Musical Shrewsbury.

The Wheatsheaf Open Mic.

Mondays Wheatsheaf High Street


I have always had a firm belief that the music we made in Shrewsbury’s fine pubs back in the Nineteen Seventies has morphed and morphed again to what we have today but the element of the desire to make music for no other reason than for fun has always been the impetus. However, with very little research needed one can draw a straight line from the Seventies to now, as Shrewsbury musicians still come together and play to the best of their abilities and offer an amazingly professional and cheap night out.

Understanding that logic will help one understand the logic behind the series of concerts that I have been organising in aid of the Ukraine, The Sound of Shrewsbury Folk. There has been two so far and the next one will be at The Hive May 26th featuring the world-famous folk singer Martin Carthy and many other Shrewsbury performers. There will be more about that nearer the time, but I am merely drawing parallels to evidentially support my claim that pandemic notwithstanding, for over 60 years live music has been the backing to many pints quaffed in the County town.

Eleven years ago, my very first piece for was on Fergus Reid’s open mic night and how it was bringing players to the Salopian on a Wednesday night to sing and play. Now emerging the other side of a nineteen-month closure forced by Covid the Fergus Reid open mic night has never been stronger or busier. All those years ago, one could simply turn up put your name down and wait your turn. Now one needs to book a slot a good few weeks ahead to guarantee a slot. Quite apart from the change of day and venue from a Wednesday to a Monday, Salopian to the Wheatsheaf High Street, one can see that strand of continuity clearly in evidence as Fergus runs his evening as he always has and it’s a winning formula.

So, with that as the back story it wasn’t a difficult decision to make to go and see how the live music scene has picked up again and how the strength of the performances still brings people into the pub on a Monday night. Not a traditionally busy night for the pubs around the county. The wheatsheaf was packed.

Form 20.20 hrs, the first act of the night started what was promising to be an amazing night of music with 11 acts to perform. Setting the scene we heard Fergus himself, at his finest and most comfortable. He played like a musician happy to be at home. Joined by Alan Williams on dobro and lead guitar and Bill Mc. Cabe on amazing blues harmonica. It was a strong start as Fergus sang out lyrics by Hank Williams and other such great doyens of blues and folk. By the time Ben Taplin got to amaze us all with his wonderful set we were all invested. Ben’s slot comprised guitar and voice and he was laying out some amazingly complex cover versions and made each song uniquely his.

The music changed genre several times but all of it remained under the folk umbrella. Why? The easy answer is obvious as Woody Guthrie said, “This is folk music because I ain’t ever seen a cow singing them.” Music for the people by the people, how much easier can one make proving the true definition?

The evening now forging ahead full steam. Phil Jones with his inimitable self-penned songs is a genius and he had the audience in stitches, Gabriela La-Foley sang beautifully and 2 Dimension stunned people with their amazing vocals.

Taking no time for a break for there was too much to squeeze in the two and a half hours that the evening lasts. From blues to folk to classical to americana to great cover versions, it was obvious the strength of live music is unequalled and the skill and talent of the musician is just so unbelievably professional. 

There is such a strong proven almost incestuous link with the past. Shrewsbury has and always had little enclaves of incredible live music and one can go out every evening in this town and find a session. The Loggerheads, The Crown, The Wheatsheaf or The Bull are all musical pubs but there are so many more to discover.

Music is a universal language that has spoken directly from the pubs of Shrewsbury to so many of us over the years long may it continue. Get your guitar out and make your way to one of these sessions and show the town you can still strut it.

From Fergus Reid’s first note to the last notes of the evening from Kevin Perry’s guitar the evening was a thoroughly entertaining night out and a perfect way to chase away those Monday blues. Strongly recommended.

(Photo..Fergus Reid by Bob Machin)

Sofia Lewis


Sofia Lewis Sofia Lewis
For many years Sofia wrote here under her male name Owen J. Lewis. She is now mostly writing under her own name of Sofia Lewis. Sofia, who worked on independent radio for over ten years, lives in Shrewsbury and writes plays. She has over 15 titles published and her plays are performed all over the world. She is especially popular in America. Her poetry is also often noted and she writes reams of it most weeks. Since graduating in theatre in 1997 Sofia has been an Actor, Filmmaker, and a Secondary School Teacher. Reviewing theatre is something she thoroughly enjoys and she loves to see great theatre. As a musician Sofia is known throughout the UK she is a folk singer, and is often seen or heard around her native county singing and having fun. Sofia has contributed to for over a decade and enjoys sharing her views on theatre. Sofia has one daughter and grew up in Church Stretton.

Read More from Sofia Lewis