Interview with Alie Byrne, 21 May 1999
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Alie Byrne [AB] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] in Coggeshall on 21 May 1999. AB talks about being a woman in the folk scene in Essex, the difficulties of pursuing a professional music career, and being young in an ageing folk movement.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] AB talks about living in Essex; singing at school; music not being taken seriously by her father; meeting Pete Billinge [PB] at the Steamer in Chelmsford; her developing interest in folk music; wanting to sing for a band around 1984; her early interest in music; joining a guitar club at primary school in Brentwood; learning folk songs but not knowing anything about them.
[00:04:45] Visiting Blackmore Folk Club with PB; listening to the album 'Abyssinians' by June Tabor; her first performance of 'The Bonny Hind' in a folk club.
[00:06:55] Attending university in Northern Ireland; Catholic Republicanism; singing in women's groups and societies; visiting Blackmore Folk Club on a university break; learning classical guitar, reading music and singing by ear.
[00:08:45] Singing vocals in scratch bands with Nick Melitska and Tony Winn [TW], other members of Popular Wobblies; Popular Wobblies becoming Mamouf, genre and blues music, difficulty of singing; finding a voice in folk; members of Mamouf in Chemical Alice, which she saw as a young teenager; rehearsal time and the value of band experience.
[00:12:51] Meeting and singing with Jill McCutcheon at Blackmore around 1989; female repertoire, ballads; being introduced to Kipling songs.
[00:16:43] Looking for gigs as 'Panzie Potter'; her first gig, supporting Dave Swarbrick at Chelmsford Library; performing festivals and folk clubs across the south east; the importance of promotion; competing with solo male guitar players; prejudice against women; lacking the confidence to go professional; attention she recieved.
[00:21:37] Making a tape with Steve Morris, 'Simple is the Need by Adrian May'; not finding performing tiring; teacher training in Yorkshire; regional repertoire in folk clubs.
[00:25:11] Meeting the guitarist Chris King at the Butley Oyster, Suffolk; contemporary material, ballads with a guitar; playing in Butley; rehearsing over tape; experimenting with repertoire and arrangement; playing gigs in 1999, Rochester Festival; desire to go professional.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] Discuss leadership in bands and fitting into a band.
[00:01:28] Lack of range in folk club repertoire, Middle Bar Singers Session at Sidmouth; traditional and popular folk; songs being lost or neglected; men sticking to loud chorus songs, audience enjoyment; repetitive; women diversifying, range of voice.
[00:06:28] Ageing audience in clubs, younger audience at festivals, regional divide; club organisers not very welcoming; not feeling welcome at Chelmsford Folk Club; elitism; younger audience in London folk scene, Celtic and Irish traditions but not East Anglian tradition.
[00:10:25] Women's role in organising; role at Chelmsford Folk Club and in organising Kelvedon 2000, TW's event.
[00:14:01] Feeling unknowledgable about East Anglian traditions; folk clubs feeling obsolete, sessions more involving; lack of value given to English music traditions; unappealing nature of passive audiences.
[00:19:14] Feeling like she's still at the beginning; the intimacy at Blackmore being intimidating; the difficulty of breaking into the folk circuit; reliance on established names like Martin Carthy; name-dropping; lack of pretentiousness; performers on pedestal.
[00:23:13] The need to balance music the performer enjoys and music the audience wants; cover bands; the differences between audiences at venues, new songs and traditional songs; the debate about the accuracy of traditional songs; not being involved in the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS); common ownership of the songs; not needng to promote so much.
[00:28:21] The difficulty of making a living as a folk singer, travel requirements putting a strain on relationships; resenting her parents for not giving support; pursuing music and finding support; the difficulties of coping with a young family while pursuing music.
Dates of Creation:
21 May 1999
1 hour 3 minutes 14 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Alie Byrne (b.1967, Norwich) was one of the youngest people interviewed in the oral history project. She was introduced to folk music through Blackmore Folk Club and pursued a singing career despite feeling unwelcome by the movement as a whole. At the time of the interview she had formed a partnership with Chris King.
Archivist Note:
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
2 MP3 files [digital copies of original cassette]
Related Unit of Description:
For a handwritten transcript of this recording, see SA 30/7/1/10/3
Dates of Description:
May 2022,,,
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk