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2002 February 11th Festival Hall etc


Hello – it’s quite a long time since I’ve done this diary thing so there’s lots of stuff happened. It might be quite long so here’s a summary in case you wonder what I’m going to write.

    • Gigs with Fairport Convention on their Winter Tour.

    • Waterson Carthy.

    • All About Eve.

    • New CD

    • Germany and Holland

    • Australia



I have recently had a very nice time doing several gigs around the place. Yesterday for instance I was playing at The Birmingham Symphony Hall with Fairport.


I’m doing a few select gigs of their Winter Tour – I’m playing accordion and singing on ‘The Crowd’ – a song I wrote for Simon about Cropredy and which is on their new album XXXV (because they’ve been going for 35 years!!!), My Love Is In America (wonderful new song by Chris Leslie) and Madeleine (good song by Scottish bloke can’t remember his name sorry).


It was really very nice. In the morning I had written this new song which was one of those ones which just comes  out whole and only took about half an hour. It’s on the piano and kind of sad and poignant – if you know Sailing Boat, it’s a bit like that. Anyway I recorded it on my 4 track and took a couple of copies for Fairport to have a listen to. I also recorded one for Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy to hear – I’d done a gig with them and Fairport at the Festival Hall on Thursday and had been totally inspired by the sincerity and power of Norma’s singing so I thought she might like the song. The thing is that it’s so amazing to be able to write a song in the morning and get it listened to by the toppest folk-rock band and the toppest royal family of folk in the world that afternoon.


Anyway – the gig was marvellous fun and the house was virtually full. I saw lots of people I knew and my German promoter Ulla had come over especially to see it. I’ve done this gig twice before so know the sketch. I.e. you have to get in the artist carpark and then get into the dressing rooms and then not leave your bag anywhere conspicuous in case it gets blown up. Then remember the security number for getting back from front-of-house to backstage. The audience looks lovely from the stage all comfortable and listeny. Also smiley. It’s the same at The Festival Hall. The audience look happy and comfy.


At Symph Hall, all the dressing rooms have pianos. Which I love. When I got there Norma, Eliza, Martin, Saul and Tim were already there spreading their possessions all over the dressing rooms. Norma commented at the end of the evening when she my stuff piled up in one corner of the dressing room I was sharing with her and Eliza – ‘You should’ve spread your stuff around all over the room like us’. Maybe I will next time. I haven’t learnt that one yet.

However I have learnt how to do hairspray now. I was beginning to think I would never progress to hairspray from actually having my hair cut. But now I can do it – it makes my hair go all big plus Liza gave me some special glitter which you shake onto your hair like a pepperpot.

At Festival Hall I had a wonderful time meeting up with my cousin Richard (Dowden) who I hadn’t seen for yonks (how many yonks? About 7 or even 8 maybe). We talked fast trying to catch up with stuff. He’s great. Plus he does being an Africa Correspondent and knows lots of African stuff. Plus goes on the radio 4 sometimes. Perhaps sometimes you might hear him…

Also Ralph McTell was there and David Hughes (who did support for FP the year before me) and Steve Duggan who has written a wonderful book which is light blue, smells newbooky and is called Fairport Convention The Greatest Folk-Rock Band In The World. I think I must be famousish by now as I am in it more than once!!! Steve is very nice and he does being a promoter around Essex way – I am sincerely hoping he will book my band. I am reading his book and it’s interesting as it tells the story of Fairport but only in passing while he’s telling us how he got this Fairport gig together at a school in Essex.

Anyway – just to finish off about Symph Hall – what’s great about that place is it’s got really good acoustics and feels great to play in. Rob Braviner – the manager and soundman for Fairport – got an incredible clear and warm sound for the band. He was saying the other night at Fest Hall that he listens by taking things out not adding things in. That’s why everything can be heard. That’s why he’s done sound for people like David Bowie, Robbie Williams, James Taylor and most people you can think of who are any good.

Today the Fairports and the Waterson Carthys are at The Folk Awards in London. I think they are receiving a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ thing. Apparently this means you get an award because you are really old but still gigging. I think they are going to enjoy it as there will be lots of drink and food and a good hotel. Norma was telling me that when she won that Mercury Prize a few years ago the meal was fantastic and then afterwards there were loads of chocolate telephones (Mercury = phone  company) leftover which no-one ate. So her and Martin went round sweeping them all into carrier bags. They’ve still got some.

This set of people are really genuine and have a deep love of music and the connection it makes with everyone. I sat in the dressing room just talking to Martin and Norma about music and life (I know sounds really naff but it’s inspiring). For instance Norma not only liked my new song but asked the history of it – who is it about? And then told me her own experiences. And Martin talked about performing and how you can’t just sit back and let it happen, you can’t rely on what you’ve already achieved but continue to attempt the new. He said he felt privileged to be able to do this for a job.

Anyway after that we went and watched a bit of the Fifth Element on telly – only a bit – while Fairport were on. I know – how irreverent! But actually it’s quite difficult to watch from the wings at Symph Hall and we were enjoying talking and faffing about. And Fifth Element isn’t even a good film.

Then we scampered down to get on for Meet On The Ledge which was most gratifying Peggy having suggested we get all the ‘squeezies’ playing (squeeze-boxes = 3 me, Tim and Saul). We’d done this at Fest Hall too me having genned them up on how it went just before.



So – onto All About Eve. I’ve been doing a little support slot for them whenever I can and recently I had the chance to do 4 of the 6 dates in their acoustic tour. It was really enjoyable and great to see them again – especially Julianne who I made a gig with at Banbury Mill in August which worked fantastically. I’ve written a few new songs and tried a couple out on this tour. I had a great time and returned to Kings Lynn Arts Centre where I had the terrible piano incident with the Fairport about a year ago. This was when Fairport (with my encouragement) pushed the lovely Steinway grand onto the stage which because the access was sloped, the piano pedals kind of virtually sheared off. The funny thing was that one minute the Fairports were there and when the horrible noise of cracking wood was barely over they had just disappeared behind curtains, into dressing rooms or toilets – nowhere to be seen. I could see one of them’s feet sticking out under the curtain. I was left to explain to a very shocked stage manager that the venue’s piano was virtually a write-off. He informed me with a glazed expression that the next day (not-surprisingly) was a concert by a classical pianist. I laughed. Rather inappropriately. I think I was quite shocked at breaking the piano.
He just squatted on the stage John Cleese style with his head in his hands saying he didn’t know what he was going to do. It was a Sunday. It was in the local newspaper apparently that Fairport had broken the grand piano…It would be rather interesting to get hold of that article.

Anyway – I kept off the piano for the Eve gig. Plus no-one from the venue seemed to remember me or at least what I‘d done so that’s okay isn’t it? The Eves were on good form and had new stuff in their set. I played French horn on Shelter From The Rain and – new – Julianne sang along with me on Pockets On Fire which was great. My new album which is all the songs recorded on the tour I did with Fairport in 1999 was out in time for this and it sold well during these gigs.

Around this time I also did a few of Fairport’s warm-up gigs where I sold my new box-set. Which is a shoebox with my new CD in together with my tour diary, a T-shirt, a Cropredy programme, some chocolate, some instant custard plus one of those little gel sack things which help things to keep dry. Plus everything signed.

Other gigs were at Burton-On-Trent, Portsmouth and Crewe. All were very different and all I mostly.


This is getting really long – I told you it might – I’ll just briefly tell you that I’m going to Australia in March for 16 days. Apparently it’s going to be fun. I’ve never been further than Germany and I’ve only been on a plane to France and Jersey!! Wonder what it’ll be like.

I’m doing a festival called Port Fairy Folk Festival. Eddi Reader will be there and probably other people I know. My Australian promoter phoned me this morning to say that she’d just heard XXXV on national radio ‘The Crowd’ which is going down well there. Then ‘Tried and Tested’ was played off my Pockets On Fire CD. Hooray!!

After this I shall return to UK for only 2 days before setting off with my trusty band called Kate ad Chris to Holland and then Germany. We will take a ferry and drive due to amounts of stuff we have to carry. It will be such fun if last June in the North was anything to go by with K+C – they love life. Then after 6 days we’ll return to UK and then the next day I’ll be doing the Fairport Supporters Tour with Steve Tilston and Bob Fox who are folk men from the folk world and very good indeed.

Such fun to be had but hard work. Must remember to take some chocolate.

Have to go now as my washing machine has been spinning out for 2 hours now and I suspect something is wrong.