Interview with Colin Cater, 16 April 1999
Level: Category
Sound Archive
Level: Fonds
Level: Series
Essex Folk Movement Oral History Project
Level: Sub-Series
Scope and Content:
Colin Cater [CC] interviewed by Sue Cubbin [SC] in Southey Green on 16 April 1999. CC talks about the philosophy of English folk music, its relationship with cultural tradition, his involvement in Chelmsford Folk Club and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), and working with his wife Karen [KC] on their shop, Hedingham Fair. KC also speaks during the interview.

Tape 1 Side A

[00:00:00] CC talks about his family; moving around as a child to South Wales and West Yorkshire; attending Reading University; his family and music; his father wanting to be pub pianist; having an 'angelic' voice in the church choir in Penarth; not learning to read music; school music lessons; the church in Penarth.
[00:05:13] Exposure to folk songs at school; national divide; 'Hey Nonny' element; difference between school music and popular music in the 1950s; exposure to skiffle and American rock and roll, Elvis Presley; criticism of British rock; the energy of Lonnie Donegan.
[00:10:16] Leaving South Wales aged 15; folk in Cardiff, Buddy Holly; pub culture in Harrogate; exposure to bluegrass music; interest in American college music (The Brothers Four and The Kingston Trio); the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and folk music as protest music; going to Harrogate Folk Club in 1961; his friends' involvement in a bluegrass group, the Group of Mountain Boys; listening to Bert Worth [BW], lute-style guitar, exposure to English folk; availability of folk music on records; influence of Joan Baez; Collett's and Dobell's record shops in London.
[00:17:10] BW's 'Reading Ethnics' British policy group, the 'folk club' at Reading University and in the town; a blues club in Reading; the influence of Ewan MacColl [EM], his 'agenda', left-wing politics, Comintern; consciousness of English music; learning songs; awareness of the folk movement, feeling of being odd; running 'Reading Ethnics' in his third year; university folk clubs as broad churches.
[00:25:16] His conciousness of folk, the influence of books, 'The Idiom of the People' by James Reeves and 'An Appreciation of Cecil Sharp'; the influence of 'The Unfortunate Rake' album; differences in and infusion of English and American culture.

Tape 1 Side B

[00:00:00] Having stage fright; feeling like a 'cultural crusader'; singing folk as 'private'; the oral tradition as a circular, not linear, process; no distinction between tradition and revival; the snobbery of folk music, input as valid as output; criticism of EM's belief in ethnic folk music; his own middle-class origins.
[00:07:25] His involvement in Nottingham Traditional Music Club; the 'puritans' of English culture, not being submerged in 'American cultural imperialism', 1960s, pre-Beatles; moving to North Derbyshire.
[00:09:23] Sources of music in North Derbyshire; what English culture is; folk songs as work songs; the influence of being around working-class society; the 'dislocation' of moving to Essex in 1970, lacking working-class culture.
[00:11:57] Joining Chelmsford Folk Club (CFC); guest singing at Saracen's Head; disappointment at CFC's policy of resident and guest singers only; listening to Penny and Geoff Harris [GH] and Nic Jones in Chelmsford; a photograph of CFC in the late 1970s; CFC moving to the Three Cups around 1970-71, Golden Fleece, DJ clubroom; mixed guests and management of CFC in the 1970s; performances at CFC; CFC as a social club; ceilidhs at CFC; performing as Lumps of Plum Pudding.
[00:18:25] Playing melodeon in the late 1960s; the influence of Reg Hall; teaching himself.
[00:21:07] Chelmsford Morris, the Three Cups and Blackmore Morris; founding of Blackmore Morris out of Benfleet Hoymen by Dave Gelleher, Chris Maple [CM] and Bill Delderfield; Chelmsford Arts Festival; Gary Davis leaving Blackmore and creating Chelmsford Morris; being taught by CM at Chelmsford Morris; singing and calling but not dancing; Chelmsford Morris style; Gary Davis leaving and Steve Monk joining.
[00:25:55] Running Lumps of Plum Pudding; criticism of Cecil Sharp House committee work; people in a photograph of CFC; running CFC at the Golden Fleece; Geoff Giddings running CFC, reputation for insulting folk singers; Giddings' Martin Carthy incident; CFC moving to the British Legion Club, run by Steve Morris.

Tape 2 Side A

[00:00:00] CFC having floor singers after leaving the Three Cups; CFC at the YMCA, decline; losing interest in compering at CFC.
[00:04:31] Lumps of Plum Pudding as a successful band, taking bookings, busy schedule; dropping out of Chelmsford Morris and folk club after 'Lumps' ended; style change at CFC, music hall and comic songs, feeling obsolete; losing interest in singing; mid-life crisis; briefly writing songs; getting reinvolved in Cecil Sharp House, whether it should be sold.
[00:10:08] Involvement in EFDSS committees in the late 1960s, Dave Hislop and folk politics; reinvolvement, sitting on National Executive Committee, removing the 'old guard', finding people sympathetic to dance, the 'ruthlessness' of the dance fraternity; the reputation of EFDSS at time of interview.
[00:15:53] Young people and the Essex folk movement; the lack of role models for young singers, recommending Joan Baez; the problem of getting started for young singers; the importance of bridges from popular music to folk music, the lack of connection between black Caribbean music and English folk music; avenues for pan-Celtic music, Riverdance.
[00:23:50] Moving away from Essex; CFC ending and not being around; moving back to Essex, getting married and setting up Essex Singers Club, reviving interest in singing; avoiding recreating CFC; link with Chelmsford's past through GH; the purpose of Essex Singers Club, wide membership; changing venue to Hedingham.
[00:31:20] Mentions Hedingham Fair.

Tape 2 Side B

[00:00:00] CC and KC talk about starting the Hedingham Fair folk shop; CC taking early retirement; setting up a studio for KC; her interest in music, Morris, tradition and design; becoming a designer due to the lack of market for 'folk' inspired goods; market research; the trade, craft fairs, responses to the shop; future merchandise and Scottish market; KC's experience with glassware; difficulty of the trade.
[00:14:09] Growth of interest in Green Man and mysticism; museum and heritage shows, 'medieval' theme, and folk heritage; the market and link to folk music, missed opportunity to be taken seriously with expansion of folk culture into other arts, literature and visual; Brian McNeil's book 'The Fiddler', 'To Answer the Peacock' book launch, variety of media.
[00:21:06] Insularity of contemporary folk music; style of Hedingham Fair images.
Dates of Creation:
16 April 1999
1 hour 59 minutes 12 seconds
Creator Name:
Sue Cubbin
Admin History:
Colin Cater (b.1943, Stourbridge) discovered folk music through left-wing politics at the University of Reading. After moving to Essex, he became involved in running Chelmsford Folk Club and English Folk Dance and Song Society commitees. At the time of the interview, he was no longer directly involved in the folk scene, but had opened a folk goods shop with his wife Karen, called the Hedingham Fair.
Archivist Note:
Copyright transferred to ESVA
Physical Characteristics:
4 MP3 files [digital copies of original cassettes]
Related Unit of Description:
For a handwritten transcript of this recording, see SA 30/7/1/7/3
Dates of Description:
10 May 2022,,,
Not Available:
Digital item(s). For access please email ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk