Return to Open Mic Nights

As you probably know, due to the Covid pandemic all forms of live music have taken a real hit since March 2020. And attending open mic nights in the Woking and Guildford area was one of my favourite activities. I used to try and go a couple of times each month.

Music reappearing

Rowbarge pub signFortunately things started to relax again in the autumn of 2021, and some venues started putting on open mic evenings again. One that did was the Rowbarge pub by the River Wey just north of Guildford – a regular favourite of mine before the lockdowns.

Perhaps conscious of the pandemic conditions, the open mic evenings never seem to be as crowded as they sometimes were in the past. But it’s great to be able to get back out there and play some of my songs again – including some new ones. And even if there aren’t as many people, there’s a good vibe from those that are there.

Graham Armfield playing at The Rowbarge, GuildfordSo I attended 4 or 5 open mic evenings during the autumn in 2021, and so far I’ve been to one at The Rowbarge in January 2022. I’ll be aiming to keep going regularly from now on. It’s so good to be meeting up with musician friends again and hear what they’ve been up to.

Those who keep the open mic nights running

It’s good to support the people who do run the evenings at the Rowbarge, and other places. I particularly want to mention Vic Cracknell, and also Lauren Crystal Mason and Chris Hardy who organise the evenings at the Rowbarge in Guildford. They provide great opportunities for anyone to get out there and hear some live music, and to make some music too if they want.

Vic Cracknell at The Rowbarge
Vic Cracknell at The Rowbarge
Lauren Crystal Mason and Chris Hardy at Rowbarge, Guildford in January 2022
Lauren Crystal Mason and Chris Hardy at Rowbarge, Guildford in January 2022

Fancy an open mic night?

So I urge you all to get out there and attend open mic nights in your area. Let me know in the comments below which ones you go to and what they’re like. Can you recommend them?


Fiery Bird Woking – Crowdfunder Appeal

All UK music venues are currently under threat.

Obviously, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all live music venues in the UK are closed at the moment. Even pubs that have reopened cannot resume music events either – whether it’s open-mic nights or other gigs.

Fiery Bird, Woking

View of the Fiery Bird stage.
View of the Fiery Bird stage. (Taken from the Crowdfunder page).

Woking is my current home town, and it has it’s own community-focussed venue which is called Fiery Bird. The venue is located in an old nightclub in the centre of the town, and since it opened in 2018 has hosted many live music events. I’ve performed there many times at the regular open-mic nights that were held until lockdown stopped all that.

Fiery Bird’s stay in its current location was time limited as the building that houses it is planned for demolition and redevelopment. Last year, there was an extension granted, but time is running out. Here is a map of the current location for Fiery Bird.

There is a move to a new permanent location on the cards – which was originally slated for late this year (2020). But the lack of income from music and other events, due to lockdown, has put the whole future of the venue in jeopardy.

Fiery Bird Crowdfunder Appeal

The Music Venue Trust has launched a national initiative to try to prevent the closure of hundreds of independent venues across the country. Woking’s Fiery Bird is part of this and has set up a Crowdfunder appeal to help keep the venue going.

Although the venue is currently closed, there is still work to be done, and there are still overheads that need to be covered.

So please consider supporting the appeal to help Fiery Bird survive. A team of volunteers has worked tirelessly for many years to give Woking its own live music venue – let’s make sure that it’s not taken away by the current lockdown restrictions.

Please visit the Fiery Bird Crowdfunder page, and give generously.

Save Our Venues T-shirt

Currently the project is offering a reward if you can donate over £20 – one of the high quality Save Our Venues T-shirts. They’re available in 5 different sizes and if you qualify for one, they’re delivered free.

If you want to know what the t-shirts look like on a person…

Graham Armfield wearing the Save Our Venues T-shirt and playing a guitar.
Me wearing the Save Our Venues T-shirt.


Return to Performing

Since finishing the Life Line album in 2009, my musical journey took a back seat again for some time. I did write a couple of songs but didn’t pursue them at the time.

Vic's Buskers - Rowbarge, Guildford - March 2015
Vic’s Buskers – Rowbarge, Guildford – March 2015

But in 2013 I started performing very occasionally at Vic’s Buskers Open Mic night in Guildford. I would play some of the songs from the Life Line album.

It was through Vic Cracknell that I met up with the organisers of the Phoenix Cultural Centre in Woking in March 2015. The Phoenix Cultural Centre at the time occupied a shop in Woking and put on open mic nights every Monday evening.

The atmosphere at the Phoenix nights was very friendly and supportive, and before too long I was performing there on a regular basis – singing mainly my own songs but with the odd cover.

Woking Town Centre - Aug 2015
Woking Town Centre – Aug 2015

Spurred on by this, I started to bring more of my songs back from retirement – to have some variety when I played. I also started to perform more regularly at Vic’s Buskers in Guildford.

During the summer of 2015 I was able to go busking in Woking town centre a few times and at the Woking Party in The Park. This was a first for me as I’d never done busking before.

Spurred on by all this playing, I found my songwriting skills came back again, and I have been working on many new songs, including one that was written in the autumn – High Time.


An Unexpected Session at the Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield

Recently I was in Sheffield with work for a few days. And whilst I was there I made sure to visit the Kelham Island Tavern – a famous real ale pub just on the north side of the city centre.

Graham playing at the Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield
Graham playing at the Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield

The Kelham Island Tavern has won many prizes for its beer selection and has twice been the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) National Pub of the Year.

It turns out they have folk music in the back bar of the pub on Sunday nights. The regular guitarist (Ian McDonald I believe) was playing some songs and recounting stories to a small audience.

During a break in his performance I asked if I could play his guitar and sing a couple of songs. He agreed, and I actually did 4 songs altogether. I would never really describe my songs as folk, but they seemed to go down well.

There were many posters up around the pub advertising the upcoming Sheffield Folk Festival. Sadly this was after I was returning south, but maybe next year.

Vic’s Buskers Guildford – March 2016

Had another good night down at the Rowbarge, Guildford on 1st March.

Vic’s nights at the Rowbarge have become so popular now that there’s only enough time for two songs each.

So I did 2 and then I was joined on the stage by Tracy Ginn and we did 2 together.

Here are some pics of our performances.