Once More With Feeling
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
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
The Longest Day
The Longest Day
21st June Holmfirth Festival
Happy Solstice and Happy Birthday Ah Mam.
Sorry to miss it!
Sat once more around the breakfast table with Lesley and Steve, Maxim and I buried our heads in lap tops and iPads to blog our previous days adventures.
I apologised profusely, explaining that the written accounts of our tramp are every bit as important as the wandering, waving and walking onto stage and how it is important to try and get them done whilst fresh in the memory and before our next performance.
I also had a few important calls to make. One to Ah Mam on the occasion of her birthday and another to Tacko my old street theatre partner who was himself soon to join us at Holmfirth Festival with his fabulous flea circus.
Me Where a you?
Him About to set off from Devon
Me What time you getting here
Him In time for the show!
We would see.
Tacko first introduced me to the books of Walter Wilkinson who is of course the inspiration for these journeys we have plans to one day share our own vagabond adventures
But that shall be another story.
Keep a look our for Uncle Tacko’s Flea Circus at Holmfirth Festival or Hebden Bridge later this weekend.
Anywhere in fact.
Steve has a camper van and he swings it around the tight little roads of Holmfirth with the greatest of ease! He very kindly whisked us back to Wooldale to collect us Dolly for the shunt onwards to Hepworth.
The beginning of the walk was brief and only a few strides in Maxim was delivering a routine to a group of school children at the invitation of their teacher. The sun shone again lighting his performance as audience sat crossed legged on a carpet in the playground.
later we pushed on through the village. Curious stone buildings jutted out at all angles along the narrow twisting roads. I once again reflected on how these buckled little buildings somehow belong to the landscape. My own county of Cumbria is breathtakingly beautiful, it is of course Great Britain’s garden, yet Yorkshire suits us vagabonds better in some ways.
During our Cumbrian walks we enjoyed mile after mile of green and pleasant land often without seeing a single person or car. Here in Yorkshire we are never far from a small community or little cluster of houses. People wave. Stop for a chin wag, ask how we are getting on and offer advice.
Especially Yorkshire Men.
We stopped to check the map outside a pub in Scholes. The Boot And Shoe.
Blokes came out with pints.
Blokes. Reet then? What you got there?
We gave our speech. We are well versed in explaining ourselves now. We tell them we are heading for Hepworth village hall and invited them to the show.
More blokes gathered until we had six maybe seven curious builders taking on fluids after a busy weeks labour.
Blokes. Your gonna push that from hear to Hepworth? Up these hills?
We are offered a lift in the back of a van which we of course politely refuse. We had stopped initially to check the map as the pub was at a fork in the road offering two options. A debate begins between our building blokes. One way is longer but flatter. The other deeper, steeper but shorter. We gently slide off towards the right fork leaving the debate in full flow.
We worked hard to get to our venue. This was a real challenge. From the top of the hill we looked down on the spire of Hepworth Church and very soon worked out that if we were going to push down before a steep lift geography suggested a bowl. We first had to slowly lower Dolly into a the canopy of trees below. Believe it or not lowering Dolly is actually more difficult that shunting her up. When pushing we can dictate our own pace but gravity has her say when lowering.
Thankfully we had fuelled up earlier with a fat plate of steak pie, chips and mushy peas.
We rested at the base of the deep valley before the long slow push to the top. We had met some other building blokes on the way down who had also offered us a lift. They passed and tooted us encouragingly as we began our assent.
Soon enough we arrived at the top and were tooted once more by the same van. The blokes had obviously circled around to see if we had given up and needed a lift after all.
Thanks Yorkshire blokes, we had made it.
The hall at Hepworth is perfect. Andy the hall manager welcomed us with tea and set up the bar. He was unsure as to the amount of audience we might gather. We dared hope for a full house. Maxim and I both agreed that if we could fill this beautiful stone hall the ingredients would be there for the perfect show.
Sure enough they came. Villagers mixed with festival goers and we found ourselves pulling out extra tables and chairs moments before our curtain.
The team from Blaize arrived Ellen and Paula our administrators along with Evan a filmmaker who was to capture the show for reasons of future publicity.
Tacko and his showman friends arrived at 7.59 after the long drive from the south and all settled.
It was indeed the perfect evening. Our show stood in front of three arched windows with a glorious backdrop of the sunlit valley behind. The hall had a bar with real ale and our audience were as hopeful as we for a grand show.
Our routines worked well and everybody seemed to have a ball. We had so many welcome comments at the end of the evening I felt quite humbled.
Later we met for drinks with Tacko and his showmen in the bustling festival fuelled town centre and raised a few glasses to the longest and possibly finest day of vagabonding.
Earlier in the day shortly after arriving at the hall Maxim noticed a little red letter on the bar. It was addressed to me. I turned out to be a card from my wife George sending love for our anniversary. In my bed at the stroke of midnight I opened it and thought of home. It’s hard being away from loved ones a lot, especially on family occasions. Today I missed Ah Mam’s birthday celebrations and now our wedding anniversary. I also of course miss my boy Alfie, but such is life for us showmen and perfect days like today help massage the aches.
Thanks Holmfirth Festival! Living the dream.
Size Doesn’t Matter!
Holmfirth Festival 20th June
I could have slept all day.
A 1000ft push combined with a high energy show and four pints of Timothy Taylor’s can have that effect.
My desire to remain in my pit was compounded by the fact that my bed was big and soft and the view through the windows to the valley opposite immense.
Plus we had drizzle.
My temptation to whip the duvet over my ear and snuggle in was finally overcome and after a warm shower I pulled on my vagabond uniform and made my way down for breakfast.
Lesley has good bread!
We feasted on a crusty crunchy cob with home made jams all washed down with a pot of Yorkshire tea and we shared a lovely morning thank you!
Later Steve very kindly whipped us to the top of Upperthong Lane to collector Dolly and after a coffee with the Lorain the Landlady and pub owner Eddy we waved goodbye to The Royal Oak and pushed uphill to our next gig, an afternoon show to be performed at Netherthong Primary.
It seemed rather odd to be be pushing a long way up hill from Upperthong to a performance at Netherthong but in true Wilkinson fashion we were rewarded at the very top with spectacular views.
From our vantage point a cute bench at the tip of Wolfstone Heights we looked down upon The Royal Oak last nights venue and deeper down into Holmfirth itself. We could see farmers in the distance working the land, small whips of smoke rising here and there, grandparents pushing their children around in buggies and the odd car making its way along far distant roads.
The early morning rain had given way as soon as we had pushed Dolly out of the pub and it wasn’t long before we were pushing down hill singing choruses of that classic Gus Elen number If It Wasn’t For The Houses In Between.
After a few miles of roller coasting roads we finally arrived at our school and were invited into the staff room for more tea and a nice sit down.
The gable end staff room wall featured a massive window with ever expanding views. Curiously the rain clouds had again gathered and almost the second we were inside the heavens opened and sheets of rain fell. I am begging to believe Maxims suggestion that we carry a magical umbrella that will stave off the rain as long as we have it with us
So far after nearly two weeks of vagabonding it remains unopened.
Make sure to have a look at Maxims blogs if your passing.
At the stroke of midday we were taken into the hall and treated to a school dinner. After having our fingernails inspected for any muck we were given home made beef burgers, chips n beans. I had of course been dreaming of custard. A bowl of macaroons at Laduree in Paris would be alright and everything but as nothing compared with the apple crumble and creme anglaise and Netherthong Primary.
We ate well. So well in fact that we were presented with a special badge telling us how well we had done. Barbara Cartland would be proud.
After dinner our audience gathered and we performed to the children. Telling them stories and singing songs. A lovely session that extended well after the bell and into playtime. At the end of the show many hands went up attached to curious children who wanted to know more about Dolly and our adventures. The last question was “Will you come back again sometime?” Oh yes. We will work for custard!!!
Incredibly the rain had lifted moments before and we pushed off making our way to Wooldale Community Centre for the evenings performance.
We were given a most welcome pot of tea by a lady who had recognised us from the local paper and we sat and chatted in her garden for a short while before the final push.
Arriving in the hall we set up for the show, wrote our blogs and picnicked. Perfectly on cue and once we were inside the rain began to fall.
We then performed to a small but perfectly formed audience. The festival was tonight also hosting the famous comedian Mark Thomas so our event was fringe in every way. Some people later asked is it difficult to perform to small audiences. Not at all. Us Vagabonds are as happy performing to twenty people as twenty thousand, each and every audience as welcome and precious as the next. Each show deserves and receives our utmost attention and energy and as a result audience and performers shared a fine evening together.
Size isn’t important.
After the show we packed and left Dolly for the night and were whisked into town to watch some of the other festival events. We had a chat with Mr Thomas in the bar after his show and thankfully it went very well for him despite us steeling a few rows of his audience to our own performance.
Good quality bar snacks at the central venue too! An entire platter of delicious pork pies and fine selection of beers.
Holmfirth Festival know how to do it!
Upperthong and down again
Upperthong Holmfirth Festival June 19th
Here we go.
Despite countless performances at festivals and events this is our very first ever tramp outside our home county of Cumbria and what a place to start.
Holmfirth is a glorious Yorkshire town which is of course the backdrop for the worlds longest running comedy program Last Of The Summer Wine.
Shortly after arriving we breakfasted in Sid’s Cafe famous the world over as the starting point for the calamitous adventures for Foggy, Compo and Clegg.
We took a press photo session to launch our week of performances and also made a short film with the town cryer to publicise this and future events for The Holmfirth Festival who are our promotors for this weeks adventures.
After coffee and a fat sausage bap it was time to move onwards ….. and upwards.
Holmfirth is beautiful and a grand example of how us humans can blend perfectly with nature. Yorkshire does this very well. Stone buildings jut and stick out at all angles along its many valleys and dales yet they all seem to fit perfectly together. Smoke curls from distant weavers cottages, dry stone walls bulge as trees and fields try to shunt their confines and reclaim the meandering roads and along the way curious folk stop and enquire “What’s in the box lads?”
After our photo call we pushed our Dolly up the sharp rise that leads to the foot of Upperthong Lane. Here we were introduced to the lovely people who are very kindly hosting us for the duration of the festival. Lesley and Steve Sykes are friends of the Holmfirth Festival and have a beautiful house with sweeping views of the valley. We enjoyed coffee with them in their garden before unloading our personals and looking up the mount towards Upperthong itself.
Our goal The Royal Oak a pub standing 1000ft above us and the venue for tonight’s performance.
Having already conquered the mighty Irton Pike a few weeks earlier we were confident in our ability to tramp to the top and so began another shunt.
The hill was long with steep angles flanked by pretty cottages and large ex mill owners houses. Also new estate designed sympathetically to merge into the landscape. Soon enough we were joined by various school kids also trudging slowly home after a day of lessons.
We have but one rule that ensures we will always make it to the top. Take your time. As long as we stop before we need to then surely we will alway prevail and eventually arrive.
We stopped many times. Once outside the local church where met two blokes visiting from New Zealand who had traveled from a family holiday in Wales to visit the locations featured in The television comedy. We didn’t know but we had just walked past the resting place of Bill Owen. A fellow showman and star of the show.
Later we paused for another breather and were offered cold drinks by a family arriving home from work. We drank, chatted and soon enough we were joined by neighbours all keen to know what was in our box.
We handed everybody in the growing group a festival brochure, thanked our pit crew and invited them to join us at the evenings show.
Arriving at The Royal Oak was a joy.
A vibrant pub well supported by the locals many of which were sat in the sunshine enjoying pre dinner drinks. Our landlady Lorraine welcomed us with icy chilled lemonade and showed us around. We set our Dolly out in front of the fire and as the Royal is a wet pub were driven off to another nearby pub for a meal.
Our audience gathered and before long the pub was packed. Eventually we had standing room only. We were overjoyed that most of the people we had met on the push uphill had arrived to see the show and our audience had a lovely mix of regulars, local families, festival goers and fellow professionals who live in Yorkshire who had traveled to view. Street theatre artists, puppeteers and musicians were all present and our show was very well received. Our applause at the end rang for an overwhelmingly long time and later as we packed down we spent a good few hours in fine company with a few pints of Landlord.
Two things stand out for me.
One was the moment I realised I was about to display my marionette manipulation in front of one of the country’s finest puppeteers. (Who later told me I had a done a fine job Phew!) But the winning moment was shortly into the second half. A group of drinkers arrived during our interval and as they had not been present during the first set were laughing and bantering at the far end of the bar. However Maxim swiftly wooed them with one of our more intermit routines and before long you could hear a pin drop and we held the audience until the end.
Three things actually. If you do find yourself in Upperthong at the Royal Oak ask the landlady to show you her trick with the maltezer.
Later still we were given a lift back down to our house courtesy of Smiley Smacko a local Pierrot clown and his fiancé Lounging Lynda, where I quickly fell into bed satisfied with a fine days vagabonding.
This was another practically perfect day in yet more glorious sunshine. Thank you to everybody who walked a 1000ft to see our show.