The day started out well. We’d managed to coerce Henry and Will into coming to Bideford and Tim had shown us the grave of a jester who got kicked to death in his village’s churchyard. (Initially I wrote “juggler” there by mistake, I think because it ought to have happened to a juggler. I should have written “someone doing poi at a music festival”). Then the amendments to the NHS bill didn’t get voted through and the day became fucking awful. Thom and Aisha had gone back to work. It was raining. We were tired and completely despondent. We got to Bideford and the general consensus was that we should go to the pub and get completely wasted. I bought 30 doughnuts. I don’t even eat doughnuts.
That night we were staying with Hector Christie’s community at Tapeley Park. He came to meet us and was a brilliant, exuberant ray of sunshine. He let us mope in the pub while he went out flyering in the rain like a mad publicity machine. It’s cool to be reminded we don’t all feel despair at the same time.
We found our venue, a covered shelter where during the day people can buy tickets to visit Lundy Island and during the night people can drink super strength cider on the steps. We set out sleeping bags and blankets. Someone told us that Bideford is nicknamed Ten-bag on sea. We felt grim and uneasy. Nobody showed up. But then four teenagers sheepishly came up. Four people became ten, then ten became 25 and suddenly we had a gig! Plus, a security camera filmed the whole gig, so technically we have a live DVD out somewhere.
I started out talking about NHS bill, because it felt like I needed to get it out of the way. I was (and remain) wayyyy to earnest sometimes. So Tom came on and pretended to be Sir Walter Raleigh, wearing a child’s knight’s halloween costume. He is a big man. It was ludicrous. LUDICROUSLY HOT, am I right, ladies? The gig became brilliant and exuberant and cathartic. For me it became about getting through it and not giving up.
I had felt so bouyed by this tour. On some level it’d felt so powerful and defiant that maybe the government would comply or something. Like I’d imagined George Osborne on the phone “They’ve done WHAT? In where?…I love Sheppey too, but where?…oh!…We’ll have to have a rethink.” But the last day made me realise I can’t escape the reality of what the government is doing, and will continue to do. We don’t actually have superpowers and we weren’t going to change their agenda. Austerity measures are actually, practically, definitely, in-real-life, making life worse for everyone but the wealthiest 10%. This government is robbing us of our public services, our welfare, our ability to pursue education… you bloody name it and they are doing something that you might disapprove of to it.
And that had me thinking: What are we doing and what’s the point?
And then Grace Petrie, my protest-singer-hero, sang a cover of a Get Cape song, and these lyrics jumped out…
“For I would rather be a pebble
In an ocean vast
And drown alone
Than make no sounds”
I feel like we are learning to fight and we have to try, and to act. Action makes you feel better and positive action is how to change things. You don’t know what effects the things that you do might have, and the people you might unwittingly help or influence. Keep track of what’s going on, but try to do something. Hope for the best.
This video was filmed on the last night:
“It’s not a call to arms, it’s a call to helping hands”
As we were leaving the theatre the van broke down. Our last act as a group was to push the minibus along the Bideford Quay. I say “as a group”, I helped by filming it on my phone. I am a bad socialist. That night we got drunk in Hector’s big kitchen on homemade currant wine that a member of the audience brought. Nobody died so it wasn’t poisoned. We talked excitedly about our future plans.
After the winter we are hoping to tour long weekends in March and April and hopefully even longer in May, June and July. We want to meet new people, to go to new places and to play to people who otherwise might not come and see us.
Watch this space.
Thanks so much for reading this blog, I hope it’s not been too ranty or sanctimonious. I really wanted to document the tour because it has genuinely been one of the most brilliant, moving and exciting things that I’ve ever got to do. I want to say thanks to Tom, Grace, Will, Thom and Aisha for being inspiring, brilliant, cool and FUN!