We started the day exhausted, after having driven back from Hull so I could do my radio show in the morning in London, and so that Tom could get up at 6 to watch the rugby, like a NUT. After i croaked through my radio show, i was grumpy all round London at people on the tube. I was grumpy and sleepy getting into the van.
When we got to Leicester, which is Grace’s home town, she had already scouted us some venues, the most promising of which seemed to be the covered area outside the New Walk museum, or the old gate by what used to be the Charlotte music venue. Then on the way we saw an underpass and i got a very good feeling about it. I say underpass- it used to be an underpass, now it’s some steps that lead down to a sealed up wall. I didn’t want to perform in the covered bit outside a museum again, as we’d done that, and it didn’t seem like enough of a challenge.
That’s been a funny thing about this tour, how quickly we’ve all acclimatised to what we are doing. For the first two days I kept getting shivers of excitement that we were putting on a gig like this, at the audacity of it! By day six i felt almost blaze flyering people, like “yeah we’re setting up a gig for an hour and then disappearing, for no reason, in a public space, what of it?”. I wanted to take a bigger risk with it. The steps down to the underpass were crying out to be made into a tiny studio theatre.
Grace and her girlfriend drove to B&Q to get a tarpaulin, and we flyered students. Will fixed the tarpaulin so expertly that i wanted to marry him to one of my future daughters.
And then, 75 people came. I can’t overstate how thrilling it was. i kept beaming at the others, and saying “we made a good call”. At one point watching the show i thought “anything is possible!”, which i know to cynical readers might sound ridiculous, but i honestly do not care.
It was a real home gig for Grace and her performance was phenomenal. She really is the real deal. Check out her songs, buy her albums, and most importantly, book her for your gigs and see her perform live. Her songs are so astute and say everything that needs to be said without ever preaching or lacking lyricism. I am secretly writing this in the bus with her here and she doesn’t even know i’m being such a superfan.
Fab stand-up special guests came too, leicester were totally spoilt. James W Smith got political, John Luke Roberts insulted everybody and Nathaniel Metcalfe insulted Danny Dyer. (Was it worth it? Course it facking woz!).
The venue was so full that people came and sat all around the underpass, people stared down at us from the railings above like a gallery. A street light was in the perfect place to be a stage light. The crowd were brilliant. A group of students had forsaken LazerQuest to come. A man bought me a gin and tonic which i downed, finally closing the gap between preachy stand-up and wino in-an-underpass-wearing-a-sleeping-bag-coat. It rained. The crowd stayed. For 90 minutes.
I was probably too preachy, and i know that, but it’s hard not to feel like a crazed preacher when doing this weird thing. Shouting myself hoarse, off mic, about how much I want a different kind of future and a more compassionate society. It’s only a few steps from performing to pigeons, but i don’t mind that. i feel a lot more in love with the country than i did before starting the tour. When you feel as if the government and the mainstream media are against you, it can make you alienated and suspicious, but travelling around and meeting so many different types of people, in such unusual settings, has been a real tonic. Leicester felt like a vibrant, brilliant city, and i was reminded that there are tens of cities similar to it around England (and scotland, and wales, and northern ireland!). How wonderful to think that.
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Day Five: Hull
By Josie — Published October 12, 2011
I really like Hull.
One of my best friends moved to London from Hull and she inspires me to live a better life. She is one of those people who knows her neighbours and properly engages with the community around her. She treats London like a village and London totally reciprocates. it’s amazing. So Hull is like her, assume.
Hull is another place that’s maligned as a dump, constantly, by people who never go there. It was right up there in “Crap Towns”. It is way out on a limb on the Humber estuary and to get there from the south you have to go right round the water. Philip Larkin described it like this “A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling/ Where only salesmen and relations come”. It feels quite removed from other parts of Yorkshire, let alone the rest of the country. But that to me just makes it feel independent, tough, unique and mysterious. Which is also how i describe myself on my dating profile. I don’t have a dating profile.
Also it has proper good museums: the whaling museum, the william wilberforce’s birthplace museum (where the kind, gentle and bookish comedian Toby Hadoke is in a video playing a mean slave owner. I’ve decided to pretend that the video is a documentary about his real life and character) and a great art gallery with some Vorticism in it and everything. And Amy Johnson is from there.
When we got to Hull, we had three or four venue options already lined up but they all fell flat. A small park, too close to the theatre, a square with no option of cover from the rain. An ideal set of steps down to the ruins of the old city walls in the centre of town, by the shopping centre. We got too worried about the fact that there was an England rugby game on right next to us but oh my god the place is screaming for a gig to be set up there. We settled on Hull History Library. It has a covered expanse outside it. We settled on it as we sat chatting in its reception in the afternoon. That felt as if we were proper spies. The people around us had NO IDEA.
Ten minutes before the gig it started to rain. Hard. it was just chance that we’d found a covered spot. It’s the first time that autumn decided to intervene. We had a small crowd, from twitter mainly apart from three teenagers we’d flyered. I gave several underage people whisky. But i also gave them oranges so it was like on the continent when people drink wine with a meal. And it was just a little tot, for the cold, and medicinally. What i am saying is= i am sorry that i gave whisky to children.
We had an amazing special guest in Emma Cooper from Standard Fare, whose album The Noyelle Beat I have listened to and loved on non-stop rotation all summer. And, even more extraordinarily, the ghost of Philip Larkin, Hull’s most famous dour, sexually frustrated literary resident.
AND he wrote us some poems. Definitely was him. I have proof..
By the Ghost Of Phillip LarkinMother always told me,
The glass is half empty- not full,
I wrote a poem saying fuck off mum,
And then I moved to Hull.Daddy always told me,
That poetry was dull,
Well you can fuck off too old man,
I’m buggering off to Hull.William Willbeforce, of course,
Thought slavery was bull,
He’s another cracking chap,
Who came to live in Hull.A pattern is emerging,
Hullensians are great,
Maureen Lipman’s acting,
Puts dinner on her plate.Paul Heaton does singing,
With words from out his mouth,
He was in the Housemartins,
And Beautiful South.When Mick Ronson played guitar,
He pulled out all the stops,
No wonder Bowie hugged him,
When on Top Of The Pops.
Let’s not forget the diagrams,
Of logician John Venn,
He would draw two circles,
And join them up again.
John Godger he writes plays,
And Amy Johnson flew a plane,
If I could live my life once more,
I’d come back here again.
Hull Hull Hull you’re wonderful,
I’ll dream of you when I slumber,
Hull Hull Hull you truly are,
The jewel of the Humber.
By the Ghost of Phillip Larkin
When I was a young man,
I had a lovely time,
I was good at poetry,
I dearly loved to rhyme.
When I was middle aged,
I felt a bit tireder,
I could only half-rhyme then,
Poetry was harder.
Now I am an old man,
And poetry is tough,
Instead of rhyming nowadays,
I shit myself in public.