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.
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
(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 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.
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