History of Bacca Pipes

Keighley Folk Clubs of the early 60s

Started by Ben Ellison, Jim Kenealy (sp?) and Ginner (?), and housed in the Albert Hotel, Keighley Folk Club of the late sixties subsisted on a diet of Clancy Bros., The Seekers, Leonard Cohen and Tom Lehrer songs for five years or so, putting on the occasional concert (its eventual downfall). Other notables included Liz Narey (still a BACCAteer) and whizzo guitarist Andy Dyson. 'Churchwarden' bacca pipesNear the end, at a meeting in the Lord Rodney, it was decided to rename the club The Bacca Pipes after the morris jig of the same name, a favourite of concertina playing member Steve Wood. In the event, that name was never used, as, financially over stretching ourselves putting on a concert, we closed soon after. After this various clubs came and went in the Keighley area.

The First Bacca Pipes Folk Club

The most notable was in Churchill House, Conservative Party headquarters, run by Jim Whitehead. This venue excluded at least half of the folk fans in the Keighley area, so when I heard that this particular incarnation was to close, I and a few friends decided to start a club on neutral ground (politically speaking). Enter The Bacca Pipes Folk Club. Occupying a large room in The Wellington Hotel, Jeff Walbank, Phil Speight, Dave O'Flaherty, Mick Clews, Pete Simmons and I (amongst loads of others) started our Sunday night odyssey. It was a successful club, filling the room regularly to see the likes of Mike Harding, Les Barker, Swan Arcade and Magic Lantern and helped in no small part by having an enthusiastic resident group, Threefold. As Threefold became more popular and gigged more, it was evident that they could not run the club and run the group as well.

1975: Jenny Scott Arrives and Changes Everything

Thank goodness then, that Jenny Scott should consider moving to Keighley from Hartlepool around 1975. Bringing with her a background steeped in North Eastern folk and a personality that could shape mountains let alone a mere folk club. I have forgotten the reason why we left the Wellington, or why we moved from Sundays to Fridays but The Globe Inn became our new home in the 1980s. Although the Wellington gave us some fantastic evenings, the first night at the Globe was a pointer to the heights that we were to reach. Cyril Tawney was our first guest and no seat or windowsill was unoccupied. We had our downs of course but the club seats were kept warm by a dedicated core of friends whose Fridays would have been desolate without live music. So far, the less dedicated members have always made a return (looks for piece of wood to clutch).

The 80s and more at The Globe

Cavalier The Globe years spanned two decades and were (in retrospect) the most stable of our years. It was in this era that the club image went through its one and only face lift. A designer (who also sang a bit!), by the name of Peter Bellamy, renamed the club 'The Famous' Bacca Pipes and replaced the crossed church wardens, designed by Phil Speight, with the now familiar Cavalier figure. He also made a full suite of club signs and revamped the monthly poster into a gloriously irreverent info fest.

The Search for a New Venue

An unasked for and unwanted pub refurbishment marked the end of our 20+ years of comfortable stability. We needed a temporary home and the only pubs in Keighley with rooms large enough for a folk club were frantic, loud, teenage drinking dens, and not suitable for the staid folk community.

We Find a Brewery!

Keighley coat of arms First we tried the Pop & Pasty social club. Lovely, accommodating people though they were, we only managed three weeks there as they needed the room on occasional Fridays themselves (and the beer was awful). Even at that stage we realised that stability of venue is the Holy Grail of folk clubs so a clean break was needed… but where to go? We felt we had to stay in the town boundaries to remain Keighley's only folk venue and we had already incorporated the town Coat of Arms into our posters. As a bolt from the blue came a request for a meeting from an independent brewer, John Mitchell, who had just opened a visitors centre at his Worth Brewery premises. Would we? you bet! The beer was sublime, the owner accommodating and we had no resident public to upset.

The Birth of Baccapella

The next three years were the most sparkling yet. We introduced countless people to good music, good friends and good beer. We had the most glowing, purple patch of three years that any club could hope for. Of special note were our Carol Nights on the run up to Christmas. An 'in house' a cappella group had been singing a very personal selection of carols for some years, in various venues, for charitable organisations. This group (Sharon and the Students) deserves a biography of it's own, but suffice to say that its borders were flung open and all club goers were invited to join. The name was changed to BACCApella and 'practicing' was forced upon an unsuspecting audience. The sound of this agglomeration of interested parties singing its, often unique, carols, is heart stoppingly powerful. It moves Christmas from the merely commercial to something nearing spiritual. Lynda Hardcastle, long standing member of the club, was the instigator of the Traditional Carol Night and remains its most stalwart supporter.

The Ukrainian Club

The Brewery had to close through (as I understand it) a miscalculation of customs duty, and the club found a home in the Welcome Inn. Not a pub but a working men's club with pretensions. On the face of it it was a good, ecluded room but we had reckoned without the 'Irish Night' every Friday in the upstairs room. Amplified bass ruined many a quiet ballad, so after a month (but it seemed longer) we admitted defeat and looked for an alternative. A venue that had been used by other local folk organisations was the Ukrainian Club. Occupying a rambling Victorian house of gothic proportions its committee welcomed us with open arms. A lovely, acoustically bright, room was offered (if you discount the wallpaper) with a downstairs, 80 seater concert venue to be held in reserve. We have had 18 months of stability but (isn't there always a but?) the Ukrainians are having to pull in their horns and move to a venue with less of a financial drain on the organisation. We were offered a room within this new place but fire and safety regs proved insurmountable and we had, reluctantly, to part company. Discussions with the committee of St Anne's Social Club (attached to St Anne's Catholic Church) found us a venue for a while.

The Bacca Pipes Culture

Over the years Jenny has introduced innovations by the dozen; concept nights, three line whips, a non-clique policy, children's evenings, poetry nights, rules (gasp) and a culture of audience silence during songs and introductions that even the most thick skinned chatterer cannot ignore. We continued in this vein whilst looking, all the while, for that pot of gold… another brewery.

Beyond 2002

Consider fate well and truly tempted. After just a few months at St Anne's we were not finding the stability that we needed to provide our audience with a consistent venue and moved to the new premises of the Ukrainian Society on Henry St, Keighley. We opened on the 30th August, 2002 and were still there in 2020.

2021 and The Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic prevented us from being able to meet face to face from early 2020 until September 2021. Keeping the club going as a zoom meeting gave us a chance to sing and play, and perhaps more importantly, chat safely and check weekly that we were all still alive.

2022 - Riddlesden Institute

We were reluctant to go back to the Ukrainian Club because it was too small and cramped for healthy social distancing, so tried the Riddlesden War Memorial Institute, where we could open windows and spread ourselves more thinly round a bigger room. We started with a singers night in September 2021. After nearly 4 months that included singers nights, a couple of guest nights and the customary carols night and Christmas party, we knew we could do anything there and had fallen on our feet.

There's no bar, and it costs a bit more for the hire of the room, but apart from that it's perfect, and the Institute management like us because it's a regular booking and we leave it clean and tidy. Regular guest bookings continue, now one per month. The so-called Welsh Tunes Group and the (new in 2024) Sacred Harp singing group meet there monthly as well.

Historical Posters

Trevor Charnock has sent us a rare & beautiful 1972 (we think) poster which proves that Keighley Folk Club existed at The Wellington before we re-named it BACCApipes.
Even earlier than the above poster is one of the first ever Keighley Folk Club posters. Molly Binns has stewardship over this piece of club history and for the loan we thank her.

You may see an uncanny resemblance to Liz Narey who is mentioned earlier in the history

Jim Ellison (to 2020), Anahata (2020 onwards)