Firstly I would like to start off by wishing everyone a happy New Year what's left of it and the later you read this the less there will be left of this 2016 year.
As I write this we have had the first fall of snow and we should expect this in January but for me snow is OK for the first thirty minutes but then I have had enough of it.
So on with what has happened last year and hopefully what will be happening this year.
Almost exactly at this time of year twelve months ago I was heading off to Australia for a tour organised by Sandy Merrigan and a good tour it was. Just before I left, my wife Danni and I went down to visit my aunt Meg who is down in sunny Cornwall and on our way back we came via the Tamar Valley and my first booking in Australia was at the Tamar Valley Festival in Georgetown Tasmania. So good to be there and to catch up with some friends from years ago such as Danny Spooner, Scotty Balfour from sunny Alice Springs and Paul Stewart from sunny Darwin, also to meet and hear the magical guitarist Nick Charles from Melbourne.
Back to the mainland and to stay with Andrew and Heather Pattison in their idyllic home at the Burke and Wills vineyard at Mia Mia, and from there on to the Newstead Festival, which Heather and Andrew run over the Australia Day weekend, once again so good to catch up with friends and especially to enjoy the company and music of Dave de Hugard, I feel one of the best exponents of Traditional Australian songs and music, and Ken Prato. Ken is an ex-shearer and has written quite a few books on his experiences shearing and being “on the track”, very well worth reading. Ken and I have performed a few themed concerts together.
Next a couple for house concerts in great settings. Peter and Jane Crones's house is just fantastic and such a good venue. From there I was off to Healesville being driven there in style by John for whom I am doing the house concert for. I would be meeting our friends Peter and Anna Ashton there. Once again a good evening with some Anzac biscuits thrown in. After bidding a fond farewell and thanks for their hospitality, Peter and Anna kindly drove me to Melbourne airport for my flight up to Sydney and then on down to sunny Kiama and the home of Track Three. By that I mean also the home of Kath and Yvonne O'Grady along with Monty as well. It is always so very good to be with them as it is such a great place and as they are all founder members of the No Such Thing Band, music is all the go. Their record of Going To The Barn Dance, which is all Australian tunes, features Track Three and whenever I am in shouting distance of No Such Thing I will always request Track Three. I would advise anyone reading this to hear Track Three whenever they are within shouting distance or beyond of No Such Thing. If you would like more details about this wonderful band e-mail me and I will pass on all the information you require.
Back down to Melbourne for a concert organised by my good friend Cliff Ellery at the Melbourne Royal Albert Park Yacht Club another great night of meeting up with friends and playing music. The next day saw me off up to more of my good friends Keith and Jenny McKenry who have an Alpaca farm at Harcourt, Victoria. Keith has written the ultimate book on the great Australian Folk Song collector John Meredith well worth reading and owning, make contact with me and once again I can send details as to how to purchase this.
Off up to Adelaide then for some concerts in and around the Adelaide area. My good friend Eric Bogle picked me up at the airport and I would be staying with him and the lovely Carmel for a few days. The first concert that we did was at Port Noarlunga where a good turn up of people made for a great night and a joy to be there again. Auburn next for a festival there, we had Eric's bass player Pete Titchener with us. There was a good turn up of people again and to accommodate all the audience they had decided to hold the concert outside. Now the timing of this was just amazing as Eric was on last and as the dying sounds of his encore faded away down came the rain.
Next I was off to Mildura and the plan was for me to hire a car and drive the five or so hours to Wentworth, where I am singing just west of Mildura. A fantastic journey through the Australian countryside that I love, just miles and kilometres of empty space. I was doing a concert in the Art Back Gallery and I was sharing this with a group from Mildura, ‘Cauldron’, the ingredients for this are Mike, Glenda and Kath. A better Cauldron of music would be hard to find. I spent the next evening with them just basking in their music and company, more info for them as well. Also while I was in sunny Mildura, where the temperature reached 47 degrees, I had the chance to meet up with the father of a lady who had been in the audience at the Art Back Gallery, Jayne, along with her husband Ted. Jayne felt that her father and I would have something in common as he had come out to Australia as a young man and had experienced the Outback and had some great stories, anecdotes and poems that he had written. Indeed it was very interesting to meet Eric and his wife Dorothy and I have kept in touch with them. He very flatteringly has written a poem about me.
Down then to stay a night back with Keith and Jenny McKenry and then Keith and I drove, in separate cars to Cororooke in Victoria. Keith and I were doing a themed concert on John Meredith and his song collecting, which we did at the Newstead Festival and Keith's presentation of this is most interesting. The venue for this was in a church that had been restored by Andrew Beale and his wife Mary and this was in memory of their young daughter who had passed away. This was a afternoon concert and after bidding farewell to Keith I went back to Andrew's house to meet his family. Andrew suggested that we should go up to a local beauty spot Red Rock to survey the countryside and what a survey it was. Andrew' s three young children came up with us and they are each fine musicians and at the top of Red Rock they played some tunes, once again just wonderful and magical, Emily played the violin, Patrick played the concertina and Eliza was on the spoons.
That night I drove on to Geelong, the music still with me where I had the generous hospitality of Sandy Merrigan. The next day I was back up to Melbourne where I am doing a house concert for the Victorian Bush Music club and yet again another top class setting for this in a house owned by Dominic who is Mary Traynor’s brother, Mary being the wife of the late great Frank Traynor who was there and promoted the folk revival back in the early 1960's when I was but a lad.
Next I was back up to Sydney and the well established folk club there The Loaded Dog run by Sandra Nixon. Who should turn up to this but our good friend Malcolm Storey and Judith Moody, of the Whitby Festival fame, good to see them. Once again top class hospitality with Dallas and Jim.
I took a train down to Canberra where I was to do another concert this time at the house of Ian and Jenny McDougall. Ian wrote that most magnificent of tunes for the Henry Lawson poem ‘Never Never Land’. If ever there was an example of a " hand in glove tune" this is it.
Whilst I was in Canberra I met up with our good friends Bill and Jan Gammage. Bill took me on a personally guided tour of The Anzac memorial. a The centenary for the Anzacs at Gallipoli will be on April 25th and indeed Eric Bogle will be sing his iconic song ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ at Gallipoli when they have the dawn service. Bill is an expert on the Anzacs and has written a tremendous and informative book on these men called The Broken Years. Not only is Bill an expert and knowledgable about the Anzacs but on anything else to do with Australia and I am sure that he knows most things about most things including the length and colour of socks worn by Captain Cook on his arrival to Australia.
Another top book of Bill's called ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’, as with Keith McKenry's book on Meredith they are both well worth reading over and over and over again and then one more time again before reading it again.
Next I went down to the wonderful Cobargo Festival, with Ian and Jenny McDougall behind the wheel, separately. I have been to Cobargo before another wonderful setting in top class countryside matched only by the people there. No Such Thing were performing there and of course Track Three was on their set list several times. Also Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton were performing but I only managed to catch a glimpse of their singing as I was heading off back up to Sydney and had a lift organised with members of No Such Thing, Tony and Helen. Tony is an expert Lagophonist and a brilliant player of this instrument.
From Sydney it was back down to Melbourne and for the Burke and Wills Festival once again a festival run by Andrew and Heather and very good it was. I met up with Julie Matthews and Chris While there and Australia seems to be the only place we ever meet up.
I'm now at the end of the tour and flying back to the UK and farewell to Australia and all the many good and precious friends both Danni and I have there.
So now I am back and it is Spring. Good to be back with all the family and at the end of March Danni and I set off up to Gateshead to see The Wilson Family do their, what they described as "Forty Years of Shouting at Each Other" celebratory concert. This was a joy to be at and such wonderful and enthralling singers they are.
We stayed that night out west of Hexham at Brian and Valerie Bell's place. in the morning when we woke up and looked out of the window there we beheld the most wonderful of sights, heavy horses ploughing the land with John Dodds as the ploughman. I immediately went down, after putting some appropriate clothing on, and asked John if I could film him on my IPad. To which he graciously agreed and you can see the results of this on a YouTube video that our daughter Lucy, lwrfitness.com, has put alongside a song that I sing, ‘Copper and May’ written by Eric Payne.
This farm is the last farm in Britain that uses heavy horses rather that machinery such proud and gentle horses and people as well. Easter passed us by and the next event I had was a celebratory concert of Graeme Miles’s songs organised by his wife Annie, www.graememiles.com This was up in sunny Middlesborough near to where Graeme and Annie lived, once again a good turn up of people, I was with Ken and Marion Hall who organised Graeme’s website and have themselves done a lot to ensure that Graeme's songs will last for generations to come and then more generations from that generation of the next generation if you get my drift.
Anzac Day April 25th saw my being up in Staffordshire for a Peace Festival and a great chance to be with Dave and Val Littlehales in the Peak District what more can I say.
In May I was up to Scotland for a tour that was organised for me by Pernille Quigg. Scotland is one of my favourite country's and I always enjoy being there with good friends and if ever you are up in Scotland and get caught up in a long tail back of traffic as you drive through this magnificent countryside, it is me that is causing the jam as I will be driving along at ten miles an hour just enjoying the views.
While I was up in sunny Scotland I took the opportunity to go and see Dave and Mary Goulder who live north of Inverness. I knew Mary and her brother Duncan many years ago and always stayed with them in their family house in Troon, I knew their mother and father as well. Their mother is living up in Dornoch not too far from Dave and Mary in a home, so she was on the visiting list as well. Dave and Mary had a friend staying with them from Australia, Leonie and she actually had a copy of Keith McKenry's book on John Meredith which she was reading. I know it becomes monotonous to say how good the clubs and people are but I have to say it again and again.
Danni and I went back to France for a couple of weeks during June and good to meet up with friends there as well. It was while we were there I started up an old pastime of mine.
Back in the 1960's when I was in Australia, I started to do these designs that were quite free and easy and I even did one for an LP cover of Frank Traynor's Jazz Band, Frank Traynor and the Preachers. On my return here to England, late 60's, neither Danni or I can remember how it happened but I ended up being commissioned to do one of these designs as a mural on the wall of a shop in Carnaby Street, London. This was for a man called Irvine Sellars and he had a chain of shops called ‘Mates’. Any way the long and the short of this was that the music took over and I stopped doing them, but now I have started up again, examples of these below along with some of Danni’s artwork.
So back to the music and Cleckheaton Festival was great followed by some folk clubs up and around the country before we were at Whitby and staying for the Folk Week with wonderful and inspiring Mollie. Iris Bishop was with us and we had a great week of organising workshops for a concert performance at the end of the week of our annual show ‘Maypoles to Mistletoe’ this was once again a joy to do as there were so many enthusiastic performers for this.
In early October we did a show on the Australian poet Henry Lawson organised by our friend Doug Jenner and this was in sunny St Albans, not the same as we do with Shirley Collins and Pip Barnes called ‘Down the Lawson Track’ but Doug had put together more a show on Lawson's life in Australia and also his short stay in England in 1900.
One of my favourite flowers are primroses and I have this superstition that I have to kiss the first sight of a primrose, which can be quite difficult and awkward sometimes especially when the first one I see is in a ditch, but I do it come hell or high water. In the family we have other traditions in the way of baking bread on Good Friday which has to be positioned in the highest point of the kitchen till the next Easter to ensure that there are no dangerous fires, and it will not go mouldy. I also ‘phone up Ian Holder, and anyone else who is named Ian, this includes my brother-in-law, on October 31st to say Hallow Ian.
So while I was out walking on October 11th I spied my first wild primrose, situated in not too difficult a situation, and so I lowered myself down and duly kissed it much to the surprise of a passing dog.
During October of this year I had been invited to Dublin by Gerry O'Connor to do a couple of concerts and I was really looking forward to this trip. When my sister, Mandy, and I were 8 and 10 respectively our mother took us across to Ireland and in particular to Temple Moore in Tipperary where we stayed in a place called Cranach Castle. While I was in sunny Dublin I stayed with such great people such as Francy and Ann Devine. I must just say that Francy is the most wonderful of singers and he gave me a CD that he had just made, ‘My Father Told Me’. Listening to this on my return to England in the car one evening while driving back from a booking, I decided that it would be a good thing to relocate and move down to Capetown in South Africa, as then I could listen to this CD over and over again as I drove all the way back down there, I also add that I would include the Threfalls’ CDs as well. It was great to meet up with our good friend Christy Moore and his wife Valerie, special people. It was wonderful of Gerry O'Connor to have invited me over there and I look forward to the next time. Francy very kindly took the trouble to drive me over to Tipperary and to Temple Moore as I so wanted to go there and try to find Cranach Castle as when we were there all those years ago it was there that I heard " Folk Song " sung, unbeknown to me. The lady of the house Pauline Corbett used to be around the place singing ‘Patsy Fagan’ and a version of ‘Soldier Soldier Will You Marry Me’, fond memories as are they all.
So back from Ireland to be here for Shirley Collins’s Birthday Bash, a concert at Cecil Sharp House where so many people gathered to honour such a unique and special lady, she has been such an inspiration to so many people all over the world.
The next day Danni and I drove up to York as it was by now the beginning of November. Stan Graham, www.stangraham.co.uk a truly great songwriter and I had been invited to sing at the Remembrance Sunday service at the Barbican,in York, a chance and an opportunity not to be missed. November 3rd was Mary Goulder's mother's one hundred and second birthday, so I left Danni with Stan and Julie Graham as this would be a good chance for them to work on the La Jeuss Reunion that we are holding at Halsway Manor this coming April, everyone is most welcome to this although there are only a few places left, contact either Stan or myself if you want any information. I drove up to Dornoch to wish the Grand lady a very happy birthday. Dave and Mary had kindly put a concert on for that evening which I enjoyed immensely. Even met up with a friend from those early days in Melbourne, Paddy Zakaria.
So more travels around and then we had our Maypoles to Mistletoe concerts at the Hawth Studio in Crawley where we do three nights, then for one night in Guildford at the Electric Theatre organised by the great Lawrence and Lynn Heath, such enthusiastic and brilliant promoters of Folk Music. Before this however Danni and I headed over to France to collect four large balls of mistletoe to hang from the ceiling during each performance and then be lowered down for the audience to take a sprig with a donation which goes straight to St. Catherine's Hospice.
So now dear reader we are at the end of that year and by the time you have finished reading this we are all that much nearer to the end of this year. 2016 started on a high with a house concert hosted by the Copper Family whom I hold in the highest esteem along with Shirley Collins who are all such supporters of Sussex Traditions, Songs, Folklife and Lore.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every single one of you for all the support that you have given us and to Folk Music in general over this 2015 year. I know that there are people that I have forgotten to mention but you are all in our thoughts. As I say now that when I forget things I put it down to that four letter word AGE.
Martyn To You And All Who You Hold Dear. Good Luck Good Health Throughout The Year. Just a short line from me wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year love Danni xxxxxxx Here are some links and photos of people and places mentioned above
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcyGq9vS0l4 - Copper and May
Martyn and Danni