Songwiters, Brighton, Houses, Diaries and dentistry, Mayan Calendar, New Projects, Christmas.
First time to go to the Songwriters' Group here in Wirksworth ~ is there ANYTHING Wirksworth doesn't have apart from a coastline and a big river? Set up by songwriter Carol Fieldhouse, we meet once a month, share songs and chat and try and get our homework done ~ collaborations, rounds etc. Most enjoyable and supportive and a very high standard from a dozen or so regulars, all with their own tales to tell and distinctive styles.
Lovely time with May in her new house in Brighton, with her lovely friend Gail and her sweet cat Jini. A brisk walk on a snowy Ditchling Beacon in a biting northerly, on return from serious camera gear shop and further research into digiscoping ~ (using a telescope as a long lens). Interesting little shop on the backroads, selling wildboar sausages, fresh fish and venison. Mmmmmmmm.
Back home, investigating the practical logistics of moving to somewhere NOT on a main road, and coming up with the usual limitations of not QUITE having enough for what we REALLY want, but some very interesting properties floating about on this rather stagnant housing pool. What a raft of loops to jump through if we want to do a barn-conversion though! Had no idea. And what a lending brake this stagnant market is ~ on my income I can't borrow to buy, so I can then sell, so you can buy my house, and so it goes round. At least lending is more realistic, I suppose. And we WILL get there in the end!
Otherwise life goes on ~ regular dentistry these days, having a clear out, down to 22 of my own teeth now, don't really want to lose too many more, and also not have too much amalgam in my mouth , but you didn't really want to read that, did you? The 3300 diaries I mentioned back in the summer, are now down to 150 or so, so that proves that if you just get on with it, out they go. I shall miss the writing of addresses and imagining the people I send them to, but another year is another diary and hopefully they'll chose another poem and photo or two of mine for the new one.
Well it looks like we all survived the end of the world! The Mayans must have been very observant people to have made a calendar based on such a wide knowledge of the stars, but I must confess I did wonder if some nutcase would use the 2012 thing as an excuse to set off something REALLY destructive and toast us all. Maybe the fact that this didn't happen is some proof we ARE moving into a new way of thinking. Who knows?
The new project I have been mentioning for a while now seems to be creeping forward at last, as more time becomes available. However it has a really BIG footprint which will require numerous professionals to be paid properly, so it's very seductive but also substantially scary at the moment. More news as and when.
A very fine family Christmas with Glen's mum, Jack and May and us two, snucked in and cosy, with plenty to eat, friends popping in and nice presents. How lucky we are to be alive in this time! Friends all round, contentment and satisfaction! Jack flew off to Sweden to see his new girlfriend from Stockholm. I must confess I have wondered whether my more reflective songs would suit the Scandinavian psyche better than the British. Remains to be seen.
Green Gathering, Edinburgh, Wirksworth Festival, Brighton, Our Adventure, FMM, Bob and Maggies.
Impressions of the 'new' Green Gathering ~ like the good bits of the old BGG, with a fabulous site in a derelict stately home's rough parkland near Chepstow; distant nighttime views of the lit-up old Severn Bridge; goodly amount of people but still not enough; goodly amount of great musicians, poets, storytellers and craftspeople; full moon riding tattered clouds; amazing lack of mud after so much rain; great atmosphere; a very cosy beautiful healing area with hardly any visitors; time to natter, play music, make connections and reconnect, doze and boogie, make food and watch fires; laying out my very first independent labyrinth; badger trails and owls hooting; meeting another diddly player ~ endless tunes followed with Robbie over the weekend, sessions here and sessions there, great!
Edinburgh, what a blast! What a great city! Amazing Scottish Parliament Buildings like Mad Max boats drawn up together; poetry set in stone in walls and floors; a crazy blend of architecture - Gothic, through NeoClassical to Scandinavian minimalist; Arthur's Seat looking down on it all; extraordinary numbers of festivalgoers, and thousands of participants all trying to sell their show at every corner; a vast range of shows from burlesque, orchestral and standup comedy to Shakespeare, folk-rock and flamenco; far too much to see, a 'programme' as thick as a phonebook; really enjoyed working with In Transit, with Debi and Paddy and their amazing family, and with all the rest of the cast and crew ~ we didn't quite get 'discovered' but great fun nevertheless; great to connect with cousin Nick on his own patch, and Luisa and Jack; shiver up the spine standing before real Van Goghs in the Symbolists exhibition, (think I might be a Symbolist too!). So many sights, too many to catalogue.
Back in the Shire, Wirksworth Festival and the usual gigs on the busking trail, but also two 'home' performances of 'I don't call that Art', to about 500 people in total. Really well received, but one audiences laughing at everything, one slow to warm up, (maybe overstimulated by then!) I begin to feel I can act!
More trips to Brighton to rescue May and her belongings from a mouldy flat and install them in an amazing dry eco-refit terraced house that IS amazing, (and has a cat), but isn't QUITE finished yet. Better than mould. Good father-daughter time.
Then OFF in a borrowed campervan with Glennie, over the Beacons to Gower, Pembrokeshire and West Wales. It's been a determined effort to keep this month free, but we did it, and enjoyed it SO much, (reminded us we just love this life, and do it well); following our noses, poring over maps, reading guidebooks, walking, cooking, drawing, writing, taking photos, recording, wildlife and weather watching, enjoying each other. Good to catch up with Carys, Misha and Lleu, see Pentre Ifan, climb Carn Ingli and wander Newport market; also Tony Wrench in his iconic deeply controversial selfbuilt roundhouse at Brithdir Mawr; and again to play diddly with Robbie and visiting Irish musicians in Vicky's cosy house in 'St Dog's'; curry on a boat at Cardigan; the Witch's Cauldron near Moylgrove; the beautiful cathedral at St David's; migration of seabirds and play of porpoises past Strumble Head; spending a day and a half with photographer and old friend Jerry Moore, snapping early morning pics and visiting the sublime Cregennan Lakes; a couple of days with Jack on Anglesey, catching up and walking, cooking and doing housey things; then back home with a pair of toothaches and a bad cold!
The Full Movement Method now needs case studies so I'm now hands-on, giving treatments and learning on the job.
And, again, thanks be for oddjobs to keep me afloat; gardening, groundwork, logstore and hedging in the delightful surroundings of Padley gorge, inspected regularly by a woodpecker and a bunch of siskins.
John Thorne R.I.P., Grandad's Do, Open Gardens, In Transit again, Ashleyhay Festival, Earthpathways diaries, Oxford, Stainsby.
Two occasions to consider our mortality and the departure of loved ones this period:
Sadly Tomorrows Ancestor's longstanding drummer, John Thorne, passed away after a six month struggle with cancer. Deeply missed by many for his solid, sympathetic and supportive nature, not to mention his solid and supportive drumming, he leaves a massive gap not just in Tomorrows Ancestor, but in the whole community. He will be a very hard act to follow, should the need arise for yet another TA reunion. 'Spread the love', was the motto I heard him use more than any.
On a happier note, we eventually organised a send-off for Grandad (John Boothby)'s ashes,. It became a joyful occasion, with family from Ottawa, Edinburgh, Brighton, Ely and, of course, Derbyshire, together with dear and close Anglesey friends, gathered to say a few words, laugh through our tears and scatter his ashes in the sea at Llangwyfan, a much-loved west Anglesey bay where a tiny 12th century church cut off at high tide watches over a bay of rock pools. We even had a Goonish 'he's fallen in the water' moment as one of us slipped and went in, suit and all! Interesting to note in the tides of our very dispersed family, how the departure of one member brought us all a lot closer together.
Back in the Shire, a trio of well-received gigs for Wirksworth Open Gardens weekend, at Chris and Denise's hospitable B and B, No 37, in the fine formal gardens of the quietly impressive old Babington House, and up at Margaret Dixon's B and B, 'Wild Cherries,' with its superb views over the whole town and over to Alport Height, (not to mention Margaret's legendary cake.)
In Transit, (mentioned last period), have done me the great honour of asking me to join them for a week of performances at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Always wanted to go there, so really excited about this and looking forward to contributing, working with Debi and Paddy and the rest of the cast, and seeing Edinburgh for the first time.
What to do if there isn't a Glastonbury? Make your own festival, of course! So, little local Ashleyhay Festival shoulders into that spot in the summer, and we all have a ball, as usual, raising funds for ROKPA, Greenpeace, Mamelodi and Waterbox. My job is in the orchard, to re-instate the labyrinth initially created by Glennie some years ago, freshened up every year for the festival and kept in shape by Martin and his mower the rest of the year. Luckily, a very wet spell ended just in time and all went well, including St John's Street's world premiere of 'I don't call that Art', a cutting visceral expose of small town Arts Politics ~ (;~), (nothing to do with Wirksworth of course). Went down a storm. AND, for the first time in over twenty years, I am clean-shaven.! What IS going on?
And how do you post 3300 diaries? ~ You just get stuck in .......... I'll be doing it till they run out! Great little diary, full of art and writing 'Inspiring our connection to the land' ~ see www.earthpathwaysdiary.co.uk for another good idea from Glennie and the team.
A very interesting excursion behind those massive ancient portals of Oxford's University Colleges, in support of May's application to do Fine Art at the Ruskin. Two fascinating days of seeing how the other half has lived and learnt for what is it now, a thousand years? Strange and heady juxtaposition of anachronism and 21st century excellence.
And finally good ol' Stainsby, a wonderful mixture of the prosaic, the poetic and the practical, with Dav Devalle and Chris's amazing philosophy walk, complete with excerpts form Hamlet, our Jack's two outfits both playing, (Female Thief and Red River Dialect ~ both tops), the Young Persons' Circle and their claim for more autonomy next year, rare northern gigs for Praying for the Rain and Kangaroo Moon, and a host of other excellent musicians. Great to have a good old chinwag with Paul Dear of Rhythmbridge Drumcircles ~ (life, the universe, women, drink, drums, you name it, we discussed it,) and to be part of the cleanup over the subsequent few days, returning the field to the whitethroats and yellowhammers who had been shouldered out for the duration.
FMM, A and P, Babbling Vagabonds, St Johns Street Players, NVC, Market Music, Love Life and Liberty.
The training gathers momentum, learning as much about yoga as much as treatment and massage, and also the more cerebral online Anatomy and Physiology which goes alongside. Hard to find the time sometimes, but again, great to be learning, moving forward.
Having been asked to play up at our famous local Eco-Centre, I was also on hand to join in another local theatre group with the delightful name of The Babbling Vagabonds. This wellknown Peak District troupe had devised a very amusing sketch based on the traditional song of the Derby Ram, one of those really old magical songs which can be taken on many levels. This version had a strong level of humour, and I was honoured to be asked to add a bit of choice percussion.
Other dramatic exercise came with the continuing development of a new play with St John's Street Theatre, and more scarily with real acting, real words, real actions, not just musical accompaniment. Early days yet ~ looking forward to september's Wirksworth Festival.
NonViolent Communication, or NVC, also takes a worthwhile wee chunk out of most of my months, and I have to recommend it to anyone looking to communicate, and receive communication, more effectively. There's so much we instinctively say and do which doesn't really help ~ though the trick is remembering this in the heat of the moment and choosing the effective way!
Market Music continues and has become 'my' baby as I now programme the slots and help it run smoothly. Seems I'm doing most things but actually play music these days!
And ANOTHER outing as actor presented, as Chris and Hugh Ellis's show Love Life and Liberty came to Chesterfield but needed someone to stand in for professional actor Ellis senior (Peter), for a J.B. Priestley reading. Very nervous ........... but very well-received, and great to meet up with the guys, and Rosie Toll on fiddle, to present the words of some of the greatest poets and thinkers ever, like John Clare, Dick Gaughan and Winstanley, on the subject of environment, the commons, the garden cities movement and the politics surrounding all this.
Radical rethink, Cameras, In Transit.
Nov 2011- March 2012
Suffering a severe stiff neck which wouldn't even let me back the car, I followed the recommendation of local movement specialist Debi Hedderwick to see a massage expert Kate Irving. As can sometimes happen, this set me on a path of developing further my own massage and therapy skills. Kate is main tutor for a discipline called the Full Movement Method, which seeks to restore as much movement as possible where a body is restricted, diagnosing and treating to some degree with yoga, but also using a sound knowledge of anatomy, massage and manipulation to improve muscles and joints which aren't working as they once did. Great to be learning again, and looking forward to having another string to my bow once I finish in november 2013.
Due to the generous legacy of the late John Boothby, my father, I have also widely researched, looked up, browsed, read, deliberated, mused, (and drooled) over a decent camera setup. New gear arrived and that's another learning curve, taking the time left free by a significant lack of gigs! With festivals tumbling and venues needing guaranteed bums on seats, there seems less call for my musical skills these days ........... so adapt or die, here's Brian the photographer, therapist and actor!
Most girls, and some boys too, of 'our' community have spent time with the wonderful DebiDancing, who runs a youth movement group here in Wirksworth. This year they needed an older male walk-on part, (no, not dance-on!) for their moving devised piece 'In Transit', focusing on displaced young people ~ the Jewish Kindertransport, illegal child trafficking and 'wild child' stories. Very exciting to be part of such a powerful piece, performed in Wirksworth's big old St Mary's church.
Also more getting to know Brighton, visiting and helping May move her stuff into her new flat, but hampered by someone unthinkingly backing into my car. Surely the insurance process could be made easier?
Farmers' Market music keeps me playing once a month too, but other than that it's been pretty dead. Thanks be for odd-jobbing!
Wirksworth Festival, Stardisc, Songmakers, Quad, Wine, Whistles and Farmers' Markets.
What a busy month september was, all the autumn squeezed into a few weeks! Most of it due to the amazing Wirksworth Festival, where as well as the usual Busking Trail gigs, I was privileged to unveil the new spacy 'low whistle with reverb' sound at the launch of Aidan Shingler's spectacular Stardisc installation (visit www.stardiscenterprise.co.uk ~ it's fascinating!).''Hauntingly perfect'', an audience member opined of this starlit post-Close Encounters final slot of the day. Also of great satisfaction was Songmakers ~ Chris Ellis, Dave Sturt and myself, collaborating on each other's material in the rich and resonant acoustics of Wirksworth's United Reform Church ~ ''you - collectively and individually, were awesome'', said Phil! Lastly in september, my first ever gig in Derby city, (after 16 years in Derbyshire), contributing to Derby Quad's 'Unplugged' series, hosted by White and Collins, where I was described as a 'folk legend', (another first), appreciated by those who listened, and sadly ignored by those who didn't. Ah well!
Since then it's been back to the farmer's markets and a busy time with the fruit and produce, making wines and jams and jellies. Much to organise for Bryn Hyfryd, where Jack now lives, also making jams, chutneys and getting to grips with gardens and album- and website-making. Much to adjust to for May's imminent departure to Brighton, helping to launch her flight from the nest. A welcome revival of St John's Street Theatre too, launching next year's festival project, and a welcome wet Thor's Cave diversion to play for Kobi Ossian's naming ceremony. Always a very special satisfaction to add music to special events. And sometimes to not play at all ~ quite an achievement, the 20th anniversary of the Menz Group, a bunch of guys who do a great job of keeping ourselves and each other sane despite considerable differences in some respects. Gradually, as the 'stuff' gets dealt with, I'm even picking up the guitar and thinking ahead to a new album, putting ideas into action that have been lurking all year. Less 'stuff' please!
Stainsby, Market, Jen's party, Gaunts, Ashleyhay, Bandcamp ~ planning ahead for 14 gigs in september, including Green Peaks Ecofest, Wirksworth Festival, The Big Green Day and two sitting room sessions.
What a joy to play the Honour set at Stainsby, (which has given such support to my music over the years) with Dave Sturt on the fretless and Chris Ellis dragged away from festival duties to do what he's REALLY here for ~ to play music! The Space was full but it wasn't till afterwards we were told there were another 70 folks sitting listening in the sun outside! Every bit as enjoyable as the stonking friday night Tomorrows Ancestor set last year.
Great to take the flutes to lovely Jen's lovely party, and have a really interesting jam round the fire with two great guys on 12 string and sarangi. Surreal at times but magical and creative too.
Speaking of the flutes, I'm so enjoying playing for the Wirksworth Farmers' market again too, which should be a fixture now into the autumn.
Then off to Gaunts with May ~ father-daughter, singer-songwriter time ~ the great gathering of wonderful musicians under the inspiring tribal oaks. A most enjoyable gig with Danu, finding my feet now with the new amp, amazing to flex all my instrumental muscles ~ guitar, flutes and percussion ~ and to play with such good musicians ~ Danu's voice, keyboard, jazz and shamanic sensibilities, Pete Kubryck-Townsend with such skill and the most resonant double bass I've ever heard, and Jo Cang with his many skills and sense of humour but guesting on cajon and guitar, and Graeme DeLyons keeping the steady heartbeat ~ to a packed and appreciative Ballroom. Much good feedback, and another new song in the Danu Fox/Brian Boothby collaboration. Also loved hearing May's set on the Woodland stage, very well run this year by the charming Rob Rivieres, and enjoyed my set there too, especially when the wind rose out of nowhere during 'The snows melt the soonest' (when the wind begins to sing!)
Alas for Ashleyhay, by contrast, where the pestilence had me pinned in bed for the duration, and May played my gig instead, accompanied by James Moor. And a fine job they made of it too, by all accounts.
And at last Honour is now available as a digital download form the following address, (thanks Jack):
http://brian.boothby.bandcamp.com/album/honour - More to follow.
And yes, new ideas ARE forming for new music and shows, once the 'stuff' has been sorted ~ looking forward to it .....
With the lure of Jack's final show of his fashion degree in Falmouth, end of May saw us all gather there to see his stunning creations hit the catwalk. Profiting from being so far south, it was also great to play a gig with Danu Fox and Pete Kubryck-Townsend on the very edge of the world at Cape Cornwall. Lovely to have Danu's jazz piano and vocals on the songs, and to mesh in with her material too in preparation for Gaunts. Then back for a bit to play some smashing little gigs in folks' gardens for the Wirksworth Open Gardens and Courtyards weekend, before heading for Glasters and a Music Space team with three welcome new additions, all under 6 months old! Tadpole, Mandala (twice), Ancient Futures and the Music space, solo and also playing with Chris Ellis and Rosie Toll, it was a busy and succesful festival, though we all noticed the downturn in cd sales. Looking forward to playing the Honour set for the first time at Stainsby this year, and looking ahead to Gaunts, Ashleyhay, Green Peaks and Wirksworth festivals, as well as getting back to busking at the farmers' markets. Too busy to write new stuff but things are starting to bubble under for a winter of creative endeavour.
A time of adjustment due to the death of Boothby senior and the arrangements, decisions and logistics that ensued. Aided by Anglesey's coldest weather in living memory, necesitating a rearranged funeral and family gathering in an exceptional cold snowy stunningly beautiful landscape. Weather also intervened withthe sessions, which were only reachable by tractor, but eventually went ahead with two packed houses at Sycamore Farm to launch the new conversions. Tomorrows Ancestor's Valentine's Day gig in Matlock was a gas, though could have been better attended. Mostly though just keeping warm, staying alive, adjusting.
Quieter times, setting out on a 3 month trial of busking for another farmers' market, Belper this time, getting on with setting up a Valentine's-ish gig for Tomorrows Ancestor, (feb 12th in Matlock), struggling with finances, as usual, and getting practical. Firstly a long overdue repayment in kind to Chris for his contribution to Honour, by helping him get the attic where we recorded insulated, boarded, drylined and considerably cosier than when we started. Great times, good crack for our alter egoes Frank Hepthatch and Albert Gondola! There's a show in there somewhere! Secondly a refurbishment of Prospect Farm bathroom's cork floor. Lovely stuff cork, but my knees are not what they were! Proud to have an article I wrote about the Sitting Room Sessions published by Permaculture Magazine. Waxwings in the garden and Scorpio time stirs the poetic juices and puts pen to paper, finger to strings. New ideas simmering. And to celebrate the launch of Sycamore Farm's holiday cottages, we've got three more Sitting Room Sessions to look forward to at the very beginning of next month, so lots to look forward to.
After a few days of settling Jack into his new place in Falmouth, off we both set for Gaunts House for the amazing Summer Gathering. Great to see Jack take his place at the musicians' circle under the venerable oak that has sheltered us and our music for all these years. He did some great gigs on the woodland stage, and my turn at last came for an Honour set in the wonderful ballroom where Chris, Dave and I played our first gig to only four people five or six years ago ~ but this time it was packed. We had a great gig supporting Michael Ormiston and Candida Valentino and making lovely new friends. Also fine times playing djembe and low whistles with Danu Fox for sunday night's theatre gig, a very fulfilling gathering altogether. Home to work on land, and barn conversion, making shelves and hanging space, being carpenter and groundworker and moonlighting as poet when a kingfisher visited out of the blue! (See 'Birdbrain' on the poems page.) Some time off to help Drew Bird get his one-man show on the road, always good to have variety and use skills learnt at the Oxford School of Drama. Then preparations for Wirksworth Festival, including working in the very capable Richard Sammels as Tomorrows Ancestor bassplayer, while Dave Sturt tours France with Gong! September kicked off big time with a trip to Dartmoor to play at Rivenstone Festival. A great honour to be asked to begin the musical proceedings by Nigel and Carolyn, and possibly the best held little festival ever, with their inspiring roundhouse, shrines on every corner, thought provoking and beautiful art to ponder and wonderful dartmoor spring water. Hopefully we'll be back. Then back to Wirksworth Festival for three enjoyable and very well attended performances with St John's Street Theatre, two busking spots and a solo Honour set, all in the first weekend. Followed by two sets for the eco day on the second weekend and a stonking Town Hall saturday night shindig with Tomorrows Ancestor on the third, (the fiddler arriving with five minutes to spare for the gig - close one!) Lovely to have May K.B. (my baby!) as support, an accomplished singer songwriter in her own right now!
Out and about a lot these days, either working up at Sycamore Farm, laying turf, creating brick paths and helping in the final push in the barn conversions, or getting involved with festivals. Busking at the farmer's market continues, people seem to like it, the coins roll in! First off, Glastonbury, running the Healing Field Music Space with my doughty team, playing loads of gigs, there and at other venues like Ancient Futures and Tadpole stage, with Chris Ellis and Rosie Toll. Best weather ever, moonlit nights wandering the amazing spectacle, catching extraordinary acts and brilliant music, spellbound by a proliferation of creative lanterns. Good connections made ~ notably Sunrise festival for next year. Then Stainsby in July with Tomorrows Ancestor, a festival we've been so connected with over the years, headlining friday night. Great gig, which John Ramsey of the efx sound team recorded on 24 track for us to mix down later. Also exciting beginnings of rehearsing with Wirksworth's own street theatre group, St. John's Street Theatre, on a new play, 'Parrot', by Tony Jones. Great to be doing music for theatre again.
Wow, what a blast the sessions were. If ever there was a vindication of the concept ''small is beautiful'' ! Seventy five people over the four sessions booked into our big room to listen intently as Chris Ellis, Dave Sturt and myself performed a lot of the material from Honour, plus a few tasters of up and coming projects. Possibly the most fulfilling playing of my life, to surely some of the most appreciative audiences one could ask for. And such great work by the team, Glennie, May and Celeste, who laid on all the goodies to make the experience complete. Later in May, once the glow had died down just a little, off I went with a group of friends for a week to the Isle of Arran, the Scottish one. Much walking, eating, chatting, recording of wildlife sounds, first drafts of new tunes inspired by the amazing standing stones of Machrie Moor, and quite a bunch of atmospheric photos. Maybe I'll get a new page of photos together one of these days.
The album is now made and in my hands - looks great - sounds great - I'm very proud of it - it's taken a long time to come to fruition, doing little bits here and little bits there, fitting in around all the other joys and pressures of life. Publicity has gone out and folks are signing up for the launch gigs. As always there are the uncertainties - 'will there be enough people, will it all go as planned?' - and as always the answer that once everything humanly possible has been done - 'it will be what it will be'. Time also to get the tools out to earn some money to refill the pot after the slack time of winter and the outlay on the cd production. Result - a new customer and a pleasing 'crooked man' shoerack, (see 3D page). Also getting started on bat and owl boxes for Nessie and Martin's place.
The Honour album is very nearly complete now, all mixes are done and just the final mastering remains to do on the sound. May Kindred-Boothby has done a fantastic drawing from photos of me and Chris for the cover and now I'm just tracking down eco-friendly cd packaging - not as easy, or as cheap, at it seems, apparently. Christmas and solstice each bring their own reasons for not being able to do so much at present - preparations for one and the short dark days for another, and of course celebration of both. Looking forward to getting Honour out in the world and hopefully launching it with a series of gigs here at home in april.
Time to get more practical things done on the various projects underway for Maggie Norman, Tony Marson and MIke Trier, including bench and decking building, shelves, hanging doors, installing a photovoltaic system and trialling various wood preservers and varnishes prior to next spring's renovation of the Trier 'shed'.
A really sweet gathering this year under the fine old trees at Gaunts House with the usual suspects Praying for the Rain, Danu Fox, Caitlin and Sika, Chris and Celeste, Gilly Nicols and many more. It felt such a priviledge to be there, enjoying the patronage of the Richard Glynn Foundation, in such an inspiring setting. It also felt great to play Firegazing Time for the first time at the fire in the musicians' camp. Lovely too to join with Danu and Joe Cang for a wonderful little gig in that special music room in the house itself, and just to network and socialise with some of my favourite people, musicians or otherwise.
A great little music space was again set up in the relative sanctuary of the Healing Field, providing music, workshops and performance space for our own musicians and wandering troubadours alike. The BBC called in briefly but only broadcast a second or two. Apart from that it was ten hours a day of great music from us - then time to explore the rest of the site, including other gigs with Chris Ellis at the Mandala stage. We had the best chai on the site from Cafe Kailash, and an info stall on the Tibet situation right alongside us, which raised plenty of money to be used by ROKPA, the humanitarian side of the Samye Ling Buddhist centre in Eskdalemuir. Thanks to Caitlin and Sika, Caiseal and Helen, Vanessa, Chris and Jack Ellis, Rosie, Blake, Hanna and Angelo and everyone who made it such a good time. (And that includes Emily Eavis for turning the Park stage round so we didn't have to listen to them!).
After a break of five and a half years, enough pressure was finally brought to bear by the Ashleyhay festival committee, (and my daughter) for a reunion gig. It all seemed to work like magic really, and though two or three of the original pool of members couldn't make it , the resulting band that did assemble gave perhaps the best performance ever! Such was the ensuing high that everyone is interested in doing more gigs, and I'm now convinced we have a hugely marketable headlining sound. With John Thorne (Mark Gwynne Jones Psychic Bread), switching from djembe and percussion to full kit, Dave Sturt (Cypher/Jade Warrior) on fretless bass, Deb Rose (also MGJPB) on percussion, Ben Daglish (Loscoe State Opera) on flute and whistles, Mark Knight (Bleeding Hearts/www.madfiddler.co.uk) on electric fiddle joining me on the songs and electro acoustic Lowden steelstring, we really pumped up an audience of about 500 at Ashleyhay Festival and were voted best band of the weekend by the festival team. Very satisfying. Now looking for some good, well-paid gigs. Because we're worth it!
Finally, the long awaited new album is in process, largely thanks to the impetus of Chris Ellis suggesting a recording session in Norwich. Among the many other calls on time and energy, the resulting sessions are now being mixed. It also remains for a few select musicians to add some contributions, and the artwork to be developed, and the album, working title 'Honour', should be ready before too long.
An exciting follow-on from the Genius Loci project, I am now at work writing and recording soundscapes for use at Creswell Crags. They will serve to engage the public imagination in the sounds of the times which the guides are explaining. Scenarios include a Bronze Age fireside, a Stone Age bison hunt, an arrival at the sanctuary of the gorge out of the harsh Ice Age tundra, and a 17 minute romp through 2000 years of British history. A longer piece will be used in the new Visitor Centre currently under construction. Due for public showcase in summer 2009.
Following a couple of years of collaboration at summer festivals, Danu and I are discussing a couple of ideas for the future. One is me accompanying and assisting her in an ambitious project to take singers to the ancient amphitheatres of Turkey, to raise the spirit and sound the sites as they have perhaps not been sounded for over a thousand years. Another is the development of music and storytelling based on our own native roots, for a tour of performances. Another development was me joining the Danu Fox Band on guitar, low whistles and djembe for a sweet gig at Miss Peapod's in Penryn in March when down in Cornwall on family business.