Thursday, July 31, 2008

See Morris Dance

It was inevitable that the authorities would be alerted.  Follow this link for the story.

cloudstreet in the sun

We headed South after that run of gigs, keen to sleep.  The long haul of the tour was starting to make itself felt.  Two nights in Dursley thanks to the wonderful Jarrad and then South to Dorset and the Sunray Folk Club in Broadmayne.  This is a newish club but Bob and the gang have done a terrific job.  There's a real community feel, the audiences are substantial and enthusiastic and everyone seems keen to join in and make a success of the club.  They were a lovely crowd.

Next day it was time to head back to Eden, with a short detour via the Cerne Abbas Giant.  While the sign said that they'd been a bit lax with the application of sheep in recent months (to clear the grass away from the chalk outline), I'm glad we made the detour.  (One theory is that he marks the site of the death of a Danish giant who led an invasion of the area.  His head was cut off while he slept and the villagers drew a chalk outline around him - presumably "crime scene" tape was unavailable.  This theory does not explain the need to create an anatomically correct representation of the slain foe.  I mean, 30 feet!!!!  And why the nipples?)

But we only had a little time to linger at this ancient crime scene.  We were off to Eden.  I'd met one of the directors of the Eden Project, Caroline Digby, in 2007 when she took part in the Great Debate at the Woodford Folk Festival.  She showed us around the Eden site in Cornwall on our last trip and had invited us to join her for another look around and to catch the final night of the Eden Sessions, a series of concerts held on a purpose-built stage in the middle of the project.  (For those who've just come in, the Eden Project is a vast educational and environmental display centre, built in an abandoned quarry in Cornwall.  Vast domes, or biomes have been constructed there, containing controlled environments, such as the Tropical Biome to show visitors biodiversity up close.  There are huge gardens and displays and everywhere you turn there is creativity, education and delight.  We loved it.  They know how to party in Cornwall - 

KT Tunstall was the act on for the final night.  The sound was perfect, the venue was gorgeous, but the music let us down a bit.  A few too many 4/4 pop songs for my liking, but still a fun show.  I was happy to be there, but by the end, we were all keen to get away and head to bed.  I'm sure it comes down to personal taste, but I had much more fun catching the Eden Choir performing with Audible (a local beat-boxer) in the Mediterranean Biome.  Here's a snatch:

We woke up at Caroline's house in the seaside village of Pentewan, with the sun shining and the beach awaiting our previously boot-clad toes.  Fantastic!  We had three days of blissful lying about, visiting the beach, John saw The Dark Knight Returns (Heath Ledger - Wow!!!!!!), there was music, food and more lying about.  Just what was needed.
After the delights of Cornwall and a day at St Ives, we spent a solid day driving East to Essex.  Once again, Jonny and Vicki opened their house to us (thanks guys) and now we are preparing for the flight to Denmark tomorrow.

A joyful time.

More to follow.  Love from the road,

John, Nic and Bec

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brampton Live was fabulous! Loads of friends, really well-organised gigs, and bowls of fruit backstage.

We rolled into town late Friday (pausing on the way North to revisit the unremitting horror that is the Bolton North services), John went to bed while Nic and Bec went over to the festival to catch the last set of the night on the main stage by Seth Lakeman. Saturday saw cloudstreet on the main stage. The heavy rain which had been a feature of the Summer so far made the site a wee bit soggy, but everyone was determined to have fun and the venue was fantastic. There was much hooting and hollering. And we played just before the amazing Maddy Prior, so we saw her new set as well.

And Saturday night saw us finally catch Bellowhead in concert. They did an absolutely storming set. Incredible passion, power and big, fat arrangements. Bec caught this tiny snippet of this glorious 12-piece in action:

And on Sunday we were a 5-piece!! Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan joined us, along with Rebecca to create the biggest cloudy-combo to date. Vicki and Jonny had only hit the site at 4.50 am after the long haul from Sussex (ah the joys of a busy diary). We'd managed to organise a couple of rehearsals with them early in the tour, and with Bec along, we arranged a few of our songs for guitars, concertina, accordian, flutes, nyckelharpa, cello, percussion and 5 voices. The gig was a real joy. Great sound, lots of chances to kick the voices into gear and flesh out some of each other's musical ideas.

Vicki has posted a few clips on Youtube. Here's an idea of that to which we were up:

We missed the Kila concert on Sunday, because we were off on another drive ourselves, this time to the East and the South Shields Folk Club. A lovely night at the club saw us teaming up once again with Emma Nixon, who is taking time away from the Brisbane Celtic Fiddle Club to study at the Folkworks course in Newcastle. The folk club gave us a terrifically enthusiastic night, including a floor spot by Stewart (pictured below) who went well beyond the call of duty, with a both a cork hat and Waltzing Matilda (complete with local accent, eg: joombook in his tooker-barg). A thing of rare beauty.

Monday night we were down in Sheffield to run a workshop for the Sheffield Folk Chorale. We were delighted to be asked to work with this group as we've admired their harmonies, arrangements and presentation since we first heard them in 2003. They were a great bunch of singers to work with -  fun, keen, and deliciously noisy.

And now we've a few days off and the sun is shining.  In an hour or so we're off to Dorset, and tomorrow sees us visiting the Eden Project again.

There are worse places to be.

Love from the road,


Thursday, July 17, 2008


As much as we've loved the last couple of weeks of schools work, it was absolutely wonderful to get cloudstreet back on stage at a folk club.  We played the Belper Folk Club in Derbyshire on Tuesday night.  A wonderful room for singing, loads of enthusiastic singers and, in particular, a couple of old friends who came along to see us.  Malcolm Lloyd came all the way from Australia (the photo is his - thanks Mal).  

Having a break from concert-type performances has really helped us to appreciate how special it is to be able to present the music that we love to an audience.  The workshops with kids are great fun, but they require a different type of energy and focus.  Having worked hard to develop our stagecraft and performances, I really enjoy stretching ourselves in concert.  All strings to the bow.

This year in particular has seen us engaged in a lot of educational and developmental work, both with children and adults.  It's given us a variety of work on this tour and has helped no end to flesh out our workshopping skills.  

Being back in Derbyshire is giving us a wonderful opportunity to rejuvenate - much sleeping and even a sauna (at the local New Bath Hotel).  This weekend we're heading North to Brampton, South Shields and beyond.

Hoping for clear skies,


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pure whimsy

Recycled telephones turned into wool-producers.

(With thanks to Eveanne Kelly)

Friday, July 11, 2008

A week of being back at school

We've just finished a week of wacky instruments, enquiring minds, screaming, shouting, singing and joyfully jumping up and down.  3 schools in 3 days in Yorkshire.  Today has been a day of lying about as the rains come down and the temperature's dropped.  

Working with kids has been at turns fulfilling, hilarious (like the small boy who commented when we brought out the lagerphone -"Look what they've done to Jesus!"), and scary (they were thirteen and they were prepared to be very hard to impress - until we told them to pretend to be seven-year-olds). Very different work to concert performances, and challenging in a very different way.  We've been surprised at how tiring a full-day of this work can be.  Concentrating hard all day will do that!

This weekend is the Birdsedge Village Festival (Jacey's local village) and we're performing with the kids from the local school as well as a concert spot on Sunday.  Today has been a day of concentrated lying about, catching up on the inbox and watching Torchwood)

Next week we'll be back into grown-up gigs!

Love from all of us.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Busman's Holiday

Hello again,

Yesterday we headed just down the road to Saul and Folk on the Water (part of the Saul Canal Festival).  It seems like ages since I had the chance to sit in a concert and watch people play, just enjoying the music, and kicking back with no expectation that any second we'd need to leap into action ourselves.

Soon after arrival, we had front-row seats for Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer.  A fantastic set.  The nyckelharpa is really fitting in well (Vicki is also adept on flutes, whistles and double-bass.)  We hope to have these guys performing in Australia in a couple of years' time.  Well worth a look at

After the show, we were dazzled and amazed by the boat procession, John bought himself some hobbit-clothes and then we sheltered from the wind and saw a fabulous set by Nancy Kerr and James
 Fagan, in their new line-up with Rob Harbron on concertina, guitar and vocals.  Top-notch music.  I just love Nancy's vocals.  Effortless and entrancing.  Hopefully we'll see the three of them in Oz later this year.  (here's their site - well worth a look).

After a day at the show, we headed back to Dursley, and warm beds for the night.  Today is a tidying of minds and possessions day.

Much love


Friday, July 4, 2008

Moulding young minds

More schools work the next day in Bideford.  The kids were great and asked a huge number of questions about Australian animals.  Here's John being informative and fun.

We stopped off in Glastonbury on the way North the next day, with a delicious vegan lunch at the Shekinashram (where we stayed a couple of years ago).  A climb up the Tor and now a day or two in Dursley before journeying North.

We seem to managing a combination of work and play on this trip that we haven't always had in the past.  Can only be a good thing.

Love from the road,


A little late for Dancing Up The Sun, but....

Ian Redpath has just sent us this gorgeous clip of Dancing Up The Sun on May Day in Brisbane.  He's set the whole thing to our song, Dance Up The Sun and we just love the result.

We missed the dancing this year, but the clip really brought home for us how special it can be.

Wishing you all dancing and merriment,


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A day at the beach

A day at Appledore today:  art, sunshine and the discovery of the Famous Hockings Oyster - local ice-cream, lamington-dipped wafers and marshmallow.  Tastes great and it's good for you.

And on the way home, we stopped at Westward-Ho! (the only town in the British Isles to have an exclamation mark as part of its name).  Here's how the beach looked this afternoon (note the life-guards).  If you just can't get enough, check out the live web-cam of the beach.

We were missing Peregian.

Back on the mainland.

Hi all,

After a wonderful time in Dublin, taking advantage of the tunes and the occasional burst of sunshine, we flew back into Liverpool and headed back to Yorkshire in the early hours of the morning, marvelling as the sun refused to completely disappear over the horizon.  The sound of heads crashing onto pillows followed.

A couple of days of rest ensued, with John joining Jacey and Hilary at the movies enjoying a retelling of the well-known folk-tale, The Incredible Hulk.   It should perhaps be renamed, The Moderately Interesting Hulk (or even Hulk II: Revenge of the Plot).  Perhaps Marvel comics are better in the original print/imagination versions.

We played in Darlington and then Bedford - both lovely gigs, very well-received, and then the long drive to Devon.  Jerry and Hilary Bix had invited us back to Bideford for a few days of workshops and concerts.

Sunday saw us with a harmony singing workshop group, that night we had a concert in a local theatre and Monday was a day with kids from two of the Bideford schools.  Here they are trying to work out what a lagerphone is: