It was a little like I’d stepped out of a time machine into an earlier, in some ways better, time before music was an industry. When it was something people made and enjoyed together.
I’d happened on the Wednesday ‘Open Mike’ night at the Wortley Arms - and it was different to any open-mic - or indeed anything - I’d experience before. A complete one-off. Except now there’s the Ranmoor Inn - but we’ll come to that.
Dave Friskney has been a professional musician since before he won Opportunity Knocks in 1966, and subsequently appeared on the ‘all winners’ show as lead guitarist of the Kenny Pete Five, along with likes of Les Dawson (who was on the point of giving up the business - ‘last try’, he said at the time) and Freddie Starr.
His experience of life, and music - from jazz and blues, through his own - the Beatles - era showed up in the relaxed open and welcoming atmosphere. Not just for the string of professional and semi-professional singers and musician but for one and all throughout a relaxed and enjoyable evening. With lots of chatter and laughter punctuated by clapping-along and joining in with the familiar tunes that just flowed and flowed.
If this sounds like a recipe for cacophony it was far from it. The atmosphere really did seem to bring out the best from all the many contributors.
It turned out, as I discovered in the subsequent weeks and months as I joined the party as resident bass player, backing Dave’s revolving band of merry musicians, that the place is absolutely stuffed full of characters. Stuart the clarinetist whose spot is always a highlight - often culminating in a stirring rendition of ‘Stanger on the Shore’. Beth, the talented aspiring drama student, home from Uni. Jeremy, a thespian through and through who’s performance - nothing less - of the Lancashire Hotpots’ ‘I fear Ikea’ never fails to bring the house down.
Then there’s the star of the show. Not Dave, but Irene. Irene is 83 and has been singing professionally since she was four years old. Right the way through until she was married to Keith in her thirties. In between performing with Ivy Benson, The Andrews Sister and Joe Loss’ big ban, on a string of tours and cruises. The whole place, along with Irene, light up as she takes the mic, and a little shaky though she may be on her pins these days boy does she have a beguiling way with a lyric.
The music is familiar yet eclectic - from blues and early rock right through to Adele and Ed Sheeran’s music.
Wortley, population 626, is a village ancient enough to have been mentioned in the mentioned in the Domesday Book (as Wirtleie In 1086) poised between Sheffield to the South and Barnsley to the North. The Wortley Arms was a late addition, built as a coach house in 1753 - at a cost of 188 pounds and 66 shillings its website informs - transformed in 2006 into a fine-dining restaurant and pub by Master Chef Andy Gabbitas - Beth’s dad, it continues to thrive.
The Ranmoor Inn, on Fulwood Road, shares more than a little with the Wortley Arms - also being a coaching Inn, if perhaps on a smaller scale. It too has a relaxed atmosphere and has become increasingly muso-friendly over the last year or so since Alan Eyre took it over - the walls now adorned with portraits of some of the musical greats.
It is, I confess, my local. So it was that we hatched a plan to put Dave’s time machine to work across in the south of Sheffield - with a rolling event christened ‘2nd Saturday at the Ranmoor’ hosted again by Dave Friskney - and starting with a warm-up session this Saturday 30th September from 8pm.
From happening on this event up in Worley, on my way back from meetings in Manchester one night, it has remained a delight. The joy of people of all ages coming together to make - rather than just consume - music. It’s now in it’s sixth year
So to Ranmoor: It’s surely worth a try - and I for one hope that six years from now 2nd Saturday Live Music at the Ranmoor in will be going just as strong.
Barry James is a writer and entrepreneur who founded and runs The Crowdfunding Centre as its CEO - a Sheffield business that support crowdfunders across the globe.