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 Over a period of time I had slowly withdrawn from real life, creating comfort Worlds in music or Teaching people to drive.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.