The Bee Hotel in Rhyl dates back to the 1860’s, it is a Grade II listed building and is sadly now closed. Work has begun on the renovation of the building. Once home to the Jazz Club, it will be best remembered as home to Rhyl Folk Club. Here, folk club stalwart Jeff Blythin has written about its history and how the club is continuing into the 21st Century.
“The first rumblings of a Folk Club in Rhyl took place one Friday night in 1963 at the Red Lion Hotel in Dyserth. A few local budding musicians met there to sing and play, mainly for themselves. However, word soon got round about what was happening, and in the end they decided they needed a proper platform to display their talents and so a move to the Palace Hotel in Rhyl was organized.
So on Good Friday 1964 in the Palace Hotel Rhyl, the Rhyl Folk Club was founded. It romped along there for 6 months but then a simple twist of fate occurred. The Rhyl Jazz Club, based at the Bee and Station Hotel, folded and so the back room became free and the Folk Club upped sticks, guitars, banjos etc. and moved in. This was to be the home of the Folk Club for the next 34 years. The very first guest that appeared at the Bee & Station was the legendary Alex Campbell who, for the princely sum of £25.00, astounded everyone. He was the first person that the audience at Rhyl had seen that actually scraped a living from folk singing, and the first person who captivated them with his sheer presence.
During the 1960’s the club thrived, as did most Folk Clubs. With such artists as: Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, Bernard Wrigley and the seemingly ever present Alex Campbell. Every Friday it was guaranteed to be full, with the audience spilling over to the adjoining room on guest nights. Looking back it was quite a treat to see people straining their bodies so they could see through the serving hatch into the main room.
The seventies saw a very slow but gradual decline, with the club switching nights from Friday to Sunday. This didn’t help so back to Fridays it was. The club still managed to put on guests when funds allowed and still afforded the opportunity for budding singers to come and display their wares.
The 80’s saw the resurgence in folk music with the club reaping the benefit. By now the resident band ‘Common Time’ were holding the club together, with special treats from Mint Julep. As the 80’s progressed the resident band had become Beez Kneez, eventually a six-piece band that made a hell of a noise, and pulled the audiences in.
As the years turned into the 90’s the established guest nights continued, with once again the likes of Martin Carthy, Wizz Jones, Bert Jansch, Dick Gaughan, and John Renbourn. Talent new to the club also started to appear such as Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle, Tom McConville, Coope, Boyes and Simpson and Pete Coe. With a heavy heart the club had to leave the Bee and Station in the late 90’s, there was no beer. They moved across the road to ‘Costigans’ where it saw resurgence in attendance. Costigans had beer to sell… every Friday the singers’ nights continued unabated and now we were seeing more new-to-the-club artists: The John Wright Band, Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby, Robin Laing et al.
Despite a few months in 2010, when no premises were available for the club to run properly, it is still romping along. The club has met once a week, come rain, hail, shine, no audience, no beer, double bookings, wrong guest bookings, ever since that Good Friday in 1964. There have been a myriad of guest artists from the great and the good to the purely outstanding, and it must be said on one occasion plain bloody awful. The Singers Nights still bring on some excellent local talent.
So here we are in the 21st Century and still going strong, playing every Friday night at Tynewydd Community Centre; come along, bring your own booze (can’t get better than that). You could always get up and sing or just sit down and sing, either way you’ll have a good time.”
(Click images to enlarge.)
For information about what’s happening to the Bee Hotel: