Saturday, 31 December 2011




falling apart! like melting ice

unshaped! like an uncarved block of wood

open! like an empty cave

confused! like murky water

who can let murkiness, through quieting,

gradually come to clarity?

who can let stillness, through stirring,

gradually come to life?

when you let go of what you are

you become what you might be

if you realize that all things change

there is nothing you will try to hold on to

keeping to this path

you guard against being overfull

truly not full of yourself

you can lose yourself

and be newly made

if you are not afraid of dying,

there is nothing you cannot achieve

Lao Tse (570 - 490BC) 


Thursday, 22 December 2011


As 2011 draws to a close I look back over the year with some satisfaction. I have had a fantastic time playing the fair days pay for a fair days work gigs and I have met some amazing people. I have enjoyed the public gigs too. I thought it might be a bit of an ask to expect that people would give me their time and lend their ears to yours truly in solo mode, especially after the epic EBB gigs we put on at the end, but that seems a long time ago. I have been very kindly received and made welcome every where I have been. I've done more or less every thing I set out to do including the release of the live solo album By Myself which I believe is a real and honest representation of my year in concert.

The Mickey Jones Memorial double DVD is available now. It is a labour of love and a valuable document of it's time, the music and people who care. It is a testament to what can be done with skill and dedication and few resources. My visit to Wales to play with George and Bob from MAN  was such a buzz and it was an honour to be asked to sing one of Mickeys songs. George's choice, the song Shit on the world, seemed entirely appropriate. Lovely people - lovely country.

It was great to meet up with First Supperists on some of the demos of the past year and to find common ground. Right now, in these times of apathy and confusion it would be very easy to dismiss our little band of brothers and sisters but we will grow in number over the next year or so and we will be heard. Arm chair critics rise up and join us or at least be heard on 38 Degrees etc. We won't hold your past reluctance to participate against you.

One of the last gigs of the year was my Beefheartian contribution to Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra show at the Barbican. I felt right at home there. Could have lived there or at least have been a well behaved house guest for a while. This was a high light in a year full of them. The lows and glitches of 2011 were tiny and few. The highs were massive and frequent. I loved playing a few gigs with Luke at the start of it all. It just always feels right. I expect there will be more of them next year.

I feel a lot healthier than when the year began and mostly stress free. I am in control and it works for me.  
I've written a lot of songs and they keep on coming. The solo shows have taught me a lot and I intend to carry on playing them as well as FDPFAFDW shows. Book me now!
I think I might be knocking at the door of a new era for me personally. I haven't felt like this about performing, or life in general, for some time. I intend to put a new show together in the new year that really will rock you. It is time to up the stakes and pump up the volume. Time to jam with angels and reprobates to find the new core of a new project that is powerful, positive and NOW! Listen to me eh? The thing is I have written half of the show in my head and I have the scent of the first gig. Wanna COME to the FIRST SUPPER?

I don't know what 2012 will bring but I am completely unafraid and looking forward to it all. I wish you all well. I hope your dreams for yourself and your people all come true but - always be careful what you wish for and don't give up what is real for what is illusory.

Finally my thanks to all who helped and supported me through 2011. Special thanks to John and Val Bradshaw, Shirlok, Ramblin' Mad Dave Randell, and all the hosts of the FDPFAFDW gigs.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

by myself competition



(1) “No its not a talking spotlight its a camera and its taking pictures of this song I am writing, even through this special hat”.

(2) "And I thought you put the guitars in the car".

Email your postal address to to receive your prize.

father and son glastonbury 2011

It is competition time. We haven't had one for a while so here we go. As you will know by now, the BY MYSELF album is completed and on sale. It is a collection of songs performed through out 2011 and includes songs from Fair Days Pay For A Fair Days Work gigs as well as some performances from public gigs.
It was my intention to capture the atmosphere of the shows as simply as possible and so the audio was all recorded on a small stereo digital recorder and is virtually unprocessed in it's final form. It is as real as it gets.

The above photo was taken by Dave Randell at Glastonbury 2011.
All you have to do is leave an alternative caption for the photo as a comment on here to enter the competition for a signed copy of the album. The usual rules apply so you can make as many entries as you like under different names.
The winning caption will be chosen on Thursday the 15th December.
There will be two albums on offer so the best two captions will get a prize.
If the winners will send mail address details to , when the winning entries are announced on here, the albums will be posted to them.

click on photos to enlarge

BY MYSELF available at where you can hear My Salvation a track from the album recorded live at The Priory in The Wirral.

BY MYSELF is now available with PAY PAL in THE SHOP. 

FDPFAFDW hosts who collected cash for charity from their guests have raised £1600 and counting for charities of their choice including NSPCC, the bereaved families of the recent Welsh mining disaster, various hospices and Cancer Research. Fantastic!

Book a FDPFAFDW gig for 2012 now at


Monday, 21 November 2011


some of our friends are silent

A little time ago I got an email from Mr Jerry Dammers of The Specials and now the Spatial AKA Orchestra. He said he had an idea and eventually it turned out to be yours truly singing Frown land, the Beefheart song, at his next gig. I went along to a rhythm section rehearsal where we tried out the idea with bass, drums, two guitars and Jerry on keyboards. I was warmly welcomed and the whole thing was very relaxed for me. I had listened to the song Frownland until my head hurt and I was prepared. The guys soon produced this slippery and slick groove that knocked along like a well oiled machine in no time at all.
I watched them playing some nice dubby ska for the Johnny Clarke songs after my bit. It was clear to see these guys are very good. Johnny had come over from Jamaica for the show and was getting settled in town. We all agreed the Beefheart song would work and I turned up for the full rehearsal the day before the show on Friday. As I walked into the room I was a bit surprised by the sight of the full orchestra and even more blown away when the brass and every one else kicked in to the riff. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end.
We ran through the song three times and that was it. I even got a warm round of applause from the whole orchestra. That was a first. Having the chance to stay around and see how this all worked was fascinating. These folk were all very committed to the project and the atmosphere was special and totally harmonious. I wanted to live there.

sound check

Friday came with a little nervousness. I rose as late as I could but got to the Barbican by 3pm. It is an amazing venue and public space. I had not been previously so it was quite a treat. Most of the orchestra were assembled and Ollie Bayley, electric bass, was directing operations and getting some music going while Jerry was still putting the dots together for new scores for all. Rather him than me. That is plain heroism to me but essential for this band. I sat in the front row drinking it in. Time passed and after my sound check the band continued to work. These guys refine their bits and pieces until it’s always better. Every thing in the set list was rehearsed at the sound check.
johnny clarke and anthony joseph still sound checking
As I got to know people I relaxed and the evening wore on. The doors opened and the show began. I was on fairly quickly after some tunes from the orchestra and the recitation of the words to Frown land by the resident poet Anthony Joseph. I marched out into the lights wearing Jerry’s sartorial idea of The Captain. This consisted of a dark suit with the arms to the elbow, a white dress shirt, a stove pipe hat, black leather shoes and some red beads which were a last minute addition from the very nice man who was in charge of wardrobe. I wore a black mask to hide my true identity ha ha! Every one in the band wore a costume and mask or shades.

We rocked through the song in what seemed like a flash and I walked off to the sound of applause. It was a sold out show and they were very receptive. I headed for my dressing room grabbed some goodies and headed for the roof via a lift. What I didn’t know was that Jerry was calling me back for a curtain call. Oh well! I would get my chance to unmask during the finale so it could still all turn out ok.

still sound checking
I wandered to the top of the balcony, still in my Beefheart clothes to check the band. It sounded fine and the mix was perfect. I got back to watch the rest of the set on a monitor back stage and made sure I was ready for the finale and my unmasking. It really was fun.
There were so many high lights for me, especially seeing my old mate Rick Rogers and his friend who re-counted tales of booking the EBB for Belfast Uni, at the height of “The troubles” when almost no other band would venture there. Great days!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these folk. See this band if you can. It’s a vibrant collective with a sound ethos and is a rare and fine thing. I felt proud to have been part of it.

Thanks for asking Jerry. Any time!

Next stop a little village called Russells Water, near Henley on Thames. Where I was to play for Lea at his 53 rd birthday bash. After a brief sojourn at the very smart Red Lion Hotel it was time to taxi out to the gig. Eventually I found the venue and was pleasantly surprised by the neat and well kept village hall with a professional acoustic treatment in what to me seemed the middle of no where. It is a good example of how Lottery funding can be of major benefit when used properly in a community.
Folk were in the middle of setting up a pa system and sound checking. A table was laden with all the good things to eat at a party and there was tea. Magic!
My host, Lea Andrews was in a band some years previously and they were going to play a few numbers with drum parts off a lap top. Their guitarist had a few feedback problems which persisted what ever he did, poor man. Eventually it was sorted and Lea and his daughter Alex (13) kicked of the evening with a couple of songs. It was sweet to hear her clear pure tones against the voice of her dad and it worked nicely. Then Lea’s band played a couple of songs and things were warming up.

It was in many ways a typical FDPFAFDW audience made up of old friends and the family of the host including Lea’s 92 year old dad. I had a long talk with him after the gig. We might have stayed chatting for ages but I think it was time for him to be in his bed.

I began my set with This England which is quickly becoming one of my current favourites. I had to have a polite word with folk and explained I couldn’t really concentrate on what I was doing if people were going talk loudly and soon things settled down. That is the only time this has happened on these gigs and I am surprised it didn’t happen more often. What I do is strong but it does require folks attention. Of course it is not every one’s cup of tea and a party is a party. I never was a party person but at the same time, I would never want to dictate to folk except when  - it is about me (lol) which isn’t very often.
Any way, although the audience thinned out a little after my little chat those that remained were very attentive and warm. I ran through my songs and began to really enjoy myself. There were a few oohs! and ahs! at points in the songs where I have become used to hearing and better – feeling them, which makes it for me. I had some nice feedback from people later and got the chance to meet people face to face. The diversity was again typical of these gigs and as the time wore on it began to dawn on me that this was my last gig of the year. I shall enjoy the break. I will re-charge, write my next show for 2012 and get on with the job of making my new and some old songs and new ideas, part of a full blown electric manifesto.

Mean while my night in Russells Water was a reminder that a minstrel’s life is a good one if you are fortunate to have the kind and supportive patronage that I have received this year. Thanks Lea and all who made it work. It is a great privilege to be invited into folks lives and to be part their history.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

heart of the midlands

the barton arms

Dring - ring – ring – dring – ring – dring. The phone rings at 38 Kipling Avenue, Warwick. It is a hot summer day. Joyce ( mum) gets to the phone first. Joyce answers in her slightly Mrs Bouquet / posh telephone answering voice. “Hello Warwick 43859”. It’s an agent in Birmingham who we have been pestering / harassing to get a gig for The Original Roadrunners ( our name at the time ). He has been let down by a pop group ( sneer!) and asks if we can play at a club in Birmingham called the Elbow Room. This is a coup. Not only that but we will be playing the background music for two strippers. The agent asks if we can play the gig that evening. We agree. We always did at this stage of proceedings. A gig was a gig and it didn’t really matter where or what it was. Later we drive in the dark to Birmingham and find the gig.

The Elbow Room was a narrow corridor and there was little elbow  room hence the name. We set up and wait. It’s a late night job and these always suited me. We play some blues and then the strippers appear. Poor old Barry Compton, our bass player at the time, didn’t know where to look and his serious face reddened up as the girls divested them selves of their flimsies. I knew where to look though and enjoyed every minute. I remember telling Joyce it was playing the gig that was the best bit but I lied. The girls were lovely to me and I liked them. We actually got paid and returned home to Warwick as it was getting light.

Birmingham and it’s people were always part of our life in Warwick. Joyce was a Brummie so we often visited the relatives in Birmingham and our lovely Gran Edie, Joyce’s mother. I’m walking through Birmingham again. It is 40 plus years later. I am with Steve White and his mates and we are headed for the Barton Arms venue for his 55th birthday party and my FDPFAFDW appearance.
As we approached the Barton Arms I glanced across the street and noticed a sign over a small club. It proclaimed The Elbow Room. A small wave of pure nostalgia washed over me for a moment. I was back almost where the story of the EBB began. Full circle and what a journey! I have to say I was pleased not to be playing The Elbow Room though.
The venue was a surprise. We ate some Thai food and I checked out the upstairs room where I was to play. Victoriana and good acoustics. It was obviously a room that had seen some extraordinary scenes. In it’s heyday the Barton was host to the great luminaries of the stage who appeared at The Hippodrome nearby, now sadly gone. The whole building is still in fine condition even though it was set on fire during the recent riots. It must have been a very grand place to drink in and be be able to rub shoulders with the famous stars who stayed there.
the boys

Pete the Scouser ( roadie ) had collected an amp for me but it was more suitable for an electric guitar. He immediately suggested going back for another and re-appeared soon after with a nice little acoustic amp. What a super nice bloke! Thanks Pete.
pete the scouser and crew

Ensconced in a meeting room behind the bar I tuned up and chilled and tried unsuccessfully to finish writing a song I am still working on. Soon it was time to hit the stage and meet my audience who proved to be warm and receptive just like it is on all of these gigs.
I am always pleased and proud to find that so many of the folk, and their friends, who book me to play at their private function are “people workers”. They are social workers, youth workers, nurses, people who work with young offenders and so on. This event was no exception.
steve and yours truly

As it was Steve’s birthday I dedicated a song called This England that had it’s first airing at his gig. I had the printed lyric on the floor but I didn’t need it. Some songs do go in the memory more easily than others.
fari and kash

The evening was going nicely and soon I had come to the end of my show and it was time to mingle and try to get to know a few folk. It was time for the cake and Sue, Steve’s lovely missus, and his son Sean appeared with candles lit. Actually the cake was extremely delicious and I had to resist a second portion.
sean steve and sue

Time for the disco. This was DJ’d by the very able and professional Paul Swaby who hosts a show on local radio. He really knew how to spin some thing for every one. I enjoyed some of the silly, semi - senior dancing which included a very silly dance lead by Steve to the song Monster Mash. It was great to see this diverse gathering of friends having such a good time. It is a privilege for me to join with folk on these gigs and to be welcomed so warmly into their circle.
cheers folks !

It was a proper rocking night and a job well done by all who had worked to make it right. It was time to head off in a cab along with Steve’s mates John and Andy and Jeff who was to be my late night drinking companion at the Adam and Eve pub where we enjoyed some of the coolest dance music around. I wrote about this in a previous post - The young ones – positive images.
I enjoyed my stay in Birmingham. Proper, quality people in the heart of the midlands. Thanks folks! There is one more FDPFAFDW gig left on the date sheet for 2011 and they have all been fantastic for me. I have made many new friends. I am taking bookings for Fair Days Pay For A fair Days Work gigs for 2012 so I hope I will get to meet many more of you.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

by myself

Wednesday came, as did my good friend John who drove down from the Wigan area to collect and take me to The ROBIN at Bilston. He arrived bang on time and we arrived bang on time at Bilston. This set the tone for the rest of the trip and indeed we were always on time. This was partly due to top driving, a top end and last of the great Rovers that purrs like a pussy cat and a wonderful new satnav system. This thing makes short cuts on the fly and anticipates all traffic conditions. Shame it doesn’t have a guitar tuner and a metronome but there you go. I do love travelling around with no nasty organisational surprises or anything else rearing it’s head that detracts from what should be a buzz. What a joy!

The sound check was a delight and over in a few minutes. The spare guitar was tuned and the drinks bottles filled. The time rolled on and it was time for the opening act and what a surprise. Young Sam Draisey is a man to watch out for. It wouldn't surprise me if we see this youngster climb to a fairly lofty height among his singer song writer peers . Check him out. I'll say no more.

Time to play. The audience was lovely. Many people came to see what had replaced the electric roar and to touch base with this minstrel. Some were new to my music so it was especially interesting to get their feedback. It was good to see some old friends including Story John Edgar and some FDPFAFDW hosts including Steve White and Sue and the Peter Greening family.
The songs went by quickly and I was left buzzing. If the audience response was any thing to go by then I did ok. People were very complimentary afterwards and Paul Broome wrote a very kind review for Midland Rocks.

I love chatting with folk afterwards and it is amazing what people remember from over the years and this is true at all my gigs. They don’t often expect me to remember the same things but some times I do. The ROBIN is always a good place to play. You always get top end sound engineers and the staff are always helpful and friendly.

The set list below is more or less what I played each night with some adjustments at times.

This England
All fall down
Speak down wires
Almost dancing
Cool dark room
Christmas Song
Red star
Soldiers of the light
My salvation
Green lights
There’s a hole in it
Six white horses
Arabesque 2
Evening over rooftops

at the priory - photo by dawn ogden

We drove north after the gig and next day the satnav took us faultlessly through the evening rush hour to THE PRIORY at Birkenhead in The Wirral. If you are ever in the area this is a special place to visit. The oldest part of the medieval priory was first begun in the 11th Century. It survived until the reformation when the monks were forced to leave. Over time it was pillaged and stone was removed for new buildings. Today it houses a small but delightful new space at the top of the chapel. It is a wonderfully elegant geometric structure of wood and glass that sits on top of the medieval walls. The acoustics are superb and again the audience was very warm and very enthusiastic.

The ROBIN at Bilston was the first gig and I was a little tense and wondering how it would be before we arrived there. By the time we got to The Priory I was well chilled and looking forward to every minute. I am playing four or five old songs and the rest are all new so it is pleasantly surprising to get such a good reaction from the new songs. The evening was kicked off by Garron Frith, another fellow acoustic guitarist and singer who ran through a set of songs that sounded like he lived in them. I especially liked his solo harmonica and voice blues rendition.

Last but not least a trip to the THE VERGE a small club that runs in a room on the top floor of The Cheshire Ring a pub in Hyde, Manchester. There is some thing instant and very appealing about the motley co-operative that runs this venue. With the full support of the landlord they have established a very intimate and attractive venue for local talent and artistes from all over. They present an amazingly diverse range of acts and do it with a lot of love and not much cash. They are obviously multi skilled but I can imagine they can and do call on many others who they think might help. It’s clear that they care deeply about their venue and it’s place in the local community. This is the way forward. These are the gigs that we should all support. With out them and their perseverance there would be nowhere to see the kind of acts they promote.

We had time to chat before the gig and I became even more impressed by the whole ethos of the place. Soon it was time to begin proceedings and Garron Frith opened up the show. I got to see more of him than I had on the previous gig. This was his local venue and so I imagine he would be glad to get on with it and into it. There is always a little pressure when you are playing to your home crowd. After the first song he had settled nicely into the mood and began to visibly relax into his songs. He has a good rapport with his audience and mine too. He went down very well. Nice one Garron! Looking forward to next time.

It was my turn now for the slight nervous fluttering in the belly. It is always a good sign before the show. The packed audience gave me a rousing welcome and stayed with me on the whole journey until the last song. What a lovely place and such lovely people!

I will gladly go back to do that all again. John and I had a ball. We were two big boys out to play. We were mostly professional and grown up but the rest of the time we were exchanging tall but true tales or falling about laughing.

Thank you to all who came to see my gigs and to those who pre-ordered my live album BY MYSELF. Thank you to Henry for booking the shows and special thanks to John Bradshaw who drove and looked after me so well on the road. The job’s yours mate. Special thanks to Val Bradshaw for the late suppers and late breakfasts and for all the fun filled hospitality. Here’s to the next time.

By Myself is a compilation of the best of the 2011 live shows plus bonus tracks.  To pre-order the live album email  The album will be delivered to you before the end of november 2011 if you pre-order now.

For more info


Monday, 31 October 2011

So it's off on my travels again. I hope to see some of you on my mini tour of the north. As some of you will know I have been recording most of my solo gigs this year and it seemed logical to make an album out of the best of the collected material. If you are coming to the gig then for a tenner you can pre-order the album. You will get the Live album BY MYSELF delivered to your address as soon as it is completed. Pre- order forms will be available after the shows and a personally signed receipt will be given for every pre-order.

If you can't attend one of the gigs but want to buy the album it will cost £11.99 inc postage. For details email You will be sent a pre- order form and payment details.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

few will shed a tear

So Gaddafi is gone and few will shed a tear. I do have one concern around his last moments though. It is probably very naïve of me to think it might be otherwise but if the transitional Governments statement that he died in a cross fire is untrue, this is what we are used to from our leaders including Gaddafi himself. It is the spin that covers the unpalatable truth and the lies that are meant to placate us when we have such concerns. Not the best way to start afresh.
I think many people will believe that they caught and killed him and he was never going to stand trial for war crimes. Having said that, if he was executed we have to take into account the reality that existed for his killers at the time. 

Given the circumstances it was unlikely that after capture Gaddafi could expect any mercy. This is a man who was known for his cruelty and not known for his compassion or sense of justice. Opponents disappeared in the thousands. Still he asked his captors “What have I done to you”? I will be happier when they catch Smirking Boy, Saif. He must be apprehended and brought to book for his service to daddy.There are few models for fair and just arbitration between peoples of differing opinions in Libya and most disagreements have been addressed with violence. So the future will be difficult. Bringing different fractions together in the country will be a new and challenging experience but with the right support they can make it happen. I wish them well. Power to the people.

I have watched the unfolding drama outside St Paul’s Cathedral with great interest. If they move to a site that can accomodate more people I intend to join them. We can’t simply deconstruct the capitalist machine but it is busted and not fit for purpose and the free market is becoming an albatross around all our necks. It isn’t working any more. The relationship between Government and big business, especially multi national corporations, is crippling. It ensures an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor and the vulnerable.

Today the CEO of Wal-Mart (ASDA) earns 900 times the wage of his average employee. The wealth of the Wal- Mart family estimated to be 90 billion dollars is the same as the bottom 40% of the American population, 120 million people. In his book ILL FARES THE LAND Tony Judt says “ We have reverted to the attitudes of our early Victorian forbears. Once again, we believe exclusively in incentives, “effort” and reward- together with penalties for inadequacy. We have reverted to the hard, cold world of Enlightened economic rationality, first and best expressed in The fable of the bees, Bernard Mandeville’s 1732 essay on political economy. Workers in Mandeville’s view, “have nothing to stir them up to be serviceable but their wants, which it is prudent to relieve but folly to cure” Tony Blair couldn’t have said it better”.

At least some of England is working well on some levels. I have been in Leicester for the past couple of days visiting Luke. If you are ever in Leicester go for a walk down the Narborough Road. You will see that the multi ethnic society is working nicely – thank you? Of course there are issues to be addressed but there is a thriving mini society in the area that is lively and as healthy as could be expected and it is a vital as any I have experienced. The benefits of many diverse groups coming together here are real and obvious.

Next up for me is a couple of days intensive fishing on the Thames with Sonny, Steve’s lad. This will be special. We haven’t done it for ages. I hope he catches a big ‘un. After that it’s my nose to the grind stone and some serious rehearsing for the changes to the show, for my November gigs at Bilston, Manchester and The Wirral.
I have made a few changes to the web site including the addition of a couple of songs from FDPFAFDW shows on the Works in Progress page. You can book 2012 FDPFAFDW shows any time from now on. It’s a bit early I know but if you want a specific date, especially in the summer, now is the time.


Monday, 10 October 2011

the flickering light

Frank Bungay - peoples bard

The Mad Pride Fundraiser was a great night out for me and we raised some cash for a very worthy cause. I like to be involved with people who are clearly concerned with the welfare of others and who are prepared to do some thing about that. There is so much apathy abroad in the nation right now and the reasons why are fairly obvious. People feel disconnected from government process and some have slowly absorbed the Thatcherite values that divide and weaken. She said there is no such thing as society only individuals and now we have a puppy in her mould who claims to have invented the Big Society. All of it is erroneous and ruinous and leaves people with the idea that nothing can be done. Wrong! As long as we breathe and care there is plenty to be done. Mad Pride is a hugely warm and powerful community that proves my point.

The Montague Arms is a sight for sore eyes for any musician playing UK pub gigs. I was the first to arrive as I like to have as much time as I can to absorb aspects of the gig and to settle in to a measured build up to the performance. The landlord opened up and let me in. The pub is definitely a cut above your average London pub gig. The décor is eclectic. You could spend a lost half hour just taking it all in. The stage and PA system is well appointed and reminds me of some of the better small German or Norwegian gigs.

Soon Steve the engineer arrived and I banged out a quick sound check. All good. Soon other musicians arrived and began sound checking. At one point it seemed as though there just wouldn’t be enough time to fit every one on the bill into a time slot. Mad Pride have a secret weapon in the shape of Jason Why who soon took over the role of organising this and we all slotted in very well. The evening started with a rousing intro from Jason and the first act went on. Against a back drop of projected images by VJ the Flickering Light, two young women gave us a couple of songs to begin the proceedings. One lass played a lovely white Fender strat and the other played African percussion. Cool and very different. Another young lass on acoustic guitar and a guy on bass delivered a couple of unusual and amusing songs and the evening warmed up.

Later we had poetry from luminaries in the poetry world, including the very wonderful Frank Bungay, a veteran campaigner and peoples bard. It was like a lovely time warp where the spirit of Kerouac and the beat poets was reverently invoked. I looked around to see the young listening intently to the old chap delivering his prose and verse. It filled me up with hopeful satisfaction. The best things last and last.

My new Australian friend David Studdert and his percussionist delivered some quirky, darkly humorous ditties and one lovely folk song. The event rolled on.
Later we had some great music from the band The Strange Agency who had driven from Wales to perform at the event. Slashing guitar driven psychedelic political punk. Oh yes!
the strange agency

Yours truly took to the stage soon after and began with a new song called I’d do anything - with love. It seemed appropriate. I’d written a set list for the available 35 minutes that allowed me to choose specific songs for the occasion. I was genuinely and very pleasantly surprised by the audience response. People became quiet and I saw a few tears after The Christmas Song which always turns on my full emotion button.

In my happy bubble I floated through the rest of the set and it passed in what seemed like a few moments. At the end of my set the warmth expressed by the audience merited an encore but time was tight and I was over. Later I realised I had only played one old EBB song and no one seemed to mind or care. In fact most folk in the audience probably wouldn’t know this was the case. This is very satisfying because I have worked hard on the writing this year and it seems my new songs are doing the job intended.

In a few minutes time the lush, hard edged, political psychedelia of Brighton based Paradise 9 hit the stage to end the evening. More great sounds from another classy band and the job was done.
I had the opportunity to meet and chat with quite a lot of people and I made some new friends. Every one appeared to have had a great night and we made a nice profit for Mad Pride. I said my farewells and set off to catch the night buses home.
Congratulations to Mark and Dave and to all who worked so hard to make it happen. It was so nice to meet up with and work with musicians and crew who regularly make time to contribute to the communities that need support and the causes that matter. I felt right at home. 


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

World Mental Health Week

World Mental Health Week, 10-14th October 2011.

Mental Health is still a taboo subject in our culture as it is across much of Europe. It is a problem that couId be addressed partly through education but the schools curriculum in the UK is no where near visionary enough to be able to take that on at this time. In recent times Governments have done little or nothing to address the increasing numbers of people made ill by this wonderful life we live in the First World.

I find it increasingly disturbing that so many genuinely unwell folk will be facing cuts to their income and vital support services. These are austere times but as the ConDem cuts are rolled out I find no reason to stop despising their policies that descriminate against sections of our community that already have their backs firmly pushed up against the wall. I know I bang on about this a bit but I don’t feel this is a time to stop doing so.

I recently spoke with a rural copper who patrolled a fairly large village. He had been on night duty for some time and had noticed the increasing number of calls to the police along the lines of “ there is an elderly lady running around the school playing field in her night dress”. He told me this was on the increase and he blamed the cuts in social services and demise of other local agencies through cuts to budgets and staffing levels.

Here in London I see a steady increase of people on the streets who need support. Else where I hear some real horror stories about the jeopardy that some people are in through a decline in or a complete lack of services. In Essex, for example, there is no specialist sensory social work team at all. So if you are deaf and mentally unwell what do you do? If you are arrested by the Police, who will be able to understand you? How will you be able to be supported and who will protect your basic rights? The postcode lottery is evident here.

Scenario : Two people have severe mental health issues, learning disability and sensory loss.
Both young men slowly begin to get into trouble with neighbours and some times family and other members of the public.
The police are called out frequently to them and the incidents they are involved with. Social workers do what little they are allowed to do, under ever changing Kafka-esque guidelines, which always amount to less on offer for clients.

The first young man eventually ends up in court for the umpteenth time and goes to prison. In prison he is a problem because he can’t hear anything and they can’t use sign language. He kicks off and the authorities feel they have no option but to section him and send him to Rampton – cost £3000 plus per week. Rampton is a hell hole. I have had communication with inmates for some years who have been systematically bullied and brutalised by staff.
People don’t get well there.

The second young man is headed in the same direction. Basically the system can’t deal with him either so he is sectioned like our first young man. He is sent to a secure hospital that offers proper clinical support including counselling and mentoring. The structure is based on a three tier system where patients graduate from the bottom to the next tier around living in a small community of other patients at the same level of progress as he is. The top tier is around independent living towards living outside the hospital. Here patients live in their own self contained accomodation. All of this takes place on site. Cost £3000 plus per week. The difference between the two approaches and the possible outcomes is easily seen. Unfortunately the second option is not available to many as you might expect and yet the benefits are obvious and for the same cost.

A couple of years ago I suffered with depression for a time. It was disabling at first but with support and a fantastic G.P. I was able to recover slowly. I was lucky in so far as I knew my illness was fairly minor, I could communicate my issues and be understood and I had a strong support network. It was still a shock and it is only now that I am beginning to understand what happened and why. That’s life and I am better for the experience but this is not the case for others who have to continually battle with their illness, often with out much support at all.

One day that lonely and vulnerable looking person muttering to the rubbish bin in the street might be you. I hope not but at some point it is likely that mental illness will affect some one you know if not you, a loved one or a valued colleague. We can all aspire to being more understanding and accomodating. We can all work to get rid of the ignorance and fear embodied in remarks such as "we didn't have all this in my day you just have to pull your socks up and get on with it", or "if you are mad, you are mad you just have to get over it". We can also strive to change the language that demeans and oppresses people who are mentally unwell. I feel sure most of you know what I mean by this. I'm all for political correctness that actually enhances peoples quality of life.

Mean while we must fight government cuts to vital services or reap the bitter harvest. This nation is in distress and we must intervene.
The people involved with Mad Pride are doing what they can and so should you and so should I. I hope I will see you at The Montague Arms on Friday next.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

the young ones - positive images

mark cavendish, pictured wearing his
Tour De France sprinters green jersey,
is world road race champion 2011

This has been an interesting and exciting weekend so far. It began with my trip to Birmingham for a FDPFAFDW show, more of which I will post here when I have photos.

Mean while I have to tell you about my night after the gig. Steve, my host, had booked myself and some of his mates into a little pub called The Adam and Eve on Bradford St about a mile from The Bullring and city centre. Though rebuilt early in the 20th century and extensively repaired following bomb damage during the Second World War, there has been an Adam and Eve public house on the corner of Bradford Street and Warner Street for more than 200 years. The original Adam and Eve public house was built in Over Meadow, a pocket of land on the Ravenhurst Estate owned by John Lowe. The future site of the pub is marked on an estate map drawn by Samuel Bradford in 1748.

The Birmingham I knew as a kid has changed beyond recognition. There is a Blade Runner style mix of modern and decay. Much of the old and traditional manufacturing that made Birmingham famous through out the world has gone leaving old buildings empty. This is a typical sight through out the midlands and the north but there is an energy and diversity everywhere that is extremely encouraging. This big old dirty town has seen adversity and depression and yet it seems undaunted.

When Steve’s mates and myself saw our rooms we were not overly impressed. Not that there was anything wrong with the rooms but I don’t think any one would argue that they were not basic to say the least. It’s always nice to find a towel or two in the bath room and a TV that is actually connected to some device that will produce a picture, such as an aerial. You get my drift.

Any way after the gig that ended at 1am Steve put us in a cab back to the Adam and Eve, our accommodation for the night. It was by now around 2am and the place was jumping to very cool dub style mash ups, old dance faves that covered the best part of 20 years and some very cool techno. The sound system was very good and the music great but it was the young people that made it so special. I wish some of the folk who have such a down on young could have been there that night.

Young men dancing together, young women dancing together and young men and women dancing together but … it was the dramatic range that impressed me. These young ‘uns were beautiful, expressive and joyous.
There was no pushing or shoving. No one was loud, rude or disrespectful. I had a word with the big, calm man on the door who told me it was always cool with almost no trouble.

I went outside for a little while and just watched people arriving. I was fascinated by the sense of community as people greeted each other and many of them spoke to me. Back inside no one stared at the old guys as we supped our beers and watched. Soon two of the guys retired up to bed and I stayed with their mate and we loved it. Turned out he was a big dance fan and the tunes had a special nostalgic significance. It reminded me of my Fundamental FM Youth radio days from Jungle onwards. I did wonder how the others would sleep. The sound system was LOUD and had endless pokey sub bass pumping non stop. Oh heaven! Just watching this joyous gathering dancing and miming all the words to the tunes and the huge repertoire of dramatic dance expressions was amazing. The young women serving behind the bar were delightful with a smile for every one right through the night. All of the staff seemed very friendly and in control.

At around 4.30 am the night was winding down and the lovely and bright young things were heading home so I went to bed. My friend stayed on for the end. I hope we meet again. It was special to share that with some one I hardly knew who liked this music as much as I did. We both enjoyed watching the young dancers as much as we enjoyed the music. I say it again – The kids are all right!

However basic the accommodation at the Adam and Eve I had a lie in until 1.30 pm on Saturday in fact I could have stayed longer. Totally civilised. I finally made it down to the pub to find it packed with folk having a drink before the Home game at nearby St Andrews where they were to draw 1-1 against Barnsley. The Adam and Eve is the last remaining pub on Bradford St. They host live music 6 nights a week and promote local musicians. If you are in the area on a friday night, late and you like your dubby/ techno tunes loud and in a space where people make the atmosphere then the Adam and Eve is spot on.

Sunday brings more excitement. Mark Cavendish has just won the gold medal in the Men's World Championship Road Race. It’s been 47 years since a Brit won it. The last winner was Tommy Simpson who later collapsed and died during a stage of the Tour De France on Mount Ventou, probably the cruelest of the French climbs. I remember my dad in floods of tears on hearing the news. If Dennis was still around he would have been so proud of Cav. Mark Cavendish is the fastest sprinter in the world and today was a truly historic day for all of us UK cycling fans so thanks pal and thanks to all of the UK team. You are the best.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

the way of the bow

Kyudo, which literally means The Way of the Bow, is considered by many to be the purest of all the martial ways. A true shot in kyudo is not just one that hits the center of the target, but one where the arrow can be said to exist in the target before its release.

I had a bow as a kid and frequently got into bother with my dad over the home made hunting points, for my arrow making, forged in the metal work room at Leamington College for Boys. This was the first time I had touched a bow since then. The rain poured down in sheets as I fired my arrows but there was some thing very calming and focusing about the process. This is some thing I will definitely do again.  My aim improved with each arrow and my breathing found a place in it. I have been practising various forms of breath control towards mastering circular breathing for chanting.

 little hoveton broad

The first week of my trip out and about was spent near water but the weather prevented any serious fishing adventures. The second week was on the waters of the Norfolk Broads and one of my favourite places.

I spent some days off the water after a week on it and on consecutive days I wrote two songs. This is something of a record for me. My current rate lately has been more along the lines of one every two months. Here are the lyrics to one of them.

castles come
towers fall
and kings who
lose their heads
our will be done
the time has come
no laying safe
in beds
this england now
is in decline
as bad has she has seen
save our souls
the cry goes out
now we must intervene

i'd do any thing - any thing with love
i'd do any thing - any thing with love

hear me now
i shout it out
some one has fallen through
and gone down to that darkest place
no dignity nor truth
it breaks my heart
to see the poorest
get poorer by the day
the time has come
for justice now
and we must have our say

i'd do any thing - any thing - with love
i'd do any thing - anything - with love

home for a week
headed north up the river ant

On the last evening of my away days I caught a little pike on the Stour to a small silvery artificial lure. The fish was very small compared to most of my pike but it was the only lure caught fish of my trip. I put him back with thanks and I hope he grows to a big ‘un if his momma doesn’t eat him.

my kind of driving

This afternboon I have been playing through some of the recordings of my performances this year and I can tell you there is an album in the can. I plan to start work on mastering the material in November for a 2012 release along with post cards and a new T-Shirt or two.

So I’m off to Birmingham for another Fair days pay gig on Friday. I have to change my guitar strings and do a little rehearsing. I hope too include the new songs if I can memorise them in time. My head is still on the water out in the wilds but I can hear the sound of the city in the a back ground as I write this. There really is some thing to be said for dipping in and out of the urban and rural extremes of this country. I love the contrast.

As you will know I am playing a fund raiser for Mad Pride in London on the 7th of October. This is exactly the kind of contribution to community I want to make as an artist. If any of you are involved in any fund raising, for a worthy cause, and you would like to me to appear at your event, please let me know. I require no payment only minimum expenses if any at all. I hope some of you will come to my London gig. If the rest of the bill is any thing to go by it shows all the promise of a great night out and it is all for a very worth while cause.