River music on the Kingston Folk Barge

PUBLISHED: 18:31 10 June 2016 | UPDATED: 18:38 10 June 2016

A night on the Kingston Folk Barge

A night on the Kingston Folk Barge

Tangle Photography

From Paul Simon to John Martyn, the Kingston Folk Barge entertained them all through the ‘60s. Long since lost to folklore, this musical river cruise was recently resurrected for a one-night charity fund-raiser...

John FairhurstJohn Fairhurst

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2016


New Malden’s favourite folk son John Martyn had such an affinity to the Kingston Folk Barge that he mentioned it in the sleeve notes of his first album, London Conversation.

He wasn’t the only one to tread its boards either, with Paul Simon, Nick Drake, Jackson C Frank and Sonny Boy Williamson II all having sung their hearts out across the waters of the Thames.

Sadly long since lost to, well, folklore (the original barge had no electricity or toilets, anyway!), when Kingston’s International Youth Arts Festival were thinking up creative fund-raising schemes, it seemed an obvious venue to resurrect – if even for one night only.

“I first became aware of the Kingston Folk Barge when reading John Martyn’s biography,” says festival director, Andy Currums. “Martyn is one of my all-time music heroes and I was thrilled to find out that, just down the river from my flat in Surbiton, there used to be a venue where he played. Not only that, but it’s also where he was “discovered”. After playing a set on the boat, he was introduced to Chris Blackwell at Island Records and the rest, as they say, is history.”

So, having persuaded local riverboat company Turks Launches to donate The Southern Belle for the evening, and with a fish and chips order from Mr Chips on the way, music-lovers and musicians made their way on board the new Kingston Folk Barge for an evening of merriment on the river.

In place of Martyn and co. were Brendan O’Prey (front man of popular local band The Lagan); Jack Pout (a BBC Folk Award-nominated singer/songwriter from Brighton); Days are Done (a modern folk/blues/Americana duo from Kingston); and John Fairhurst (a musician at the forefront of modern British blues and rock ‘n’ roll).

“All four acts were just fantastic and the audience loved it too,” says Andy. “It was an evening about appreciating live music and celebrating Kingston’s rich music heritage and history.”

Certainly sounds worthy of a song or two to us…

• All proceeds from the new Kingston Folk Barge supported Creative Youth and the International Youth Arts Festival, which runs in Kingston from Friday July 8 to Sunday July 17. For more information, visit iyafestival.org.uk


A small selection of the area’s lost music venues...

• The Crawdaddy Club was a music venue at The Station Hotel in Richmond. It is perhaps best known as the first residency of the Rolling Stones in 1963.

• From royalty to rock stars, some of the most famous names in British history graced the shores of the legendary Eel Pie Island, where the Eel Pie Island Hotel’s tattered ballroom was the main draw.

• Having closed its doors nearly 10 years ago, The Greyhound in Redhill still had a sterling reputation for supporting up-and-coming live acts. In its heyday, however, you might even have stumbled across Status Quo or Genesis.

• Kingston’s The Peel is one of the more recent venues to fall foul of changing times.

• The Royal Hotel in Stoughton welcomed everyone from Eric Clapton to The Stranglers in its time.

• Jimi Hendrix played the likes of The Star Hotel in Croydon and the Orchid Ballroom in nearby Purley.

• A certain David Bowie launched his Ziggy Stardust tour at none other than the Toby Jug pub in Tolworth.


We’d love to hear your music venue nostalgia. Get in touch with us at editor@surreylife.co.uk


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