The Helsby Bluegrass Club was started in the early 90s by Bryn Williams, aided by his children Lucille, Russ and Stu. All of them were multi-instrumentalists and have since gone on to national acclaim.
The Thursday night Helsby picking session started in the early 90s after a request from a couple of Stu's students to meet up with other bluegrass pickers to develop their skills in playing with others. Bryn and Stu started up a weekly jamming workshop at the Millstone pub in Whitley on a Thursday night in the function room. As the workshop numbers grew and people became more confident, they ventured into the pub for a jam after the workshop had finished. This developed into a 'led jam session', replacing the workshop and the format has remained largely the same ever since.
The session moved to the 'Horse and Jockey' pub in Helsby in the mid-90s and then to the Ex Serviceman's Club in Helsby in 2000 (where they held the famous Lonesome River Band gig *). The session remained at the Ex Serviceman's Club for many years (apart from a couple of brief spells at the Robin Hood and the Duke of Wellington) until 2013 when it moved to its current home at the Helsby Community Sports and Social Club.
From 2009, when family and teaching commitments made it increasingly challenging for Stu to lead the session on a regular basis, Bryn and club members ran the majority of the evening's proceedings before handing the reins to Kevin Shannon in early 2013. The jam remains 'beginner-friendly', stage-led and, with many members willing to share the stage duties, the Club continues to thrive.
We introduced the idea of a 'Charity Partner' for whom we raise money via raffles and other activities, culminating in the "Big Cheque Handover" at our Christmas party.
The stature of Bryn and Stu Williams in the British bluegrass music world and beyond has allowed them to organise hundreds of concerts with both USA and UK bands, giving club members an opportunity to see world-famous acts in a local setting.
Every Thursday 8.30 pm - 10.00 pm (but some members stay until 11.15!)
* Those of us who were there still cannot believe that Bryn and Stu persuaded one of the world's greatest-ever bluegrass bands to play in Helsby. What a night that was!!