Maureen stars in folk story

IMAGINE being able to say that you watched Paul Simon play live in the UK before he became a worldwide phenomenon. Now imagine that you were one of the people who helped organise the event. Maureen Jones did just that, and this weekend she celebrates 40 y

IMAGINE being able to say that you watched Paul Simon play live in the UK before he became a worldwide phenomenon.

Now imagine that you were one of the people who helped organise the event.

Maureen Jones did just that, and this weekend she celebrates 40 years as organiser of Hitchin Folk Club with a big anniversary bash at the Sun Hotel in Hitchin.

Maureen, 59, said: "Roger Pearson used to run the club when Paul Simon came over to the UK and I gave him a hand in organising the night.


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"It was supposed to be both Simon and Garfunkel, but Art had had an accident, he'd fallen out of an apple tree, so he couldn't make it.

"Paul came, and this was when he was a complete unknown and nobody really knew much about him.

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"He wasn't terribly friendly, and didn't really speak to anyone as he was surrounded by lots of people who had come over from America with him.

"Even so, lots of people who went that night still remember the music and he was very, very good."

It wasn't long after this performance that Maureen took on responsibility of organiser of the club herself and with plenty of help from her friends she has helped keep it up and running for the last 40 years.

There are now about 400 members and the gigs at the club, which take place weekly, are very popular with folk fans across North Herts and further afield.

Maureen said: "I didn't agree to take the club on, I was sort of left with it and it wasn't doing terribly well. Roger moved away and tried to run it from a distance.

"I said I'd give it a try and with the tremendous amount of help I've had it has done really well.

"The plan was to do it for 18 months as I was going to go to America, but things panned out differently.

"I've let it run its course. There have been probably three periods over 40 years when we almost ran out of money but it's looking healthy for the future.

"We book such a wide range of artists, and it's all down to who you book. Not everybody likes every type of music.

"But we get members from all over; as far away as Devon, and they come for the music and stay for the weekend."

The club has also had a big impact on Maureen's social life.

"I met my husband Keiron at the club, my sister met her husband there, and so it's been an important aspect of our lives. Keiron helps me out with promotion of the club and is just as enthusiastic as I am."

"We met lots of our friends there. Through the club we go to festivals all over the place, it really has been enjoyable."

This Sunday there is a sold out celebratory event being held in Maureen's honour.

"We've got playing for us five female singers who play in different combinations and they're all going to share the stage together. There will be solo acts, duos, trios. I'm really looking forward to it all.

"It's sold out and at least 90 per cent of the tickets have gone to regular members.

"This area has always been a good area for folk music and there is a large audience here for it, there has been since the Folk Club started in 1963 before I took over in 1967."

And as for the standout moment of the last 40 years?

"There is a group called Show of Hands. We gave them their first booking, and on Easter Sunday they have a sold-out performance at the Albert Hall. That is a really big high.

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