February greetings from me, it’s been one of those starts to the year for me. I’ve had this routine since 2014 where I’ve been out to New Zealand/Australia every other year and the alternate years are very admin heavy! I’ve spent a great deal of time on my laptop organising things! One exciting thing to tell you – I’m writing a book! I’ve been asked quite a number of times over the years by banjo playing fans of my stuff if I plan to do a tab book and it’s one of those things where I’ve planned it but not really done it. However, with Midwest Banjo Camp on the horizon in June, a prime chance to get rid of the things, I thought I’d crack on with it so I’ll be keeping you posted about that.
So all in all, I haven’t done much in the way of gigging yet although that’s about to dramatically change! I did have a lovely trip up to Inverness for a live session on BBC Radio Scotland and a cracking gig at MacGregor’s, run by the legendary fiddler Bruce MacGregor. That was a really top night and a part of the country I have always been extremely fond of so I very much enjoyed that. My only other public gig so far was in Stafford at Coffee Number One in a joint gig with my old friends Fish From Oblivion, a cracking a cappella group based locally who have been going for years and years. My dear and sadly missed friend Camilla (see some blogs back for more about her) was part of that group and this gig served as a launch for their new record which she recorded on as well as a chance to pay tribute to her. It was a really enjoyable evening and I think Stafford has a new gig venue!
I’ve also been getting back into the old outreach work which I must say I had really missed. I was on the books of Live Music Now for years and years (see lots of previous blogs!) which involved playing at care homes, schools, mental health wards and all manner of places. I’m getting back into doing music with younger people in schools and have been thoroughly enjoying it. The care home work was always a very powerful part of my life and I’ve missed it very much. I had a care home concert yesterday and was reminded just how powerful music is on those living with dementia. One man was beside himself with joy and moved to tears by the emotions. There was quite a bit of tension between some of the residents prior to the concert and the room felt decidedly inharmonious but once the music started the atmosphere completely changed and it was lovely to bring people together.
Tomorrow I’m off to Canada for a conference. Yes a conference. It’s called Folk Alliance and it’s essentially the annual convention of the North American folk ‘scene’. It’s packed with delegates so some top level awkward English schmoozing will take place from me…it’s potentially a very useful and fun event but I don’t know what it is about ‘forced networking’ that makes my brain go extremely peculiar. I mean I love meeting people and my job constantly involves it but there’s something about ‘lots of people in a room – go and mingle’ that brings out the very furthest excess of Englishness! Still, there will be lots of people I know there and I’m actually rather looking forward to it. I’ve always found the North American people I’ve played to have very much ‘got’ what I do and have generally found me amusing which is nice. So it’s a part of the world I’d love to do more in.
Now, do you know what drives me mad sometimes? Unnecessarily pre-packaged food. I was about to pick up a small netted bag of onions – by small I mean three onions – for 83p the other day. Then I picked up three loose onions, put them in a little plastic food bag (you know, those ones that can be a bastard to open – maybe that’s the reason for this…) and it came to…22p. It was a similar difference for a ready made bag of bananas. Then I really spotted some daft things – pre-grated cheese, ready chopped carrots but perhaps the ultimate insult to human intelligence: a pre-cracked egg!!!!! I mean actually an egg, ready cracked, in a packet!!!! God help us all.