Other, far more important anniversaries will be commemorated elsewhere today by millions,and I do not underestimate or trivialise their importance by writing this. Many of my family served in the Armed Forces, and most were fortunate enough to come back intact. Indeed, were it not for my dad and both my Grandads doing so, I would not be able to comment on this, (or anything else) today. So yes-I will stop at eleven am this morning, wherever I am, and I will give thanks for that, and the sacrifice of others.
November 11th marks a far more trivial anniversary, too. Today it is a year to the day since the band I joined, in around 1975-the oddly-named “Black Parrot Seaside” finally and terminally broke up. It fragmented suddenly, in a distressing way,in my house, whilst we were rehearsing. It was something which I suppose on reflection was inevitable, given the internal tensions which were beginning to surface, but it was nonetheless very painful. We'd had a few dry runs at folding previously, with plenty of arguments, public and private, previous break-ups and long periods of dormant inactivity. The avalanche which followed last year's spat though, was terminal. Besides losing us several gigs and a Festival appearance, it took away several friendships with it. Including one that had endured for 55 years.
Together, outside and beyond the band, we had helped each other through bereavements and setbacks. We had attended each other's weddings, birthday parties, family funerals and retirement functions. We had watched each others' children grow up and had seen our respective careers flourish, then wither away to a comfortable life of sedentary folk-singing. We gigged, rehearsed, wrote and performed together. We shared holidays, hobbies, a sense of humour and political beliefs. But in the end, this was not enough glue to hold the frail canvas together. As a band, we had plenty of good times, a few very barren times and a lot of flat lining in between. It felt like bereavement when it happened, and it still does.
|5 piece BPS format at Banbury Folk Club.|
However, meanwhile, bravely whistling in the dark, and listening to others, I had convinced myself that I could carry on afterwards, running a (very successful) Folk Club, and combining that with maintaining at least a little public presence by performing solo occasionally. I see now, that I was probably both vain and deluded in that belief.
It seems that no-one wants to see or hear the stuff that I write or perform nowadays-. which is fair enough. I have reached a point where, unable to play any instrument,and without anyone prepared or available to rehearse, co-write or gig regularly with me, and with no-one very much interested in what I do solo, it is time to man up, face reality and accept defeat. I have tried unsuccessfully to launch several alternatives to BPS over the last 12 months and I have carried on writing, but it seems that neither my heart, nor anyone else's is really in it. I seem to have reached a spot where I cannot even command a floor spot, except from close friends. I cannot entice, persuade or cajole anyone into sharing a stage with me on a regular or permanent basis. I have become a Folk Jonah: an Albatross. It's a long way down from playing support to Darts and East of Eden, or from hearing your own work played on Radio One.
I have a couple of final commitments to fulfill and then,unless something really radical happens, all I will have left is Nuneaton Folk Club. A good cause, and one that needed re-launching. I have had great support in this enterprise from people like Julian Harkins, Malc Gurnham, John Kearney, Tom Veasey and Phil Benson. And also from my own family, especially Maggie and Fiona, who have given me great backing, and physical presence. I have had tremendous positive feedback, from audiences and performers. It has taken a lot of hard work to get the venue up and running, in the process, causing me a bit of stress occasionally, which has in turn probably triggered a few health issues. When I first agreed to have a go at it, I was led to believe that it would not harm the band, indeed, some felt it might enhance our collective talents by giving us a regular monthly target to rehearse for-the Residency. That was not to be. We made one appearance there only, which proved to be our last ever performance. And that was not the original 1978 format. Creative Armageddon followed.
So.... Black Parrot Seaside, one year on-R.I.P. As to Nuneaton Folk Club-who knows?