Friday, March 1, 2019

About This Blog

  Updated 3rd May 2019 AD

I'm no longer keeping this blog entirely up to date. Some of the information may not be completely correct. 

 I've added some more accessible tunes to the Irish Tunes blog mainly as a practising aid to myself, but you may find them worth a look.

This blog is intended to be a (fairly) up to date guide to traditional music sessions in Bristol.
Information about sessions seems to be hard to  come by. Many pubs don't list sessions that take place,  or leave up old information.

Sooo.... I'm going to visit some sessions over the next few weeks and give what information I can about where they are, when they're on, what the pubs are like etc.

I'm a public transport nerd, so I'll try and give accurate info on buses and trains.

Obviously, I can't get to all the sessions and there may well be ones that I don't know exist, so any further information would be welcome, either in the comments or you can email me at

I hope this site will be a useful resource.

Steve B

PS. I've gone a bit "blog crazy" and started making offshoots to this blog with video clips of music that takes my fancy. The first is Irish Tunes. I've now started the  Old Time American blog and the English Traditional one.

List of Sessions

Updated 7th May 2019 AD

Shebeen pub

Location: Clifton Down station, Whiteladies Road, Clifton.

This pub is part of the old building by Clifton Down station. 

Times: 2nd and 4th Sunday evenings of the month. From about 8pm onwards. 
NEXT ONE: May 12th

Public Transport: Buses numbers 1 and 2 run via Temple Meads, Union Street and the Centre (Cenotaph stop) every 15 minutes on Sundays. Buses 3 and 4 run from Union Street and the Centre (Cenotaph stop) every 30 minutes. 
So there's a fairly good service even on a Sunday. The stop you want is Clifton Shopping Centre (next stop after BBC). A First Night ticket costs £3:50 on bus or £3 M ticket (bought on a mobile phone) and will cover travel all night in Bristol. Buses run back up till about 11:45pm. 

Note: the number 8 bus no longer goes to Clifton Down. The number 9 doesn't run on Sundays.

Trains. The Severn Beach/Avonmouth train runs from Temple Meads (via L/Hill, Stap. Rd, Montpelier and Redland) to Clifton Down. The winter timetable is not much use for this session, but from March 31st there will be a train from Temple Meads at 19:51 (arr. 20:06). Last one back is fairly early though - 21:23

Beer: seems to change quite a bit. You can also buy drinks from the Steam bar next door. Both run by the same people apparently.

Session: Well attended. About 15 musicians. Usual mix of tunes and songs. Friendly and welcoming. A few non-players there, but not many. 


Slow Session

Beginners Only!!
Location: Riverside Café, Cumberland Road (very near Spike Island and the Orchard pub).

Times: Once a month. Email me for details  sb55555 at  Starts at 7:30pm.

Public Transport: The new Metrobus (M2 to Long Ashton Park and Ride) stops by Spike Island (SS Great Britain stop) which is very close by. The M2 can be picked up by the Marriot hotel (near Old Market), Bond Street and the Centre and by Queens Square. Note: Tickets need to be bought before boarding these buses. There are ticket machines that take bank cards by every stop. Day tickets, concession passes etc. are accepted. Last bus back to (near) Temple Meads and Town centre is quite early - 9:37 pm from Spike Island.

Beer: No real ales. Lagers, bottled beers etc.

Session: Small friendly session set up specifically for newer players and those who want to play tunes a bit more slowly. Plenty of comfy seating. Not many non-players. Mostly none at all!

The Old Stillage

Location: Church Road, Redfield

Time: Last Thursday of every month.  Next one should be on the 30th May (?)
 About 8 pm onwards

Public Transport: Buses 43, 44 and 45 (to Kingswood and Hanham) go past. It's a few stops past the big Lawrence Hill roundabout. Buses 6 (Kingswood) and 7 (Staple Hill) go quite near. They turn off at Russell Town Avenue and the first stop there is just a few minutes walk away.
Lawrence Hill Station is fairly close.
Cycling: Church Road is quite close to the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. There is some cycle parking nearly opposite the pub.

Beer: Good selection of hand drawn ales. Lots of beers under 4% ABV which is a big plus for me - I've got a thing about pubs that only sell ridiculously strong drinks. Prices seemed reasonable.
Seating: Fairly roomy pub with lots of settees. Moderately busy on the night I went, but easy to find a seat. Oh, there's a free pint for players at the end of the evening!

Session: About fifteen players, I'd say. Quite a fast pace for many of the tunes.


The Farm, St Werburgh's.

Location: The Farm pub, next to St Werburgh's City Farm

When: First Thursday of every month. So the next one is on Thursday  6th June
Update: This is basically the same session as at the Old Stillage. They also play on the third Thursday of the month at The Star, Fishponds Road.

Getting There: St Werburgh's isn't well-served by public transport. Service number 5 (Centre to Fishponds/ Downend) goes there, but is infrequent.
Service 5 leaves from Lewins Mead (opp. PMT music and Evans Cycles) 2020, 2050 and 2130 and picks up at the Haymarket and City Road stops.
 To return to town, the times are 2101, 2201, 2301.
The Farm is a bit hard to find if you don't know the area. See further information below


The Star, Fishponds
There is a session here on the third Thursday of every month, so I guess the next one is on the 18th April. I haven't been but I think the Star is quite a busy pub.

Buses: 48, 48A and 49 run along Fishponds Road. I think it's the stop by Morrison's

 Update:  From April edition of Pub and Club news (covering North Bristol and South Glocestershire)

Just gone: Tuesday 9th Folk Singers Night 8:30
Coming up: Tuesday 16th Folk/Trad session 8:30
Thursday 18th Irish Traditional session 8:30 I think this is pretty much the same session as The Old Stillage and The Farm

The Pub and Club newsletter is also online.  Link Here    It's a bit difficult to navigate - go to April 
newsletter (for this month, obviously) on the right. Use Drop Down menu to go to page 37 for The Star


The Crown, Staple Hill

A session is held here on the second Wednesday of every month.  Therefore the next one should be May 8th
The Crown is primarily a Sports Pub and there was quite a crowd for the football last night, but it seemed to go with the music all right. Music mostly English traditional.

On the 49 bus route (Centre to Emerson's Green via Stapleton Road and Fishponds Road).
49s leave the Centre at 1910; 1940; 2010; 2045; 2115. Arriving at  Eastville junction 15 minutes later.
The stop for the Crown is Thicket Road, two stops after the Cross Hands.
The 48 bus  leaves the Centre at 2000; 2030; 2100 and so on. This splits from the 49 route at the Cross Hands, so would mean a longer walk.

Returning to town, the 49 comes just after the hour and half hour.
The number 17 (Keynsham to Southmead Hospital via Staple Hill, Staple Hill Road, Fishponds Road, Muller Road) stops by The Crown and can be useful although only hourly later. Runs quite late.
  ( 21:50 and 22:50 going towards Southmead)


Folk Feet
This is a dancing/playing event held on Tuesday mornings in Portishead.


Location: Folk Hall, Portishead

Cost: £3. Includes a tea or coffee and bikkies.

Time: Every Tuesday morning at 9:30 till 11:30 for the dancing, followed by a session for an hour.

Public Transport: The X3 and X4 buses run from Bristol bus station, picking up at the Centre (opp. Hippodrome) and Anchor Road. There's a bus that leaves about 09:06 that will get you there slightly late ( you can't use a concession card till after nine). If you don't have a concession card, it will cost a whopping £7:50 for an Outer Zone rider.

Train: The Bristol-Portishead line was due to open in 2018. It hasn't. Update: I saw a report in the Post the other day saying it would open in three or four years. They've secured more money now.

Event: This is a well-attended event run by Jill Elliott.  It comprises of country dancing with live music provided by those who want to play. Mostly English tunes played in sets. Plenty of "Maggots" (of the musical variety!). I was impressed by the numbers there - close to fifty, I'd say. Mostly older people. The music was good and the musicians welcoming.
Jill Elliot organises lots of events like these, but most are in the country so hard to get to except by car.
She also maintains a very useful website that gives the dots and sound files for all the tunes played.

The Merchants Arms, Merchants Road, Hotwells

Location: Coming from town, along Hotwell Road past the Grain Barge (boat), Marcruss stores and the Spar shop, as the road bears left (and becomes Merchants Road), the Merchants Arms is on the other side of the road.

When: I believe it's every ...... aha! I'm not saying. It's an Invite Only session for players.
Well, it's on alternate  Mondays and there was one on the 15th April, but do remember playing is by  invite only.

Buses: Buses going to Weston (X1 and X2),  Nailsea (  X8 and X9), Portishead (X3A) and Clevedon (X6) all stop directly opposite the pub.
They all start from the bus station and pick up on the Centre (opposite the Hippodrome) and Anchor Road.   They run back to town till about 11:20 at least (but check if you're leaving it that late!)

This is one of the best sessions I've been to. The musical standard is very high so, in my case at least, it's a session for listening rather than playing. The pub itself is small and cosy with an open fire and nice beers. There weren't many non-players there. I'm sure there would be if more people knew about it. Perhaps it's best to keep it a secret!
Postscript: Yes, it is a secret! It's an Invite Only session for playing, although anyone can come and listen. The pub is lovely and well worth supporting.
The Hibernia.

Location: St Andrew's church hall Avonmouth

When: fortnightly. 10:00 onwards. Register 9:30  to 09:50.
Cost £7 per session

Next one: Saturday 11th May
Transport: Severn Beach/Avonmouth train stops nearby. 09:20 at Stapleton Road. Bit earlier at Temple Meads, bit later subsequent stops.
The number 3 bus also goes to Avonmouth. You'd have to catch the 8:50 or the 09:15 from Union Street to get there in good time (it takes about 30 minutes)
Also stops at the Centre (cenotaph), College Green, Queens Road (top of Park Street) and all stops along Whiteladies Road.

Certainly easy to get to by train - literally two minutes walk from Avonmouth station to St Andrew's church hall. The idea is that people split into groups for tuition in various instruments and gather together later for a combined session. On Saturday there was a singing group, a whistle/flute group, a fiddle group (though we had no tutor) and a bodhran group. There is also a guitar group.
It's a different concept to the usual pub sessions, so it's worth checking out if you're a learner.

Learning Resources

Online Resources

The Session is a wonderful resource for anyone learning Irish music.

You can find just about any tune on here. It shows all the tunes in clearly laid out music notation and ABC notation. You can hear what they sound like by downloading the Midi version.
It also has discussion groups and news of local sessions.

The session also gives lots of "settings" or variations of tunes. That can be a bit confusing, but if you scroll down past them you come to the comments which are usually well-mannered and informative.



An American guy who publishes a vast range of tuition videos


Local Irish Music Tuition

Viv Baker teaches Irish fiddle every Monday from 7 to 8 in El Rincon,  Bedminster.(24 bus towards  Ashton Vale from town). No lessons on Easter Monday or the two May Bank Holidays.
£8 per session.

Jill Elliot teaches Irish fiddle st various venues near to Bristol.


Morris Dance Tunes and Others. From the Rag Morris Tune book

Rag Morris seem to be a very active group. Part of Bristol University Folk Society.

According to the website, they have a tune session every Monday at The Prince of Wales, Gloucester Road from 9pm  onwards. There is also a link to a Facebook page but you have to be a Facebook member to see it (I'm not). The website seems very well-maintained, so I guess the information is correct. I will try and check it out sometime.

Hibernia - I've described this in the sessions  section (See Above). but there is tuition too.

Irish Tunes          This is a collection of video clips of any Irish tunes that take my fancy.

I intend to do the same for English and Old Time American tunes in the near future.

Here's the Old Time American one

Further Information

To get to the Farm, St Werburgh's.

The Farm is right next to St Werburgh's City Farm, so if you find that you've made it!

Otherwise - if you're coming by bus, get off just after Sussex Place by Better Foods. If you miss that stop, use the next one. There's not much difference.

Between these two stops (or between Better Foods and the Railway tunnel), there's a mini roundabout, take the turning opposite the one with a rank of shops, go past the Miners Arms pub (nice pub with Open Mic on Tuesdays, I think) and church (now climbing centre), through tunnel, turn left, then right and you're there.

To Get To Portishead Folk House.
If coming by bus, you'll enter one of two different ways. Either through the new estate (X3 I think), in which case get off  a few minutes afterwards at the junction of the High Street and Combe Road. This is just at the foot of a big hill - you can't miss it, and lots of people get on and off here.
Carry on down the High Street, past the Poachers Pub and the Folk Hall is on the other side of the road soon after.

If coming in the other way (x4 via football ground and triangular one-way system by Gordano school), get off outside the Post Office in the High Street, turn left past the Poachers as above.

Miscellaneous and Curiosities

Show Offs!!

...and looking at the camera and smiling while they do it!!

.... and here's another one. This woman is left-handed but plays a conventional fiddle upside down.

...and it gets worse....




This blog is intended to be a (fairly) up to date guide to traditional music sessions in Bristol.
Information about sessions seems to be hard to  come by. Many pubs don't list sessions that take place,  or leave up old information.

Sooo.... I'm going to visit some sessions over the next few weeks and give what information I can about where they are, when they're on, what the pubs are like etc.

I'm a public transport nerd, so I'll try and give accurate info on buses and trains.

Obviously, I can't get to all the sessions and there may well be ones that I don't know exist, so any further information would be welcome, either in the comments or you can email me at

I hope this site will be a useful resource.

Steve B