The folk club opened in November 1970 with Pat Drinkwater at the helm. Previously Pat had run folk clubs in such diverse venues as the Trowbridge Conservative Club and a local strip club. When he found an old store room at the back of his local, The Lamb, he saw its potential as a folk club straight away. The need for a folk club in the area came about with the demise of the George Folk Club in Norton St Philip and as soon as this club closed Pat started to look for a venue.
Straight away Pat gathered a team of volunteers together to turn the run-down store room into a folk club. Walls were white-washed, floor cleaned and a balcony was erected at the back of the room to increase the capacity. The balcony was later enlarged down one side of the room when it became clear that we had to get more people in, such was the popularity of the club. One feature that always drew comments from visiting guests was the collection of country tools and tack that Pat had hung on the walls.
Heat came from an old pot-bellied stove and the stage was at first an old farm cart. So here was a very rustic venue called THE VILLAGE PUMP. Why the Village Pump? Well this came from a song imported to Wiltshire by Alan Briars and sung by STONEGALLOWS. The group consisting of Alan Briars, Pat Drinkwater and John Alderslade were regulars at the George in Norton St. Philip. By the time the Village Pump was opened Pat had retired from Stonegallows and was then putting all of his efforts into the folk club.
Pat and his team created one of the best folk club venues in Great Britain, full of atmosphere and with very good acoustics, indeed for some time there was no P.A. in the club. The Village Pump was always open to new ideas and so when Keith Christmas appeared on the opening night there was even a light show. This policy of trying something different was carried on right through the folk club’s life. Who can forget the half-time entertainment of pie-eating contests or the many world record attempts by Ivor Piper to see how fast he could drink a pint of beer or eat a pie whilst standing on his head?
Like most folk clubs The Pump relied on the services of many folk stalwarts to man the door, run raffles, etc. Such people as Maureen Alderslade, Judy King, Trish Doel and Les Reeves readily come to mind.
During the life of the Village Pump at the Lamb just about everyone who was anyone in the folk scene played there and some really great nights were had. On many an evening we had to turn people away such as the night Stéphane Grappelli appeared.
Pictured with Chris Newman, Diz Disley, Len Skeat and Denny Wright
On one of the many nights Noel Murphy entertained us he managed to catch his hair alight with one of the candles at the back of the stage, luckily someone noticed and put him out. He just carried on singing as if he did it every night. Noel’s night usually ended with Stonegallows and any other muscians joining him on stage.
In 1974 the First Village Pump Folk Festival was held using The Pump clubroom, Pat Drinkwater’s tent and the nearby Civic Centre for venues (week-end ticket £2.50).
After a few years it outgrew the original venues and moved a couple of miles down the road to Stowford Manor Farm.