06 October 2009

Last two of the tour!

Hornby, just a short distance from Lancaster is another of those idyllic villages nestled in the very beautiful forest of Bowland. The short drive from the M6 is like a scene from Postman Pat and the approach into the village with Hornby Castle dominating the hillside is quite breathtaking. It was great to be back at Hornby Institute, a fantastic building that's the hub of the community and a hive of all kinds of activities. The gig was great, lively and lovely audience and again, some interesting deviations from the set list. Thanks to Rod for bringing us back to Hornby again, we loved it.

And so to the last gig of the tour, The Duchess in York.  A great venue and a first for us, but we managed to pull a good crowd and finished the tour off as we started it - loving every note of it! It's always sad for us when the tour ends as we know it's going to be ages before we sing all those new songs again. The up side to that is we'll be going into the studio in the early spring to record the new album so that will be really exciting.

We hope you've enjoyed following our travels, it's been a fantastic tour taking us the length and breadth of this beautiful country, meeting so many lovely people and getting to stand on stage every night and do what we love doing best; sing and play for people who've spent their hard earned money on a ticket to see us.  We couldn't feel more privileged or thankful.

We'll be out again in December with St Agnes Fountain and with a brand new tour diary but until then, thanks for your support and for making this the best one yet!

Cheers, Chris and Julie.

03 October 2009

Hereford & Lichfield

Chris & Julie at LichfieldSo we headed off south to Hereford for the first of the last four gigs of the tour. Interesting and historic town, Hereford.  The home of the SAS, the birthplace of Nell Gwynne, even Elgar bought his shoes here!

The Courtyard is a beautiful theatre complex and the gig was great in the studio theatre with a packed house and very appreciative audience. Well done to Pete Moriarty who has taken Simon's place on sound for these last four gigs, (very big boots to fill).  He managed to keep his cool in what was a difficult and testing sound check, but against all adversities he delivered a grand job, cheers Pete. Thanks also to Jan and Sand for doing the shop - top girls!

Chris & Julie at LichfieldThe next day we only had a shortish hop up to the Guildhall at Lichfield, another of our favourite venues that always seems to pull in enthusiastic and lively audiences. It's one of those great rooms to play in and despite it's very grand appearance, has a brilliant vibe.  We had a great night, straying quite radically from our set list having had some interesting requests we hadn't played in years - challenging but great fun.  Thanks to Kirstie for doing the shop, you're a star.

28 September 2009

Back up North!

Knitted BoatFirst night of this four day run was at the Customs House in South Shields. A brilliant venue that houses a theatre, cinema, art gallery and bistro. There was a beautiful exhibition of knitting of all things - all to do with the sea.  They had even knitted a boat which you'll see Chris and I standing next to in the picture. The recession has been evident at a few gigs on this tour but none more so than at this one, playing to an audience of 24!  It must be 10 years since we played in front of such a small audience but bless 'em their enthusiasm was that of 200.

The next day took us south to my hometown, or close enough anyway. Rob Shaw has been running 'The Rock' (formerly at Wentworth, now in Rotherham) for 35 years and I've been playing there since I was 15.  I always cite The Rock as where I did my apprenticeship, where I tried out my early self-penned songs alongside my Carole King repertoire. JulieRob Shaw is like a brother to me, we have such great memories and history. There was an extra treat in store for me as 3 of my old school teachers came to see the show. All three were an inspiration to me as an impressionable young eleven year old (I was a member of John Cole's jazz band, 'King Cole and the Cole Men') and it was a real pleasure to meet up with them all again. It's always a great night at The Rock but this sell-out had an extra sprinkling of specialness on top. Cheers Rob!

Derbyshire is a jewel of a county, blanketed in stunning greenery and countryside and studded with pretty picturesque villages, none more so than Ashover, about 15 minutes south of Chesterfield. Our gig was at the Parish Hall and was set up and laid out beautifully for what turned out to be a great gig. It's lovely to find people so dedicated and thoughtful in how to make what is essentially just a hall, lighting it tastefully and making it a warm and inviting place for people to come to. The team of people there were really hospitable, laying on a meal before the show where we all sat down and broke bread together - lovely. Special thanks to Steve and Caroline.

ChrisLast night of the run took us to my present neck of the woods, just outside of Penrith and to the Upfront Gallery. The proprietors, John and Elaine have turned their business into a brilliant multi-purpose place. It's an art gallery, craft shop and bistro with a beautiful puppet theatre in a converted milking shed.  Seeing the potential of expanding the use of this space they have now embarked on putting on a series of concerts and what a brilliant idea that was. With a sell-out concert and an electric atmosphere, this was up there with the creme of this tour's gigs. Watch out for this venue, I think it's destined for great things. John is already talking of expanding and improving it as a theatre space. He has great enthusiasm and when you visit Upfront and see what they've achieved already you just know whatever their vision is, they'll make it happen.

So a couple of days off before the final leg. Sadly, we'll be continuing without our dream team, Simon and Jil as they have unavoidable alternative commitments but can we just take this opportunity to say a huge thanks to both of them, they really are as good as it gets and we've had the best time on this tour.

22 September 2009

Priddy & North Boarhunt

Our last couple of gigs on this 12 day run have taken us through and to some very pretty places indeed. We only had a short trip up from South Petherton to Priddy so we did a bit of retail therapy at Clarkes Village on the outskirts of Street. A retail outlet village, Clarkes is very tastefully done and we've been to a few of them over the years!  Worth a short detour off the M5 if you're passing and it's your kind of thing. In the afternoon we spent a very lovely hour perusing the crystal shops and drinking coffee in the 'alternative' Mecca of the country, Glastonbury. With it's very beautiful abbey and nestled at the foot of the Tor, Glastonbury is so much more than the site of our biggest festival. It's an ancient and very atmospheric town and well worth a trip out of festival season.

Chris & Julie at StockbridgeArriving in the village of Priddy was a bit like driving onto the set of 'Jam and Jerusalem' - what a beautiful place. Even the bell ringers were having a practice in the church next door to the village hall, one of them even invited Chris to join them the following evening as she was sitting outside watching the sunset and complimented their sound! What a shame she couldn't take them up, that would've made a great photo. Lovely gig, lovely end to a perfect Indian Summers day.
The next day we headed west, skirting Salisbury and stopping for lunch in a delightful little town called Stockbridge. Again, the weather was glorious and as we were taking smaller roads we drove through some gorgeous villages, this really is a beautiful country.

Last stop was at Forest Folk in North Boarhunt for a sell-out concert in front of a great audience who sang like a choir to old and new songs alike. We're loving the mix of songs on this tour and the reaction to all the new material has filled us with eager anticipation for going into the studio in the new year to record the new album.

Long drive home north today for a couple of nights off, to be honest we're more than ready for them, we're all knackered! See ya in a few days for the next leg.

20 September 2009

Wavendon, Spalding & South Petherton

JulieThe Stables at Wavendon, near Milton Keynes is an amazing venue. It was first established in 1969 by John Dankworth and Cleo Lane in the Stable block in the grounds of their home as a centre for bringing diverse genres of music and making it accessible to all classes of people. It has since moved out of the Stable block and into a fantastic new purpose built theatre and is a hub of creative activity: concerts, workshops, music camps and master classes. It's also now a registered charity and is incredibly well supported by it's patrons which of course includes Dankworth and Lane. We had a great gig; lovely audience.  Thanks to the staff, crew and volunteers who make us so welcome each time we come back.

Next day we headed east and across the Fens into Lincolnshire for our gig at the South Holland Centre at Spalding. It's striking how the scenery changes the deeper into Lincolnshire you go, the land flattening out and the view stretching out for miles, it's a big sky over here. The area's not called South Holland for nothing, our friend Jude, who we were staying with, told us that the area used to be blanketed with tulip fields grown by Dutch settlers and that she remembers as a child the beauty of them.  The tulip fields are gone now but you can imagine how it must have looked. South Holland CentreThe theatre is beautiful and we were delighted to get a good audience in an area we so rarely visit. Lots of new people again, people who came along to see something different and went away as converts! Come again!

After a very restful stay at Sue and Jude's house, and with our batteries recharged, we set off the following morning for the south west.  Down to the bottom of the M5, into Somerset and to one of favourite venues: David Hall at South Petherton. The team of volunteers who run this arts centre are unsung heroes who have fought and campaigned to keep this very precious venue open for the last few years. They've not only won that battle but also got some lottery funding so have a new stage and a new balcony too. Congratulations!  From the the moment we stepped on stage we knew we were in for a great night, the atmosphere was electric and the audience were so generous with their cheers and laughter and chorus voices too.  What a night, surely a highlight of the tour.

Can't thank our wonderful team mates, Jil Barke (tour manager) and Simon Yorath (sound engineer) enough for their dedication, talents and fine company, guys, you're the best.

18 September 2009

Hitchin, Nettlebed & Bristol

Outside the Sun Hotel with friendsAnother unfailing and totally supportive venue for us over the years is Hitchin Folk Club, run by Maureen and Keiron Jones for most of the 40 odd years it's been going. They are the tops and dear friends to us both. The club is held in the ballroom of the Sun Hotel and the atmosphere is always electric. This gig was no exception, the audience singing like a choir on both old and new songs alike. Special thanks also to Paul who runs the Sun, he always makes us feel so welcome.

The next day we took Simon's advice and took the scenic route cross country to Nettlebed.  Great advice!  The trip was delightful crossing over into the Chilterns and made a refreshing change from the usual M1 / M25. Again, Nettlebed is another one of those clubs that's been running for ages and has a great team of people who keep it all running like a well oiled machine. I don't think we've done a tour yet that hasn't included this gig, great night as always.

We invested an hours driving after the gig for the opportunity to stay at our dear friends Jo and Rob Selbourne's house.  Prebendal, the place of our one day festival Party on the Lawn. We missed the festival out this year but will be doing it again next year on June the 19th so it was good to go over a few things the following morning with Rob and Jo with regard to the line up which is all but finalised. Really exciting to be doing it again, it's always a highlight for us. With a Jo Selbourne special breakfast tucked away, we headed off to Bristol for a two night stint at a new venue, Cabot Circus.

Chris & Julie at BristolIan Storror (Lorraine Carpenter and Ian Storror used to run the infamous Albert Hole, an amazing live music pub in Bristol for years until the brewery stopped supporting them and were forced to leave) has now got a new job running the live music venue of a brand new hotel, Future Inns. This was the launch of it all, hence the two nights to accomodate the VIPs and investors as well as our own audience. This venue has great potential and will hopefully put Bristol on the map again as a 'must play' gig. Their line up for the season is excellent, including our bezzie pal Helen Watson, so if you live round these parts, go check it out and lend your support to Ian and what promises to be a brilliant magnet for Jazz, Folk and Blues talent. Good luck Ian. (He makes a cracking veggie chilli too!)

13 September 2009

Canterbury to Marlborough

After a couple of days off and just enough time to do our washing and repack our cases, we headed down to Banbury for our gig at The Mill, one of our favourite venues and a regular on every tour. There's nothing more pleasing than a flat floor stage with raked seating, it's so much nicer to look up the audience than it is to look down on them from a stage. It was great to have Chris Leslie, our Aggie pal, in the audience who as ever was really effusive about all the new songs and the show. Canterbury Cathedral  On a personal note, it's great to see a turn in the weather and the start of what they're promising to be an Indian summer, just hope this doesn't lead you all to opt for the barbeque rather than a While and Matthews gig!

Next day we headed south on the dreaded M25 but it was mercifully easy for a Friday and arrived at Canterbury Cathedral in time to see a glorious sunset bathing this historic and majestic building bathed in a salmon pink glow. The Arts Centre is within the grounds of the Cathedral and sits under its towering shadow. It's a beautiful venue and the promotion is done by a dedicated and delightful team of people from 'Folk in the Barn'. We had a great night, again lots of new people who all seemed to leave with smiles on their faces - result!

Jil & Simon in MarlboroughSaturday took us back around the M25 and west to Marlborough, one of our favourite towns in the country especially in December when we're doing our Christmas shopping! Again it was a beautiful balmy day in Marlborough so we had a  chilled couple of hours on the High Street before heading up to the gig for sound check. We've done a lot of gigs in Marlborough over the years and every one of them has been promoted by Andrew Bumphrey, a truly lovely man who does such an amazing job of bringing Folk/Roots music to the area. We can't thank Andrew and his wife Sarah enough for their support and kindness throughout our career.  They have turned their love of live music into a brilliant mission, they're the epitome of local heroes, they're also top friends. Great gig, great crack round the supper table.

09 September 2009

Lickey & Nailsea

Chris & Julie at LickeyNext stop after Reeth was an old favourite of ours - Lickey Parish Hall, just south of Birmingham. Another nice area to visit; the Lickey Hills are great for walks and kite flying and its all just a stones throw from either the M42 or M5. The gigs are promoted by Paul Edwards, a very lovely singer/songwriter in his own right who always opens the show with five or six songs of his own. It was a great night, again, lovely to see lots of new faces in the audience but great to see old friends who in some cases have been following the duo from its conception, notably Malci and Gel and the whole team from Kingswinford. Malci is an inspiration for us all having suffered from MS the whole time we've known him but he never seems to lose his humour and his passion for music - great to see you guys, thanks for coming.

Clevedon PierThe next morning we decided to have a stop off for lunch on our way to Nailsea at the nearby waterside town of Clevedon. The tour so far has been particularly rainy but today the weather was kind and we had a delightful time sitting over a lazy lunch on the prom and just watching the world go by and the gentle waves of the estuary rolling in on the beach by the pier - lovely. They even threw in a brass band to round the whole experience off nicely for us! On to the gig and it's a while since we've played Nailsea Folk Club but as ever it was a lovely night. I think it must be a big ask and take a lot of dedication to run folk clubs week in and week out but David Francis does this at Nailsea with a lot of enthusiasm and good humour. Thanks for keeping this great tradition going Dave.

Three days off now before the next leg so home for us all to catch up with our families, washing and soaps!

05 September 2009

Old friends - New friends

Having been delayed a day on the Isle of Man, we only had a day turn around at home to do our washing and pack our bags for the next leg of the tour.  
Pre ShowFirst stop was Biddulph Town Hall. We've been doing gigs for Eric Cox (the promoter) for years now, playing at a number of venues in the area but the audience travels well between the various places so we always have a great night and the Town Hall was no exception.

It was made all the more lovely by staying with our friends Vanya and Graham just over the hill in the most divine setting overlooking the beautiful rolling hills of North Staffordshire and South Cheshire. Lovely restful stay and Graham cooks up a storm of a breakfast.

Next day was a hometown gig for me (Julie) at the Academy Theatre in Birdwell, five miles from where I was born and raised so naturally it was a treat for me to have my Mum and Dad in the audience. I even had a couple of old sixth form friends turn up that I hadn't seen since leaving school! 'Class Reunion' was very apt! Great night, topped off with sleeping in my childhood bedroom.

Next day we headed north up the A1 to Reeth, a new venue for us at the Memorial Hall.  What an incredibly beautiful part of the world Reeth is nestled in, right up at the top of the North Yorkshire Dales. We turned left at Scotch Corner and took the road through Richmond, a very picturesque little town that we really would have liked more time to explore. If you haven't been to this neck of the woods before we can't recommend it highly enough; every corner you drive around takes your breath away and every village you drive through makes you feel like you're in an episode of 'All Creatures Great and Small'. Treat yourself to a weekend here and remember your camera!

Open all hoursThe gig itself was great with people coming from far and wide but with also a good number of newcomers to us who all seemed to go away very happy.  As well as the half a dozen new songs we're singing on this tour, we're also revisiting lots of old stuff as we're promoting the re-release of the newly packaged and pressed live double album 'Stages' which has been out of press for 3 years. These songs feel like old friends to us and it was great to play them to people who hadn't heard them before.  

Back down the A1 today, next installment in a couple of days.

03 September 2009

From the Wirral to The Isle of Man

The tour got off to a flying start with a sell out gig on the Wirral, trying out all our new songs in front of a lovely enthusiastic audience who made us feel incredibly happy to be back on stage again. 

PeelThe next morning we flew to the Isle of Man for our concert at the Centenary Centre in Peel, our first appearance on the Island in ten years. We have a wonderful association with the Island as we recorded the Daphne's Flight album here, following that with Chris's solo album 'In the Big Room'. Both albums were made possible by the incredible kindness and generosity of Dave and Lizzie McLean who owned the studio and opened their home and hearts to us and have remained dear and very precious friends since. 

It was Dave who again brought us over for the gig, a fantastic new venue in Peel which turned out to be another sell-out and a fantastic audience. The concert was opened by singer/songwriter Kathryn Crowe, a resident of the island who we sincerely hope travels beyond these shores and shares her music with the rest of the world. Peel CastleWe were also reunited with our Daphne's Flight engineer, Anglin Buttimore and not only did he do a fantastic job on sound but he was also as much fun to be around as we remember - top bloke. 

If you haven't been to the island then make it a must visit before........place, it's Eden here and the Manx people are so friendly and laid back. Peel is a beautiful town, the majestic castle crowning the hill that looks west across the Irish Sea and east down across the promenade and old town.

Chris & Julie at Peel CastleTo take advantage of our time here we flew the day before the gig and had booked flights for two days after so we could do a bit of sight seeing and catching up with our friends. As it turned out we had an extra night on the Island as bad weather prevented flights coming in and out.  The downside to that was a 7am flight the next day so not as much revelling was had as we would have liked!

Thank you to the beautiful McLean family, we'll be back, though not within hours again!