I was born in Warwickshire-in Meriden to be precise, the village claimed to be the centre of England. I was raised in Warwickshire. Educated in Warwickshire-Primary and Secondary school-The University of Birmingham is my old Alma mater. I have lived in a Warwickshire village since 1987. My paternal roots can be traced back in the County nine generations, to at least 1650. So it has always rankled with me that, despite having written (and recorded) (and performed) songs about my home turf, in the 36 years it has been on, I have not once been involved with the only Folk Festival that bears its name. I'd played festivals in Oxfordshire. In Leicestershire. Indeed, in Warwickshire, too. But never Warwick. The organisers ( I felt) didn't want me. And I was too proud to beg. But today a minor ambition has been fulfilled.
O.K. It wasn't the Main Stage. It wasn't a warm up act for Billy Bragg. It was a Fringe Event in a pub garden, so I sort of snuck in incognito, under the radar. But for a few minutes at The Bowling Green, it felt like Glastonbury. Amongst friends, with a decent audience and with the sun shining, it was, finally, a box ticked on the Folk Bucket list.
Intrepid is the word which springs to mind in describing the journey I made to sing two songs today. I chose the bus, so that I could sample the beers on offer in The Bowling Green, and not worry about parking. The down side of this strategy was that the journey out and back took five hours. I could have flown to Crete during this time. Or driven to Fort William.
Warwick (like most of the rest of the county), had taken a damn good soaking during the previous 24 hours. But the sun shone down today on the oddly titled X15 as it tootled, Postman Pat style, along the country lanes. Presumably “X” stands for Express-but that, the X19 is not. I live 19 miles from Warwick. When I appear at Warwick Folk Club, the drive from home takes just under half an hour.
Thirty five years of being the little boy pressing his nose up against the Sweet Shop window evaporated. All put to rest, as compere and legend Malc Gurnham introduced me, to polite applause. It seemed a cheerful audience, well lubricated and with several familiar faces. I felt safe to do “Albert Balls ” and “ Folking Liberty,” and the audience listened, tried the choruses, and laughed in all the right places. I even had a little kazoo orchestra strike up to my left:people I'd been talking to at the bar beforehand.
The pub itself I liked. I had my Invisibility Cloak on to begin with, so it took a while to persuade them to part with the Youngs IPA on offer, but once we'd broken the ice there, I thought the Hog Roast was delicious and the beers were well kept, with a good choice.
In the pub garden, besides people I knew, a few others recognised me or spotted the B.P.S. T-shirt I was wearing. All good when your self-esteem is flatlining. I was recognised too, on the return bus and got talking to someone else who'd seen us once at The Tump. When I got home I saw that the Black Parrot Seaside Facebook page had taken several more hits. What a shame it took the band finally and terminally splitting up before I could get to go and experience all that. What a pity we never got to play Warwick. Hopefully it won't be another 36 years before I go back. I'll have had a telegram from the Queen by then.