Sunday is usually a day or rest and for once us showman were to enjoy a comparatively restful day.
Our Dolly was parked safely in the Underbank Rugby Club and we had been asked to wait until 11.30 am to collect her. Also we had already conquered the final hill of our Holmfirth adventure so as the saying goes it was all down hill from here and our final performance at The Bridge Hotel that evening would close the curtain on one the finest of vagabonding weeks.
Steve sorted us our with a Sunday fry up and a lift back up to the club and we agreed that we would all catch up with he and Lesley before we set off for home.
We arrived promptly and shunted us Dolly down hill for once into the bright lights of Holmfirth. The road was quite busy and we spent most of the journey in our own company void of many passers by other than fast cars. We spent our time talking about our next journey around lancashire and how we hope to vagabond together again next year.
We arrived and set up for the final performance.
A full house, hurrah!
Our show went very well and once more our applause lingered.
We are proud of our production and look forward to performing it for fresh audiences in Lancashire this August.
We were both tired at the end of the show and we packed away and listed the props, costumes and instruments. We slipped briefly into the last night party gig and mamboed a goodbye to our promotors and the organisers of Holmfirth festival.
Whilst thanking people I do have a list.
We are most grateful to Blaize who have produced this years vagabond show and look forward to plotting and planning next years shunts. Ellen Thorpe and Paula Horton work tirelesly backstage for Blaize researching and and applying for the money that makes the art happen and along with our own Janice Benson share every round of applause we receive out on the road.
We need to thank Shaun (Blez) Blezard for all his assistance with technology and for his amazing photos that have and will help us promote our show in the future.
Also to The Ashton Group in Barrow who very kindly gave us space to rehearse our show free of charge affording us more budget towards our design.
Jim Woodland who has both written some of the material and directed our show also shares our applause. Thanks Jim. I enjoyed it very much.
Holmfirth Festival and Arts Out West our promotors for the last few weeks of vagabonding along with Spot On Lancashire who we look forward to joining in August for more of the same.
Good old Dolly and of course our partner and friend the grand master showman Maxim.
A fine gig and joyous experience. Thank You!
Thank you all!
Dolly and me are about to embark on other adventures so please check my own website for the gig list.
We will see you all in August when we Ramble On some more.
Ta for now.
None Shall Pass
22nd June Holmfirth Festival
I received a tweet from Maxim that Lesley was cooking eggs.
I had quite a restless night and despite a few pints found it difficult to get off to kip. This was simply because I was still buzzing from our show in Hepworth. I lay awake assessing what had gone well and how we might tweak the show to make it better. We have settled into the show and can afford to play with it now that it fits us like comfortable slippers.
We had bacon and scrambles eggs with crunchy toast, butter and tea. I am a convert to good bread.
After breakfast we took a stroll into town to buy a bunch of daffs for Lesley and Steve our hosts, I also had a sudden lust for a Marathon bar.
Through a gap in the buildings and up a small rise to a park we could see brightly coloured flags and the tip of a big top. We took a turn and made our way up the steep steps to see what all the fuss was about.
There stood Tacko in his bright red ringmasters costume, proudly barking in front of his Imaginarium. Shortly we were lodged inside a full house as the overture played on his gramophone. Soon enough we were treated to the flea circus and watched in awe as his company of fleas gave their performance. Herkufleas pulling a giant chariot around the central ring, Madam Flea Flea swinging on her trapeze and the death defying Evil Ca Fleavel being shot from his cannon.
A fine show indeed.
I left with two bites of my very own. One small lump on my right arm and another on the side of my left wrist. Some of the cast were obviously playing truant from Tacko’s sharp moustache. I recognised the swelling as I have been bitten by Tacko’s Fleas many times before in countless tents, booths and dressing rooms.
I also bumped into an old friend Nadgam who is a fine tabla player from Bradford. He was dressed as a Mexican.
Funny old world.
After the show we picked up a bunch of flowers and left them in the sink as a thank you for Lesley and Steve.
Steve is also a fellow showman and was off to perform at another festival with his band The Northern Lights. As such we were a bit stuck for a lift to Hepworth to collect us Dolly. We decided the best thing would be to jump a taxi. We walked back into town and asked a bloke where we might find the rank?
Colin is the bloke who runs the Last Of The Summer Wine Charabanc, driving visitors and fans around the valley showing the famous locations from the program. He invited us aboard and agreed to drop us at Hepworth as it was a part of the tour. We were to jump off at the top of the very hill that we had sweated so much to climb the previous day. We learned many things about the show along the way and as we approached we were informed that this was indeed the hill where many of the stunt routines were filmed, Compo would often be found shooting down this hill in a tin bath or similar misguided mode of transport. The steep gradient lent itself very well to comedy as we well knew.
What could possibly go wrong?
I’ll tell you!
A bus was stuck at the top blocking the road ahead. Somehow the driver had managed to skew-whiff his double decker blocking the road to all traffic including Colin, us and his passengers.
You’ll best leap out ear lads. Can’t turn is thing around!
We left skirted the bus and managed to make it to the village hall to be reunited with Dolly just fifteen minuets late. Problem was we now had to push back down for a gig in Underbank.
The journey to Underbank was of course back the way we had came so we had another opportunity for a work out down and Upppppppp the roller-coaster to Scholes.
We also needed a bus pass.
We didn’t fit between the bus and the small stone wall to the left. It all got a bit Barnard Cribbins. Firstly off came the side pannier boxes that hold the tool kit and one of our roadside routines.
Off came the horns.
Right then we will have to lift her over the wall. So Maxim myself and driver managed to 1.2.3 Liffft our theatre over the stone wall leaving just the faintest scrape down the side of the bus.
Dolly remains unscathed.
The remainder of journey was relatively simple. Even the push back up the mighty hill passed quickly. We rested at the top and enjoyed watching a few overs at the local cricket pitch. Scholes V Sheldon. We heard later Scholes lost badly.
We did however have the faintest pat of rain and sheltered under a tree watching the local rush hour. A local farmer herding his dairy flock.
We arrived a full hour before our expected time and rested up. Maxim had a nap under a tree as I kicked my heels up and down the local roads trying to find a cafe or pub. I also received a toot from Colin and his punters who was obviously finding alternative routes for his tour.
We set up for our show in the Underbank Rangers Rugby Club. An hour before the show Lesley arrives with Steve and a stunning curry for us tea.
Having scoffed our audience arrive and we show for the penultimate time. Once again our show is well received and at the end an audience member asks how long we have been doing the show. This is show number eight.
Eight? Looks like you have been doing it for years!
Later in Holmfirth we meet up with Tacko and his team fresh from their own day of showing. In another life I perform with a band of white face clowns Smiley Smacko our guitarist and Uke player has arrived so for the first time in ages half of the band are in the same room. Smacko, Tacko and Gacko.
Maxim and me have a malt raise a glass and slide home to rest up before the mornings descent.
Another perfect day
June 1st Rambling On
After breakfast with Jenny and Malcombe we pushed along for Haile. This is a pretty village probably a short three mile shunt.
Apologise for the brief traffic jam we caused on exiting Bekermet
A couple from the previous nights audience stopped to wish us well and offer directions. We gathered on a narrow road and a backlog of cars soon began collected behind them. Shortly more gathered on the opposite side locking the road. This being Cumbria nobody seemed to mind the delay and all waited patiently then waved as we made our right turn and eased the congestion.
Onwards to our matinee.
Outside the pretty village hall in Haile we set up our street theatre show.
We have two shows with us. One is our Story of Stories we show this in village hall venues, our second collection of stories we perform by the side of the road to passing punters.
News of our arrival sped quickly around the village and soon enough we had 15 people sat on a beautiful patch of grass behind the hall. Our audience ages rained from six to ninety years old and our show went very well indeed. So well in fact that half our audiences were to follow and join us later for our performance in Calder Bridge.
A lovely walk followed and the entire shunt we were bathed in glorious sunshine. The journey was void of a single car.
Wilkinson himself would have enjoyed the tranquility and respite from what he often described as ” Those infernal machines that will never catch on”
Dolly has recently developed a noise.
A peculiar knocking sound.
Sure enough Maxim noticed a buckle in her right wheel. Further inspection revealed a loose nut holding the wheel in place. A few twists and we were back on the road. Aside from two flat tires and a cracked handle taken during another Headzup tour this is the first time I have had to look under the bonnet. Testament to the incredible talent of Dolly’s creator the artist Luke Burges.
She’s still rolling fella.
The hall in Calder Bridge is huge compared to previous venues. We met with our promotor Yvonne and her family as we blogged outside the local pub enjoying a tall chilled lemonade.
Later they took us back to their house for a meal. They were celebrating the first anniversary of buying local pub the Golden Fleece and are looking forward to the monumental task of renovating the entire building themselves. The highlight of the tour for me was when we were shown into the pig cellar where in the past animals were bled to make black pudding. I don’t believe I have ever been a guest in a home that boast a black pudding room.
Later the committee gathered en masse to transform the hall into a theatre and our audience arrived.
We gave our performance to a full house and our show was much appreciated by all. I was even lucky enough to win a prize in the raffle. Sadly I lost out on the whiskey and wine but I did bag myself a box of well scented draw liners. Lucky for me as it is soon to be Maxims 62nd birthday and as yet I had been unable to find a suitable present on the road.
Happy birthday Maxim. You are now be the proud owner of scented draws.
Invaluable to a vagabond bloke.
We were always to travel in the van for a short while during this journey, our map reading suggested that the A595 is far too treacherous for those of us pushing of traveling theatres. Locals also advised us against this and so it was that after our show we loaded Dolly into the van and drove the short distance to Gosforth and spent the night in a wild pub.
If your ever passing Gosforth and want to enjoy at least one local boozer that is thriving have a look for The Lamb and Lion. Great beer, strong whiskey and grand banter.
A thriving pub that thrives well into the night.
We breakfast in the shadow of Irton Pike, where we will face our biggest challenge, a long drag to the top and Dolly’s steepest altitude to date.
Fingers crossed we will overcome this monster and take Ratty to our final Cumbrian performance in Ravenglass.
Thanks Calder Bridge. another excellent day.
Rambling On 1st June.
Story tellers need people and thankfully Cumbria has plenty of people, and grand folk they are too.
Alongside the continuing beauty of the landscape our second day rambling on featured a fine collection of afore mentioned grand Cumbrian folk.
Peter the manager of Florence Mine collected us from our accommodation in St Bees and whisked us back to the theatre where Dolly had spent the night. Once inside we passed a pleasant hour packing up and getting ready for the road. Turns out that Peter has another job working on the popular television series Doctor Who. A program I am very fond off.
Peter is one of the blokes who takes the film and is largely responsible for lighting and filming the models used to animate the stories. He showed us some backstage movies from a past episode where he and his colleagues were shooting. The Doctor was aboard a Russian submarine facing up to the fearsome Ice Warrior. We learned a great deal about the special effects used. How they filmed the submarine upside down and lit the models from below. Diced chicken feathers are then sprinkled to give the illusion of floating plankton.
Clever yet simple effects to create a wonderful story.
Curiously I remember watching that very episode of Doctor Who with Rimsky the artist who designed one of our own special effects for Rambling On our Viking long ship. I happened to be collecting the model from him round at his house as that particular episode started so we watched it together before I left with the ship.
Peter also worked on the forthcoming 50th anniversary episode to be shown later in the year. He wouldn’t give away any details and we would rather wait to watch the story unfold live at broadcast anyway.
You should never spoil a good story.
Thanks Peter. Fine venue and lovely people.
We pushed on through Egremont and selected the back lanes for our journey to Beckermet. A number of people advise us that the road ahead was closed, but also that we would have no trouble squeezing our Dolly through the concrete barriers.
Along the way we passed a small row of houses where families were sitting in their gardens enjoying the glorious sunshine. We stopped and gave a short performance in return for a cup of tea and a couple of delicious home made sausage rolls.
Pushing on we passed a ruined sandstone folly that a local farmer told us once belonged to William and Dorothy Wordsworth. We passed the roadblock with ease and having lunched on a bench with views of the Isle Of Man we pushed down into Beckermet for the evening show.
We were met by Simon the village halls next door neighbour, promotor and licensee. Having massaged Dolly through the small doors he took us to meet his wife Janice and their three daughters for a meal. Simon is a fine cook and we enjoyed seafood and a selection of salads from his allotment. We discussed our past adventures and were advised caution when we meet Irton Pike. A large hill that Simon has struggled with when our riding his bike. This will prove to be our biggest challenge.
We meet with Irton Pike on Sunday as we journey to Eskdale Green to rendezvous with Larl Ratty.
Our audience gathered and promptly at 7.30 we were showing.
Our performance built well and by the end of the show our final applause lingered. Many from our audience lingered longer and after the show we shared more stories, anecdotes and pints of real ale beyond midnight.
Later we were taken to our accommodation and spent another hour in the company of Jenny and Malcombe who very kindly gave us each a room for the night. They also gave us fine cheeses and a welcome glass of Grouse.
A fine days vagabonding and despite the continuing beauty of Cumbria a day I shall remember for the people we shared it with.
Rambling On Day 1 30th May
It’s a funny old world.
Last night I found myself in the back of a car driven by a bloke called David who alongside Hans Blix works for the United Nations as a nuclear inspector. He was there when they didn’t find anything. I was sat in the back of his motor eating pasta off a china plate with some lovely olive bread that I had been given at the close of our show.
David (One of our audience members) very kindly drove us to St Bees where we were to spend the night. Along the way we we discussed wether or not the wind turbine viewed from the right hand window was a blot on the landscape or not.
Curiously if I looked out of the left window we were in the shadow of Sellafield Nuclear reprocessing plant.
It remained unmentioned.
We had just performed our premier at a beautiful and intimate theatre called The Florence Mine near Egremont. This ex iron ore mine now boasts a thriving community of artists all gathered in various workshop spaces.
They have a gallery, a coffee shop, a bar and theatre space. Our audience gathered around small tables cabaret style, or relaxed at the back of the orchestra stalls on comfortable sofas near the bar.
Congratulations to Peter the manager and all his team who have created a vibrant Phoenix from the red dust and residue of a now lost industry.
And so to our first night.
As a showman I am at my happiest performing to audiences when offering something new.
There is a glorious mix of excitement and fear involved in premiering a new show. Audiences and artist all to soon gauge the measure of each other and both swiftly realise what kind of evening we are each heading for.
A new show can go either way.
We hope that each routine will entertain in its own right but also that our collection of stories knit together seamlessly into one long tapestry of tails.
We hope our audience are in the right mood. We hope our audience feature the perfect balance of ages and characters.
We have a lot of hope.
As time passes and our shows evolve us story tellers naturally alter the pace of our delivery and we will constantly tweak and fiddle with a show from our opening night until our final curtain.
Hopefully to its benefit.
And that first night when you stand in front of an expectant paying audience you can only hope your show is good. You never actually know this to be the truth until your on stage.
Thankfully at our premier in the Florence mine both Maxim, myself and audience were quickly able to relax. Surely enough a quarter of a way into our first show I enjoyed that familiar tingle that tells me it’s OK and our audience are engaged. Thankfully each routine worked as we had hoped and our palate of songs, stories and routines worked well together as one whole.
Later at the bar our audience shared with us there favourite bits and thankfully again most of our routines earned a mention.
Earlier we had our first shunt.
Five miles of glorious Cumbrian scenery. Up hills, along pretty avenues with lush green canopies then up hills again. We had lunch at the side of the pretty church in Haile which was opposite a large hill entirely washed with blue bells and wild flowers.
We passed babbling rivers atop ancient stone bridges.
Cumbria is indeed a beautiful and hilly part of the world. Our first push covered five miles in glorious sunshine.
Along the way Maxim enjoyed his share of puffing and panting up the big hills as much as the gentle strolling along the flat lush lanes. After a few miles we had done away with the politeness of asking whether each would care for a break from shoving and had sunk into just knowing when to stop or handover.
The secret to pushing a heavy load a long way is stop and rest before you need to. An easy enough job when you are lucky enough to tramp through glorious Cumbria, always encouraged by what delights might await our viewing at the top.
Finally down hill and into the mine complex itself, a well earned coffee, meat pie and first fit up.
Inside we met with local artists Jenni and Marie who specialise in making paints both oil and pastel from ore cut in the mine. This delivers a wonderful sandstone red hue and exhibits of work using these bespoke materials were hung proudly in the venue by myriads of artists both local and national.
During one of our routines I use pastels to illustrate one of Maxim’s stories. I know proudly use a pot of Egremont Red hematite to colour and shade with great effect.
So a grand long walk, glorious weather, beautiful landscape and a successful premier. Interesting and kind people plus a few pints of Buttcombe and the promise of a fry up in the morning.
All in all a perfect start.
We are truly on the road.
Beckermet reading rooms tonight. We have five more miles to shunt and the weather is again lovely.
All I need to do now is return the plate.
Our dress rehearsal is done, dusted and after many weeks of plotting, writing, researching, rehearsing, ripping it up and re-doing at last our humble Vagabond show is finally ready for viewing.
I will leave our Director Jim Woodland to cover the overall philosophy of our show via his blog below.
Suffice to say we have had a wild time creating the show and I have enjoyed the creative process very much.
Our test audience seemed to enjoy our show and many offered advice on where it might be tweaked.
Thank you to the good people of Bowes for offering themselves as guinea pigs. There is no better way to gauge and massage your show than reciving honesty from your last audience.
That said thanks to our friend and director Jim, who has guided and encouraged us over the last few weeks. Each round of applause that we lucky enough to collect along the way we share with you. That and any vegetables, half house bricks or paving slabs we might encourage.
Over to Jim.
Well we spent recent weeks getting the long awaited new travelling show on its feet. It’s been a year in the preparation, from original mapping sessions to final script. Several new songs by Gary Bridgens’ and a collection of stories and sketches either written or collected by the company which in this case is Mike Bettison.
An interesting brief this one. The Story Of Stories! My job as director was to help make this eclectic array of tales into a coherent show of some kind. I mean it has the word story twice in the title which is a bit of a giveaway as to what was needed which is best summed up as a beginning a middle and an end.
The material available did some of the job for us covering the period from prehistoric cave paintings to the Internet and social networking. At least it was in the right order chronologically, but it also needed to work as a story in its own right. And it emerged during rehearsals that the best story to act as a vehicle for all the other stories, would be a potted history of performance itself. Interestingly the nearest we got to literature was the cave paintings and from that point on we stayed with the oral tradition, having fun with Inuit songs (No really!), Viking sagas, Music Hall, Radio and Rap.
Gary and Mike needed no encouragement to get going on this one. In fact much of my job was to stop them from getting going and constantly adding new bits. The stories themselves came together with a little bit of kindness and an immense amount of cruelty, but it was the links between them that often got us giggling. Two blokes on the stage telling a story? We looked for inspiration and quickly found ourselves in the company of the likes of Morecambe and Wise, Laurel and Hardy, the Two Ronnies, Smith and Jones, and Captain Mannering plus whoever you want to put him with.
So there you are. If you want an idea of what the show is like, it’s a mixture of street, music hall and rap. I suspect that if you had walked into the rehearsal room unannounced at any point during the rehearsals you would either have been extremely impressed by the range of talent on display or you would have been extremely irritated by the amount of irreverent and noisy banter from three blokes of a certain age (Gary is younger than the other two to be fair!) spending much of the day rolling around on the floor in helpless merriment.
Well, pop three seasoned anarchists in a room and ask them to tell you a story and what do you get? The Story of Stories. Dress rehearsal tomorrow. I can’t wait to see it how it all ends….
It has been two years since Headzup delivered our first peripatetic story telling adventure.
In fact I write this blog on the second anniversary of our performance in Sparkbridge an idilic village in South Cumbria.
That night we were to perform on a beautiful lush patch of grass by the gently flowing river. However the weather had taken a turn for the worst and as a result we were invited to take shelter and perform in The Royal Oak as guests of the landlady. The show went very well indeed despite the shallow ceiling, so shallow in fact that we had to drop our marionette routine from the set.
A shame really because after the show a man approached us who had been in the audience and asked if we would like to view his collection of puppets. He then brought in a car load of antique marionettes that had been built and operated by a double act performed by his dearly departed Aunts.
The puppets were quite amazing. The attention to detail was stunning. There were characters from all over the world clad in elaborate hand stitched costumes. There were exotic animals, lions, bears and more familiar creatures cows, sheep and birds. Human figures too. Kings, Queens, soldiers and children. Young old, rich and poor. So many characters that his ancestors would surely have been able to perform any story imaginable.
Perhaps being local they might have performed in that very pub in some distant past.
The puppets were each individually bagged and catalogued and after a lengthy inspection the inheritor asked if I would like them. Anybody who has witnessed my marionette manipulation skills will be relieved to learn that I thanked him politely and suggested that he would be best finding a true scholar of historic puppetry and have them displayed in a museum.
Still this was an amazing offer.
Also that night we were gifted a meal and copious amounts of beer from our landlady. We enjoyed whisky courtesy of our audience and a full hat of coins from our collection. At last orders we were even given the keys to the village hall on account of the bad weather and we were free to bed down for the night and shower in the morning.
And make tea.
This reminds me of the incredible generosity and sense of value we received everywhere as myself Lord Gregg and Dolly tramped and performed during that first walking project.
Our show Vagabonding lasted for three weeks and in that time we covered over 120 miles largely on foot performing in a myriad of locations. We delivered our show on village greens, in pubs, on railway stations, in pubs, in village halls, schools and well … pubs.
It was a rather wet that particular May.
Our show was commissioned by Lakes Alive the company famous for delivering an outstanding three year project of outdoor work in Cumbira as part of the cultural Olympiad.
The show featured a collection of Cumbrian stories.
We explored the history of Piel Island, how it was invaded by Lambert Simnal and his army during the 1600’s. We told how the town of Dalton was ravaged by a wicked medicine pedlar by the name of Doc Lancaster, a man who sold poison to the locals claiming that it was in fact a cure for the plague.
Another Dalton story talked of Commando the pigeon who was awarded the coveted Dikin medal for assisting british secret agents by flying home with warnings of nazi military tactics.
From our home town in Barrow we told of two lovers who would meet for lunch on the very tips of two cranes that they operated in the shipyard during in the second world war and how they eventually married and grew old together.
Two years later we are to embark on a second journey.
Dolly and myself will this time be joined by Mike Betson of Blaize a theatre company based in North Yorkshire.
Blaize deliver all manner of projects working in both rural and urban locations. They make films, burn spectacular bonfires and tour village halls with finely crafted plays telling stories in the most remote venues.
We are directed by the celebrated playwright and songwriter Jim Woodland.
Mike and Jim were two members of The Fabulous Salami Brothers, probably the finest street theatre and festival act of their generation.
I remember being so excited watching their shows that when my school careers officer asked “What do you want to to be when you leave school” I replied “Sir I want to be a Fabulous Salami Brother”
I recon this is as close as ill get.
Ill talk more about the content of this show as it develops. We are entering our last week of devising and rehearsing and this new collection of songs, stories will soon be ready to show.
Dolly our cart is oiled and ready to be shoved and shunted into whatever kindness or catastrophe awaits us on this next Vagabond adventure.
The new Headzup website has been designed by the visionary web wizard and sound artist Shaun Blezard. He and the ever excellent co director of Headzup Janice Benson will be steering us and keeping a watchful eye from the Dalton command centre.
The first leg of our journey takes place in venus promoted by Arts Out West in Cumbria. Later we will tour Yorkshire for the Holmfirth Festival and then Lancashire for Spot On.
The dates and venues for Cumbria are below.
Please come along, pass it on or just follow the blogs as we Ramble On.
Hopefully no hospitals this time.
Venues and dates Cumbria
Thu 30/05/2013 7.30 The Florence Mine, Egremont CA22 1NR
Fri 31/05/2013 7.30 Beckermet Reading Rooms CA21 2XN
Sat 01/06/2013 7.30 Calder Bridge Village Hall CA20 1DH
Sun 02/06/2013 6.30 Muncaster Parish Hall, Ravenglass CA18 1SF