I apologise for my absence online and the cancellation/postponement of recent gigs. Life is coming up with all sorts of new directions for my adventures to travel along, while I’m enjoying the change I’m not really sure where I’m heading just yet. New musical releases are in the making, touring plans are brewing but in the mean time I’m taking some time off to learn some new songs, write, relax a lil and prepare for the new road ahead. So far there are no gigs in the pipeline except a couple of guest appearances at friends concerts in Melbourne. Thanks for bearing with me and for your continuous support and be ready to look out for at least 2 new releases before the year is out (fingers crossed) xx love and peace, Kia Ora xx
Day 1 – Thursday 22nd October…
Sleeping, enjoying the beautiful fresh air, avoiding more sleep! Spending time with Dave and Jan’s grandchildren, collecting fresh eggs from the chicks, eating food and waiting until I can sleep some more Very lazy first day. I think thats allowed right?
Day 2 – Friday 23rd October…
If it wasn’t for the long journey to get here I would have thought I was still in England, the weather has been giving it its best shot to make me feel at home by pissing it down ALL day! Rather unfair I thought but it did mean that I got to go shopping for Gum boots (Wellies) Very apt for a festival called Wellyfest i thought.
I don’t feel like I’m being affected by Jet lag but I am enjoying the calm, relaxed integration in to New Zealand life. The festival takes place over Labour weekend (started October 28th 1890, it commemorates the struggle for an 8hour working day) at Brookfield Outdoor Education Centre in Wainuiomata.
It was stunning, surrounded by native wild life, singing birds & secret streams, my cabin was hidden away down a little path, over a bridge and tucked away behind the trees, titled the Lions Layer…I’m not sure if they were trying to tell me something, but I did survive the weekend! (just found out its actually called Lions Lodge, makes more sense)(Not a photo of my lodge but another cute one I walked past each day)
Once I settled in to my cabin (the first one to arrive, claimed the good bed of course) I went exploring around the campsite in the pouring rain, caught up with a few people I met 2years ago at Whare Flat Festival down in Dunedin and introduced myself to anyone that I didn’t know, I was a little bit like the new kid at school trying to make new friends, ‘please talk to me, I’m English, I’m new and don’t know anybody!’ luckily most of them took pity on me.
At 6.30pm the music started in the Balladeer, it was the tent for food, drinks & each day had music constantly being performed at the other end of the marquee (invitation only) this was to be my first NZ gig of the tour. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about it, as an unaccompanied singer, when singing in a rowdy social area where people were catching up after not seeing each other for a year proves pretty difficult. All the other performers had instruments or were part of a band, its easier to break through the nose that way for those who did want to listen. It wasn’t a great start either, I thought I had an extra 5 minutes before I was going on so I quickly nipped to the loo for my emergency wee, as I was walking back I heard them call my name, legged it across the field and immediately on to the stage, out of breathe and nervous that no one would listen I started singing ‘Caught up on a breeze’ much higher than I usually do but luckily by the chorus the entire tent had gone silent and I squeaked my way to the end. Rumour had spread that I was a trad morris dancing singer, at the back of the tent was a whole bunch of belting morris dancers who joined in with all of the choruses, it was great! Time went pretty quickly, because I went on earlier than expected I had a lot more time so I just threw out all of my pub chorus songs, everyone joined in, I LOVED IT! You should check out the other acts that performed that evening, they were fabulous:
The rest of the evening was pretty chilled, I wondered over to the ceilidh dance, did a couple of dances, called a dance for the first time, had a session in a phone box & was in bed by midnight. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed calling for a ceilidh, as someone who ADORES dancing I thought I’d find it really frustrating but watching the enjoyment on everyones face as I taught them my favourite dance ‘The cornish 6hand reel’ it was soul satisfying. After that I met up with a couple of friends I originally met at Whare Flat, turns out they hadn’t seen each other for a year either as Renne had been doing an apprenticeship in Canada with a flautist he knows. To celebrate our reunion we had a session in a phone box. Knowing that I’d be awake pretty late the next day watching the rugby I decided an early night was in need HOWEVER I soon regretted that, when I got back to the Lions layer (Lodge) to find 2 snoring Danes and a snoring Irish man competing in the World Championships for ‘Loudest Snorer’. ULC Trio were great musicians but my god they could snore! Turns out it wasn’t the good bed after all. I checked out the other dorm but there was a guy in there listening to music (Heidi Talbot as it happens) and I wasn’t sure if more people were going to come later to claim the beds, foolishly I stayed put and endured the snoring semi-finals.
Day 3 – Saturday 24th October…
ULC were just as noisy in the mornings as they were through out the night, I was quite a tired bunny when I got up. My first concert wasn’t until the afternoon so there was no rush, I’d originally thought I’d get up early to do a run around the grounds and check out all the hidden areas but that didn’t happen. I did however venture on over to the cabin where Dave and Jan were staying for an egg and avocado toastie, a cup of tea and an anzac biscuit, they spoiled me. Wellyfest turned out to be pretty similar to most UK festivals in the sense that you can’t walk 10paces without meeting someone you know or getting caught up in conversation, everyone was so lovely and welcoming, I felt like I’d been a part of the community for years.
2nd concert of the weekend and 1st time on the main stage in New Zealand, my concert started at 3.15pm (a whole hour to myself eeeek!) I’d already decided that if I sold any CDs I’d buy some jewellery from the lady on the market stall just outside, every time I walked past they were calling to me. I was pretty nervous! Even after spending the entire summer touring in the UK, as soon as I have any time off I become extremely doubtful of my own ability, all of a sudden I have no idea how to talk to an audience, no one will like it and the marquee will empty in a moment. Despite that never happening theres always a first but as soon as I realised Dave Barnes was MC I started to relax and became pretty excited!
The concert was amazing, I had people cheering on the front row before I’d even come on stage, it was madness! I loved every moment of it, the audience sang along to almost all of the songs, they cheered, they laughed (always to my surprise) I was one ridiculously happy bunny! People ask why I don’t have an instrument, the other day a lady said I should learn the guitar, but there truly is nothing better than standing on a stage and hearing a wall of sound come right back at you. The voice is such a powerful thing, having everyone join in with me never fails to fill my body with happiness. The audience is my band, thats all I need! (except when I do have the band I thoroughly love them too)
After the concert I pretty much sold out of the CDs I brought with me = I get to buy Jewellery 😀
2 of my bunk buddies for the weekend were Liz Frencham and Fred Smith, I’d heard their names before, Liz is good friends with Chris While and Julie Matthews (JUST recorded double bass on their charity single) Fred has recorded an album with The Spooky Men, out of mutual appreciation and respect for bunk buddies I went to see their concert during the afternoon before mine, my advice to you is check out both of them as well as the numerous collaborations they’ve done. I immediately fell in love! Completely captivating and honest, they sing of love and war, they sing comical songs too but always with a point, a reason, a moral. Fred joined us later on in the night at a home brew session (All festivals should have one) Fred took over the entire space, got everyone to join in and instead of it being about him, or the song, it was about everybody in that room. Fred & Liz also did a concert dedicated to Fred’s time in Afghanistan as a foreign and Commonwealth officer, a man who doesn’t just sing songs about making the World a better place or singing of the history but someone who is actually out there making a difference and writing his own history.
I thought the evening would finish off with Dave Barnes’ home brew session (I was wrong) the evening went on for many hours, so did the session. As mentioned earlier, I think English festivals would benefit from such a session. Basically Dave brews his own beer and cider, on the Saturday night of the festival they commandeer Fletcher Hall from 11pm until the last man is standing, or in this case, until the Rugby starts at 4am. Everyone grabs a drinking Vessel, stands in a huge circle around the hall and sings while Dave walks around hall filling up your glass…Thats it! No cost, no bar queue just lots of singing and a bottomless jug of beer and/or cider. Or in my case as a none beer or cider drinking I appreciated the enjoyment of everyone else drinking around me but was very grateful for the refills of Whiskey coming from Sue (one of the organisers) I warmed up before hand with a really lovely little group of people in the Nelson Lounge singing rounds, as a solo singer its pretty hard to do rounds by yourself so it was really nice to learn a few new ones and share the ones that I had, plus it was a great way to warm up the voice before bellowing choruses until the early hours.
The brew session was followed by a great sing around the campfire with Albi and his band mates, (Check out Albi and The Wolves) plus a few others I hadn’t met yet, what else do you need, fire, a guitar, (maybe not so many banjos) rum and a whole bunch of great new people we survived until 4am when we wandered back to the Nelson Lounge to watch the Rugby, this probably wasn’t the best idea and I’m not sure how I survived. Everyone was very serious, they only had a small laptop to concentrate on and I could not stop giggling, not only that but when someone explained to me that one of the players had been sin binned I replied with ‘But how did a New Zealander get sunburnt in England in October and why would it stop him playing the first 10minutes of the game?…’ silence, blank stares, ‘just excuse me while I go find a whole somewhere…’ I safely arrived in bed by 6am, avoided any more stupid comments and New Zealand won! Woohoo!!!
mmmmm I might have accidentally missed most of today…My workshop started at 2pm I woke up at 1.15pm, just enough time to get dressed, grab a tea from Dave and Jan’s bunk, sit in the sun for 10minutes (just enough time to spill said cup of tea) and get to Fletcher Hall to set up for the session. I secretly hoped that no one would be coming to the workshop (I wasn’t hung over, I don’t get hangovers, I was just very very VERY tired) The Danes woke up pretty soon after I went to bed, did I mention they aren’t that quiet?
The workshop went pretty well I thought, enough people to have 2 rapper sides and an 8 person long sword set. Luckily there were dancers of each tradition within the sets, when I set off each team with a figure to learn they had a sub-teacher to help keep them going while I taught the other set. Everyone was very understanding of my tiredness, they did an incredible job! Towards the end the Long sword group also had enough time to learn some Morris. As always for most beginning rapper workshops I taught New Biggin, for long sword I taught the same dance I learned originally when at school & morris – Room for the cuckolds, (Cotswold)
Once the workshop was over I went back to my bunk to get changed (resisted going back to bed) made myself lunch and enjoyed the music coming from my cabin, not that many people were staying at the lions lodge but every time I went back there was always someone different performing/practicing/singing/jamming, it was pretty cool but I had no idea where they kept coming from. I had a few hours to spare before the evening concert so I head out to see what was happening elsewhere. Someone who I think you must look up is Albi & The Wolves, he’s an awesome guy with an incredible band, great musicians and lovely people. They also had a guest fiddler perform with them called Krissy Jackson who pretty much just stayed on the stage the whole weekend, everyone performing grabbed her to play with their band. She’s pretty epic & picks up new songs in seconds, by the end of the evening she barely needed to be introduced. I suggested that next year she just has her own little platform side of stage and stays there the whole weekend to jam with anyone on the MainStage.
Something I noticed over the weekend & especially on Sunday as I aimlessly wondered around the festival is that I was perfectly content in my own company (This is very rare & probably rare for other people to be content in my company too) Considering I do so much travelling alone, when at festivals I often look out for people to hang out with, sit with, eat with but (this may seem pointless to you for me to be saying but it’s a positive realisation for me) I was pretty content to just nip in and out of the marquees, eat lunch on my own while watching a band then head back to the cabin to get changed for the evening concert (That bit was less relaxed as I foolishly thought the concert started at 8 and that I was on 2nd but actually it started at 7.30 & I was on at 8 – oops!) I did meet people, stopped to chat, talk about the music being played but I didn’t feel my usual urge to tag along or find out what other people were doing. For me this just emphesises how relaxed and at ‘home’ I feel when in NZ.
The evening concert was INCREDIBLE! All the bands that played I fell in love with, lots of dancing occurred (sweating) & singing at the top of my voice! Not only that but I got an applause plus tons of whooping during my introduction before I’d even stood on stage. I didn’t even think anyone knew who I was! Everyone joined in with all of the songs, I was blown away by the warmth, the applause, the shouting out, a marquee of over 800 people who I’d only know for 2days for my first ever New Zealand Folk Festival, I could have sung all night! Throughout the weekend I announced that I was traveling around for the next 6months looking for cool things to see/explore, interesting places to sing etc… Afterwards I met the loveliest of people who invited me to do house concerts, teach at their choirs, to go hang out at their place & various amazing places I should go and visit. My diary soon went from being empty to completely full! Someone thanked me for talking with them afterwards which initially felt rather strange, she said that it was really kind of me to talk to the ‘normal’ people. I asked her why she said that & explained that I’m no different to anyone else that there is no barrier between me as a performer and the audience members. I’m a complete stranger to this country, I know a handful of people & all I have to offer are folk songs & hugs. I was the one who felt relieved that anyone & everyone did talk to me! One of the things that I do love about folk music and festivals is that you don’t have the same separation as you do in say ‘pop’ music ‘modern’ music. All of the artists performing at WellyFest stayed up for hours just jamming with everyone, other artists would go to other performers concerts, most of the performers collaborated on stage, it had a great feeling of community and there definitely didn’t feel like there was any form of divide between ‘punter’ or ‘performer’. Thats how music should be. One of the great things about WellyFest too is that it has a blackboard venue throughout the entire weekend which means that anyone can just get up and sing/play their songs & have an audience, a great opportunity for everyone to get involved.
The evening carried on being pretty EPIC! King Leo are a blues band who I spent dancing away the early hours of the morning to on NYE 2013/4, it just so happened that they were the finishing act of the festival (not everyone was happy about this but I thought it was AMAZING!) I didn’t want them to stop, there was condensation dripping from the inside of the tent (YUCK) everyone was up dancing and going mad, it was the perfect way to end the festival & brought back great memories of Whare Flat Folk Festival 2years ago. The stage managers 2 children were back stage, the little boy was very hesitant to get up and dance, the little girl came out front to dance with me but I think I’ve traumatised the boy for life! I was in heaven! I LOVE DANCING!!!
That actually wasn’t even the end of the night, there was a americana/country/blues session/jam going on in one of the halls and a ballad session too. I split my time evenly between both and finally crawled in to bed about 4am. Three home schooled boys who had been playing at the blackboard concerts with their mum all under the age of 12 (I think) managed to last longer than me. They were phenomenal musicians! Oh & finally at some point during Saturday night/Sunday morning I ended up with a tiny black tambourine, someone around the campfire had given it to me, as it was pitch black I had no idea who it was, except that it was a tallish guy with some sort of facial hair…Do you know how many tallish guys with facial hair goes to festivals! It took me all day & a lot of strange looks before I reunited said mystery tambourine with its owner… That concludes Wellington Folk Festival… Except those snoring Danes were still storing by the time i got back to my cabin…ARGH!!!
Day 5 – Monday 26th October…
A lazy relaxing/recovering day, left the festival, showered, ate, sorted out my washing (extremely exciting) I even hand washed! Covered Dave & Jan’s floor with maps and walking guides, Alice was driving North the next day so I decided I’d hitch a ride with her and head to the Tongariro Crossing before it gets too busy…
We had a really lovely chat actually about life goals, ambitions, how to gain independence without completely pulling away but also figuring out what it is that makes you feel independent. The smallest thing to one person can mean so much more to someone else.
Luckily Alice who had also been staying with Jan and Dave was heading up North, just East of Auckland, as theres only really one road in New Zealand we both set off on our first road trip. Alice was on a mission of independence, she was born with something that affected her muscle development on the right side of her body, amazingly her car has been modified so she can drive with the accelerator on the left side of the break but you can also move it around so if someone else decides to drive it, you can use the accelerator on the right. Auckland down to Wellington on Thursday was Alice’s longest solo drive to date, (theres no stopping her now) it was great for her to have friends and a festival waiting at the other end, everyone at the festival was really supportive of her adventure, don’t tell her mum but she was up until 4am every night singing and eating biscuits. Alice has a really beautiful voice, we had a few songs on the road, I wasn’t able to read words while driving but she very kindly recorded another Maori song on my phone to learn for later, we of course stopped off for ice cream and even squeezed in a detour to North Palmerston for a cuppa with Ruth and Gerard. I took over the driving from this point until Tongariro National Park, my home for the next 2nights.
Driving with Alice made me realise how much we take for granted when we’re fully able to do as we please, go where we like and do what we want. Something that I do all over the UK is drive from place to place whenever I like with whom ever I like yet this one journey from Auckland to Wellington for Alice was a huge step in figuring out what she’s capable of doing by herself. Now she knows she can do it she has tons of plans and wants to explore much more of New Zealand. Very excitingly her mum lives on an avocado farm, I’m staying over for 2nights later on in the month (WOOHOO!) Alice already has a weeks worth of plans squeezed in to two days for us to do. (of course these plans include eating ice creams and avocados, not necessarily together though)
Flying in to Wellington, staying with friends and going to a folk festival was a huge safety net for me to land in, I had a relaxing few nights in one place, met heaps of people and sang my ass off for the entire weekend. Now in a backpackers, on my own without knowing a single person with the aim to go on a 7 hour hike up a volcano the next day, (no plan for 2weeks) I felt like this was the start of my adventure. However, Jan had pre-cooked my dinner for my that evening so I did cheat slightly by not having to do any shopping or cooking apart from boil an egg for the walk, (I even made extra sandwiches for 2days worth of packed lunches) The World as always proved to be pretty small, I immediately met a guy, Angus, who knows half the people I know over in Australia, had lived in England for 10years and was a musician/singer himself with a guitar in the car, my room mate Ruth was from Scotland but studying down in Christchurch and the other girl Rosanne was also from England and just traveling for a few weeks. Angus over heard me talking to Ruth during dinner about music festivals so came over to introduce himself, we had a good chat about places and people in common before calling it an early night ready for the walk in the morning. So far my first experience of solo backpacking was proving pretty successful, oh and my room was under a climbing wall…
G’day! I’ve never written a blog before, I never thought I would, so here’s to my first attempt of blogging & my first time solo back packing around Australasia! How hard can it be…
OK! I take back the last sentence, I’ve already been sat here for 10minutes thinking ‘what do I write? What would people ACTUALLY what to read about?’ – if you know the answer please let me know! *Answers on a postcard to anywhere in NZ*
I wrote the above 2weeks ago while I was still travelling to get here, It’s now the 5th November & I’m finally getting around to starting this thing…oops!
The Diary of a solo singer travelling around Australia & New Zealand for 6months.
My journey was pretty long to start off with but the last minute addition of trains from Bradford-on-Avon to Heathrow plus missing my connection in Sydney made the total journey from BOA (England) to Wellington (NZ) FIFTY ONE HOURS!!! Yup, more than 2entire days to get here, as you can imagine, I was pretty happy to see my bed when I arrived…
The additional journeys were definitely worth it, after a great weekend in Bath listening to a whole bunch of friends singing at Stephen Taberner’s workshop (Well worth going to btw), Stephen & I decided to spend the evening with our gorgeous friends Chris & Lisa Samuel (they put on an incredible festival in January called ‘Bradford Roots’ Chris is also an English Spook, you should all know them, they’re amazing) an evening of Sloe gin & Cheese was the best way to spend my last night in the UK for 6months. Equally pleasant unexpected catch up happened in Sydney when I missed my connection, after already travelling for 47869865763 hours and feeling so very close to the last flight i was in tears when the woman didn’t let me check in my luggage, I arrived with only 40minutes till the plane landed and they wouldn’t let me on! (apparently you need 90mins) Luckily I managed to get another flight later that day direct to Wellington but it meant more than 6 hours hanging out in the Airport. Thinking I would sit there feeling sorry for myself waiting painfully for the next flight to leave, friends from the blue mountains virtually kicked me up the arse and gave me the crazy idea that I could actually leave the airport… This resulted in a perfect afternoon lunch with Becs in Marickville… (you should check out her music; Rebecca Bastoli, I sang backing vocals on her EP ‘Stranger’ when I was last over here) I also met a very interesting lady on the train who lives in China, she puts on events & works for charities, she was home for a couple of weeks visiting her daughters and celebrating her 70th birthday, she looked no older than 50! – I gave her my card & she said she’d get in touch and bring me over to China, not bad aye? Just goes to show that you can find the positives in anything, if something doesn’t happen the way you planned theres often a reason, make the most out of the situation.
Arriving in Wellington at midnight on Wednesday evening/Thursday morning after leaving the UK on Monday morning, meant that I was very pleased to see my friend waiting for me at the airport. I did have quite a panic going through customs, I genuinely thought they weren’t going to let me in. I’ve never been asked so many questions before when arriving in to a country, I almost legged it out of the airport when they decided it was ok, just in case they changed their minds. After a very lazy soak in the bath followed by a 12 hour sleep this was my view when I woke up the next morning (afternoon)… (Luckily a 9hour stop over in Abu Dhabi with a sleeping pod plus a long stay in Sydney helped me avoid jet lag…oh yeah!!!)
Planes give you a lot of time to sit and ponder life, it’s been a crazy past year packed full of so many incredible adventures, some incredible and magical moments but some really tough ones too. I’m usually quite emotional on trains and planes in general but this time, a part from watching a few films, meeting some new people I actually felt really positive about times ahead. Mainly I feel sad about leaving friends behind who mean the world to me but this time i feel like its the right thing for me to be doing. I feel strongly about the new path I’m carving, the new people that I will walk with along it for a while and excited for what new life I will return home to. I have no fixed abode, I have no car, I have no family that I’m responsible for, I have the rucksack on my back, I storage unit hidden away in Sheffield, a box of CDs & a promise of gigs as I aimlessly wander around this beautifully stunning country…