I’m always amazed by the overwhelming amount of local talent that congregates at Martin Butterworth’s annual birthday ‘Garden Party Concert’ in Crewe. Each year, the ‘Cheshire Plane‘ songwriter invites some of his music and poet mates to come and perform in his back garden for the afternoon. It’s the third time (if memory serves) that I’ve played, and it’s always a really supportive and affirming occasion; getting chance to play in front of other musicians and have them support your music. It’s also a good time to catch up with people you’re often too busy to catch up with at any other point in the year, and it was nice to see everyone again and to see how they’re doing.
I had my usual internal ‘hissy-fit’ when I got there (‘there’s too many people, I can’t cope, how am I going to talk to people, I’m going to look weird’ etc.. etc.. ad nauseum), but after I’d had a word with myself and my good friends such as Jonathan Tarplee and Dave Coomer from the Blue Yellows had chatted to me for a bit I calmed down and enjoyed everyone’s company.
I wasn’t disappointed with the list of people that were on, who were all excellent. As with every year, I had to leave before certain acts, such as the Sladen Family, Dayve Dean and others, but I did get to see at least a few hours of some of the best music and poetry I could hope for.
First up was organiser Martin himself to play a few songs. As a fellow lefty, I’m always intrigued and inspired by how Martin plays a right handed guitar ‘upside down,’ which leads to some really nice chord variations in his playing. I have been to the party enough times now to know many of his songs, which have a beautiful understated and mellifluous quality to them.
Then we had the always fantastic local poet Helen Kay. Helen is well known around the area for her quirky performances and poems about her chickens back at home; in who’s antics she draws parallels to the ‘human world’ with all it’s societal issues. For me however, it was her poem about her dyslexic son’s struggles with the school system (‘Five Year Sentence’) that I found particularly poignant, as well as a poem about the late great Nelson Mandela.
We were spoiled for local poets, as Paul Ellson was up next. His wry wit and shrewd remarks on modern life were as on-point as ever, and I really enjoyed his set.
Then it was my turn. As the crowd seemed supportive, I thought I would test out my new upcoming album ‘And Into the Woods’ on them, or at least most of it. As I pointed out, half jokingly, even if they didn’t like it, it would be a good practise for me. In the end however, they did seem to like it, with some really positive feedback afterwards. My electric even behaved herself, so all in all I had an enjoyable set.
Next up was possibly my favourite local poet, the always spellbinding Calum Dwyer. His essays on perceptions of parenthood, masculinity and age are always incredibly moving and genuine, and today was no exception.
And last up (before I had to get going) were my good pals the BlueYellows; bringing the rock, the roll and the soul of the party as they always do. They really are both a classic band to watch (I never bore of seeing them live, no matter how many 100’s of times it’s been now over the years I’ve known them) and bring a combination of great fun and thought-provoking songs to the audience.
So, apologies again to those of you I didn’t get chance to see or have proper chats with. But huge thanks to everyone who came along, played such wonderful music, performed such wonderful poetry and said such nice things about my own performance. As always, it means a great deal.
Same time again next year guys?