One of the nice things about this year’s festival is how it’s reaching into the cupboard for some of its greatest hits, dusting them down, and putting them on the turntable for its 50th birthday party.
Few events were more popular than the Guinness Folk and Jazz Club, which hundreds of regulars attended each year.
It started in 1972, and six years later transformed into the Harp Folk Club at Queen’s Old Library. There it remained until — after almost 500 performances — musicians began to complain of frostbite. So they upped sticks to the Senior Common Room, where they stayed, cosy and content, until the venue closed in 2004. And that was that — or was it?
Folk Club may have gone, but it’s never been forgotten by those who were there. And so this year, organisers have decided on a reunion — the opportunity to meet old friends and hear old tunes.
There’ll be many familiar faces in the audience — and many on stage, too.
Among those striking a chord will be Galway singer Sean Keane, mandolin player Fergus Feely and guitarist Pat Coyne. And no festival folk club would be worth its salt without Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn to get the toes tapping.
During the night — and what a night it’s going to be, a bit like flicking through an old photograph album, only with sound — there’ll be another blast from the past in the shape of Belfast singer Gerry Creen, who is still going strong after 30 years.
And Rousli will be tuning up too — featuring Paul Evans, Hugh Fearon and Norman Coates, who used to have Folk Club audiences roaring for more during the 1980s.
Folk Club wouldn’t be Folk Club without Frank and Jane Cassidy reviving some old favourites, either. Compere for the evening is Colum Sands, who’ll keep everyone in tune and on time.
Like all good birthday parties, this will be an evening for fun and fond memories, with a little hint of what’s ahead. While you’re enjoying the music, raise a glass to my old colleague and former Belfast Telegraph arts correspondent, the late Neil Johnston, who won’t be there to sing along. He was a lifelong member and champion of the club, and a bit of a festival folk hero himself.