So us folk all met at Realistic Rock – now the Realistic Music Academy - in Epsom. We were strangers and then we joined their Remastered course. The idea is that the older gentleman or lady who maybe tinkered with music in their youth now wants to get together, learn songs as a band and then perform them. Nice idea right?

Fast forward a few years and we are firm friends, not to mention a gigging band.

In addition to Remastered, and countless other courses, Realistic Music are good enough to give up their Sunday evenings in front of Downton to put on an unplugged open-mic night at The Marquis of Granby pub in Epsom.

And so it was to there I trudged last Sunday, guitar in hand to hone my modest skills in front of an anxious and expectant audience.

Many of the faithful from Realistic turned up and played a few songs, a few duets and my bizarre conglomeration of Madonna, Simon and Garfunkel and The Jam came about.

But it's not my random pairings of artists on set-lists that caused me to write this. I wanted to speak up about the atmosphere that the guys and girls at Realistic have created and how it makes nights like this happen.

The evening is underpinned with support, good humour, encouragement and assistance for everyone who takes part – whatever their level and experience.

For those who've never tried it, it takes guts to stand up and play guitar, even more to play and sing. And a great many will be doing it for the first time at nights like this. Without the support and warmth of organisations like the Realistic Music Academy and the crowd they pull in, this could just as easily be the first and last time anyone performs. 

I've seen people who could strum but barely utter a word. Some who could strum and sing as long as they faced the wall. Some who could do neither but were so determined to perform that they persisted in private lessons. And most satisfying is seeing a great many of those perform at nights like this, sometimes years down the line, confident, smiling and sounding great. The transformation is total.

And the satisfaction for all is real. The satisfaction of seeing people put down a great performance. Of seeing people who have really improved get the applause they deserve. Of seeing people overcome nerves and their own demons to get up and perform something personal and see the weight lifted as they play the final note. If this sounds overwrought then perhaps it is, but I wouldn't mind betting that there are hundreds like me who've felt the same elation after stepping off stage at one of Realistic’s events.

So it's hats off to these guys for nurturing the atmosphere that allows this to happen. It's a lot of late nights for them. A lot of heaving heavy equipment in and out of cars and a lot of outreach to local organisations securing spaces to come and play.

Hats off, ladies and gentleman. We appreciate it more than you know.

The next open-mic night will be at the Marquis of Granby, 4 West Street, Epsom on Sunday, November 29.

For details check: