Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Personal Look back at 2011/ The Past Week / and Looking Forward to 2012

2011 the Chinese year of the Rabbit.   So I hope for you the year has been full of carrots, lettuce leaves and the other fun thing for which rabbits are famous for.

And it’s a year where the Politicians of Europe have behaved like rabbits, staring into the headlights of a complete economic meltdown, as the real effects of the Banking crisis of 2007 begun to really bite.  But we don’t want to depress ourselves too early into our Annual Review.

For The Rawmarsh Masher and Acoustic Rotherham it’s been great year, even if away from the musical comfort zone things have not been so great.

So behind the scenes it’s not been a great year.  In August I eventually hit the brick wall.  It had been building up for some time, perhaps years, and might have continued if it had not been for a good friend who recognised that I had a problem.  Let’s be honest, I recognised the problem.  Over a period of time I had slowly withdrawn from real life, creating comfort Worlds in music or Teaching people to drive.  In other words there I was functioning at full capacity in my comfort zone while anything outside of those zones was simply ignored. It also reached the point where I wouldn’t go out unless forced to and even my music World was not holding any real enjoyment for me.


Well there’s a whole load of reasons which remain a muddled mess, and I’m not going to try to unravel them here, I can hear the collective sigh.  

But having recognised the brick wall had been hit it was time to do something about it, something I had avoided for far too long and I determined to follow the advice of the experts.  

This was to prove a major life changing decision. The drugs prescribed excluded me from professional driving, forcing me to sit down and completely re-evaluate the direction of my life and how I earn a living. 

So it was against this background that The Masher and Acoustic Rotherham played out the year 2011. 

The Masher got to play at a number of new Festivals and venues, indeed a few little ambitions were surprisingly met, and of course he was also able to play a few of his favourite places to. 

New to the list this year were The Rotherham Beer Festival at Magna, an event we’ve always wanted to play but have been overlooked for a few years.  So thanks to Rudi and Joe for making that possible.  I played that one with the original Rawmarsh Masher Keith Nicholson, “fingers” to his mates as my wing man.  It was great to do a public Gig with Keith again, it having been some five years since the first one.  

Also new to this year was the Nature’s World Festival just outside of Middlesbrough, a fantastic gathering of musicians.  Thanks go to David Kidman for the invite.  

One of the highlights of the year was the few hours I did on the Keighly  and Worth Railway Beer Festival playing to a captive audience.  I played this one with John Statter as my wing man and great fun it was to.  Railways and music make for a great combination, especially when that special added ingredient, Real Ale, is also added into the equation.
John also joined me for The Mashers slot during the Rotherham Open Arts Festival, but more on that one later. 

It was a real pleasure to be asked back to play The Worcester Music Festival, one of the most fantastic Grass Roots music Festivals there has to be crammed into a two day period.  I played this one solo and The Cricketers is becoming a second home to me.

I also managed to get across to Wirksworth for the Street Arts and Music Festival, it was our fourth year at this Festival and always great fun to play.  This year I shared my spots with Roy Blackman who was of course an instant hit with the various audiences.  Thanks due to Dave Smith for asking us back.

And after three years we made a short return to BishopFM, as part of the pre publicity for the soon to be released Roy Blackman CD.

That’s not to forget spots at The BramFest, Henry Roots, The Thornberry Fund Raiser, The South Yorkshire Festival, The Birdsedge Village Festival, Acoustic Circus, a couple of trips to take real culture to Hull and of course a short appearance at the Rotherham Pensions Day of Action in November.

And here I have to give my sincere thanks to my Road Crew, The Sutherlands Ltd Motto “We know The Way”, Sue and Barrie who have valiantly transported me around the County and sat through my standard sets for perhaps one too many times.  Love you guys, you really have helped so much at what has been a very difficult time for me personally.  

If 2012 is as interesting then it’s bound to be great fun. 

Slideshow pictures of the year can be found HERE  Or if you want to down load specific picture fill free to do so from the Facebook Galleries HERE

Of course the New Year resolution of 2011 to insert new material into the act got lost somewhere, but we’ll be resolving to add New stuff again this year and who knows, a new instrument.  As far as appearances are concerned we’ll be keeping them much as we have this year.  I think the first full set might be as warm up at the Roy Blackman CD Launch sometime in January.  

While I’ll be attempting to get to more Clubs and Sessions if I can, to be honest the two song format really does not suit what we do anymore and often requires a fall back onto the old material for sing along content,  which in turn means people don’t really get a flavour of the Masher experience.  Sounds a bit egoistic, but unfortunately true.

Acoustic Rotherham has at last moved up a gear.  Regular readers will know that I’ve being thinking hard and listening to people about where Acoustic Rotherham should go.  I think the decision has now been made. 

Throughout the year it has been behind a number of Rotherham based events where we have sought to include, and provide opportunities for as many of our local artists as we possibly can.  Notably the Rotherham Open Arts Festival Fringe was entirely made up of artists who have supported Acoustic Rotherham.

One of the great joys has been to see local performers developing over the three years that Acoustic Rotherham has been active.  Phillip Hartley launched his third CD,   Tina McKevit and Matt Hegarty go from strength to strength and their Workhouse Folk Theatre Production will I’m sure take them onto greater things in 2012 (if not I’ll want to know why).  

It’s been hugely enjoyable to watch and listen to the development of local song writer Phil Sinclair, and of course, dare I say the find of the year, Pocketful of N’owt, the latter being just naturally brilliant performers.  

Overall, as The Acoustic Rotherham Third Birthday Party in October proved the standard of performance just gets better and better, from acts, some of whom made their first big set appearances at Acoustic Rotherham.

 If additional proof of this is required then, strangely perhaps, as we all froze in the Festival Gallery throughout November, I felt so chuffed for everyone as I don’t think that there was one dud set amongst the thirty five put on, indeed, for me there were in fact some really outstandingly professional performances, and all in what were very trying and difficult conditions. 

Slideshow pictures of the year can be found HERE Or if you want to down load specific picture fill free to do so from the Facebook Galleries HERE

The Acoustic Rotherham Web Site remains my pride and joy.  After a period of stagnation in terms of readership 2011 saw a sudden increase in interest.  We slipped as low as 800,000 in the Axia listings at the turn of 2010, but by making some minor changes to the site, we now stand at 530,000 World Wide, which makes us around 19,000 in the UK.  
Translated this means we’re getting around 1,000 hits a month. 

This makes our humble site one of the most read Folk / Acoustic music sites in the UK, indeed only the Glossy Spiral Earth etc come anywhere near to us.

This means that artists associated with Acoustic Rotherham are having their music played on a regular basis, indeed many acts are been discovered by a whole new audience, which has to be good. 

The Weekly News Blog remains popular.  Around 100 readers every week on average.  I always have a chuckle about the reading numbers for the Blog, it seems The Sun has it right, sensational bad news / stroppy Headlines always gain the widest readership.   The readership had to be rebuilt after Myspace in their wisdom completely the wiped their Blog RSS links without telling anyone. 

Regular readers of the Blog will know how it’s developed over time.  Not only does it point you towards the music, but also includes a wide range of Rotherham Arts information, short punchy reviews, and the odd, probably in more ways than one, Political Rant.

The Acoustic Rotherham Tool Bar has not proved to be a hot add on.  However, I’ll be adding a few items to the links bit which should keep you well up to date and for folks wanting to know what’s happening in Rotherham a more useful tool.  So go on why not Down Load the Tool Bar HERE

But where are we going in 2012. 

The Quarterly gatherings will continue.  The first for 2012 will be on 29th January, a decision on which Pub will be used has yet to be made. 

Work will be starting in January on the 2012 Rotherham Open Arts Festival Fringe and this year we hope to make more inclusive than ever before.

Acoustic Rotherham will also be playing it’s part in the wider Rotherham Arts scene, watch out for developing news regarding an event in Rawmarsh during the year.  And around the last week in July there will be a weeklong Festival that will include the Myke Barritt Music Trust Birthday Bash and an Acoustic Rotherham plus a range of events that will be joint promoted with one of Roy Blackman’s Groups.  

We also hope that Acoustic Rotherham’s newly formed links with the Poet / Creative Writing Community, and ROMP in particular will go from strength to strength.  A start has been made with the Poets Corner page on the Web Site, which will be overseen by Carol Robson, and I’m sure there will be continuing collaboration throughout the year. 

We’re also considering a Raise Your Banners event in 2012, this will be in collaboration with ROAR.  

So there’s an exciting Year ahead.  

Exciting times for The Myke Barritt Music Trust as well.  In January the first major project will come to fruition with the launch of Roy Blackman’s CD, originally titled “Roy Blackman – Rotherham’s Man of Memories”.  Watch out for news of the launch Party.  
This is project that has been a great personal pleasure for me to put together.  I hope that the finished project, when it is published, will prove to be a huge success and a fitting record of the creative work of Roy.

If you’ve not heard about the CD or placed your advanced order you can find out everything HERE

However, what happens for the Trust after that is very much in the air, as with the direction the Trust is likely to go.  

While I’m sure the Wandering Minstrels will continue to raid the occasional Folk Club, the actual role the Trust would like to carve out for itself within the grass roots music Community has still yet to be defined.  

Personally I find it disappointing that eighteen months down the road that Trust really has not moved on or developed, and while it’s great that we have made it possible to record Roy’s work for posterity, it was what at best could be described as an obvious project. 
There has been much said and done that will make progress in 2012 even more difficult.  

It’s always hurtful and disappointing when opinions become spark points or when the administration gets in the way of creativity, which sadly has become the case.  I hope that this will be sorted soon, but fear the worse. 

As things stand at the moment the Trust is not a fitting tribute to my music companion and good friend Myke. 

So from all this, what was the telling moment of the Year for me?

For me it was the very first meeting of Arts folks in Rotherham outside the normal sub-groups, a meeting organised by Gav Roberts. 

For three years I had ploughing what I thought was a fallow field, throwing the odd hand grenade at various Festivals and events for not being inclusive, lack of publicity and the rest.  I went along to the Meeting at The Bridge in cynic mode – seen it all before, and on the basis that where ever one or Artists are thrown together in the same room ego and total confusion will take over. 

There was something about the way that meeting had been put together, and something by the way that Gav led the meeting that allowed the frustrations of everyone to be aired in a constructive manner.  

What was clear that Artists from all genres were as frustrated as I, and the scales fell from the eyes.  Contacts were made plans laid and a general feeling that we had all moved forward was the lasting memory of the Meeting.

It may sound a little evangelical but the realisation that there were other Artists out there that saw the value in audience cross fertilisation came as a major surprise and prompted me into further action. 

Because of that Meeting I became involved with the Rotherham Open Arts Festival, and through that the first Rotherham Busking Day took place and a full programme of events for the Festival put together, including music and poetry.  

Through these experiences so much more happened.  I discovered ROAR and the fantastic work that RCC is doing in the Community and witnessed the positive affect that Art can have on the lives of people.  

Yes, the learning the curb has been steep, but the value of being part of a wider arts scene has to be more valuable than neatly being compartmentalised as Folk or Rock or Poetry.
What’s more it has driven home the point that we’ve got a fantastic healthy and vibrant Arts scene in Rotherham, one that needs to be nurtured and encouraged to grow further. 
The question I’ve been asking myself is, why has it taken three years to find it?  The reason quite simply is that none of the great stuff going on gets the publicity it deserves, indeed, as we found out with the Open Arts Festival, our local paper and Radio Station considers the event as being secondary to events elsewhere.  

So my main mission in 2012 will be to find a Publicist that really knows what they are doing and can bring the local media on board positively to help promote Rotherham based Arts projects and Artists.

And publicity is going to be even more important as we run into 2012.  Funding for the Arts is going to get tighter, and the criteria for Grants will be more sharply defined, that means the little extras will have to be self-financing, which in turn means Sponsorship.  We need to get at our Local Industrial and Business Community big time to join us in Partnership.  So again we need someone with that rare ability to charm the cheques out of the Companies. 
We need to demonstrate that the Arts and Commerce can go hand in hand and this applies particularly to the Town Centre Regeneration.  

Yes, the often to easily criticised Rotherham Arts Community are doing their bit.  Thanks to a “Peoples Millions” Award ROAR opened their new facility of low cost Studios and Rehearsal Space at Westgate House in December.  

This was a project hobbled together on a shoe string demonstrating the Arts Communities dedication to creating vibrant Arts Community in Rotherham.  ROAR have also appointed a full-time Development Officer, who will become an important Resource for Rotherham Artists seeking to put projects together.

The ROAR Web Site is HERE

That’s all to come.  

Looking back on the past week.

With Christmas out of the way it looks as if this year people were breaking their necks to get out of the House.  

Wednesday’s Nellie Folk was one of the best attended for many months, with just enough performers to take the assembled Folkies entertained until 11:00pm.  

Super performances, especially a stand out two song set from Paul Pearson.  But that’s not to say that we also had a fantastic performances from the Club regulars.  Also good to see Jimmy making the trip from the West.

I was sorry to see that the Jazz Open Mic which was supposed to be meeting down stairs at The Bridge was not quite so well supported as Nellie Folk.  I have a feeling it was because no one thought it would be on.  There’s a lesson to be learnt there somewhere. 

Then on Thursday there was a brilliant turn out and one of those really nice relaxed Session atmospheres at The Red in Braithwell.  Looks as if this one might become a fixture on the Diary. 

Again some brilliant performances, but I have to say that Paul and Liz Davenport get better and better every time I see them.  I know it’s wrong to pick folks out from a session like that, but it was great to see them and even better to hear them sing.  Paul of course is adding to his collection of Instruments by the year. 

Good to see a lot of the Red Lion regulars in attendance and some fantastic musicians that I think I last saw at The Black Lion.  

A great afternoons entertainment, even if I think Roy hoped it would continue through to the early hours of Friday.  

It seems to be a quiet period over the weekend and New Year, but everything kicks off for 2012 with The Red Lion Folk Club meeting in Braithwell on Tuesday night.   In fact all the regular sessions and Clubs will be back in action from Tuesday as we all return to some sort of normality.  How fast time passes when we are all having fun. 

The kick off to 2012 can all be found on the Diary pages HERE

But while we all look forward to what 2012, lest we need reminding, I don’t think in my entire life that the World has been more dangerously placed.  With recession pulling the hearts out of the so called Western Economies, The Middle East a powder keg of for disaster, with Egypt’s problems yet to be properly solved and Syria ripping itself apart, while Iraq is being left to it’s own devises.  And in the far East China Is gaining in economic strength with Korea is in a state of transformation and Japan is still reeling from the effects of the Natural disasters of 2011. And of course on the Sub Continent India and Pakistan are less than friends, a situation that is only going to worsen as we pull out of Afghanistan.  

The existing order is being challenged like never before. 

And at home we have a Government that has alienated itself from Europe in some sort of display of macho supremacy by our David.  One fears that this is a decision that will come back to haunt us in the years ahead and maybe in 2012 as the other European Countries sort out the Euro mess with minimal input from the UK.  

On that one I cannot see the sense of Tory MPs and media cheering Dave on, and almost gloating at the mess the Euro is in.  Whatever the outcome it is going to harsh, as we’ve already seen what happens to Governments that cannot manage the changes being demanded by the Bankers, the imposition of Government with no wide mandate. 

And there’s something rather sick about the Bankers and their so called “markets” somehow regulating a mess that they have created, with absolutely no democratic answer-ability at all.  

Don’t you dare look to Nick and The Lib Dems for help, they have sold out virtually every one of the principles on which their Party was founded, quoting The National good in mitigation, sorry boys that don’t wash with me. 

Labour, choke, oh dear!  Ed really should be making more out of the mess within the Coalition and exposing / isolating Dave and Nick more, not allowing them to hide behind the Coalition Shield, as they do when under fire.  Ed needs some sort of major error by the Coalition Parties to help him. One thing is for certain, turning his back on the Labour Movement is not the way to win the next election. 

So at every level it’s all a little less than cosy.  Personal challenges to be met, while there’s plenty of creative and artistic work to be done, and brought to fruition, all to the back drop of recession, and World unrest.  

Yes indeed a challenging 2012 looks on the cards, but hey, we’ll clear the board of Gold Medals at the London Olympic Games, we’ll win the European Football Championships even if we are based in Poland while our matches will be played in the Ukraine, Andy Murray will win Wimbledon, Button and Hamilton will jointly win the Formula One Championship, both Sheffield Clubs promoted.  

Whatever you resolve for 2012, and yes it’s the Year of the Dragon, may you have fun and have great success, while supporting local music and keeping it live.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Short Xmas Blog / This Week's Sessions / and a Festive Rant

Yes.  That’s Christmas for 2011 done and dusted.  The Masher enjoyed a wonderful relaxing Christmas Day, only slightly spoilt by having the Queen lecturing me about togetherness in “hard times”.  She doesn’t know the half of it.  And there was something just a little askew with the Duke being top of the News items despite bombs going off in other parts of the World.  

One of the joys of Facebook is that “friends” share their celebration experiences, and it was so good to see so many friends enjoying family Christmases and sharing the “joy” of the season.  It was good to know that all but Julian, who appears to have his annual disaster to coincide with Christmas escaped unscathed, this year for Julian it was brakes failure on his car.    Oh, and my Sister was enjoying a family Christmas with her daughter when they had a power cut.   Reminds me slightly of the Christmas we had as kids when the Aga went out at the crucial moment!  

For The Masher it was a wind down week.  After three months of near constant activity I had a lovely week of chilling out.  Well almost.  Mainly I was doing battle with Officialdom during the day and growing more and more frustrated and dare I say impoverished, by a total brick walled bureaucracy.  As we wilted into the, “sorry can’t do anything until the New Year” part of the week, I think cracks were forming in the mortar.  One hopes that the repair man is off over Christmas and we can push the wall over in the New Year.

However, while I was drinking hot toddies, and adding to the profits of Beecham’s (do those products really do any good?) while letting the body catch up with the activity of past weeks it was good to hear that the regular Clubs and Sessions were all in full swing. 

The reports I had from The Cross Keys on Tuesday night suggest I missed a classic.  

Guests for the evening were Tina McKevit and Matt Hegarty who have made such an impact on the Folk Club scene over the past four years or so.  I’m told that they performed highlights from their Folk based Theatre, “Workhouse”, and stunned the audience with the drama and music.  I really am looking forward to experiencing the Show myself, and I believe in January they may be performing more highlights at Nellie Folk (that’s the fourth Monday in the month).  

Acoustic Rotherham is doing it’ best to harry these sometimes reluctant and modest performers into recording and touring “Workhouse” so watch out in 2012 when we hope you’ll be hearing a lot more about this duo.  

Impoverished as we currently are, The Mashers and Acoustic Rotherham were not able to send out individual Christmas cards to our Supporters or the artists who have given so much of their talent to the cause of “grass roots” music during the year – so demonstrating our usual cheapskate methods our Web Site Christmas Card will remain available to all our friends, new and old, for the Festive Season.  It may be open, but the sentiment is genuine.   If you’ve not already opened the Card GO HERE

In Poets Corner I’ve published (nepotism lives) a poem that Son Number 1 wrote way back in 2002, so I think the Copyright has run out.  It received critical acclaim at the time and was published in a BBC collection of poems written by young people.  You can find it HERE
Just a reminder to Poets and or Creative Writers, Poets Corner is for you! The success of the page will depend upon how many folks send in material to be published.  So come on boys and girls show the World just how creative South Yorkshire is. 

Also on the Poetry side of the margin, I have made Roy Blackman’s only published collection of Poems “The Ruskin Collection” available on the Web Site HERE   For those who don’t know this Collection of Poems was made possible because of Roy’s year of study at Ruskin College, Oxford in 2001 /2002 where he passed out Top of his Class.  Roy used the small Prize Award he received to self-Publish five hundred copies the Volume which has been sold out for many years, indeed Roy did not even have the foresight to keep a Copy back for himself.   We’ve published the book as a PDF file.  There are around thirty five poems in the collection, and amongst the reflections of a Ruskin Student in Oxford, something I can relate to personally, you’ll also find a few of his more well-known compositions.  While the reproduction is not of the best we hope you will not find the small £1.99 charge too much for the Volume? 

Of course we’re on tender hooks waiting for the arrival of Roy’s CD “Roy Blackman –Rotherham’s Man of Memories”.  As soon as they arrive Roy will be coming around to Masher Towers for a major signing session.  Also look out for News of an Official Launch date and Party.  You can Pre-Order your Copy by going HERE

So, to the immediate days ahead, where you’ll find plenty of Sessions to get out to, allowing an escape from the Turkey carcass and family.   

Tomorrow (Tuesday) The Black Bull, Aughton  is having it’s now Annual all day session , starting at 1:00pm and carrying on until late, with Black Bull type goodies to keep the energy and drinking levels up.  

On Wednesday it’s Nellie Folk at The Bridge in Rotherham, with maestro Rob Slow in the Chair taking us through another fine evening of Folk Music, starts around 8:45pm.  I hope the buses will be running.  

Thursday a Wandering Minstrels Christmas Special, linking into the Red Lion, Braithwell Club who are having an afternoon Session from around 1:00pm.  We’re hoping to find all the usual suspects taking up occupation of the Bar.

Also on Thursday, from around 4:00pm The Yellow Lion in Greasborough will be having a High Tea Session, with Festive goodies and running through to late.  

So plenty to keep the juices running into the New Year.   You can find the listings for December HERE and for those planning for the New Year January can be found HERE

Some sad news to report from The Myke Barritt Music Trust as we’ve been informed of the Resignation of our Secretary Jane, with immediate effect.  We need to thank Jane for all her efforts on the part of the Trust in some very difficult circumstances, and express the hope that her skills will not be lost the Arts Administration of Rotherham. 

Finally, I have been fascinated by the regular adverts on TV for “The Iron Lady”, the film which takes a look at the life and times of Mrs Thatcher.  Dare I trust myself to go off to the cinema to this Bio Pic glorifying the politics of this woman? I think not.  Let us not forget that Thatcher was very much the architect of our current economic and social blight.  I shall always remember on the day she was elected in 1979, my Dad telling me that the World would never be the same again.  And so it proved. 

She set about destroying the Institutions and accepted social standards, turning Communities against each other with the enthusiasm of a Tottenham rioter, and was only saved from electoral oblivion by Argentina invading the Falkland’s.  Even that should have been a lesson to us as the Government went around Europe scrapping up  a Fleet to transport the troops, lessons we didn’t learn from as she continued to pursue her destruction of the Dockyards. 

It was Thatcher who set about destroying our Universities!  Ripping the heart out of Social Science and other Arts Departments with glee, and generally cutting funding to an extent where the National Economy would never again be able to afford to re-build without charging students.

Any thought that she and Reagan were the architects of the collapse of the Eastern block again is a complete fallacy.  It collapsed because it had had it’s time; in simple terms an economy weakened by ploughing money into the “Cold War” eventually collapsed. 
Her vandalism of the Trade Union Movement is now so established.  Her lies during the Miners Strike seemingly unexposed.  

What’s worse is that with the exception of Major, every Prime Minister since her time in power has sought to be compared with her, even Blair that man of the people…………….  Not!

Without doubt she was single minded, didn’t listen to her Civil Servants too closely and was ruthless in dealing with anyone who got in her way or dared to hold a different view.  All the signs of a mad woman.  

So why the hell are we celebrating her in film?  Why are people suggesting that she should be given a State Funeral?  What has she done for our Country that warrants such reverence?  Honestly I don’t have a clue.  

I make no apologies for saying that I find not one single thing to celebrate about the life of this person, other than the passion which drove her to do the things she did often in the face of huge and mass opposition.  If only we on the left could find someone with such passion to drive through change on the scale of Thatcher but to the benefit of all, rather than just the Rich and Powerful.  

And if that is not depressing in itself, we’ll be reviewing 2011 next week………….   Go on laugh!  I’ll lend you some of my Happy Pills if you so wish.

Whatever you’re doing this week, have fun, keep it live, and support local music.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Music Into Christmas / Roy Blackman On the Road + Other Chit Chat

If you needed reminding, we were blown into the week by high winds, and plunging temperatures. However those self same chilly blew a small party of Rotherham Folk up the A1 to Bishop Auckland.

The purpose of this little outing or carefully planned mission was to start the serious Promotional work for the Roy Blackman CD, “Roy Blackman-Rotherham’s Man of Memories”, and of course it being a Masher outing, if anything could go wrong, it did! 

Full details of the CD can be found HERE

But first huge thanks to our companions of the day, Jane (MBMT Secretary) who was the Driver of the day, and our friend Linda who I think was on standby in case Roy needed the kiss of life at any stage.  In such dreadful driving conditions this was a trip very much beyond the call of duty.  

Roy himself was suffering from the most horrendous cold making it near impossible for him to sing, so the trip for him was hardly comfortable nor for everyone else who were trying to avoid the germs….. lol 

Thankfully for a Monday the A1 was quite clear on both the outward and homeward journeys and we made excellent time, which of course may have had something to do with the high winds of course.

So, windswept, we eventually found where BishopFM had hidden themselves, since The Masher made his last visit to these foreign parts.  

It was good though to renew acquaintance with Terry Ferdinand, who in my view, through his Folk Programme on BishopFM, has done so much for “unsigned” artists working in the Folk genre.   

Unfortunately, we had chosen the day when the Station was suffering from a complete Internet Streaming failure because their service provider had major sever problems, which was a little frustrating as we would not be broadcasting live to the full potential audience.
Roy beguiled us all though, by kicking off with a near perfect rendition of “Collapse of Family Firm” and while Terry played tracks from off the CD, Roy would provide an insight into his thinking when writing the songs. 

And when asked about his time on “Hughie Green’s, The Skies The Limit”, he recited the whole of the Uruguayan 1930 World Cup winning team complete with footnotes like their Centre Forward  only had one arm.  A fact that will now be firmly fixed in my brain.
The interest from the FM listening folks was good to see though, although poor Terry was having to field pages of Emails from Internet listeners wondering why they could not see or hear us.

The Masher added a bit of live music with a couple of songs, The Martians have Landed in Rawmarsh and was joined by the mass choirs of the outing in a thundering rendition of May Day. 

As I write I’m still waiting to hear if all the backup systems worked and that a copy of the programme can be made available on the Acoustic Rotherham Web Site.   Fingers crossed.
And so a very tired Masher made it to his duvet at around 1:45am Tuesday, another reason for again expressing thanks to Jane for her magnificent driving feats. 

Roy was again out and about promoting his CD on Thursday.  This time it was more local, this time with the normal Masher road crew of Sue and Barrie making sure that he got to the right place at the right time.  

While the Masher whiled away his evening Roy was entertaining the members of the Conisborough and Denaby Main Heritage Group, at the Ivanhoe Centre with a couple of poems and songs and winning over a few folks ready for when the CD hits the market in January. 

I’m told that Roy was a great success, making many new friends.  

Attended an interesting Meeting at the Arts Centre on Friday, where Arts Groups in Rotherham came together to discuss the development of an Event in Rose Hill Park, Rawmarsh during the Summer of 2012. 

For me it was another of those steep learning curb Meetings, and a bit of an eye opener  was astonished by the huge amount of work that has already been done in Rawmarsh, and essentially directed by young people.  The essential difference this time around will be that there will be a positive move towards Ethnic Fusion in the creativity.  There will be more on this as the outline for the Event begins to take shape. 

Then on Saturday we all put on Myke Barritt Music Trust hats on, well, the MBMT Committee put their hats on and headed for the Papa Legbas Bash at The Bridge
Papa Legbas had very kindly dedicated the evening to the MBMT and allowed us to both publicise the work the Trust is currently engaged on and explain to a non-Folk audience why the MBMT was formed.  Given that this was the first time that the Committee had ventured outside the comfort zone of Folk Clubs I think that the evening was a success, in as far as a few quid was made for the funds via the raffle and new friends made for the Trust.  

There is an argument to be made for doing more of this sort of Promotion in Grass Roots Music Events outside of the genres that the Trust is by default associated with.  

Mid-January is now the clear date for the release of the Roy Blackman CD, as this week has seen major progress and the final product signed off to the duplicator. 

The limited edition first 150 copies, signed by Roy are beginning to sell via the Roy Blackman page of the Acoustic Rotherham Web Site, so if you want to be sure of reserving your copy then now is the time to sign up, and of course you get instant access to the two FREE Down Load Packages with eleven additional tracks not on the CD.  All details HERE

Christmas has again crept up on me almost without me noticing.  OK the Rotherham Street Christmas lights are on and the Lions Christmas Sleigh is doing the rounds, but is it really Christmas next weekend?  Well apparently so.  No Sunday papers on Christmas Eve and it seems half the World is already on the Christmas holidays.  What eventually gave it away was The Boss digging out the Christmas Tree yesterday along with certain other Christmas decorations that we can only just afford to light. 

Perhaps reflecting the general mood of the Nation, I’ve noticed that there are fewer houses this year lit up like the Blackpool illuminations around the dormitories of Rotherham, or maybe I’m simply not getting out enough.  

In any event there’s two seasonal Poems from our ROMP friends, Christine and Carol on the Poets Corner page, and I’ll just remind you that if you have Poem for which you’d like a wider audience then please send it in to    Poets Corner HERE

So what are the good things happening that will be taking us into Christmas?

From what I understand all the regular Clubs will be meeting.  If you’re travelling to Clubs it might be worth checking it all out in advance of your trip.  However I can say with certainty that on Monday Barnsley Folk and Acoustic will be having their Christmas Party to which everyone is invited.  

Tuesday The Handsworth Club Christmas Special at the Cross Keys will feature Tina McKevitt and Matt Hegarty who will be performing their Workhouse Folk Musical, and it’s well worth getting along to if you can make it.  

On Friday Swansong Acoustic will be doing their very best to be heard at Vasco in Wickersley from about 9:00pm.

You can find it all HERE where you can also find the Special inbetweeney Club Meetings and Sessions should you be feeling a need to escape the Turkey and Christmas pudding.

This week’s other additions to the Web Site has been a Review of Savant’s Album “Scrapbook” on the David Kidman Page HERE, and there are additional links on the Resource Page, including one to FOLK21, the new name being given to the UKFCN HERE

The re-branding of the UKFCN to Folk21 is one of the developments to have come out the recent Meeting in Birmingham to discuss building a series of Regional Presentation Days. 
More details as they come in about this development for primarily Guest Booking Folk Clubs. 

Local Band NoWhere Fast not satisfied their push for the Christmas number 1 with their “name your own price down load” – “because It’s Christmas”, have just released a new EP "Something Over Nothing" with four NEW rocking tracks, Check it out HERE  Also available is their five Track EP available for a modest £3.99, “Feel Good Movie Of The Year”.  You can find and down load both HEREJust reminder that NoWhere Fast are what’s left of These Black and White Flames and have been getting some excellent Reviews for their live performances.   I have a big note in my 2012 Diary to get to see them. 

While on CD news, watch out very soon for the much anticipated CD from Papa Legbas.  I’m told that some of the Tracks are very special indeed.

There you go……………….   Flying into Christmas, and dare I say, if you start to get bored with the Brandy and minced pies why not check out the fantastic music made by local musicians that’s available either via their Reverbnation page which you can find our Friends page HERE or check out their exclusive Demonstration packages HERE on the Free Down Load page. 

Whatever you’re doing this week, have great fun, support LIVE MUSIC and KEEP IT LIVE. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Reports and Reviews from a Busy Week for the Arts in Rotherham + CD News + Loads of Chit Chat

It’s been one of those really special weeks on the Rotherham Arts scene, and strangely for The Masher, mostly outside of the music Community.  Mrs Masher has hardly seen me.

It all started on Tuesday night.  I was invited to attend the AGM of The Open Minds Theatre Company.  From what I understand Open Minds is the umbrella organisation encompassing a number of Arts Groups for Rotherham. 

Artists who appeared at The Old Market Gallery during the Festival will be pleased to hear that they got a wonderful round of applause for your efforts. 

But beyond that, I was absolutely astounded by the scope of the work that is done by Open Minds especially with the young and disadvantaged adults, and beyond.
The work of the Company is simply fantastic, and more’s the pity that I’m only just discovering it and how deep the roots go into the Rotherham Community.
The short presentation put on by the young ones demonstrated how drama was helping them to develop and gain confidence.
The work done with the Schools especially The Shakespeare Festival, working with Inspire, touches over a thousand of our Children annually, and the work performed to an audience of over three thousand at Magna.  Thus bringing more people in to sample the Arts.

Other areas of work include Colourscape, Don’t Just Sit There, Life Act.

I make no secret of the fact that I have been a long term critic of the Art organisations in Rotherham, seemingly now out of total ignorance as to what was going on, which of course begs the question, why didn’t I know?  Was that I’m an idle bugger and not trying to seek out things?  I don’t think so! It’s more a case that not enough is made of the great Good News stories that Open Minds have to tell I fear. 

It’s rather disappointing that not one of our senior elected Representatives could find the time to attend the AGM, nor in fact looking at the apologies, the previous year either. Their attendance might just open their eyes to what is going on and also help lift the profile of the work being done.

I hope that we can find a role for the Music Community within all these activities.  And here I come to the nitty gritty, for some reason the general feeling amongst the music Community appears to be that Open Minds and the rest are somehow aloof from the music scene, that they are operating on another plane so as to speak, yet, I’ve found the experience of the last couple of months to be inclusive. 

Yes, I have my moans about certain organisational things, but we on the music scene cannot moan about being excluded, too often, if we’re not seen to wanting to be involved.

On the other hand it would really be good if Open Minds actually sought out the main stream music Community in Rotherham and engaged in a conversation of inclusion, in much the same way that they have with ROMP.
We need each other if we are going to demonstrate how the Arts can really make a difference to people’s lives especially in these times when we can look forward to at least a decade of austerity and all that means for everyone’s lives.  Art can help folks to find their own identity and give meaning to what will sometimes seem a hopeless situation. 
That includes the Folk Clubs as well.  Too often the Clubs are viewed as being exclusive from the outside.  

And so some of you might be asking, where’s Dickie’s comments on the Open Arts Festival.  Well the document has been completed, but rather than publish the full range of my comments at this moment in time I’ll just cover the main point.

1.     1.  Diary placing of the Festival.  I think there was general agreement that the Festival was held at the wrong time of the year given the lack of facilities within the Gallery.
2.    2.  Facilities at the Gallery.  Toilets, heating and lighting.   This was problematic, but I’m sure that there is much that can be done given that the building is on a sort of loan lease to RCC.  But I’m sure it will be explored.
3.       3.  Matters relating to inclusion will be discussed in detail, as has been pointed out there was far too much exclusion.
4.       4.  Publicity.  Yes, probably the biggest issue.  All concerns will be explored and put right for next year.
5.      5.  Expenses.  We will also be seeking to get the budget set in stone.

Hey, you are saying where’s Dickie’s normally potent and controversial asides?  Well, for those you will have to wait longer.  Vicky and I will be putting our heads together over the next few weeks to produce a document that reflects all our major concerns and takes us forward into 2012.  We can’t put right the mistakes of 2011 or the years before that, but what we can try to do is make this a Watershed year where we resolve to make positive changes that will improve the profile of the Arts in Rotherham. 

The result of these discussions will be published.

So to Wednesday   was a landmark day for Rotherham Arts when Westgate Chambers was Officially Opened.  The facility of Rehearsal and low cost rented studios was 50% funded by The Peoples Millions, and will be an amazing facility for all the Arts in Rotherham. 

It was good to see so many people come along to the Opening and treated to performances from the more senior Youth Theatre and the Hot Beans team.

 Onwards and upwards for everyone.  Congratulations to the team that worked so hard to complete the facility, painting and carpet work was still being done minutes before the opening.  And it’s all been completed on a shoe string virtually non-existent budget.  

It’s great to see the facility open, acting as a focal point for a range of services to the Arts Community in Rotherham, and that includes music. 

Third night out of the week, Thursday.  Off I went on a very cold and windy night to “Hot Beans”, a comedy sketch show, written by Karen Mulcahey and Tair Rafiq. 

I was of course well wrapped up against the climatic ravages of the Gallery, but forgot my flask, something upon which many folks commented. 
The effort was well worth it.  This was a fine entertainment providing much needed laughter.  It was great fun.  

From my perspective I found the jokes in the main worked really well, as Karen and Tair led us through a labyrinth of subject matter, from Cannibalism to Bankers (who said there’s no difference). 
For a first performance this was simply amazing and I’m sure the writers will have learnt much from it, and if I was being critical, on go on Dickie, one or two of the sketches might have had more impact with a bit of hard editing.
And of course this was Gav Roberts farewell to the boards as he goes off to concentrate on his own Poetry for a bit.    

Gav’s  reputation on the performance Poetry scene is growing fast and he’s already picked up some “paying gigs” for the New Year.  Well done mate.  But somehow I don’t think you will be allowed to sit in the wings for long.

But, the whole Hot Beans were so completely professional in their performance and once again demonstrates the depth of talent we have in Rotherham.  Congratulations to all. 
Best of all, it was played out to a packed audience. 

From one full House to another. 

What a fantastic night the ROMP evenings at The Bridge are becoming.  This was the first one I’d been able to make for a bit because of Masher commitments, and I was so pleased to find that initial momentum of the evening has been maintained. 

Brilliant creativity and talented writing from all involved bring the evening to life.  I think what impresses me the most is that there is little of the “me” syndrome found just too often on the music scene.  Everyone listened to, and was appreciative of, each other’s contributions which all went to make for a super ambiance I’ve found only rarely around the Folk Clubs or sessions.

We of the music scene can learn a lot and if you have not been to a ROMP it’s something I can recommend, even if poetry is not your bag you’ll enjoy the evening. 

And yes rarity of rarity, The Masher made his poetical debut with his not too often used “Nelson” and one from Attila The Stockbroker “Asylum Seeking Derleks”.  It was a bit strange performing without a guitar wrapped around my neck.

Second Friday of the Month, starts at 7:00pm

Don’t forget to that the Acoustic Rotherham Web Site now has a Poets Corner.  At the moment Christine has a seasonal offering on the page, and I’ll be adding a classic from Carol Robson very shortly, or now.  HERE

Music folks note the Full House signs.  If Comedy and Poets can do it, music should be able to achieve the same results with regard to audiences.   I’ll leave that one festering…….

Undoubted Star of a Star studded evening’s entertainment was of course our Roy, one of few original artists who can flip easily from Poetry to Music in an instant and win the audience to his side.   Roy made many new friends or is that found new groupies on Friday and was clearly like a “pig in muck”.  

So it’s good news that I can now report that all the prep work for the CD “Roy Blackman-Rotherham’s Man of Memories” has been completed and signed off and that the product is heading off to the duplicator this week.  

This means that we should have the CD no later than Mid-January which is of course excellent News.  OK we would have liked to have got in for the Christmas market, and every effort was made to achieve this, but the production work on the extensive insert has proved quite a job, and the MBMT want to make sure that the final product is one that reflects the professionalism of the Artist.  So while we wait, I know it is going to be worthwhile.  

Also we’ve opened up Reverbnation and Facebook pages for Roy HERE and HERE respectively, where already he is gathering in a bevy of new and old fans.  The Mashers will have to look out as their top ten position in the South Yorkshire Reverbnation charts will soon be being challenged. 

Don’t let this put you off ordering your copy, because only the first 150 copies will be signed and if you order now you immediately get access to TWO DOWN LOAD PACKAGES which together give ELEVEN Roy tracks that you will not find on the CD.  You can find all the detail HERE

If that’s not enough Roy Blackman News, then here’s more.  On Monday 12th December, that is (tomorrow or today whenever you have picked this up) Roy will be making a live appearance on BishopFM to talk about his work, the CD and Myke Barritt Music Trust, accompanied unfortunately for listeners by The Masher.  I’ve spoken to Roy this morning and the poor chap is suffering from what sounds like a dreadful cold.  We’re hoping that he will have enough voice to volunteer some songs tomorrow night.  The Programme is streamed live on the Internet by BishopFM HERE (the listen live and live video steam buttons can be found in top right hand corner of the page).  The programme is 9pm – 11pm.   Please text, message or Email the programme with your questions, or to let us know how much you are enjoying Roy’s contribution.  

While in the vicinity of The Myke Barritt Music Trust, a reminder that this year’s Xmas gathering takes place at The Bridge on Saturday the 17th where the great sounds of Papa Legbas will be bringing Christmas cheer.  This a change from our normal Bash formats, as for the first time we throw our weight behind the good things being done on the music community in Rotherham.  We will be running a Raffle on the night with some great prizes of Christmas Spirit.  Even if you’ve not been to a Papa Legbas show in the past I hope you’ll turn out and support this event that the Band have kindly dedicated to The Trust. 

The music all kicks off around 9:00pm. 

Good news in that a brand new monthly music night is launch itself onto the Rotherham music scene this coming Friday at The Bridge.  “Down At The Bridge” is a completely open event from musicians of all genre.  It’s planned to be a monthly event, on the third Friday, and of course Acoustic Rotherham welcomes any imitative that brings Musicians together. 

Which brings me to the Thursday Bridge Open Mic.  Apparently a private joke with someone who was attending this Thursday’s Session upset one or two of the participants, a full apology was issued as no offence was intended, and the joke was one I use against myself regularly.  Just a reminder to me that not everyone has a thick skin.  However, members of the Session know well that if it were not for their generosity and encouragement The Mashers would not have come about, and that it’s something I shall be eternally grateful for.   I am therefore a keen supporter of the group even if these days my commitments make it difficult to get down to play. 

I bumped into Jayne Fitzgerald at the opening of the Westgate Chambers Art Centre on Wednesday, an old friend from the Thursday session days.  As we all know Thursday is a busy night with sessions on all over the Town, but I thought I would pass on her recommendation about Vasco’s in Wickersley, where apparently “Left Handed” Andy has built up a really good night of music.  Accompanied of course by Ken The Hat.  Well done lads, the work you do is too often unsung.  Which reminds me, I need to get to that my session and experience it myself. 

Jayne also tells me the Fitzgerald family ensemble has been busy recording a CD costing £6 with the profits all going to “Lesotho”.  I shall get more detail and pass them on next week.  If you can’t wait to get your hands on a copy then head to Jayn’s Facebook page HERE and throw in a request.

With the season of goodwill upon us and we’ve already featured the Pocketful of N’owt contribution to this year’s body of songs (if you missed it go HERE), and here’s one with a little more rock to it from the lads of NoWhere Fast HERE, a Band currently making ripples in the South Yorkshire music pond, and of course recent regulars at The Bridge.

ROAR have brought my attention to a Spring Programme of Demonstrations and Workshops.  It all starts in February, and you can check the entire programme out on our Recourses page HERE

The coming week looks quite boring compared with the excitement of this week.  A chance for The Masher to get his breath back perhaps.   However all the regular events are going ahead, and you can check them out HERE

One SPECIAL Addition to the diary is the Twixmas afternoon session to be held at the Red Lion Braithwell on Thursday 29th December.   Starts at 1:00pm and everyone is welcome.  So if you’re fed up with the sight of the turkey and Christmas pudding Braithwell is the place to head.  Someone says that there is a standard bus service running – being ever the pessimist I shall reserve judgement until frozen to my spot on Rotherham Bus Station.

And so that brings us to the end of our journey for this week. 

Whatever you have planned for the week ahead, have fun, support local music and keep it LIVE.