Winter 2011/12

Posted Jan 12, 2012

Hi everyone - 

Another year passes not so quietly away (   Thanks to Ros Duffell for this). I’ve had a good year with lots of festivals - from Celtic Connections in January to Cork in October and many places in between. I was invited to Broadstairs Festival for the first time this year and had a great time, including a concert with Chumbawamba and Robb Johnson – “Fantabulosa” to quote Kenneth Williams! I’d love to visit this one again. I met some new and some old friends – NOT old you understand but old as in ‘previous’. (Actually, some were old – you know, younger than me but old nevertheless!) The same was true of Cork in Ireland. I had a great time especially in the children’s concert I did in Cork Central Library. The children who came with their parents had little idea of what I was going to do, although a few had heard some of my early children’s CDs. They were all wonderful. They sang and signed as eagerly as only children can. Whenever I have a children’s concert, whether at Festivals here in England, Australia or in Canada, I am reminded of Raffi’s song ‘Like Me and You’. Children are the same the world over. Whichever country, whichever culture, whichever religion they come from, their eagerness and innocence is a delight to behold and I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to play for them. Travelling to Cork also brought back memories of a previous life, when as an academic from Sheffield Polytechnic I was an external examiner at Cork University College. It was this year’s visit to Cork Festival where I ‘outed’ myself as a recovering academic! (Thanks to John Maguire for this)

If left to me, the majority of my concerts would be at festivals because I get the opportunity to spend a little time with friends in the audience and have a drink and a chat, encounters which are denied to us at folk clubs because we all have to rush off to our respective homes at the end of the gig. Hey Ho… I can dream, can’t I? 

Interestingly, this New Year is about to begin with a trip to Glasgow and Celtic Connections again. The Alistair Hulett Memorial Trust (AHMT) is promoting a concert on the 28th January at St Andrews in the Square. The winner of the AHMT song competition, Penny Stone will be performing along with Alisdair Roberts and his band and old (as in ‘previous’) friends, Ian Bruce, Karine Polwart, Dave Swarbrick … and me, of course. Should be a great concert. If you’re around come and join us - enjoy the concert and contribute to this excellent charity. The song contest drew a quite remarkable series of new songs. I think all the judges were a bit overwhelmed by the standard of songwriting submitted. Congratulations to all the authors who submitted their songs. I have heard it said that the radical commentary or ‘protest song’ (horrible label!) is no longer with us. All I can say is that at the funeral of such songwriting, the coffin was EMPTY! Radical song is alive and well. This view is reinforced by my experience of the Raise Your Banners Festival held in Bradford in November, where such writing was well in evidence, yet again! 

A friend from my ‘Australia Days’ has invited me to contribute a song to a Bob Dylan Tribute CD, due for release at the Australian National Folk Festival in Canberra next Easter. I’ve chosen ‘With God on Our Side’. Martin Simpson has offered to play for me, so the guitar playing should be alright then! We’re going into the Studio with the excellent Andy Seward early in January to ‘have a go’ at it. Cross yer fingers!

The Writing on the Wall with Tony Benn is hoping to air itself a few times in the new year, including at the Kings Place, London in February (see link Also at Brighton, Bristol, York, Eastbourne and Leamington. So, all being well, Tony and I might see quite a few of you next year?

I’m continuing to struggle with my autobiography. I’m finding this difficult to write for some reason? I keep ‘running out of steam’. I lose interest. Any self-discipline I had, has just evaporated. If it is to happen at all I suspect it will finish up as ‘memoirs’ – a series of stories about different periods of my life that, hopefully, at least offers some interest to someone - my children and grandchildren perhaps? I suspect I’d better hurry up …. time is likely to run out!!

Some 20years or so ago, I was involved with something called the Political Song Network along with others including Leon Rosselson, Sandra Kerr, Frankie Armstrong, Robb Johnson and more. One of our projects was a show we called: The Red and Green Umbrella Show.  The current Occupy Movement has inspired thousands, indeed, millions of people worldwide and Leon suggested it was time to revive that earlier project. We all readily agreed. It will now be: “Celebrating Subversion – the anti capitalist show”. We have managed to arrange a number of such shows around the country including St Albans (The Maltings Theatre), Leicester (The Musician), Leeds (Seven Arts Centre) and Hebden Bridge (The Trades Club). We’re working on others for Brighton and Sheffield. The ‘cast’ of performers for different venues will depend on individual diaries. So watch out for the show in your neck of the woods. Or, if you might consider organising a concert in your area, please contact any of us to discuss the details.

A few things are coming in for next year, so there are some who know I’m still alive and raring to sing. Though too many, I suspect, think otherwise. I’ll show ‘em!

I wish you ALL a healthy, happy and peaceful New Year and look forward to our meeting - somewhere down the road!