Perth Folk And Roots Club

This article also appeared in edition no. 150 of Trad & Now magazine, August 2022.

One of the joys of landing in a new locality is the gradual discovery of new venues, local watering holes, gigs, and music sessions.

After a self-imposed hermitical existence in Brisbane for three and a half months at the start of 2022, I jumped in to south west Australia with both boots upon arrival in April, and have since been to stacks of lively places for all manner of events.

It helps to be filling in as co-host of ‘Folking Around’ on 107.9FM Radio Fremantle on Mondays from 9-11pm AWST – go to www.radiofremantle.com.au to listen live or on-demand to months of previous shows. (Spot the subtle plug? No? Good.)

Host Frank Hodges starts every show with an extensive run-down on gigs in the Greater Perth and Fremantle areas, and it’s been great to zip out and experience some of these first-hand.

On a chilly July Sunday afternoon, I set off to the Inglewood Bowling Club in Mount Lawley. For the sensible, it’s a drive to the back of Inglewood Oval and a park right outside the venue on Stancliffe Street. For me, it was a bus to Fremantle, train to Perth Station, then a very pleasant hour’s walk north in pale, wintry, late afternoon sunshine.

Words to live by. Sign over the bar at the Inglewood Bowling Club.

Inglewood Bowling Club is reminiscent of scores of its type all around Australia; it could easily sub in for the set of Crackerjack. Cheap beer, old wooden honour boards with decades of gold lettering celebrating past victors in bowling, cricket, and even four wheel driving.

And the stage: the largest of the aforementioned honour boards obscured with a massive black drape, and some leftover tinsel and other decorations from the previous night’s Christmas In July adding a 70s disco night feel to a rather more bluesy, roots, and acoustic serving of music.

The bill that night was in three parts: the house band featuring club president Keith Anthonisz plus Pete Birch, Steve Warner Jones, and Mr John. Followed by a real treat from the hills around Kalamunda: young Callie Ashbolt and ever-so-slightly more veteran muso and events organiser Sian Johanna, doing originals and covers with two x guitar/vox. Final act for the night was Pas Serafino with a mix of many covers and some recent originals.

Before proceedings kicked off, I spoke with Keith about Perth Folk and Roots Club.

Bill Quinn: The club’s reasonably new compared to a lot of others.

Keith Anthonisz: Yeah, we just had our tenth anniversary. 2012 we started getting something going at the Oxford Hotel (in Leederville), and at the time, John and I were involved with the WA Folk Federation.

The way we looked at it, we should be organising ourselves to get more gigs for musicians, so we started off in 2012, and then later on we incorporated Perth Folk and Roots Club by itself in 2014. Just to focus on live gigs.

Since then, after the Oxford, we got a regular show at the Mount Lawley Bowling Club with the City of Stirling support. And we’ve still got their support here. The bulk of the money we get is through grants, and that allows us to keep free gigs. And the bowling club here is happy about that because we’re activating the place.

BQ: Because the bowling club doesn’t normally open here on a Sunday, do they?

KA: No, they don’t. So once a month we have a bit of a focus on folk, and the bulk of the costs are paid for by the council. The bowling club chips in some money as well.

BQ: From my short time in WA, I get the feeling councils are pretty active and proactive in supporting live music.

KA: They are. This thing about place activation is a big thing in WA. Even in the City of Perth. The other show that we’ve got is at Tattersalls Bowling Club (Perth and Tattersalls Bowling and Recreation Club) which is right on the river. It’s a bowling club in the city.

It’s like something out of Crackerjack!

It’s got the outside area with umbrellas and chairs. You’re looking at the skyscrapers, and you’ve got the water behind you. I had someone say, Gee, this is like Darwin! That was during summer. It’s a pearl of a place. And it’s a bowling club.

The bulk of the money we can get by a grant from the council. The council’s happy because that part of the city to the side of the CBD, there’s a lot of people who live there, but there’s not much going on there.

BQ: For entertainment.

KA: So it’s more like a dormitory suburb of Perth, in a way.

It’s a curse and it’s also good about WA. A lot of people put on their own shows and put on their own events. It’s a bit of a curse that you have to do a lot of work to promote your own stuff, but you also have a lot of quirky things coming out of Perth. And some of those quirky things end up going all the way to the top.

So it is a weird place like that. I’ve always thought that Perth’s got some advantages. We don’t have a lot of old stars hanging around here. I think that’s like a curse in Sydney. You see someone who was really famous and had hits now playing in a bloody restaurant somewhere! How do new acts get a go?

We don’t have that here, so it allows a few more things to come out.

Sian Johanna and Callie Ashbolt

BQ: Over in the east, there’s a lot of folk clubs that get a well-worn track of artists going past on tours, or they’re heading down to Port Fairy or coming back from the National. I guess you don’t have that so much here in Perth. Is it more home-grown talent that you have here?

KA: We do get a bit of touring act stuff happening here. We had someone come over from the Newcastle Folk Club. We had Nick Vulture from South Australia do a CD launch at Tattersalls a few months ago. We’ve got some linkages beginning to happen.

It’s in the back of my mind that we try to do a tour or something like that somewhere, but that means organising and putting in applications and doing all the rest of it.

BQ: But it gives you a great opportunity to develop young and emerging talent, yeah?

KA: Yeah, one of the acts we’ve got on today is Callie who’s been brought in by Sian who’s in the Perth Hills where they’ve got their own folk clubs and folk community. I think she said Callie’s 15 or 16, and Sian says she’s a great new talent so we try to encourage that. It’s not just oldies doing stuff, it’s a few youngsters coming in as well.

Headline act Pas Serafina

BQ: How about linkages with festivals? Do you get involved with any of the festivals?

KA: Not really, not at this stage. A lot of the festivals here, I guess they’re a bit like us. They’re focused on their own agenda and forming alliances – they just don’t have the bandwidth for it. It would be great that we do that, it would make a lot of sense to do that, but we haven’t really gotten around to it.

One of the things that’s been good about what we’ve done is that in Perth, a lot of live music is in Freo, and then you’ve got the Perth Hills stuff. But there’s not much around the city, so this is like a little folk foothold in the city. And we bring in people from Freo, we bring in people from the hills, and try to get people to appreciate stuff here.

And as you were saying about the local governments, they’re into this place activation – engaging with communities, pushing communities to get away from the box and go out. And do stuff!

I know the City of Stirling views this place as a community asset. A lot of the old bowling clubs are under pressure to get in new people and younger people. We face that as well: how do you get younger people in? How do you keep your numbers up? It’s an issue for voluntary groups and organisations.

BQ: But so far, so good, yeah?

KA: Yeah, so far it’s good.

Perth Folk and Roots Club operates monthly music nights at Inglewood Bowling Club in Mount Lawley and Tattersalls Bowling Club in East Perth. For details, go to www.perthfolk.org

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