Music fan who made Ripley Town Hall world-class blues venue bows out

Ripley music promoter Andy Herrington (pictured with environmentalist David Bellamy).
Ripley music promoter Andy Herrington (pictured with environmentalist David Bellamy).

One of the true stalwarts of the live music scene in North Yorkshire who created what has been described as "one of the finest blues clubs in the world" by famous musicians has retired after a health scare.

Over the past two decades, music fan Andy Herrington has transformed Ripley's historic town hall into a blues, r'n'n and soul venue with a national, even, international reputation.

Ripley Town Hall favourites Nine Below Zero.

Ripley Town Hall favourites Nine Below Zero.

Hailed by the likes of Stax Records legend Steve Cropper who said he was really impressed by the venue after playing there, Andy took a real risk when he originally launched his RipleyBlues music promotions there 18 years ago.

But the man behind RipleyLive promotion's success at Ripley Town Hall says he can sadly no longer continue the same sort of commitment.

Andy said: "I had a health scare three years ago. I was very lucky, almost fully recovered and a lot to thank the National Health Service for.

"But I wanted to pass on some responsibilities in case I should fall off my perch again!"

Having built up a special atmosphere created by an enthusiastic and respectful audience standing directly in front of the stage, the music night has come full circle for the man who created it.

The first band Andy booked back in 1999 when the event was called RipleyBlues was Nine Below Zero and last weekend the band returned with their latest line-up to play Ripley again for his last gig as the main promoter.

Andy said: "I have had many highs over the years starting with Dennis Greaves of Nine Below Zero running onto the stage a my first gig and shouting - "hello Ripley Town Hall!

"The most famous person to play the venue is probably Steve Cropper the writer of Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay and other classics.

"But we have also hosted Paul Jones, Andy Fairweather Low, Georgie Fame, The Yardbirds and many more.

"Despite these big names probably the most satisfying gigs were introducing our audience to new young acts such as Ian Parker, The Nimmo Brothers and many more."

Sir Thomas Ingilby, who still occupies Ripley Castle, has been a great supporter of Andy's gigs and still provides hospitality for visiting bands at the Boar's Head Bistro.

Now held under the banner RipleyLive, and sponsored by The Ripley Castle Estate and Theakstons, Andy remains grateful to everyone who helped him build up the event's reputation from scratch in the early days, especially his own family.

Andy said: "When I sent off for a Nine Below Zero CD in the summer of 1999 and suggested jokingly they should play Ripley Town Hall little did I know where it would lead.

"The band replied that they were free to play on September 4 and, never having been involved in the music business before, I had to discover what to do and to find an audience.

"This was before emails so I enlisted the help of my family, Lynne, Glen and Michelle and trawled through my address book looking for someone to come along.

"Jed Thomas was a fan of the band and agreed to play support and the night was a resounding success and massive high for myself."

Although he will be taking a back seat when the likes Snake Davis and the Suspicions, Martin Barre of Jethro Tull, Magna Carta and Andy Fairweather Low come to play Ripley in the New Year, Andy can't leave it behind completely.

Andy said: "I will continue my involvement with the club but am passing on the programming at the end of the year.

"We now have in Ripley Live a properly constituted club with myself as chairman, Robin Hinchley as secretary, a big music lover who is doing the programming and treasurer, John Knibbs.

"We also have a small committee who will run the club and from next year will have a new modern website."

Andy also said he was delighted that in future any surplus from tickets and membership fees would be going to local charities.

The first donations will go to The Friends of Ripley School, Orb in Knaresborough and McMillan Cancer Relief.