Books and Music at the Heart of Independent Publishing

JP Bean

November 10, 2015 | by Faber Social

Tags: JP Bean, Singing from the Floor

JP Bean Joe Cocker

(JP Bean with Joe Cocker)

Sadly, JP Bean, author of Singing from the Floor: A History of British Folk Clubs, died unexpectedly last Thursday.

Julian was a gregarious, generous man with a fantastic sense of humour. He was brought to Faber by Jarvis Cocker, who had been passed the manuscript of Singing from the Floor by their mutual friend Richard Hawley. As Jarvis put it, ‘When my friend Richard Hawley said he’d met “a man in a pub who had a book for me” I have to admit I was slightly dubious. But he was right. Singing from the Floor portrays an important movement in vernacular culture in the voices of the people who made it happen . . . JP has captured this moment before it is lost forever, and made it live again on the page. He’s a very clever chap.’

The book received rapturous reviews on publication – ‘definitive’, as Mojo described it – and Julian relished every second. He was a natural raconteur, and his events and readings were always something special.

Julian was an immensely popular author among the Faber Social team, and I have very fond memories of working with him. As just one example, I remember an exchange over a point of grammar – whether ‘a’ or ‘an’ should precede Ewan MacColl. ‘It’s the phonetic relationship that determines the article,’ I drily suggested, giving a couple of examples: ‘a yew tree’ and ‘a U-turn’.

‘What about the sheep?’ Julian immediately fired back. ‘Shepherds of my acquaintance (there are many in Sheffield)’ – I had no reason to doubt him – ‘don’t say, “I’m taking a ewe to market.” They’d lose their jobs.’

‘I would say, “I am taking a ewe to market,” if ever such an unlikely eventuality arose,’ I pompously replied.

Eventually, we agreed. But I shall forever cherish Julian’s mischievousness and good nature for his final say on the matter: ‘Just because you’re the top lad, grammatically, doesn’t mean you won’t ever need to sell a female sheep.’ Wise words. He will be much missed.

– Dave Watkins (Editor of Singing from the Floor)