Dear all,

Well I must apologise it has been an awfully long time since my last blog. August was a quite ridiculous month and September pretty much likewise but I must get back into doing this weekly ish because I do rather enjoy talking to you all this way! After Switzerland, it was back into the studio to record my new album and it is pretty much done in terms of my parts – exciting stuff! I’m looking forward to you all hearing it. Then it was a festival crazy time! First up it was the wonderful Green Man festival with UFQ. It has become a royal UFQ favourite this one and we had a wonderful time there once again. I often get asked whether I prefer the seated listening type gigs or the jump up and down dancing gigs and my answer is always that I love them both…but when it comes to the latter group Green Man is quite possibly the best of the lot! One of my favourite folk festivals followed – I was at Folkeast where I had a cracking time as always and then it was off to Moira Furnace Folk Festival with UFQ to round off a hectic but wonderful weekend.

Then it was three of the finest folk festivals – Whitby, Shrewsbury and Towersey. The former was solo and with Alistair Anderson and then the latter two were with UFQ. All three were such fun and I saw some great music. Whitby is one of the more trad ones I suppose and it was great to hear so many of those legendary figures from the folk scene still going so strong! Shrewsbury was a real thrill and you can even see the sets here:

And then began my banjo duo tour with John Dowling. It’s been really wonderful and it’s still going! It kicked off, fittingly, in my hometown of Stafford where we had a cracking gig. I then had a solo gig at Didmarton Bluegrass Festival for the first time which was a real thrill and then UFQ played in Wales at Llanwyddyn festival, the festival with no vowels. Then the John gigs continued in Bath at the Ring O Bells which was another nice wee gig before I headed to Leicester for a rare wedding gig. Then it was back to John again in Birmingham with a gig at the Kitchen Garden Cafe which as always was great too. Then it was down to Cornwall to play a wee pub gig and then the Cornish Bluegrass Festival which was a lot of fun and quite the most luxurious caravan I think I’ve ever stayed in! Finally to bring you up to speed, we headed to Norwich to play at the Maddermarket Theatre. Norwich is a long way from Newquay. A very long way. A very very long way. It wasn’t the original plan I hasten to add but we did it and we enjoyed the gig!

Now, I have had a summer full of festivals and it has been wonderful. I should also say that I have met so many lovely people at festivals, both attendees and organiser types. I’ve had lots of enjoyable conversations and the atmosphere has very much been one of conviviality and cheer. I should further add that most stewards I have encountered have been delightful and generally I have to emphasise very strongly I find festivals wonderful things. But, and it is rather a big but, I have encountered just a handful of stewards who have fallen into the same trap of phenomenal misery, unfriendliness and unhelpfulness. I’m always anxious not to sound like a diva artist because I loathe and detest them and I genuinely don’t believe I am one but upon arriving at a festival certain things are quite helpful. This piece of dialogue demonstrates precisely what is not helpful:

Me (arriving): Hello
Steward: Yeah?
Me: Oh right…erm I’m in the Urban Folk Quartet
Steward: What?
Me: I’m in the Urban Folk Quartet, we’re on tonight
Steward: All you had to do was say you’re a performer
Me: Wow, ok. Could you tell me where to park please?
Steward: Well good luck it’s really busy
Me: [losing my cool and being slightly less polite than normal] yes that’s not enormously helpful. What direction?
Steward: Try there to your right and if there’s nothing there then try left
Me: Ok thanks

[I drive to the right and there are no spaces]
[I drive to the left and there are no spaces]
[I drive back to but unfortunately not into the steward]

Me: There are no spaces
Steward: Well I did warn you
Me: Yes, I’m not really after a bulletin on how difficult parking is. I need to park. Preferably in time for the gig
Steward: Park in front of this marquee then
Me: You know when you said about there being no spaces, it might have been an idea to mention this marquee option then really
Steward: I told you parking was difficult
Me: Yes and thrilling though that was, I think your job is to ASSIST with parking

I mean, what? I always like to be polite and everyone to be on cordial terms. What can you do with people who just instantly look for a fight and are intentionally unhelpful, especially when their entire job is to be helpful?!