Hobgoblin Music was born in 1976, when Mannie and Pete McClelland were looking for a concertina to buy, but could not find one. The McClellands began to envisage a type of folk music supermarket, where you could walk among shelves and shelves of folk instruments, accessories and tune books, acquiring everything you needed to play folk under one roof. Hobgoblin Music began humbly at the Burgess Hill Market while Pete was working at an engineering firm and Mannie was teaching. The name was Mannie’s idea, and it caught on fast. As demand grew, Hobgoblin upgraded to a barn in Ifield Wood, and then in 1977 to the first proper shop in Northgate, Crawley, which moved to Brighton in 2015.
Gradually the company began to grow, and a London branch was opened in 1992 when Hobgoblin took over the running of the ‘The Folk Shop’ in Cecil Sharp House, in collaboration with the EFDSS. Eventually the shop outgrew this premises, and moved to Rathbone Place, where it still remains, run by manager John Howlett. The London shop stocks the full Hobgoblin range of weird and wonderful folky things, but in addition has strong leanings towards handmade fretted instruments of all sorts, and wind and percussion instruments from around the world.
There followed several more shops, including some franchised branches, and there are now nine UK Hobgoblin Music shops, as well as a USA branch of Hobgoblin Music run by harp maker Gary Stone in Minnesota. Hobgoblin Music was one of the first traders to do the folk festival rounds back in 1976, and many festival goers will still remember visiting Mannie and Pete and their two daughters in their trailer-shop on the Ham at Sidmouth Folk Festival in the early eighties. The Hobgoblin festival stall can still be seen at most of the major UK folk festivals each summer.
A great many musicians have done their ‘stint’ working in a Hobgoblin shop over the years, and in 2001 the company celebrated this with a 25th anniversary CD release, featuring music by Hobgoblin staff past and present. The CD was greeted very warmly by the folk world, and a followup CD is due soon along similar lines. Pete McClelland had a taste of being the A & R Man, and before long, Hobgoblin Records was created as a side project, and is about to launch its twelfth release, Dogan Mehmet's second album Outlandish.
Hobgoblin has also been spreading its wings in the world of live music, getting involved in the Sidmouth FolkWeek, Crawley Folk Festival and the Gate to Southwell Folk festivals among others, via the Hobgoblin Stage. In 2007, Hobgoblin Music took over the running of the Wadebridge Folk Festival (previously the Cornwall Folk Festival) when the previous organisers announced at the last minute that it was no longer financially viable for them. The August bank holiday weekend in 2011 will see the fifth Hobgoblin run Wadebridge Folk Festival.
35 years after Pete and Mannie began trading at Burgess Hill market, Hobgoblin Music is still recognised as ‘Britain’s first choice for Folk’. With shops across the UK we are still going strong and all the shop staff and almost all of the office staff are gigging musicians. The shop staff are among the most friendly and approachable in the business, and anyone of any standard is welcome to come to a Hobgoblin shop and pick up an instrument to try without feeling pressured or intimidated.
Pete McClelland still maintains a huge role in running the business, and although Mannie has pursued a ‘proper’ career as an educational psychologist, she also remains strongly involved with Hobgoblin Music. Pete and Mannie now play in several bands, and in 2005 realised their youthful dream of one day performing at Sidmouth when their band Blackthorn (also featuring their oldest daughter Sarah, a masterful flautist, guitar player and scientist) played on the Ham stage for the first time. Sarah’s younger sister Nicola works for the family business as a marketing and retail manager, while Sarah can still occasionally be met working at a Hobgoblin festival stall. The Hobgoblin family also extends to include all the staff many of whom have been with the company for many years.
Mannie did eventually find her concertina, a Jeffries Anglo, and still plays it to this day!