22 December 2010

Birmingham - The Town Hall

We've all been so excited about doing the last gig here that not even the horrendous weather was going to stop us, even if it meant it stopped the rest of the audience coming. Nothing really had prepared me for the spectacle that is the Town Hall though - it is simply breathtaking. We set off early from Thoresby so that we could take our time but as it turned out, the roads were fine and we arrived early afternoon. The wonderful German Market was on outside the hall which made it all even more christmassy and we had lots of time for a leisurely set-up and to simply soak up the atmosphere. However, I had to do a mad dash to a music shop before it closed as my harmonica packed up but thankfully I had Jo and Emma to swiftly guide me to the right place with minutes to spare before lock up.

All our lovely friends and extended Aggies started to arrive to lend support to the proceedings with the final night of the raffle and preparing for the grand draw. Special thanks to Lyn, Sandra, Janet, Kirstie, Maria, Anji, Jo, Emma, Vanya and Graham - you all know the great work you did for the band and we really do appreciate it.
It became evident as the concert was about to begin that about 100 people who had bought tickets were unable to make it. The 300 that did make it however (through blizzards and the like) helped us celebrate with a slightly extended show. We even got our whole crew on stage for the encore - Jil, Simon and Herbie - it was a Uke fest and a real blast! They have been the dream team on this tour, we love them all and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for all they have done.

One of the highlights of the night of course was drawing the raffle for Chris's Crafter guitar. It has been an amazing fund-raiser, we can't thank you all kindly enough for your astounding generousity. Safe to say you have made a HUGE difference to a very special woman's life. The winner was Jane Routledge and we phoned her from the stage, she was understandably a bit taken aback but extremely pleased! The guitar is booked in to be sent by courier on the 29th December so there will hopefully lots of beautiful music played in that house as the new year comes in.

So that's it for another year! The 2011 tour is just about finalised already and we plan on releasing a very special 'Best of...' CD so that should be quite exciting.
In the mean time, hope you've enjoyed the little snippets of our tour, have a wonderful Christmas and thank you so much for your continued support.

Lots of love and Christmas cheer, Julie, Chris, Chris and David.

20 December 2010

Marlborough through to Thoresby

St Mary's Church - Marlborough
We have done a concert in Marlborough every one of the ten years of St Agnes Fountain, playing in three different venues and though they've all been great, the venue we have settled on over the last few years is absolutely brilliant, classy and grande. We're also lucky enough to sell it out with 300 very enthusiastic and Christmassy people. Marlborough is also a very pretty town at the best of times but at Christmas it's so, well - Christmassy! Perfect place to celebrate Chris Leslie's birthday too and here he is sporting one of his birthday presents!
Thanks as always to Andrew and Sarah Bumphrey for not only promoting the concert but for their lovely hospitality, kindness and friendship.

The Mill - Banbury
Chris L's home town gig and a favourite of all the band's. We usually do two nights here but putting in the Birmingham Town Hall gig meant we didn't want to over saturate the area when there's only an hour between venues. As a result Banbury was sold out months ago with a very long waiting list. Managed to sneak in a bit of Christmas shopping, the van isn't quite groaning from the weight of Santa sacks but it's definitely expanding. Great relief to have more raffle tickets finally delivered 3 days after a 24hour guaranteed post but perfect timing as the last one of the first batch was sold last night! Phew!

Thoresby - Riding Stables
Oh dear, woke in Banbury to discover the country had ground to a halt yet again with snow. This tour seems determined to finish as it began - white! Getting out of Oxfordshire was the biggest challenge, it took us four and half hours to make a two hour journey, on top of the weather it was Friday traffic, joy o joy. Still, we made it in one piece and still had time for dinner! Lovely venue the Riding Stables and a great team of music loving enthusiasts who run it - Farnsfield Acoustic. I got an added bonus tonight as my Mum and Dad came to see us, Christmas came early for me, can't think of a present I'd rather have more than their smiling faces in the audience. No pack down tonight as we're back here again for another night, yippee, lie-in at the lodge and Corrie catch-up, though I would imagine one of the rooms will definately be tuned to football focus!

Day two - Thoresby
Everyone is getting very worried about our final night in Birmingham tomorrow, apparently two feet of snow has dumped itself on the city and everything there had ground to a halt, no buses, trains and people are stranded all over the shop. Keeping everything crossed that it all goes ahead. In the meantime, great second night at Thoresby to 300 happy festive people. Thank you so much to Farnsfield Acoustic for donating their raffle takings to our fundraiser, very generous as has been the case of all the hundreds of people who have bought tickets and pens and donated so generously, what lovely people we get to play for every night.

18 December 2010

Nettlebed & Lechlade

Nettlebed - Village Club
There's nothing nicer when you arrive at a venue and there's a hot meal planned for the band and crew, especially when you've been travelling all day and it's cold outside. Nettlebed isn't one of those places as the people who run it don't arrive until 7ish. This year however we were in for a brilliant surprise as our new crew member, Herbie, took it upon himself to go shopping and then set up camp in the the little kitchen and make us the most wonderful meal. He laid a beautiful table and we had such a great time. Can't begin to thank him enough for making the pre-show experience at Nettlebed the best ever. Another great show, the charity raffle and pens is going brilliantly, we've had to order more tickets as they're selling beyond all expectations, hope they arrive before we run out completely.

Lechlade - Memorial Hall
Chris and I did this gig last year, had a brilliant time and thought it would be perfect for Aggie. We were so right as well, lovely packed audience and the organisers looked after us like royalty with a beautiful hot meal and superb hospitality. Added bonus for us is we're spending the night at our dear friend's Jo and Rob Selbourne's home, Prebendal Farm, home of our wonderful Party on the Lawn. It may turn into a late night!

14 December 2010

South Petherton & Hitchin

David Hall Arts - South Petherton
I love everything about this venue, the fact that it is run by the most brilliant team of volunteers, has been saved from closure by sheer tenacity and dedication, is a beautiful space to play in and the audience are so enthusiastic and giving. The big added bonus this year is having two sell-out nights here which also means same hotel room for two nights and only one soundcheck, set up and pack down. Both were cracking gigs and big credit to Chris While who was now following in Jil's footsteps with the full blown lurgy but managed to drag herself from her sickbed and give two very determined performances. Jil too held fast to her station on the merchandise table while she was clearly feeling wretched, life on the road takes no prisoners but our two gals stocked up on tissues and hot toddies and got on with it. (There is definitely a growing need for an isolation cage on top of the minibus now though!)

The Sun Hotel - Hitchin
Always a brilliant gig, brilliantly run by Maureen and Kieron Jones and it's oh so lovely to stay in the same building as you play. Chock a block sell out so the atmosphere was buzzing. The band were on top form even though Chris is still struggling with her throat and I had a bad headache but we had lots of fun on stage regardless. Really sad that Maureen was unable to be there with her ongoing illness, we have everything crossed and then some that the phone call comes soon, darling woman.

13 December 2010

Worcester & Totnes

Worcester - Huntingdon Hall
Love this very grand venue with it's spectacular organ at the back of the stage and it's seating boxes and huge full horseshoe balcony. Brilliant atmosphere and Simon makes the sound fill every nook and crannie of the big space. Jil has started to feel a bit under the weather bless her, hope it doesn't develop into full blown lurgy. May have to strap her to the top of the bus to prevent any spread throughout the band!

Totnes - Dartington Hall
Oh my goodness! Driving through the estate of Dartington Hall, you get the feeling you're coming to something very special but even that feeling doesn't quite prepare you for the spectacle of The Great Hall. It really is magnificent. It had the biggest tree I've ever seen indoors and made our screens look like matchsticks! It is seeping in history and grandeur and is such a perfect setting for the Aggie show. Beautiful meal in the restaurant, we were given such excellent hospitality and then had the joy of a pre-show carol concert outside where lots of Christmas trees had been dressed and illuminated. Our very own Chris L did a short reading for them as someone had dropped out at the last minute - quite the thespian our Chris, beautiful. Shame we can't have a day shopping in Totnes, always an Aggie favourite for presents but the schedule won't allow, oh well, the Totnes economy will no doubt take a nose dive as a result - sorry!

08 December 2010

Maldon & Farnham

Maldon - St Mary's Church
David is a local hero here in Maldon and the annual Aggie concert is always a great success. We usually play the Town Hall but David decided this year to revisit a venue we played a few years ago - St Mary's Church. There's no getting away from the fact that churches are the most perfectly atmospheric venues for St Agnes Fountain but there is a major draw back and the clue is in when we tour - December and it's usually freezing. This year is about as cold as we've ever been and though the audience had under-pew heating, our end of the church was bloody baltic! David managed to arrange a few electric heaters to go on the back of the stage so off we went into the first song, second song, then half way through the third the stage lights went out! Herbie scrambled about behind the stage and within half a song, we had lights again. Sure enough though after another song, out they went again! This went on for pretty much the first set until all the heaters were abandoned in favour of lights and scarves! The concert was great though and Maldon did David proud.

The Maltings - Farnham
What a brilliant venue and a new one for St Agnes Fountain. It has a great history too, previously a Malthouse, it was due for demolition in the 60's and a load of local people clubbed together and saved it. Thank goodness they did because it's such a great space for the arts; a couple of theatre rooms, dance studio, gallery, jewellery exhibits, restaurant, bar etc etc. Not only is it a great venue but the audience were absolutely delightful and really enthusiastic. Thanks Farnham, we'll be back!

06 December 2010

Halesworth and Canterbury

With a long journey ahead of us it was good to see the thaw had begun and the roads were mercifully clear. In fact the nearer Suffolk we got the less snow there was so even though we seemed to be in the bus for light years, it was a stress free journey. The gig at Halesworth is a great venue, The Cut. We haven't played here since our Blue Tapestry days so it was lovely to see a full house and everyone very much in the Christmas spirit. For anyone who has read these diaries before you may have heard me talk about the 3rd day slump, it's exactly what it says, the third gig, the band take a bit of a dip in performance, not so the audience would particularly notice but it niggles all of us. Anyway, can't have been very noticeable because the end of the night brought lots of cheers and smiling faces. Thanks to Richard and Lin Patterson for their superb hospitality, I don't know, slumming it again! (Their house should have been on Grand Designs).

Four hour trip on Sunday to Canterbury, always a favourite for us at the Cathedral Arts Centre and right under the shadow of the old dame herself. The gig has been a sell-out for ages so there was much anticipation amongst us for a great night. That turned out to be an understatement! It was fantastic! Great audience, superb sound (thanks Simon, and thanks Herbie for fixing my in ear monitors) unbelievable generosity for our fundraiser and the band felt on top form, really cooking. Thanks to Folk in the Barn for promoting the gig, It's going to take a hell of a night to beat that one. (Now there's a challenge!)

06 December 2010

From Rushton Spencer to Hull

Spending three days rehearsing in the beautiful home of our dear friends Vanya and Graham is something of a hardship really. Having to look out at the stunning scenery, cooked for morning, afternoon and night by Graham, looked after like royalty by Vanya and entertained by Aggie the dog, what a chore it all is! On the third night we do a house concert which serves two fold, it raises money for their local hospice and gives us a dress rehearsal for the tour, perfect. One snag this year, it snowed. Snow on snow on snow! Graham worked tirelessly each day clearing the long drive but the roads around the village were treacherous. We didn't think we'd have an audience but those concert goers are intrepid and nothing short of tenacious! There was a real spirit about everyone achieving it that night and it was a perfect end to yet another wonderful stay at Pool Hall, we've got to be the luckiest band in the world to have such friends (not to mention they have a reindeer herders hut where we have our Christmas party each year!) thank you so much V&G, we love ya's.

And so to the first gig, Worden Arts Centre in Leyland. Boy a lot of snow has fallen on this little Island and everyone is struggling to get around. We were determined to be the band that didn't miss a gig but knew that the first few were going to be a challenge. Our minibus was supposed to arrive on the day of the house concert but Lyn and Jil couldn't make the journey (it's a BIG beast!) so they rescheduled to bring it to Leyland. That left us having to take 2 cars with all of us, all our gear and Kirstie driving one of them. What a star she is, especially when we discovered on arrival at Leyland we'd taken Vanya and Graham's son's car keys with us and she drove back to Staffordshire with them! What a start to the tour. Lovely first gig though with the arrival of our wonderful team, Simon, Herbie and Jil. It was a sell-out and most people braved the weather for the show so the atmosphere was buzzing.

Gig number 2 took us to Barton upon Humber and we'd been hearing reports that it was the worst affected area in England, oh boy were we in for a challenge. The weather got worse the further east we went and bitterly cold but the camaraderie in the bus was great and we kept each others spirits up while Chris Leslie did a brilliant and really steady drive. On arrival the snow was 3 feet deep and the chill from the sea was almost arctic. The side of the venue was covered in icicles like Ive never seen, four foot long and as fat as a fist. We had a lot of fun sword fighting with them at the end of the night. Unsurprisingly, only a third of the sell-out audience made the journey but for the ones that did brave it, we gave them our best shot. We had a 25 mile journey to make after the show to our travelodge and by now it was snowing heavily again and the motorway lanes were now covered and the snow was virgin. It was a real white knuckle journey (CL you're a hero) with Simon and Herbie travelling in convoy behind us and the relief when we made it back was palpable, a collective sigh from the front and back of the bus. This is going to be an eventful tour!

06 December 2010

About this years St Agnes Fountain fundraiser

Joan Smith is an amazing woman and an inspirational Mother to Nathan, Thomas, Martha and Dora.  This year’s St Agnes Fountain fundraiser is in aid of Joan, Martha and Dora and in memory of two extraordinary young men: Nathan and Thomas who had a long term neuro-degenerative disease.

We are selling raffle tickets at every gig on the tour to win Chris While's Crafter guitar including a case donated by our lovely friends Vanya & Graham.   

Chris While’s beautiful Cutaway Crafter is fitted with an LR Baggs pick up system and EQ, it has been on tour with us for two years and has been instrumental in the writing of many of Chris’s great songs, particularly ‘Darkside Wood’.  Chris is happy to give up this great little guitar to what she believes is a fantastic fundraising cause so we are asking our audiences to please join in with Chris’s generosity and buy a raffle ticket for only £2. 

 

All the band have signed it and David is playing it throughout the tour.  The raffle will be drawn at Birmingham Town Hall during the last night of the tour and the winner will be called from the stage!

We are also selling our 'Fountain' pens again this year - A 10th Anniversary Special Edition.

All profits will be given to Joan with your love