Crawley Blues Club founder reminisces on 25 years of hosting the blues at The Hawth Theatre as it prepares to shut its doors for the final time

Crawley Blues Club will be officially retiring on December 14 and to say goodbye to its followers and the late Bill Footman, co-founder Tony Molloy will be hosting three final shows at the end of the year.

Crawley Blues Club officially came about on January 27 1998, when Bill Footman contacted Paul Jones on his Jazz FM show asking: "If there are any music fans listening, that would be interested in forming a blues club, in the Crawley area, then please ring this number.”

The founding members were Bill, Tony, Dave Pugh and Fred Ball and they met in the Swan pub, West Green. From there they decided to form a Blues club, to bring live music to the area.

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The club has a long-standing association with The Hawth Theatre, which dates back to the early 2000s. There have been many stand-out performances, including: Rory Block, Dr John Jan, and Joe Bonamassa just to name a few.

The founders of Crawley Blues Club

The last three shows will take place at the end of the year. More information about these can be found on The Hawth’s website: https://www.parkwoodtheatres.co.uk/The-Hawth

Co-founder Tony, 74 from Crawley, said: “My dad loved music and I still got a large part of his vinyl collection in the garage.

“He introduced, unbeknown to me, a whole manner of people that I thought everybody knew. Frank Sintra, Mario Lanza, you name them I could go through a whole gambit of people. It gave me a cross-section of musical influences.

“There were programmes like Mike Raven’s ‘Blues Round’, which introduced me to Blues artists such as Lonnie Donegan and Lead Belly.

The late Bill Footman

“Then there was a ‘Blues boom’ in the 60s and we were in the right place at the right time. Rock n roll has its roots in the Blues, and we saw how far it could be stretched with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and later on Led Zeppelin.

“The biggest artist we’ve had play at the club, in the main hall, is Joe Bonamassa. He came over beforehand, playing in pubs and clubs, and now he was playing bigger venues. Dave Watmore, who runs The Hawth, contacted me very ethuasiscally and said he had the chance to book Joe Bonamassa. People whose opinion I value said to me ‘Joe is the bee’s knees’. He’s a bit loud but is firmly rooted in the Blues. Joe sold like the proverbial hot cakes!”

Tony, who won the Performing Arts award at this year’s Crawley Community Awards, added: “Blues in Crawley has always been niche and I would argue still is. We’ve got a demographic audience that is a bit older and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people in there.

“I definitely won’t be continuing to run the Crawley Blues club and I want to pack up while I’m still enjoying it. It’s a hobby and you can only do it if your heart's in it.

Some of the performers

“Winning the Crawley Community award was totally unexpected, there was a humility to it and I was pleased as punch. Because of my teaching and maths background, there was a lovely symmetry between being recognised but not for me, for Crawley Blues. The award is a lovely bookend.”

Wilf Taylor & Paul Rawson