From Nov 2016 until early February 8th 2017, Barbican Centre Music Library, in the heart of London, hosts and explores, through a wealth of archive treasures, the history of the oldest truly independent record label in the world, Topic Records. With its origins in the Workers’ Music Association, through the mid-20th century folk revival to the present day Topic has always endeavoured to publish classic and definitive recordings from all different kinds of folk. Topic is not only the preeminent British Folk music label but after an astonishing 77 year history, one widely respected around the world.
This 75th Anniversary Video gave a fascinating glimpse into the label’s history:
Among the items on display at ‘Topic Records & The Art of Folk Music,’ are examples of original 78s, singles and LPs, many with stunning artwork, charting a journey not only through changing music formats, but also design, print technologies and, of course, the development of folk music in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Also on display are original letters, photographs and contracts related to some of the most prominent figures of the 1950s and 60s folk revival, such as Ewan MacColl, A. L. Lloyd, Davy Graham, Anne Briggs (read our recent interview here), Martin Carthy, The Watersons and Shirley Collins, all artists with whom Topic has forged very long term relationships – a practice not at all common in the current music industry.
Topic’s roots in political music are also highlighted, with 1940s papers from the Workers’ Music Association, out of which Topic sprang, and 1950s records, posters and photographs showing the importance in its catalogue of American protest singers Pete Seeger, ‘Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Paul Robeson.
Topic’s later catalogue is surveyed through Nic Jones’ original handwritten notes for the sleeve of his classic album ‘Penguin Eggs’, original flyers and review cuttings for June Tabor’s impressive body of work, and albums by one of our finest guitar players, Martin Simpson, who still records for Topic today.
Perhaps most significant of all in recent history is the release of an on-going series called VOICE OF THE PEOPLE (currently including 30 volumes) – a culture defining series of field recordings that document the traditional music of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Not content to focus only on trad music of the British Isles, Topic has also released important international collections with music everywhere from Romania to the Andaman Seas. The exhibition displays letters from legendary figures in music, John Peel and Jac Holzman as well as a wonderful wall of artist photos.
This is an exhibition which will delight fans of folk music, but also intrigue those interested in design and social history. Topic continues to be the champion of fine folk music, but pays homage here, not just to its own rich and verdant past, but provides a celebration of the music in us all, and for us all.
Topic Records most recent release was PENTANGLE’S ‘Finale’ (read our review here) – a remarkable live album recorded during the much-loved ensemble’s farewell tour. Always with an eye to the future, the label’s next release will be by the pioneering, multi-awarding winning ELIZA CARTHY. Together with The Wayward Band she releases ‘Big Machine‘ on 3rd Feb 2017.
An Audience with…
Two special ‘An Audience With..’ evenings will take place in January 2017 as part of this exhibition, providing a unique opportunity to hear more about the Topic label, hear conversations with leading British folk artists and listen to acoustic performances in an intimate setting.
Eliza Carthy, in conversation with journalist Colin Irwin and Topic’s David Suff (plus acoustic performance) and an evening of the same featuring two supreme folk guitarists, Martin Carthy & Martin Simpson.
16th January 2017
Eliza Carthy: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/384687
7pm – 9pm
30th January 2017
Martin Carthy and Martin Simpson: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/384691
7pm – 9pm
Audiences can also buy a very limited number of tickets directly at the Barbican Music Library for just £10 whilst stocks last.
Barbican Music Library, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
Folk Radio UK Giveaway
We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway to each event. For the chance to win you need to answer this question:
What is the title of the forthcoming new album from Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band?
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Topic’ as your subject title and include your answer and contact details in the body of the message. Please also indicate which event you’d like to attend or state “no preference” if you’re happy to attend either.
Closing Date for Final Entries is 31st December 2016.
*Terms & conditions apply:
- Only one entry per household.
- Winners will be chosen by random on 1st January 2017.
- Where ‘no preference’ is given for an event, an event will be chosen at random or based on availability.
- The winners will be informed soon thereafter.
- Your information will not be shared with any other parties other than the winner’s contact details which will be passed on to the promoters for notification of their win and details of the event.
Folk Radio UK’s full terms can be found here.
Discover about Topic Records here: http://www.topicrecords.co.uk