14 November 2011

Farnham to Lichfield

I'm sure Simon who's travelling in the van is thanking his lucky stars about now as all three of us in the car are now in different stages of the lurgy, not great when you have to put your make-up on and put on a show but hey ho, it'll pass.

What a delightful venue the Maltings at Farnham is and what a shame and a mystery that we just can't get the numbers here. Don't get me wrong, the 30 odd people that came were delightful and tried their hardest to sound like 130. I guess the recession is biting in some places, just got to hang in their like everyone else. Thanks to Chris though who is a big fan of the duo and wants us to keep coming back, please Farnham, bring your cousins next time!

Rocky start to the journey down to South Petherton as 40 minutes into it and I discovered I'd left my handbag in the hotel. Argh! My big pet hate is going backwards! The girls gave me some serious therapy over coffee in a Little Chef and we turned around and went back for it. Luckily had plenty of time and still managed to get an hour in the Lodge at Illminster before sound check, which was welcome to us all as we're all still feeling a bit under the weather. Nothing however, raises your spirits like a gig at David Hall Arts in South Petherton. It's one of those venues and indeed audiences that have such a brilliant vibe. Run by lovely people (mostly volunteers) who have fought long and hard to keep this venue open and running and filling the niche in the market for our genre of music despite the wave of tribute bands that a lot of art centres and theatres are succumbing to. We love this gig, long may it last and flourish.

Next, up to another of our regular gigs and one again that never fails to deliver, The Mill at Banbury. This gig is so welcoming (mainly due to Carl, the in house engineer) and so familiar to us (we'll be back for two sell-out nights in a few weeks for St Agnes Fountain) it feels a bit like coming home. Great audience, made all the more special by having Chris and Linda Leslie in the audience. Lovely,  just lovely.

So to the last on this run, The Guildhall at Lichfield, a truly magnificent venue with its high beamed roof, stained glass windows and majestic wood panelled walls. Lichfield is a lovely town, quite tudorish and a little olde worldy. Great to walk out on stage and see such a big buzzing audience and lots of friends too. It was our last gig with our dream team Jil and Simon on the tour as Chris and I are doing the last two next weekend on our own (oh heavens!). We can't thank this pair enough, they are the best, top of their leagues and our dear family. Thanks guys, always. Fab gig for us all to part on, we had a proper good'un this year eh chaps? Great memories, laughs and adventures.

So a week off for Chris and I before we finish next week in the North West. Chris off to London, I'm off to rescue my Mum and Dad from Dylan my dog (or is it the other way round?!).

08 November 2011

Marlborough & Hitchin

After winding our way up the A303, past Stonehenge and up to Marlborough, we were greeted at our journey's end by yet another promoter turned dear friend - Andrew Bumphrey. We love playing in Marlborough, not only for the loyal following here or the great shopping on the High Street but also for the fact we get to spend time (especially after the gig when Sarah cooks supper) with the delightful Bumphreys. We've seen Andrew and Sarah's kids grow into lovely men and women over the years we've been coming here, again in our many project guises. We really are so lucky to have all these lovely friends scattered all over the country. The gig was great, really nice vibe, really loving this tour.

Hitchin folk club is one of the best clubs in the country and always a highlight on our tour. The last couple of visits however have been tinged with a sense of sadness and anxiety though as our special friend Maureen Jones who has been running the club for 45 years has been terribly ill whilst waiting for a liver transplant. This is the second time around for Maureen and as she is dearly loved by everyone on the folk-scene, it's been a very worrying 12 months indeed. To everyone's relief and delight, Maureen finally had the transplant early this summer and so it was great to see her in her usual chair looking the picture of health. We love Maureen and Kieron Jones and love too this amazing club. This night was one of the best we've ever had here, from the moment we stepped on stage the place was buzzing, cheering, singing, it was wonderful. Some new people too brought along by people, always great for us as hopefully we gain new followers and the word spreads. Great way to finish this run of four and couple of days off now to recoup as we're all nursing colds.  The joys of touring in the autumn.

05 November 2011

Bristol & Ipplepen

I've been doing gigs in Bristol for Lorraine Carpenter and Ian Storror for about 25 years now. Nearly 20 of those were at the famous Albert Inn, a totally unique place with a superb atmosphere and always packed to the rafters. The brewery eventually made things impossible for Ian and Lorraine to stay so had to move out of their home and livelihood and start afresh. It was a massive blow to the acoustic music scene and jazz audiences alike (the Albert had been named in the top 5 jazz venues in England) but you can't keep good, dedicated people down for long and before we knew it, Ian was putting on concerts again. A number of venues were tried out (we opened most of them!) and apart from Bordeaux Quay which we loved, the latest one, The comedy Box at the Hen and Chicken is superb. Great to have that Bristol crowd together in a great room again. Fantastic night. Buzzing audience. Lovely friends.

Speaking of lovely friends, the next day we headed further down the M5 to the sweet village of Ipplepen to a concert put on by the lovely Nigel and Diana. Again, they've promoted lots of concerts for us over the years in various venues and in our many guises (St Agnes, W&M band, Blue Tapestry) but the gigs are always consistently good and the audiences delightful. Chris and I had one of those proper corpsing moments in the encore where not only us but the entire audience were in tears from laughter!  It had something to do with the name Ipplepen and Nellie Pledge's stool!! Classic!

We stayed just 6 miles from Ipplepen on the sea-front in Paignton and as we woke to sunny skies, took a stroll up the pier. It was lovely and we felt like a right little band of tourists, playing on the slots and breathing in the fresh sea air.

Long haul up to Marlborough now with a detour due to the M5 being closed after the tragic colossal accident last night near Taunton. Thoughts and commiserations...

03 November 2011

The Wirral to Stamford

A run of four gigs saw us starting back at an old favourite, The Boathouse on the Wirral. Always a cracking night with an audience who not only know how to have a great time but sing their hearts out like a choir. Lovely to catch up with some lovely friends too, Kirstie, our ace photographer who also runs our mail order business and Ken and Ruth Powell. Ken made two of our exquisite instruments - Chris's new guitar and my Gazouki. Great people, lovely friends, fantastic craftsman. Top night.

Second night was the Rock at Maltby. Rob Shaw ran the club at the Rockingham Arms at Wentworth for decades, it's where I (Julie) learned to perform in public as a young floor singer in the early eighties. A few years ago Rob sadly had to relocate the venue but still puts on a great night in Maltby. Another great night, made all the more special with my Mum and Dad in the audience.

Next was Cherry Burton (or Cherry B as I called them!). New venue for us but run by Martin who puts on gigs at the Processed Pea in Etton, same neck of the woods and equally as great and lively an audience. Lovely meal in the local pub where there was Halloween fancy dress night, felt decidedly under dressed!

Last on this run before a few days off was Stamford Arts centre in the beautiful ballroom. Stamford is such a beautiful town and thankfully for our bank balances, the shops were shut when we arrived! We're back here in December with St Agnes Fountain though so plenty of opportunity to bolster the local economy with our Christmas shopping! Lovely gig again, great to see Nick Campling, the inventor and director of G7th capos, an incredible piece of engineering that Chris and I are lucky to have seen grow from a small company to worldwide recognition among musicians. Thank you Nick for your continued support and sponsorship of us.

All the new songs are really settling in now and going down great. Loving all the old ones we've brought back, haven't dumped one of them yet so that says something! OK, back home for a couple of days and a bit of trick or treating!!

20 October 2011

Nettlebed

We spent the afternoon in Henley on Thames doing a bit of shopping and coffee shop lounging before heading up to Nettlebed. Another cool but sunny day and delighted to see lots of Red Kites circling the Oxfordshire skies, one even swooping in front of the car....wow, they are HUGE. Another lovely gig and one we've been doing as long as we've been a duo. Simon did as always a fantastic job on the sound, what would we do....? Auntie Shirls for a good night's sleep then home for a few days r&r. See you next week.

18 October 2011

Twickenham

Fantastic to finally play the legendary Cabbage Patch in Twickenham and it was a perfect end to a lovely day meandering around the countryside and being proper girls on tour, picnic in the sunshine and a trip to Highclere castle, though we didn't go in as there was a big military thing on so we only got to see the turrets over the horizon! Chris has been many times as she filmed 'Ridge RIders'  here and I was desperate to see it as I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey but alas we'll have to return on Aggie. We did have a wander round the grounds though and found a nice folly to have our piccie taken.
As for the gig, it was brilliant and the people there were delightful. Thanks for having us and please have us back soon, Twickenham rocks!

16 October 2011

Ebbesbourne Wake

What a good gig last night in Wiltshire. We were playing in a village hall in Ebbesbourne Wake, an idyllic little village.  En route, we came through the New Forest, wow! I sometimes forget how truly amazing this fair country is. Anyway, blocking the road this time through were ponies (of course), cows, donkeys and sheep! It was like a dodgem circuit!!!
When we got to the gig, the promoter Paul had cooked a lovely meal for us so after the sound check we all sat round a table and broke bread, love that!  The audience were a great and enthusiastic, smiley bunch and we had a ball, some old friends of mine (chris) turned up, the people who produced and directed the Ridgeriders all that time ago, what a lovely surprise.
Twickenham, here we come........

16 October 2011

Fareham

Chris in the dressing room at FarehamAshcroft Arts Centre in Fareham is one of our old favourite gigs. We've been coming here since time began and never fail to have a great time. The dressing room is a sight to behold, posters cover the walls and ceiling, a picture history of live music and touring theatre. A lot of the posters have graffiti on them (I can't begin to tell you what's been written on the Show of Hands one!) and though the several ones of ours through the ages have been spared graffitti, the various hair styles are an entertainment in themselves!  Anyway, a brilliant, sold out night, cracking audience and all the new songs are settling in nicely.

16 October 2011

And we're off!

Hello diary followers! Well we can't tell you how great it is to be back on the road again. While Simon's been busy soldering new equipment for the PA and Jil's been putting all the final details of the tour itinerary together, Chris and I have been rehearsing the 6 brand new songs we've just written for the tour! (3 each). Also brought some really old songs back that needed a fair amount of dust blowing off them so needless to say we were both a bit like rabbits in headlights on the first night in the hope we'd not only remember everything and get it all right but that the songs would be well received. We needn't have worried as the Ulverston audience were absolutely brilliant and so enthusiastic for each and every song, old and new. We had a blast and settled into our lovely team rhythm with Jil and Simon, our family as much as our team.

The next night found us in 'All Along the Wall' territory - Hexham at The Queens Hall - lovely venue and really pretty town. Again, great audience making us feel more and more confident with the new songs. Poor Jil, when asked 'what album is such and such on' she now has to say 'Its not on any' to 7 songs! Great for the next album but frustrating for Jil behind the W&M shop counter! Sorry Jil!

Few days off before the next run, can't wait to start again now.