Without checking, I am pretty sure that this was the first time that we have done two na-mara gigs on the same day. So, fortified with a decent breakfast, we set off for the Dartford Bridge to head south of the river.
The first event of the day was a themed performance along the lines of the one we had done in Croydon a few weeks earlier, based around the origins of the Spanish Civil War and the history of the Basque Children.
Joe Whittaker, who is a man of immense energy and a wonderful spirit, has (amongst a myriad of other things) with others been raising funds for the restoration of the Old Church in Ash in Kent. One of the many things he has done in this regard is to organise themed musical events. He had done one before - using sea shanties to recount early sea voyages - and when he spotted that we were playing not too far from Ash one Sunday in May, decided to approach us about doing a lunchtime themed session with songs and words, in Ash. Joe had heard us on the radio and had met us at Dartford Folk Club earlier in the summer and felt our themes would be of great interest to local music lovers and folk club members alike.
Joe and his wife Kate had made us a kind invitation to lunch, which we were very happy to accept. It was great to meet them both and hear of the wide range of interests they have and activities they are involved with. Wonderfully ‘fed and watered’, we then made our way to the church.
The Old Church in Ash has a wonderful acoustic and Rob was in his element warming up before people arrived with a range of his classical pieces. (How many fingers has that lad got?) This is a place where music soars. It is also a very beautiful and tranquil space, and we spent a little time before the performance just appreciating its elegant loveliness.
As the time for the start of the performance came closer, the pews began to fill up. The performance was, as in Croydon earlier in the month, split into two distinct halves. The stories we were telling are highly emotionally charged and this was a space to capture and channel that emotion. The audience was engaged and closely involved in our narrative, the music and songs (some traditional, some self-penned) went well, and we had long chats with many in the audience, both at half time and after the show. For many in the audience, the stories were wholly new to them. Many were interested enough to buy CDs, including our new EP, Songs of the Spanish Civil War..
It was also very nice to meet up again with one member of the Dartford Folk Club whose father had fought in the British Battalion and survived the Spanish Civil War but had not had the chance to learn much about it before his father died, and who had made a special journey to Ash to hear us perform.
Following the performance, we returned to Joe and Kate’s for some more excellent and restorative tea and cake. After getting our breath back, we said our thanks and goodbyes and set off for a full gig at the Horsham Folk Club in West Sussex, arriving just as the organisers were opening up the club.
The Horsham club is held in a large room with a well stocked bar at the end, and has a substantial seating capacity.
The organisers were very welcoming and made us feel quickly at home. It is always a pleasure when there is plenty of time and space to tune up and prepare for a performance!
Club members began arriving and it was nice to see Rob's brother-in-law and wife in the audience.
Over and above the quality of the floorsinging, the thing that struck me about the club was the number of songs I was hearing for the first time. Despite my listening to folk music pretty exclusively since my mid-teens, nearly all of the songs sung that night were new to me. Many of them were beautifully delivered,
After our afternoon performance, our 'ear' was in and we felt we played well. Certainly the feedback we received throughout and after the performance was excellent. One elderly lady was especially kind, thanking us and suggesting our performance was 'the best ever'. What a wonderful compliment and we are thankful to her for giving us such a fillip.
Many thanks to Mary Gilmore and all at the Horsham Folk Club for having the courage to invite a new band to headline for them, for being so welcoming while we were there and we very much hope that we will be invited back to this excellent club at some time in the future.