A system?

Dear all,

August is a busy busy month this year and it is already proved rather memorable. I ended July with a couple of pub outings in Croydon at the Oval Tavern and in Chelmarsh for a thoroughly brilliant night at the Bulls Head, always a good music venue but this really was a great night. The start of August saw a gig four miles from my folks house in Penrith so they got to see the fully fledged Urban Folk Quartet with the lovely Paloma Trigas back on board after maternity leave. We played Kendal Calling and it was quite a gig with lots of very energetic people jumping around going completely balmy. I say that, I mean at the music obviously not just all having breakdowns all at once. It was a great way to kick off the festival season with the proper line-up and the atmosphere was electric.

The next day saw a trip east for a rare wedding gig on Teeside to play a ceilidh for my old housemate Mark. Congratulations to himself and Victoria, it was rather lovely. Thanks to Rachel Cross and Sam Partridge with whom I played they were both wonderful as ever. Check both out, tremendous players. We then went back to Newcastle and drank a lot. A lot. I also saw people I like which is good before heading home late at night, which by the way is infinitely preferable to travelling during the day at the moment. I know travel luck has never been particularly on my side but lately it seems every ruddy journey is spent crawling along at a painfully slow pace. Probably caused by ditherers.

Anyway, onward travel followed the next day as I headed south to Dorset to stay with my old banjo pupil Martin prior to heading to Sidmouth Folk Week. Thanks to Martin for a cracking evening over a few in the pub. Then Sidmouth which as always was a real pleasure, positively bubbling with all things folk and seaside. I again saw lots of people I like. Oh and I had gigs. They were good too as was a cracking banjo workshop which I think was definitely the best one I’ve done at a festival. Thanks to all those who came and then came to see me perform at Carina’s later on.

Now Carina’s is a nightclub. As I’m sure you’re aware if you know me at all, I find going to a nightclub roughly equivalent to having my eyeballs pierced with a sharp instrument without anaesthetic but this was obviously a different experience as it was all very civilised with people watching me do my thing and asking me one or two questions. One thing that really made me laugh was this:


Now those who know me will know I’m not one for being a purist about folk music and love all sorts of forms. But I can’t help but think as a programme of late night themes for folk week, I note a marked absence of anything remotely toward the folk crowd and at Sidmouth Folk Week, they’re pretty folky. I find the ‘commercial chart’ night particularly amusing actually given that’s surely pretty much the opposite of what folk is. So as a folk week programme, it seemed a tad odd.

After Sidmouth a lovely time with the wonderful Cooney family before heading to the utterly chaotic Boomtown festival with the Urban Folk Quartet. Various things transpired to make this something of a later and shorter show than planned but the audience were great and seemed to go for it so all in all we can count it a success! Loads more festivals coming up do check the website etc. That’s the website you are on…I meant the gigs page.

So, as hinted in the previous paragraph, there was a spot of bother at one or two festivals just lately. I must confess I was slightly amazed by the utter lack of a system for getting artists parked up and where they need to be. I mean I would say quite a fundamental part of a festival is the music, you know the bands and stuff. So why is it that at all the big ones, no-one seems to have a bloody clue where artists are supposed to park, how they get to the stage etc? I mean we got to Boomtown a LONG time before our gig and yet they managed to get us to the stage four minutes before start time, twenty five minutes after soundcheck. We were told to park up in artist parking and go and get our tickets etc so we did. Then they said bring your stuff over and we’ll transport you in a car suitable for the muddy fields. This is fine if you have a banjo. If you have a banjo, two fiddles, a mandolin, a guitar, a bunch of bags of leads oh and a massive sodding percussion/drum kit it’s a bit tricky to ‘just carry it’ as it wasn’t exactly close. So someone comes with us to see how much stuff we’ve got then disappears for about half an hour before we’re told to drive over to where these vehicles are. Then they tell us we can’t stop there. Eventually we explain we kind of have to and we unload before moving the car AGAIN. Then we’re eventually transported and the whole time two things that really got on my metaphorical breasts happened:

1) No-one had a solution for anything. They just said ‘you can’t do that’.
2) WE were made to feel like the OCD, stressy people.

My feelings about this:

1) Surely more than one bloody band turns up to a rock festival with more gear than is possible to carry.
2) Don’t be a twat.

The same goes for the lot at another festival where myself and my parents couldn’t park in artist parking unless it was me driving on my own because my parents, as guests, were not allowed back there. I can’t drive my parents car so this was something of a pain. So after eventually persauding them to let us park the car we were told to take a ‘mile long’ walk to the main site. After walking more than that it became apparent the man was talking bollocks so we eventually just parked in the main car park and got away with not paying because they are so bloody ineffecient they couldn’t even have a system for monitoring that.

I’m happy to say this week UFQ play Broadstairs Folk Week which is a WEEK long in a big town not just one site with hundreds of acts and events and yet nothing ever goes wrong basically. That is how to run a festival. So after ranting about bad organisation, I raise a glass to Kim Headley the wonderful organiser of Broadstairs.

See you down the road,