Hello again folks and thanks for all the comments on my last entry, it seems you have not all forgotten me during my self-imposed hiatus. It is great to catch up with old friends again.
First things first, I am still in Morecambe, Lancashire which is proving to be an incredibly friendly and sociable place even if it has been howling a gale since I arrived. I nearly got blown over walking along the promenade today. I was up and about quite early today after a relatively early night by my standards and went walking. I was surprised at the number of people in running gear that were on the promenade and thought that the good folk of the area must be very health conscious.
I passed the lovely Station Promenade which I mentioned in an earlier post which was sort of half open but not for what I needed. It was being used as race HQ for a 5 / 10km. Fun Run which explained all the shorts and lycra on display. Good luck to them all. I hobbled on down the prom and the first open bar I came to was the rather pleasant King’s Arms where I had been the previous evening so this is where the current entry is being composed.
Right, that is the background filled in so back to the narrative. I had left you after having negotiated the first playaround despite the loss of the usual leader Paul due to Chinese virus issues but whose shoes had been ably filled by the wonderful Chan Reid. There had been a good turnout indicating that people were not just staying away and everything was looking set fair for a great Folk Week albeit limited as it was with only four months planning.
The rest of the week passed off beautifully and I seemed to be playing all day every day. Apart from the daily lunchtime sessions with Chan which had a daily booked guest from the roster of those appearing at the Festival we had good attendances every day but we were not always in the George, which is unusual so let me explain.
The Saturday and Sunday were fine in the George but, because of the uncertainty around the whole Festival, Dave had booked his own non-folk bands in for lunchtime sessions. I stress that this is nobody’s fault, the whole Festival was thrown together in a fraction of the time it normally takes and the fact that it took place at all is a credit to everyone involved.
On the Monday Dave suggested that we could go into the lovely conservatory at the rear of the premises and play whilst the booked band were playing in our normal space. I was uncertain about this even if the conservatory is at the far end of the bar and at right angles to it. Having played amped up gigs in that venue myself I know how far the sound travels but we decided to give it a shot.
I went and spoke to the band as they were setting up and explained the situation. I cannot remember now who they were but they were lovely blokes and said that they didn’t “crank it up” to any great degree and would perform only as loud as was required. Great, but I still knew it was not going to work. Sure enough, I was to be proved right. We were doing our thing in the rather confined space of the conservatory and the band started to soundcheck. It was going to be an obvious disaster, it just was not going to work, so I went to speak to Dave, who I count as a friend and this is where you learn all you need to know about Dave Goulding, Broadstairs generally and the Folk Week in particular.
Dave was quick to see the problem and told me to give him a few minutes. He got on to the manager of The Pavilion, just a few yards down Harbour Street and which is owned by his parent company Thorley Taverns whose founder Frank Thorley and his son Phil, now the current CEO, I both know. The Pav, as we call it, had bands booked for the outside space that would have suited us so that was a no-go.
What Dave did next amazed me and only helped to ramp up the huge respect I already had for the man. I think I may have spoken before here about what I call the Broadstairs triangle. It is basically a T-junction of two extremely narrow old streets (Albion and Harbour) and there are three pubs situated right on the junction. I do not know how true it is but I was once told that these three, the George, the Dolphin and the Neptune’s Hall aka the Neps, are the three closest non-adjacent pubs in Europe. I don’t know about that but I know I have stood outside the George having a smoke and had a conversation with people standing outside the Dolphin across the road without shouting.
Enough of the topography of Broadstairs and back to the story. Bearing in mind that all the three pubs named are in direct competition, Dave ‘phoned up the new manageress of the Dolphin (who I knew from when she worked in the Tartar Frigate where I also play gigs) and asked could she accommodate us. Bear in mind, he is deliberately turning away custom from his pub and putting it into the hands of a direct competitor. That is the mark of the man, he wanted to make it work for us. The answer was a yes and so we packed up the instruments and trooped across the road (honestly if it is 50 feet I shall be surprised, look for the junction mentioned above on Google maps and you’ll see what I mean).
Having made the arduous trek all the way across Albion Street we went into the Dolphin to find the manageress busily setting out chairs and stools for us. Having not seen her for a while it was big hugs all round (she initiated it!) and she told us to come in, make ourselves comfortable and start whenever we wanted. We did!
I will not bore you with the rest of the week as it formed a fairly repetitive pattern of getting up, helping Chan to run the playaround and then wherever. I normally drifted over to the Magnet but I do also remember playing the 39 Steps (which had been so good to Paul and I in previous years) and I did fulfil my promise to Chrissie to organise a couple of sessions in the Crown which she seemed very appreciative of. I even managed one afternoon session in the Wrotham, which was my home for the week as it was for so many times before and subsequently. Incidentally, if you want to know why the 39 Steps is so-called, obviously after the 1915 John Buchan novel, have a look here, it is interesting stuff.
The simple fact is that I was working that hard I barely had time to see any other acts or even take any images, which is unusual for a shutter-happy man like me. I have interspersed this piece with some of the few I did take just to break up the tedium of my verbal ramblings here. The image above shows Chan (on the left) and my dear friend Sam Sloan, an all-Ireland champion having a natter before one of our sessions. Sam is a brilliant player and a lovely lady who I have known for years and we have played together many times. If you want to see what we get up to musically together then you can do so here.
Folk Week ended as it inevitably must and there were the usual fond farewells although the Friday night final ceilidh did not happen at the Pav (mentioned above) which is always a complete blast but there had been no late night events this year. I do not know if that was due to any remaining restrictions, and who even knew by then what the restrictions may have been as they seemed to change by the day if not the hour or it was just not possible for the Committee to organise it in the very limited time available.
It had been a brilliant Festival and arguably the best of the 30+ I have played there, not for the quality of the acts (good as they were) or the amount of activities but purely for what it represented. A Festival that normally takes 11 months to organise had been cobbled together in four months under circumstances when national regulations were changing so rapidly, it really was an organisational triumph and everyone I spoke to loved it. Yes, in the interests of fair reporting, several of the Committee are close friends of mine but this is an objective view and one that seems to be shared in the opinion of all those there.
Folk Week was over and I was so glad I had made it, given my state of health, and it had been great. The way people adapted to unusual circumstances and made it work was a thing of wonder. It is why the Festival has been going for well over 50 years now and I see no reason it cannot go on for another 50. Sure, all the old hands like myself will be long gone but the younger generation seem as invested in it as we were at their age and still are.
People who think that folk music is just a bunch of old farts in home-knitted sweaters and Moses sandals with their fingers in their ears singing mournful dirges (difficult to stick your finger in your ear whilst playing the guitar!) have much to learn. It is not like that any more. To any of my readers (158, I cannot believe it) I would say that if you don’t know anything about folk music, give it a try, you might even like it!
Needless to say, I was not going to be one of the exodus from the town on the Saturday morning, I love Broadstairs and I was going to stick around a while. If you want to see what happens next then you know the drill.