The Charlbury Speakeasy aims to present top quality live music interspersed with poetry, prose, journalism or comedy in a relaxed, club-style setting. It happens on Friday evenings through the year at The Shed in Nine Acres Lane OX7 3QZ. The doors open at 8pm and there's no advance booking. It's a bring-your-own-evening – you can drink whatever you can carry in with you. Come on your own and meet people or come with friends and make it a party – get the weekend started in style!
Details of each show appear in advance on this page, on the events page and on posters around the town. If you're on the Speakeasy mailing list, you'll get updates once or twice a month. If you'd like to be added to the mailing list, please email CharlburySpeakeasy@gmail.com
The Charlbury Speakeasy is a non-profit social enterprise supporting The Shed as a performance venue for the community.
Friday 22nd November
Plum Busby are a wonderfully energetic London band who deliver an exuberant cabaret mix of jazz, calypso, blues and music hall. For this Speakeasy show, not only are they venturing out of the capital into the Cotswolds but generously they've asked for part of the door receipts to be donated to Charlbury Refugee Action Group (CRAG).
To enrich the mix there'll be traveller's tales and stories drawn from the long journalistic career of master story-teller Kieran Cooke.
The 2019/2020 season opened with Mac and Laura Johnston, Our Atlantic Roots, a fine fresh duo from Cornwall whose voices blended in an extraordinary way, even though Mac was struggling with a cold. The warmth of their music and their performance was perfect for the Shed.
Kieran Stiles picked up deftly on the Atlantic links in a fascinating talk about painting in Cornwall and the colour and light he loves. When his own work appeared on the screen everything fell beautifully into place.
Cuban Night at the Speakeasy! Compered by Ali Ross, this was a Speakeasy special as part of the Charlbury Arts Festival and was a sell-out.
If the Buena Vista Social Club is your kind of thing, if a cosy music bar in Havana might be your kind of spot, if the salsa moves you, then the The Mambo Panthers would have been just your shot of rum.
We learned about the Cuban Mambo, heard the music, watched the dance and then got on our feet and tried it for ourselves. What other spot in the whole country could be as Cuban as the Shed?
A great two-part show gave the stage first to performance poet Rose Condo with her new touring show The Empathy Experiment – funny, moving and thought-provoking. Catch it if you can at the Edinburgh Festival in August.
The second part featured Mingus Tree showcasing the music of Alan Fraser and the too-often-unheard lyrics of John Lanyon.
The coolest of cool jazz from singer Emma Smith and pianist Jamie Safir lived up to all expectations and a packed Shed cheered them to the rafters (and of course in the Shed you can actually see them move). The musicianship of Smith & Safir and their wonderfully laid back approach made for a memorable evening. John Hole and Beth Bath read some pretty cool writing from Philip Larkin and Kazuo Ishiguro and a fine night was had.
There was a capacity audience for the return of the immensely popular Victrolas to the Speakeasy. They heard Rupert, Rob and Dickon again bring the finest of harmonies and musicianship to the finest of songs. Many in the audience couldn't resist getting up and joining in. Alongside all this, Rob Stepney's story telling reflected on Russian revenge, mediaeval miracles and the Stranglers and it all made perfect sense.
The music of The Lost Art was original, melodic, sophisticated and funky and they played two great sets. Thank you Gordo and Greg!
If you missed them live, we recommend you hear them online at www.thelostartduo.com. Alongside the music was a special unique edition of From Our (Very) Own Correspondent featuring reports from a team of seasoned foreign correspondents, Alasdair Ross, Kieran Cook and Jonathan Luxmoore. Thank you, gentlement of the press!
The 2018/19 season kicked off with a little gem from the Edinburgh Festival fringe. Poet and raconteur Tina Sederholm's hit show Everything Wrong With You Is Beautiful was an absorbing, funny and moving reflection on success, failure, love and growing up. Cool jazz and blues in the background was provided by Charlie Berry's Hip Operation.
A great evening of music from Glymjack, the exciting new folk-rock band led by Greg McDonald, with Dickon Collinson rocking the acoustic bass and ace fiddler Gemma Gayner wowing us with - well, some ace fiddle. Some ace verse from performance poet Tina Sederholm completed the evening and it was a fine way to close the season.
The Speakeasy was on tour so nothing happened...
There was a fine crowd for Pete Oxley's and Nicolas Meier's fine Guitar Project. We were rewarded with a performance of extraordinary virtuosity and originality. If you didn't make it, it's worth googling them to see what you missed. And the poetry of Michael Swan was also extraordinarily right for the occasion and wonderfully accessible. (https://mikeswan.net/poetry/)
The sound of the mightyKnights of Mentis filled the Speakeasy with a heady mix of tuneful, harmonised country, blues, jazz and Americana, with poetry courtesy of their own resident bard, Dave Lambert.
Music from Jazz Republic led by saxophonist Ernesto Macaro with Alexander Hawkins (piano), Steve Kershaw (bass) and Tim Richardson (drums) in a great programme of jazz standards with some wonderfully inventive harmonies and progressions. And all nicely accompanied by the very deft, very personal poetry of Tony Bicat. Fine music and words - the Speakeasy mix.
A really exceptional evening of jazz brought to us by singer Emma Smith and pianist Jamie Safir along with storyteller Ali Ross. Ask anyone who was there. Great musicianship. Great story too.
A fine seasonal miscellany curated by Alan Fraser and featuring Michael Hadley, Maureen Hole, Kate Maroney, the award-winning Mingus Tree and an ingenious audience competition.
The Epstein played an outstanding Speakeasy evening, their melodic, rootsy, electric folk/pop beautifully suited to the occasion. And Adrian Lancini was devastating as singer-songwriter Gaz Pacho.
The 2017/18 season got off to a great start with hot gypsy jazz and a fund of Django-related anecdotes from the hugely popular Hot Club of Hastings. This was finely complemented but some very cool verse from poet Liz Soar.
To help round off the Charlbury Festival, the Charlbury Speakeasy moved to the Memorial Hall (and from a Friday to a Saturday) for a special one-off programme of music, poetry and dance.
There was swinging jazz from Alan Fraser's Mingus Tree and the extra space meant there was room for dancing. There were swing dance experts from Just Jive to show how it's done.
In another first for the Speakeasy there was a full scale Poetry Slam led by performance poet Lucy Ayrton. There were entries from Liz Soar, Richard Cocks, Alasdair Ross, Ed Fenton, Tony Bicat, Tina Sederholm and Neil Spokes. The quality of the verse on offer was astonishingly high and the competition very close but in the end Liz Soar was a very popular winner.
The Rob Terry Trio brought their brand of classically-infused jazz back to the Speakeasy and more than one audience member called it the best jazz gig they'd heard outside Ronnie Scotts. Wonderful stuff. Glena Chadwick showed us how music appears in the words of some of the great novelists - a great Speakeasy blend of music and words.
10cc lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Mick Wilson's interaction with his Speakeasy audience was so engaging that you might almost not notice you were being treated to singing and musicianship of the highest professional standard. Almost, but not quite!
Another real treat was Jane Griffiths whose exquisite poems bowled at least one audience member right over. It was great to hear some of these ahead of the publication of her latest collection Silent In Finisterre next month. Try and catch the launch at Jaffe & Neale in Chipping Norton on 11th May. https://www.jaffeandneale.co.uk
It was great to have The Knights Of Mentis back at the Speakeasy. Although working without their lead singer (and with another of them nursing broken ribs) they rose to the occasion and filled the Shed with their wonderful bluesy Americana. Madeleine Wheare read a selection of poetry and prose which matched it beautifully.
February's Speakeasy was suspended in support of Charlbury Refugee Action Group who transformed the Memorial Hall into a Weimar-era nightclub for the evening. There was music from Manouche Etcetera, comedy, singing, dancing and gorgeous outfits for Valentine's Day. It was a fine evening and raised good money for CRAG.
It was easy to see why Ben Cox and Jamie Safir are making a big name for themselves in the world of jazz and getting great reviews in the press. Both in their fresh versions of standards and in their original songs, Ben's exquisite vocal tone and range and supple jazz phrasing sat perfectly in Jamie's rich, exciting piano arrangements. It was top stuff. Rob Stepney's poetry and prose fitted in beautifully (and included an exclusive preview of his piece next day on From Our Own Correspondent!)
Rocking a packed Shed towards Christmas with a wily combination of music, comedy, poetry and prose, Alan Fraser led The Men from the Mingus Tree through some of his inimitable jazz repertoire (with John Lanyon on guitar, Paul Deane on double bass, Simon Fenn on drums and Simon Bradley on guitar). Ed Fenton's lovely poetry and Steve Hay's fine readings rounded out a great evening.
Another treat with the subtle and beguiling close harmony work of The Victrolas complementing a special spoken-word programme from two of our favourite BBC presenters, Kathy Clugston and Jim Lee. The Shed was packed and it was a splendid evening.
Fabulous Jazz Manouche (or gypsy jazz) from the Hot Club of Hastings. They gave us a feast of this irresistible music and guided us through its evolution in Paris from the musette music of the Auvergne and accordion dances of Italy via Argentine tango and American jazz into the swing music of geniuses like Django Reinhardt.
This is the music of travelling people and we were delighted also to have Juliet Heslewood picked up this theme in the spoken-word section of the evening and read an atmospheric, thought provoking story of her own
The Speakeasy 2015/16 season had jazz, Americana, Braziliana and cool pop brought to us by musicians of the highest quality and alongside the music we enjoyed poetry, drama, journalism, literature and comedy in various stylish guises. And we had great audiences who gave the Speakeasy its special atmosphere and gave the performers, without exception, a reception that they enjoyed enormously. Thank you all.
For the final Speakeasy of the 2015/16 season we had an evening of fine jazz with the Rob Terry Trio skilfully blending modern jazz with classical music. Check them out at www.robterrytrio.com. And to complement the music, Alasdair Ross told us a couple of excellent stories. It was a great way to end the season.
This was the final Open Programme evening of the year and featured readings from Glena Chadwick and music from James Pearce, Nigel Brown www.nigelbrown.org, Jesters www.jesters-oxford.org, Mark Pigeon & friends www.wychwoodfolkclub.com and the Mark Atherton Band www.facebook.com/TheMarkAthertonBand. A thoroughly good time was had by all and thank you to all who contributed.
A brilliant evening of Brazilian jazz performed to the highest professional standards by Shannon Harris and Friends and featuring vocals from Marianna Magnavita. There was poetry, or possibly comedy, or possibly commentary, from The Poet (aka Adrian Lancini) and the place was packed.
The Knights of Mentis, nine of them crammed onto the stage of the Shed, played a brilliant set and matched the mood of the Speakeasy exactly. The music was clearly drawn from American string band music, roots, country and rhythm & blues but the way they engaged with the audience was all about Oxford and Oxfordshire! Check out their website: knightsofmentis.com
Alongside the Knights Kieran Cooke gave us a wonderfully eclectic piece drawing on his long experience as a foreign correspondent and a knowing eye for the ridiculous, the moving and the sinister.
One of the Speakeasy's regular Open Programme evenings featured music from James Pearce, Richard Cox, Robin Taylor, Phil Garvey, Jesters and Mark Pigeon, and stories from Alasdair Ross and Alexandra Ford.
The new year saw the welcome return of jazz to the Speakeasy with Alan Fraser's MEN FROM THE MINGUS TREE: Alan Fraser (horns and vocals), Shannon Harris (keyboards), John Lanyon (guitar), Paul Deane (bass) and Simon Fenn (percussion) with Mike Hadley contributing prose and verse. The house was packed and what we got was a wonderful mix of extremely cool quirky jazz, rumbustious blues, wry comedy and left-field literature in a true Speakeasy concoction.
The last Speakeasy of 2015 was a real pre-Christmas cracker with a return visit from the fabulous Victrolas (Rob D'Ath, Rupert Fenn and Dickon Collinson). The audience was spellbound by the quality of singing and musicianship in their close harmony versions of some of the best songs of the last few decades.
Counterpointing the Victrolas there was a delightful miscellany of poetry, prose and comedy confected for the evening by the tastylicious Three-out-of-Four Wordsmen (Rob Stepney, John Lanyon and Ed Fenton - alongside the Christmas ghost of Adrian Lancini).
The first Open Evening of the new season brought a great bill of talented performers. Alasdair Ross told an extraordinary story from Peru in the time of the Shining Path, very thought-provoking just after the Paris massacre. Humour from Jakob The Dane made us all really laugh. There was original music from Charlbury's James Pearce (EP now out!) and Jonathan Luxmoore, from Oxford's Phil Garvey (of The Reckless Sleepers) and Mark Atherton & Friends. The evening finished loud and up-tempo with a jazz funk set from Calling Stanley.
A capacity audience heard Hollies lead singer Peter Howarth give a brilliantly varied solo show with singing and musicianship that really set the bar high for the new season. Alongside Peter we heard a Naomi and Dominic Bullock's delightful "Sweet Sixteen 1914", dramatised from Naomi's grandmother's WWI diaries.
The final Speakeasy of the 2014/15 season was an Open Programme Evening which featured verse from John Lanyon, music from Mary James, Brian Honeyands, The Jesters, The Auctioneers and the trio of Rob Hemingway, Alex Thomas and Tom Vallance and a fine traveller's tale from Alasdair Ross. There was a really nice balance of poetry, prose and different musical styles. Thank you to all of them!
We hope you enjoyed as much as we did the beautiful, thoughtful songs, exquisite guitar and droll commentary that Jack Harris brought to the Shed. It was a wonderful evening. If you want to hear more of Jack, look at his website jackharrismusic.com.
Alongside Jack we had Ed Fenton whose short poems were deeply satisfying and Dylan "Zxåvier" Hyperspace (aka Adrian Lancini) whose version of singer/songwriting was very funny.
17th April really was a cracker with scintillating Brazilian inflected jazz of the very highest standard from Shannon Harris and his band. This was punctuated by delightful sketches from Adam Potterton and Dominic Bullock. The place was packed. If you missed it, you missed something special.
20th March was an Open Programme session bringing contributions from eight different acts, all with local connections to Charlbury or nearby:
Kath Lucas and friends (from Voices Unlimited), singer-songwriter James Pearce, poet Rachel Brushfield, guitarist/composer Colin Broad, contemporary folk three-piece Jesters, singer-songwriter Mary James, Dave Oates (of 1000 Mile Highway), The Lost Art (aka Gordo Francis and Greg Hooper). Here's a web link for each of them (where possible) so you can follow them up or get a sense of what you missed.
Voices Unlimited (http://www.voicesunlimited.co.uk)
James Pearce (http://jamespearcemusic.co.uk)
Mary James (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPAtgAFlrO8)
1000 Mile Highway/Dave Oates (http://1000milehighway.com/home)
The Lost Art (http://thelostart.bandcamp.com)
Two fine vocal acts and a slice of professional journalism. In reverse order, Chris Padmore closed the show with a fine set of his melodic, thoughtful songs; Kieran Cooke gave us a wily mix of Yeats's verse and insider stories from the world of the foreign correspondent and to open the evening The Victrolas spellbound us with their intimate close harmony versions of pop classics. As always, there was time for people to gossip and to share the goodies they'd brought with them. It was a fine evening.
If you were at the January Speakeasy, you'll have heard great music from Jess Goyder and her band, Emma Butterworth on cello and Neil Burton on percussion (www.jessgoyder.com) and from Liza Fitzgibbon (www.lisafitzgibbon.com) along with verse chosen and read by Nick Johnson. The Shed was rocking and there was a great atmosphere!
Back in Swinging Sixties London, the notorious Speakeasy Club was run by one Mr Roy Flynn, currently hiding out in Charlbury (and a great inspiration to us). Roy has passed us this article about "The Speak". Sadly, similarities to today's nights in the Shed are few and far between so far....
Published in Record Collector, issue 372, February 2010.