With her plummy overtones, our Sat Nav has for some time been christened Camilla and, like all computers, she is a quick witted idiot that sometimes does things that don't appear very sensible. The plotted trip from Maesteg to Southampton for example, via M4 and (presumably then the M27) looked a long and boring option to us - so, we cut across country soon after the bridge crossing back into England. However, having been taken almost into the centre of Bath to come back out again, pretty much through the centre of Salisbury and generally experiencing really tough driving for most of that Saturday morning, I think we might listen a bit more to Camilla next time. This was hard travelling.
Anyway, we arrived in Southampton in the sweltering heat to play at the 75th anniversary commemoration of the arrival in Southampton of the Basque children. A major exhibition and gathering of the Basque children and their families had been planned for the day, utilising facilities at the University of Southampton. We shall draw a veil over our efforts trying to find the relevant lecture theatre in the maze that is the University campus and simply say that we got there in the end.
The University technician staff were great in helping us set up in a very large lecture theatre. As you might imagine, the acoustics were excellent. We also meet up with two members of the BBC who have been working with Rob on a documentary (to be aired on June 18th at 11.00am on Radio 4) on the Basque children, their arrival in Britain and their families' experiences of life in Britain. They were going to record some of our songs and music to include in their planned programme; they had done likewise at the Guernica commemoration in Islington, but wanted some more material that they could choose from.
After a commemorative lunch, around 150 of the attendees at the event came across to the lecture theatre and took their places for what turned out to be a very emotional afternoon. Ultimately, many of our songs are about their stories and the power that music has to trigger memories and emotions should not be underestimated. For many, the songs articulated their feelings and we had many supportive and often tearful comments made when we had finished.
The afternoon's concert concluded with some Basque dancing. I had never seen Basque traditional folk dance before and I found it extraordinary. A dance troupe had come across from Bilbao to perform these beautiful and balletic dances. Without doubt, some of these dances must be related to our own Morris dancing traditions. There was a dance with bells attached to the dancers' calves, there was a form of sword dance, and other similarities in some of the dances. They even led a dance up the steps and around the back of the lecture theatre - exhilarating (ad every health and Safety officers nightmare).
Not surprisingly, Rob met up with many old friends at the gathering, including a number that he hadn't seen for a very long time.
Around 6.30pm, we packed up the jalopy and, this time, we trusted in Camilla to get us speedily out of Southampton and home in time for beers and a well earned slump in front of the telly. It had been a great weekend. We had met a lot of interesting folk, we had touched the hearts of many people and we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The following weekend was going to be even busier - bring it on!