The longest running folk programme on the radio can be heard every Thursday and Tuesday at 9pm on BBC Radio Merseyside. Find out more about the presenters of the show and listen to interviews with them both.
Stan Ambrose and Geoff Speed present BBC Radio Merseyside’s weekly look at the local folk circuit every Tuesday and Thursday evening in Folkscene.
Folkscene is the longest running folk programme anywhere on the radio dial. It was one of the first specialist music programmes launched by Radio Merseyside and has featured a host of local folk groups and artists over the years.
Stan Ambrose and Geoff Speed have both been involved in the local folk community for many years. Born in Widnes, 1942, Geoff Speed has spent most of his life in the area.
“I was born into a very musical family. My parents never played any instruments but they used their voices. Life was full of music. Music was the discussion that went on all the time. For about the first eight years of my life, radio was my companion.”
Geoff ran a highly successful folk club in his home town of Widnes in the 1960’s. In the early days of BBC Radio Merseyside he recorded live folk music in and around the clubs at a time when recordings of local folk musicians and singers were virtually non existent.
“My interest in folk music began back at Wade Deacon High School in Widnes. I had a friend at school called Robin, we decided a open a folk club in Widnes. We expected about 40 to turn up and 200 turned up. We ended up meeting in the rooms above the Queen’s Hall.”
Indeed, Geoff has been recognised for booking a young Paul Simon to appear at his club:
“In the early days of the folk club, we had a guy from London play for us. His name was Terry Gould. He wrote to me and said that he had heard a young American singer named Paul Simon and was trying with Paul to organise a tour in the North of England. So I said yes straight away. We were only asked to pay £12. To think that this guy was only 18 or 19 and was writing such wonderful songs. He stayed with me for a week.”
Stan Ambrose was born in Barking, Essex in 1930 and attended the same primary school as singer-songwriter Billy Bragg:
“Growing up, we moved to different places in search of jobs; the east side of London to the west side. I didn’t have a solid education in that sense. Eventually we moved to Cambridge to escape the bombing during the war.”
Stan's career took some interesting turns during the early part of his life:
“I worked in a finance department for the National Health Service, filling out forms. I didn’t like it so I got into politics and became a local councillor while in my 20s. The older people didn’t like me being there, they saw me as an apprentice.”
Nevertheless, Stan decided that he needed a better education:
“No-one in my family or extended family had gone to University at that time. I had never thought of myself as a University student, so I went and got a certificate in Social Studies in Southampton. Then I went to Liverpool to study psychology and psychiatry. This was around 1961/1962.”
In Liverpool, Stan began to indulge his passion for folk music:
“I had been part of a skiffle group growing up and used to knock out tunes on the piano. I had a collection of records and used to make programmes of music from them. We started a club in Southport called The Bothy. We ended up with a club full of people. It was an amazing time.”
Stan's involvement with the folk circuit allowed him to meet Geoff Speed:
“I met Geoff Speed in the '60s when he ran a folk club in Widnes. He had Paul Simon at his club. Geoff has a piece of paper with what everybody was paid. Paul Simon was paid £15 and we were paid £17!”
Stan, who has sung and played the whistle in a local band for many years, also plays the Celtic harp. He has performed with music collective ‘Super Numeri’ and has appeared at London’s Jazz Café and at a Belgian pop festival.
“I thought I might have problems filling the show for a month” he says, “but here I am over 36 years on.” He and Geoff take turns to present the show and hardly ever tread on each other's toes:
“We don’t tell each other what we’re doing and somehow it just works. We each have our own style of programme.”
Folkscene can be heard Thursday evening on BBC Radio Merseyside 95.8FM from 9pm. The programme is repeated on Tuesdays at 9pm.
You can also listen again to the programme via the BBC RadioPlayer. Click on the ‘Listen Live’ link on the right hand side of this page and then select Folkscene.
last updated: 06/02/2009 at 13:11