Joyce Hodge is a founding member of Irvine Folk Festival and has been part of running Irvine Folk Club for 50 years. Irvine Folk Festival is run in Irvine, North Ayrshire, and involves sessions, open stages and live music from musicians from across the UK and beyond. It coincides with Irvine’s Marymass festival, which is a celebration of Ayrshire’s culture and history. Irvine Folk Club is a bi-monthly folk club, which has been running for over 50 years and thus one of the longest running folk clubs in Scotland.
Music has always been one of Joyce’s greatest loves and grew up listening too all different genres, but came across traditional music in her early 20s. Joyce became involved with the Folk Club when she was 22 after she was asked to help on the door by the former chair and co-founder of the club, Stan Robertson. After Stan’s death in 2002, Joyce took over the booking of the folk club, as well as being the treasurer and secretary. Like most people who run folk clubs, Joyce had no formal background in running a business or festival, and learned what worked and what didn’t as she went along. She was doing this alongside the career she had embarked on as a secretary at an army camp, where she worked for 12 years. She worked professionally in secretarial positions until she retired aged 60. The combination of using her administration skills and interest in traditional music makes her work with the folk club so enjoyable, which she credits to the longevity of her role.
Joyce’s goal with the festival and the folk club is to make it accessible for people from all different social-economical backgrounds. The ticket prices for the festival are always pitched according to what people in Irvine can afford, in an effort to not only bring tourism to the area, but also to allow the people of Irvine to enjoy a festival on their door step which showcases local musicians as well as professional artists. Joyce describes being ‘fair and honest’ as being the key to running the club and festival successfully. She places great importance on offering artists a well paid gig, with a guarantee as well as a generous split from the box office takings. She also works hard to book young artists who will attract a younger audience and books bands and musicians of a high standard to maintain existing members. Some of her career highlights with the club involve booking legendary bands such as Planxty and the Dubliners, as well as being nominated for Folk Club of the Year at BBC Alba’s Scot’s Trad Music Awards.
This year, as a new venture, Joyce has organised storytellers to attend locals schools as part of the festival, as well as booked a usual fantastic bill of musicians such as Celine Donneugh and the Alisdair McCulloch trio. The quality and longevity of the festival could be down to how much she enjoys running it, describing it as ‘something of her own’.