How was 2014?

Dear all,

A blog tomorrow has big news but in the meantime…here’s my annual round up of the year. It was a rather remarkable one for me it’s fair to say with more new countries played, the first year of action with the UFQ and my busiest year to date. It wasn’t always the easiest year from a personal point of view as I sadly lost some great people and had other difficult stuff going on but it’s impossible to look at the year with anything other than a smiley face and I had some serious fun on my travels!

Top of the list on the solo side would have to be the trip to New Zealand. What started as a casual whim of emailing a few gig venues there because one of my very best schoolfriends is living out there suddenly became a reality and I ended up with a headline festival gig, a two and a half week tour, a breakfast TV appearance and thanks to the Mussel Inn being swamped by an audience and experiencing table dancing (not that sort). That and meeting some of the most amazing people and seeing the most beautiful country made January and February months to seriously remember. A return is already being plotted for 2016 so my love affair with that country looks set to continue.

Of course finally starting to play live with UFQ was also pricelessly wonderful and it’s fair to say we had a mighty year. The first tour was unfortunately without regular fiddler Paloma as she was busy giving birth but Charlie Heys did a wonderful job as deputy. We then did a big autumn tour too and a big summer of festivals to make it a 2014 to remember. Green Man and Towersey stand out as the real higlights from the summer with the band but there were so many great moments. I’m very pleased to be part of the band and am looking forward to much more this year!

Mention must also go to Meaghan Blanchard from PEI, Canada who came over in November to play the return tour from our cracking jaunt around Canada in 2013. Meaghan is a fantastic singer, a terrific songwriter and all round lovely person and it was a pleasure to collaborate with her. Having played solo so much in my career it is great to play with other people and enjoy the variation that comes from that. I’ve also of course had the pleasure of playing with Alistair Anderson on occasion, a true legend of the folk world. Alistair’s never ending passion and talent is known to anyone who’ve seen him and he remains one of the most utterly compelling performers I have ever seen.

I also have to mention of course Live Music Now. The work in special needs schools and care homes has been a joy and a privilege once again and thanks so much to mandolin maestro Nic Zuppardi for making the work so enjoyable. It culminated this year in a gig at Wembley Arena thanks to a fantastic schools project and care homes in Oxford and Hitchin provided us with more wonderful moments which will always stay with me. Sadly of course Glen Mason died this year who was the star of the Surbiton care home residency back in 2013. Glen was a star himself in the 50s and 60s as an actor and singer and playing for him was a real joy. Happily, his work lives on as Nic and I play Glendora, his biggest hit as we travel round the care homes and schools.

So what’s to come in 2015? Well quite a bit but more on that tomorrow…thanks again for a great 2014 and to all of you for following me whether that be virtually or coming to shows, it all makes this crazy career worthwhile.