Sandy Still

Rod Hall

Allen Miller

Jim Jack

FOURUM Folk

The Early Years - Part 1: The birth of a group

Fourum was formed in early 1972 when a group of four teachers from Hummersknott School in Darlington got together to give a one-off concert for Central Townswomen’s Guild in Darlington, who were then celebrating their 16th birthday. The line-up comprised Allen Miller (Classics), Jim Jack (Economics), Bob Hattersley (Geography ) and Dave Smith (PE). Each member had a different musical background but the uniting factor was a love of music and harmony. They learned 11 songs for the evening (no encore!) and Bob did some impersonations in the middle of the programme - Groucho Marx, Steptoe and Son, Harold Wilson, Ted Heath, Malcolm Muggeridge and Freddy Davis. They were quite taken aback by the success of the evening and were even more surprised when requests for further concerts started pouring in as word got round.


It was then thought advisable to decide on a name for the group, rather than just being “four Teachers from Hummersknott School”. Forum (in Latin) means market or meeting place and the music of the group was really a meeting place of musical ideas. The unique spelling reinforced the idea that the group comprised (at that time) four members. Hence FOURUM came into existence. In those days only Allen and Jim played a musical instrument (both 12-string guitars!) but Bob soon bought a tambour and quickly became the percussion man, with Dave providing vocals.

The Early Years - Part 2: The search for an identity

Over the next 2 years the group rapidly expanded their repertoire. About this time Fourum went to a concert at Darlington Civic Theatre to see The Settlers, who were being supported by a Scottish group, The McCalmans. They were blown away by the Scottish songs and their delivery and began to add a number of McCalman songs to Fourum’s repertoire.  Numbers then expanded (but never the name!) when a new teacher, Tom Cowley (English), joined the staff. He heard the group rehearsing during a lunchtime and mentioned that he also sang and played the guitar and mandolin - very well, as it turned out! He was quickly integrated into Fourum and the repertoire extended even further. Fourum was augmented yet again when Bob Smedley, a friend of Bob Hattersley’s, and a talented pianist , asked if he could join the group. He bought an accordion and added another dimension to the music. So by 1975 Fourum were six.  However work, family and sporting commitments led Dave to call it a day. Next Tom Cowley and Bob Smedley left to concentrate on their own style of music and record a single together.


This left Fourum temporarily with only three members but they were soon back up to four as Malcolm Dawson joined the school staff in 1976 and brought another guitar back into the band, although he didn’t sing. Jim had bought Bob Smedley’s accordion and taught himself to play it, to retain this useful accompaniment for some of the repertoire.  Allen began experimenting with writing a song of his own for the group to sing. (He had previously written a number of songs in the late 60s and while living in Athens, but not folk style.) By early 1977 Fourum included one song of his, Dream of Harmony, in their programme.

Continue the history of Fourum

Fourum - The Early Years

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