Bellowhead_crop_intro

When we heard that the final Bellowhead gig ever* was going to be in Oxford, in the Town Hall, on the first of May… it all sounded a bit too good to be true.

If that doesn’t mean anything to you: Bellowhead have been so much more than the most popular folk band in England.  Never mind that they won award after award, and got signed to a major label, and were generally considered the best live act in the country by folk and non-folk pundits alike… they just set the agenda.  Every album they released simultaneously opened doors for what’s possible with traditional music, and closed other doors because “we can’t do that or it’ll sound like we’re trying to be Bellowhead”.  For me personally, they were the band that sparked my interest in traditional English music, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen them live.  And some of those times were better than others, but even the worse times were a better live experience than most bands on a good night.

But it held more significance for me.  The first time I ever saw them live was 10 years before, almost to the day, in the same venue.  And on that dancefloor I met a group of friends who got me into folk festivals and eventually playing in the band for Armaleggan.  So it was kind of a big deal.

In fact, let me show you a little video from my old undeleteable YouTube account, that I made about the joys of Bellowhead, back in 2008.

Continue reading

https://www.flickr.com/photos/prom77/4605755892/in/photolist-81ZGLm-hvy1Ca-86nPQY-4Qa6Cg-u1o8o-Q5cVR-hamUxh-6PG9ro-9rMV1m-oUf7rb-8cNyss-73BLZm-7Mhj3x-htL67R-tJANm-nQNRE3-f8d1iQ-e9KGog-5AZh1Z-8DAwse-o8bBXL-8gvmAK-o8jfPF-o6g4QL-imRith-6AZxUv-r1SRrX-b951Ln-r1jZXx-nQQ4cC-gigEsc-qwL6e-qJAEHZ-r1MYox-qJtz7k-nTsguH-pcCwX4-r1XWDG-r1QpvJ-oWGxa5-qJCtG4-73ugX8-nQP6fP-83zxqq-6WFKZB-qYKnkN-nTsn9P-9bwF4r-73zoNZ-o8arvN
‘Sierra Road’ by Paul J. Rush (CC BY 2.0)

Just for a bit of idle procrastination, I’ve been looking back at online forums over the centuries. It’s really made me realise how much we depend on them. Think about it. If you have any complex problem, that requires consulting with an expert, all you need to do is to log in to one of these almost magical places, and some kind, constructive expert will be able to give you not just the information that you need, but also the encouragement you need to really make the most out of that information.

Unsurprisingly, web forums have been at the heart of some of humanity’s greatest discoveries.

For example*:

(* Warning: contains all the swearing. All of it.) Continue reading

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I love this photo.

Fellow Morris-dancing-survivor Angie has set up a new local branch of the Women’s Institute round our way, and one of her recent coups has been to get Peggy Seeger to be a guest speaker, talking about her life and singing a bunch of songs.  Would I like to do the sound, should there be any specific requirements?  Absolutely.  Not every day you get to meet a legend. Continue reading

'SHODAN' by Pascal (Flickr)
‘SHODAN’ by Pascal (Flickr)

Dear Diary,

I love movies.  I always have.

In the 1800s, if you wanted a combination of drama, music, choreography, visual design, you name it… it was to Opera you would go.  In the early 2000s, as with the 1900s, it’s still Cinema.

It’s still an extraordinarily powerful and concise way of communicating ideas and feelings.  And more than that, of exploring what it is to be human.

But I saw an interesting film not too long ago which explored what it was like to not be human.  The character doing the exploring was Alan Turing, and the film was The Imitation Game. Continue reading

Yes.  Instagram.  And what of it?
Yes. Instagram. And what of it?

Dear Diary,

It was at a service station somewhere in the North West when I said to Hannah, “Are we going to Liverpool?”

And she said yes, that was the destination of our surprise weekend away.  And it made sense, because every once in a while I’d said “Yeah, I went to university there.  I really should go back sometime.  Did I ever mention that I seriously considered living there permanently?”

It turned out that I had.  Many times. Continue reading

“Margaret Thatcher (1983)” by Rob Bogaerts / Anefo – Nationaal Archief

Dear Diary,

My brother and I tried to explain to a throng of youngsters at band rehearsal on Monday.  But they didn’t understand!  How could they?  Sometimes I don’t understand it myself.  Sometimes I look back, and I think to myself: how could a thing like this happen?  In my lifetime?  In the UK?

Let me put things into context. Continue reading