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Sloop Inn Folk Club 1968 - 1970

Jon Dennington recalls the talent and times of the Sloop Inn Folk Club held at the Sloop Inn on Wootton Bridge between 1968-1970.

I was in a three-piece band called "Witch-hazel" which was resident at The Sloop Inn, Wootton Creek when the Isle of Wight Folk Club met every Friday (1968-70). Other members were David Gower and Philip Wells.

Picture of Sloop Inn
Sloop Inn

Witch-hazel were originally known simply as "Phil, Jon and Dave" when they first played at The Sloop. I guess we played for two years most Fridays there up to its closure.

Witch-hazel played folk rock (mostly Fairport & Steeleye covers) and many instruments; Mostly amped guitars through Orange equipment. Later (at The Sloop) we were joined by Claire Fletcher who had a great folk voice. We broke up in 1971 when Phil and I went off to different colleges.

Our finest moment was when Dave Mattacks from Fairport heard us and got us a gig on the radio show "Folk on 2" (I think his parents owned the Newsagents right at the top of Ryde High street next to the Youth Club)....and that leads on to my brother who was drummer with "The Outlaws" who gigged there regularly in the 60s.

I certainly remember The Cherokees. Their echo machine fascinated me, which was a continuous tape loop device. My brother’s band, The Outlaws, were pretty good and had quite a following. I can recall many gigs of theirs. They were great times and some great performers appeared (all the Fairport, Steeleye and Pentangle members in various combinations as well as The Humblebums (Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty of Baker Street fame)....Stephan Grossman, Gordon Giltrap, Ralph McTell also appeared . . . even Paul Simon!!

I think Paul Simon turned up when he was doing his UK folk club tour in the 60s...I don't know if he played or was just in the audience as I was not in that night. The venue was great with a massive barn at the back, which opened up onto the creek. It got so packed that people had to pass their glasses over their heads to re-plenish the bar. This was all ruined when it was taken over by a large brewery, the Folk Club was was the wearing of jeans!

I used to be on the booking 'committee' for the Island Folk Club so I will have to stretch my memory. The resident band that shared turns with us was 'Steamboat'....I believe that they are still playing the South in some form or other!!

Laurie Say used to sing:
"What's this rumbling that I hear
What's this noise and this commotion
What's the sound that's driving everybody daft
It's not the 'mil-a-tree'
Or the start of world war three
It's the Southern Vectis, super silent, noiseless hovercraft"
[or words near to that effect!!]

Picture of Steamboat

The great thing was that all the acts used to show us how to play their stuff during the intervals or afterwards. Oh yes, there was an Irish guy called Niall who always used to sings "Drums and Guns".

When the Sloop finished the Island Folk Club played at The Prince Consort cellars in Ryde, The Anglesea Tavern and also a pub up St Johns Hill, now demolished.

I still speak on the phone occasionally to David Gower, our 12-string player who lives in Ryde, and visit him when I see my folks in Porchfield. He remembers as much, or more, than I do and still sees some of the IW Folk crowd. I have never heard from Philip Wells since the day of our last gig, (which was mentioned in the IW County Press.) Sometimes I wonder about doing a one-off reappearance with the others.... but those were magic days and hard to re-vive..... also time has not been that kind to me. My 18-year-old self and 46-year-old self are totally unrecognisable as the same person!

Finally, I think that people associated with The Sloop and the IW Folk Club was extremely lucky. This really was a 'special' time and place that will never come back, but that will never be forgotten, I'm so pleased I was a part of it....and you can quote me on that!

I still play 6 string (finger picking) and have sat in with a few bands over the years. (I lived near a couple of members of Steeleye in Hastings in the 70s and we used to jam).

I now also compose and record MIDI stuff for professional CD ROMs .... unfortunately work get's in the way. I'd be interested to hear if anyone else remembers those days....even us!!


  • Richard Filleul wrote:
    on the 5th January, 2012

    I have stumbled upon the article by John Dennington regarding the Folk Club at the Sloop Inn in the 60's/70's. I suspect this article was written some time ago as I imagine John is approaching the age of 60 as I am.

    I am the guitar player with "Steamboat" who, as John says, aslo played as resident band. Steamboat still play from time to time, at Rdye School mainly where three members of the Group, myself, Tim Blackman (Banjo) and Steve (Doug) Pritchard (Double Bass) went to school. Our fourth member Barry Wickens (Fiddle) regularly plays with Steve Harley.

    I agree with John that it was a magical time at the Sloop Inn with some great musicians both amature and professional. Such a shame that no simlilar venue still exists.

Picture of Steamboat playing at the Sloop Inn 1969
Steamboat playing at the Sloop Inn 1969
  • Brian Rich wrote:
    on the 25th February, 2013

    Don't I recall Mike Harding there one night with his concertinas, also Maddy Prior? I don't recall Paul Simon singing. Great days all sadly gone. The Island needs another folk club.

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This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:29

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