walk/picnic and Refugee Tales
Hannah (partner of Joel from Syd Arthur) had thoughtfully organised a walk/picnic in the Harbledown area and invited Tom and I to play some acoustic music, inspired by the semi-public airing of our music in the Greyfriars garden in April. About twenty-five of us set off from the pub in Harbledown, via St. Nicholas' leprosy hospital (11th century) and the Black Prince's Well, through some orchards and around the edge of Bigbury Hillfort to No Man's Orchard, a community orchard with some huge old apple trees. Typically, despite the excellent weather in the days before and after, it started drizzling as we approached the picnic spot, and after a couple of tunes, our musical excursion had to be abandoned. We were joined this time by Dan Sayer on bass clarinet, percussion and various flutes, already sounding good after a couple of brief rehearsals with me and Tom. After initially suggesting we could continue in her tiny kitchen, Hannah thought better of it and arranged with the publican of The Unicorn in St. Dunstans for us to invade his pub and carry on there. We were squashed in the backroom and rather swamped by pub noise, but carried on playing regardless, and everyone in earshot seemed into it. Leonie Evans had come along, so we talked her into playing a few songs too. As announced, Hannah took a collection for the Nepal earthquake fund.
Later that evening, an event was being held in St. Peters Methodist Church just off Canterbury High Street. It was called "Refugee Tales", part of a project involving a group of people walking from Dover to Gatwick, the locations of two detention centres for detainees being classified as "illegal immigrants". They were treating the walk as a pilgrimage, stopping in village halls, etc. along the way to raise awareness of the plight of the detainees via poetry, song and storytelling. Local experimental pianist Sam Bailey (the man behind the Free Range events) had organised the music along the route. So as well as a rather avant garde poet and an excellent Nigerian storyteller, we got a few songs from Liam Magill of Syd Arthur (just voice and acoustic guitar, playing songs off the forthcoming third album, including one called "Eternity" which can only be described as huge) as well as some soulful jazzy loveliness from a trio of local musicians who all collaborated with the late, great Hugh Hopper: Frances Knight (piano), Robert Jarvis (trombone) and Jan Ponsford (vocals). The event was remarkably well attended — mostly local Methodists, as far as I could tell. Afterwards, I had a nice chat over tea with Liam and a Sri Lankan refugee who had been deeply impressed by his music.
The next big thing in the Syd Arthur diary was a 30 minute set in front of a huge crowd in Hyde Park supporting Beck and The Strokes, backed by a 900 square metre screen to be VJ'd by their old friend Chilton, who'd been busily coding material for this in the previous weeks. Syd have also released a new track, some live selections from last year's US tour (which they asked me to curate), several videos, remixes, a tour video montage, photos and other artwork via a very snazzy little USB memory device, something they're calling "MAP #1". Joel gave me mine just before the Harbledown walk, and (as would be expected of them) it's a thing of great beauty...