String Jam memories

Madeleine Dow plays at the String Jam Club on July 13
Madeleine Dow plays at the String Jam Club on July 13
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It is never easy to leave home for the first time, and after 16 years the String Jam Club is on the move from the Salmon Inn.

But the Galashiels-based club has captured plenty of fond memories to take on to its next venue, which will be announced soon.

Club founder Allie Fox said: “It’s the end of an era, but definitely not the end of the club. It’s actually a new and exciting beginning.”

It was back in 1997 that local singer-songwriter and guitar teacher Allie approached Helen Calder at The Salmon to ask if she could hire the upstairs room for a monthly acoustic music venue.

Allie’s idea was to run a small club where young local musicians could meet up to network and play together, as well as stage the occasional guest night for emerging singer-songwriters.

Sixteen years later, the String Jam Club has established itself as one of the best-known small Scottish venues on the UK live music circuit.

Accolades include being voted the second best gig in the whole of the UK by the Guardian, beating Oasis, as well as being nominated for the Club of the Year category in the prestigious Scottish Trad Music Awards in 2007.

Among the musical talent who have played at the venue are Mary Gauthier, Rory McLeod, Michael Marra, Rab Noakes, Martin Simpson, Tam White, Boo Hewerdine, Martin Carthy, Karine Polwart, Preston Reed, Wizz Jones, Jackie Leven, Kris Drever, Eleanor McEvoy and the Coal Porters.

In total, more than 1,000 local, amateur and semi-professional musicians have played since 1997, with its Musician of the Year competitions and annual Burns Night Bash among the highlights.

As with any music club, alcohol can be an inspiration, but it can also lead to embarrassment – just ask one audience member during a gig with ex-Stealers Wheel man Rab Noakes.

Allie recalls: “There was this guy in the audience who was talking loudly all the way through Rab’s set, much to his annoyance.

“Rab just played quieter and quieter until he was completely silent. The guy was so drunk he didn’t even notice and he just kept on talking.

“People started to snigger in the audience and he suddenly looked up and realised that the only sound in the room was his voice.

“The look on his face was classic. Rab stared at him in a very pointed manner and said ‘Look pal, these people have paid to hear me, not you,’ and the whole crowd erupted into applause, it was so funny.

“We never heard another peep out of that guy for the rest of the evening.”

Now with a team of people who organise the nights – including the distribution of more than 200 posters – the club is looking to the future.

“I like to think of the club as a big friendly and inclusive family, where everyone who loves music is welcome,” added Allie.

The final historic Salmon show this Saturday is the annual Melting Pot, now in its fourth year, featuring local act Madeleine Dow and friends, as well as Angus Gunn, Ryan Hooper, Muv, Tom Clelland and blues trio Blue to the Bone. Tickets cost £8 and are available now from the Salmon. Doors open at 7.30pm.

For updates on the club’s plans visit its Facebook page or its website