God bless Newcastle

Dear all,

Well tonight I return to Newcastle for a night to play with Will at the Cumberland Arms. Cannot wait, it’s always been a favourite venue and it comes after a wonderful gig last night at the Black Swan Folk Club in York. We had a wonderful night and thanks to everyone who came especially the chap whose bladder was discussed in some detail during the gig…

However, as I’m in Newcastle this seems a good time to post my personal tribute to the city that was my home for six and a half amazing years. It was a time of amazing experiences frankly at both ends of the happiness scale. It was the scene of some of my darkest times, not that that was it’s fault incidently, but of incredible experiences that I will forever cherish.

In truth, while I expected to stay a bit longer than I did there was a nagging feeling that I was in a place that wasn’t my home. That doesn’t make Newcastle any less wonderful, if anything the opposite. Like Liverpool, another favourite city of mine, I love the fact that Newcastle has such a strong local identity that you feel very much as though it belongs to the Geordies. I was enthralled to be a guest of this marvellous race of people for so long and they were overall the friendliest and most convivial race of people I think I’ve ever met! I had countless amazing gigs there and the people were the main reason that made it so. Many a fantastic night was spent in a Northeast pub as a result.

What brought me to Newcastle of course was the degree in folk and traditional music. That really was an exceptional opportunity for which I will forever be grateful. I grew up feeling a bit of a one off amongst people my age in being such an avid folk fan and to suddenly be surrounded by a vast array of incredibly talented musicians from that genre who loved it like I did was a wonderful experience. I did the degree to improve, learn and network and there’s no doubt it provided everything I thought and much more. It’s thanks to the degree that I became a far better banjo player, singer and all round musician and it’s thanks to the degree that I became professional because the networks were so good and the opportunities so great. Of course, I also made wonderful friends on the course whom I shall always value not to mention a good dozen or so past, present and future collaborators in my music as well. The folk degree has its critics, and don’t get me wrong like any course it has its flaws, but how you can argue that such an opportunity for young people to study folk music in such depth and put it on the academic map is beyond me and I for one benefited so much from it.

There are far too many people to thank from my time in Newcastle, I’m sure you all know who you are. The time had come to move on (well back I suppose!) and Stafford remains my home and it was calling me. I’d had my time in Newcastle and it was wonderful but it definitely was the right decision to move away but I will always remember Newcastle with great fondness and would recommend it to absolutely anyone as a place to visit or to live. God bless Newcastle and its people and thanks for a pivotal 6 years in my life.