Special gig marks two decades of live music at The Band Room

Nigel Burnham at The Band Room at Farndale. Picture: Maisie Jepson.
Nigel Burnham at The Band Room at Farndale. Picture: Maisie Jepson.
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FOR MOST, the North York Moors valley of Farndale is most famous for its wild daffodils, which cover the area with a carpet of colour each spring.

But for music fans Farndale has become synonymous with The Band Room, an eclectic venue that has attracted audiences from as far afield as Hong Kong and Ohio over the last 20 years, despite being five miles from the nearest small town, Kirkbymoorside, and 35 miles from York.

Cerys Matthews on stage at the start of the concert.

Cerys Matthews on stage at the start of the concert.

The 100-capacity hall was built in the 1920s for Farndale Silver Band, and acts as a community hub hosting various activities, including becoming a temporary tea shop when the daffodils are in bloom. But in 1985, a new era dawned for the tiny venue.

While watching Cajun band the French Alligators play 50 miles away from his Farndale home at Reeth Memorial Hall, music journalist Nigel Burnham was inspired to bring live music back to The Band Room.

Thirteen years earlier, in 1982, he’d organised a one-off gig at The Band Room, which he said “blew the roof off the place”, 30 years after Farndale Silver Band had left, but there had been no plans to make it a regular event. That was until 1995, when Louisiana band Balfa Toujours played, marking the beginning of regular gigs.

This summer, The Band Room is moving out of Farndale and back to Reeth, where it all began, for a special gig to celebrate 20 years of live music.

Cerys Matthews onstage at the Band Room in September 2006.

Cerys Matthews onstage at the Band Room in September 2006.

“That first night, although nerve wracking, was fantastic,” Mr Burnham said. “There was a full moon and it reminded everybody of New Orleans and the Mardi Gras. There was no intention of carrying on for 20 years, but we had such a good time we thought we’d do it again… and again.

“The venue is known around the world. We’ve had people coming from all over the UK, regularly from Scotland and London, and people have been known to fly in from overseas.

“One of the reasons The Band Room works so well for music is because it was built for music. It’s wood panelled inside so the acoustics are phenomenal.

“Everybody sounds better in The Band Room - bands have to pinch themselves.”

Many of the bands who have performed at The Band Room over the last two decades have been American, playing blues, folk and country, but Mr Burnham doesn’t like to keep it niche - they’ve had heavy metal, jazz and classical music too.

Bands that have appeared include alt-country duo The Handsome Family, heavy blues rockers The Groundhogs, and folk singer Kate Rusby, many being put up in a 200-year-old farmhouse down the valley, turning up in small vans with limited kit. However, that can’t be said for former Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews, whose tour bus was so big navigating the country roads was a challenge and the tour bus even got stuck in the carpark. American singer Willy Mason has played The Band Room three times, and likes to time his visits to tie in with a trip to the annual Farndale Show.

Even after 20 years, it seems the appeal of the Band Room to artists shows no sign of slowing down.

“This week I’ve had emails from bands in California and Australia wanting to play here,” Mr Burnham said. “It’s not an exaggeration to see that most of the bands who play here love.

“They do a double take when they walk in, it’s a magical place. The stage is lit with fairy lights, and we use coloured cellophane to create a red glow on stage, it’s an iconic look. Bands often tell us it’s their favourite venue on the their tour, if not in Europe.”

Tickets to gigs on sale now

TWENTY years of live music at The Band Room will be celebrated at Reeth Memorial Hall with a special gig by Indiana’s Otis Gibbs on Friday July 17.

The relocation to Reeth is for one night only, a look back to the night Nigel Burnham was inspired to start putting on shows at The Band Room.

But should you wish to experience the authentic Band Room experience, dates at the Farndale hall have also been released.

Folk fiddler Kate in the Kettle will play on Friday May 8, while American folk/blues star Chris Smither will play on Saturday October 24.

To buy tickets for all the events, or for more information visit http://thebandroom.co.uk