISTORY OF FOLK FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

Folk for M. S. - The Origins

The memories of the factors that came together to form Folk for M. S. are disappearing into the mists of time. Bob Hambleton, a long time folkie and would be singer/songwriter who had been diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis some years before, wrote a song, ‘Misty Days,’ attempting to express his personal view and attitude to having the disease, his being a comparatively upbeat and positive approach. This prompted his friend, Sarah Davis, to suggest that they might run a folk concert to raise money for M. S. One night at Upper Clatford Folk Club, they approached the guest, Roger Watson, who at the time ran the BBC Radio Oxford folk programme, to see if he would be interested in broadcasting such a concert.

 

Meanwhile Kate and Dave Guest, who ran the Stanford in the Vale Folk Festival, were planning to host a charity concert at Lain’s Barn near Wantage and had already approached Roger about broadcasting the concert live on Radio Oxford. Roger suggested the two events become one and so FOLK FOR M.S. was born.

 

Initial Plans

The four then started planning the event and these plans rapidly out grew the original concept. Lain’s Barn, a converted tithe barn, provided sufficient space for the concert, catering and several craft stalls; all in a very ‘ethnic’ surrounding. Fortunately, because of their experience in organising folk events, the four knew, and were friends with, a great many well known folk performers. Finding the artists to create a high quality line up was not a problem but it was obvious that they needed a ‘big name’ to top the

bill. In the meantime, the preparations went on apace.

 

Top of the Bill

Included in these preparations was the almost obligatory raffle. Vin Garbutt was appearing at Sarah’s local folk club in Salisbury and Bob explained to Vin that they were trying to organise a folk concert to raise money for M. S. and nervously broached the subject that Vin might consider donating an album to the raffle. Unfortunately Bob got somewhat tongue tied and before he could actually get the words ‘album’ and ‘raffle’ out, Vin had thought for a moment and said, ‘Yes, I’ll do that for you. Mind you you’ll have to speak to my agent, but if I’m free, I’ll do it.’ They had got their ‘Top of the Bill.’

Well not quite; when they checked with Vin’s agent, he was already busy on the night planned - so they changed the date of the concert to the following week! That is why the concert, originally arranged for the end of May, actually took place a week later.

(Incidentally, the song that sparked the whole thing, “Misty Days,” didn’t get used on the night, and that is probably just as well!)

 

The Concert - 7th June 1990

After all the planning and preparations that had gone on, the big day finally arrived and the concert took place. Lain’s Barn is a wonderful venue for folk events and the support that the concert generated was staggering. Towards the end of the evening Roger Watson who compered the concert, asked the audience if they had enjoyed the event. Receiving a

very positive response, he told the four organisers, live, on stage, that they would be running it again the next year! The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Incidentally, Radio Oxford were never able to broadcast the concert live as the remote location of Lain’s Barn meant an OB was not possible

 

From Strength to Strength

The growth in popularity of the concerts was such that in 1996 the event was moved to a larger venue at The Old Mill Hall in Grove, a few miles from Lain’s Barn, where it has become a permanent feature. The format of the concerts has remained very much the same.

 

Charity Registration

The major development in our activities came about in 2000 with our registration as a charity in our own right. Folk for Multiple Sclerosis is a registered charity No. 1080774. The trustees would like to express their grateful thanks to Mike Sparks MBE, a member of Herga Folk Club and an expert on charity registration, for his help, guidance, advice and support.

 

Donations

Through the years several people have quietly made significant donations to the charity and the trustees would like to repeat their previously expressed thanks to these individuals. £524 was raised by a sponsored walk undertaken by Jenny Brown. Jenny had previously never undertaken an extended walk, let alone a week long solo expedition. Another stalwart has been Hazel Byrne who works throughout the year running tombolas and stalls in aid of FfMS and has raised over £1000. Denise & Peter Smith were sponsored to learn a new musical instrument and then to perform live at the FfMS concert. Whilst the less said about Peter’s performance the better, Denise was triumphant and between them they raised a magnificent £600.

 

To these and all our unmentioned supporters, we express our grateful thanks.

Denise and Peter Smith with Carol Yeend

Bob Hambleton presents a cheque to Didcot MS Centre

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