Alistair Hulett’s Sporadic Newsletter.
Hello again All!
Welcome to another Gallows Rant, and sadly once again, it feels mandatory to begin by offering up some condolences and concern. After such a fine time recently touring round Australia with my musical comrade and pal, David Rovics, I’ve been watching with alarm as parts of that country where we so recently enjoyed wonderful warmth and hospitality are being televised in flames and no sign yet of much respite. To all in our folk music community, who’ve been affected by this tragic wave of bushfires, please add mine to the many other expressions of sympathy that have been flowing out from all parts of the world over the past few weeks.
Meanwhile back here in Britain, yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the NUM-led Miner’s Strike in 1984. There’s been loads of great archived newsreel coverage, interviews on the wireless and telly with veterans of the picket lines and a general media consensus that Thatcher and her mob of Tory thugs were bang out of line with all the boundaries of basic human decency. Strange though, seeing a BBC that was so biased and hostile at the time, swinging right around now and painting itself as the champion of ‘the common
folk in struggle’. The footage of the police bashing unarmed strikers at Orgreave still sends a chill of revulsion through the brain. As one old boy said on the telly yesterday, the cops have much to be forgiven for. Twenty-five years ago, maybe, but it feels like yesterday!
Sure, it ended in defeat at the time but the effect it’s having in the present is to further fuel the growing anger. Once again workers and their families are being made to pay for the bosses’ recession. State owned enterprises that show a profit are privatised while private institutions that go belly up get nationalised. Let’s hope the lessons from that don’t go unnoticed by our side!
A few weeks ago I was performing with fellow Malkie muso, Phil Snell, at The Oak Folk Club in Wiltshire and we heard a fantastic song about the Battle Of Orgreave, performed by its author Henry Clements. Henry has a Myspace site with the ballad in question posted up on it. Here’s the link if you want to hear the song and a bunch of other fine compositions as well.
I’ve got a number of gigs coming up soon that need the customary heads-up, although nearly everything on the gig list is in or around the Scottish Central Belt in the coming months, with one notable exception, of course. Apologies to those who can’t overcome the tyranny of distance to be there, but in order of occurrence nevertheless, here we go…
On Wednesday 11th of March I’ll be doing a solo stint at thon infamous home of cocktails and aperitifs, The Scotia Bar right here in Glasgow. This is a folk venue with a long and distinguished history, much of which you can discover on the pub website at http://scotiabar.net/history.html I think you’d have to agree that not many ‘howfs’ around the world promote themselves as having been a refuge from ‘famine and landlord’s brutality’ but Glasgow’s kinda good like that, I guess. The show kicks off at 8pm and will hopefully conclude with a come all ye, open mic session before last orders. Best of all, its free to get in! Directions for pilgrims and visitors appear on the aforementioned website, but it’s just around from The Saltmarket, nearby to the Gallowgate, if you’re coming by Shanks’s pony.
Later in the month, on March 26th, I’m back in harness with my comrade in politics and song, Jimmy Ross, at the startlingly named Water Sports Club in Irvine, Ayrshire, for the a performance of the most recent in our series of word and song, social history extravaganzas. Complete with PowerPoint images (it was called a magic lantern show back when I was a nipper) and a swag of much loved songs on the set list, this episode is titled ‘Ireland – A History Of Struggle In Song’ and it does precisely what the moniker suggests.
From the Rebellion of 1798 and the Easter Rising and the Troubles in the early part of the 20th century to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and finally up to the recent days of ‘Reconciliation’, we’ll be singing from the canon of wonderful resistance songs and celebrating those who made them famous. The Clancys, Behans and Dubliners all get a ‘ganzie’ of course, but some more recent troubadours of the struggle, including The Pogues and Stiff Little Fingers, don’t go unremarked upon either.
As usual, it’s an 8pm start, with the show proudly sponsored by the Third Thursday Ayr Session, the Campaign To Welcome Refugees and Ayrshire CND. All your other details and directions can be found at The Footstompin Celtic Music forum via
Onto April then, when The Mad Nanny Folk Club in Letchworth will be presenting a scaled down version of my current band The Malkies, with Phil Snell on mandolin and lap steel and myself on vocal and guitar duties. It’s mainly stuff from the latest band album Suited And Booted we’ll be doing, of course, and we go by the subtitle ‘The Wee Malkie’, just to distinguish ourselves from the big, full, five piece production. It still sounds dead good though, I reckon, and Phil and I always have a thoroughly brilliant time playing together.
The date for that is April 8th and all your necessary fab fax ‘n’ info can be found via the club’s website at www.madnanny.co.uk or else, of course, by visiting The Malkies Official Website at www.themalkies.co.uk where you’ll also find sample tracks from the album, short biogs, reviews, posters and some nice snaps of the band onstage. There’s a link to some video clips up there as well and a magic box to click on for ordering mail order copies of Suited And Booted, out now on the Limbo Label.
On the subject of The Malkies, we are delighted to announce we have proper representation at last; so more gigs for the whole band will hopefully be getting flagged up fairly soon. Jason Smith is our lovely agent’s name, proud presenter of the JMS Concerts at the Fraser Centre in Milngavie near Glasgow and a fearless champion of fine acoustic music. Visit JMS Concerts at http://www.myspace.com/jmsconcerts or contact Jason Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org to book either The Malkies (five piece) or The Wee Malkie (Ally and Phil).
Back to the gig list and forward to the Merry Month of May, when there’s four shows in the diary to help keep me sane. First up is May 3rd at Girvan Folk Festival in Ayrshire, where I join with Jimmy Ross and fiddle maestro Finlay Allison to celebrate International Pete Seeger Day with our word and song tribute ‘Which Side Are You On? – The Life And Times Of Pete Seeger’.
Pete turns ninety on the day and his fans and friends all over the world will be waving the red flag and cheering him on as he heads for a century of living a life devoted to the struggle for peace and equality – and all the while winning successive generations over to his wonderful music and songs. We are doing our bit to Celebrate Pete Seeger at 2pm on Sunday 3rd May ‘doon the watter’ in sunny Girvan, ‘home of the truly spectacular fish supper’ – and http://www.girvanfolkfestival.co.uk/ is the festival link for bookings.
Wednesday April 20th finds me in concert at The Centre For Political Song at Caledonian University in Glasgow, with visiting legends of political poetry and song Attila The Stockbroker from Brighton UK and David Rovics from the USA. Also joining us on the bill is Fiona Keegan. This is an early evening gig and the best way to be sure of getting in okay is to email the Centre manager John Powles at email@example.com and visit the website at www.caledonian.ac.uk/politicalsong/global/contactmaps/index.html for directions. This gig is being provided free of charge by The Centre For Political Song, by the way, and is just one more reason for giving this great facility all the support it so richly deserves. Details for becoming a ‘friend’ of the Centre For Political Song are on the website, too.
On Saturday 23rd May I’ll be on my lonesome again for a solo set at The Edinburgh World Justice Festival Book Fair. This all-day event takes place in St Augustine’s Church and there will be talks and poetry sessions throughout the day and evening, with musicians, including yours faithfully, from 5 till 9pm. And of course, there’ll be lots of great books to buy and excellent food to enjoy as well. Visit the EWJF Website at www.ewjf.org.uk to watch that one grow.
Finally on April 30th, with generous support from the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA) I’ll be at Partick Folk Festival in Glasgow for a trio performance of ‘Ewan MacColl And The Politics Of The British Folk Revival’. This will be part of a whole afternoon dedicated to the seminal work of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger at Partick Festival.
Opening up will be Peter Cox, author of ‘Set into Song – Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker, Peggy Seeger and the Radio Ballads’, a wonderful new book about the making of these trail blazing social and musical documentaries in the1960s. For more information about Peter and his book, visit www.setintosong.co.uk or better still, come along and here him speak about the Radio Ballads at Partick Festival from 2pm.
John Powles, manager of The Centre For Political Song is the nephew of Sam Larner, principal informant for the best known and most highly awarded Radio Ballad, ‘Singing The Fishing’. Ewan’s song The Shoals Of Herring was directly based on Sam’s life and he was a devastatingly fine singer of traditional songs in his own right, as well. John will be delivering a short profile of his uncle, the great Sam Larner, to compliment Peter’s exposition on the Radio Ballads. Both these performances are not to be missed!
To finish off the afternoon, Peter Cox, standing in as co-narrator for the absent Jimmy Ross (Jimmy’s away on holiday) joins Finlay Allison and myself for a performance of ‘Ewan MacColl And The Politics Of The British Folk Revival’. MacColl was a life-long, committed communist and was kept under surveillance for much of his artistic career by MI5. His political views and affiliations had a huge influence on the songs he wrote and performed along with his partner Peggy Seeger, and this show focuses on the politics behind some of Ewan and Peggy’s best loved compositions and celebrates their immense contribution to the Folk Music Revival in Britain.
I am greatly indebted to Peter Cox for agreeing to deputise for Jimmy Ross in the narration of this tribute show and to Finlay Allison for providing fiddle and mandolin accompaniment. Thanks as well to the TMSA and Partick Folk Festival for making the performance possible.
So, there you go folks, that’s me up to date for now with the springtime bookings. All these gigs are listed on my website, of course, at www.alistairhulett.com Do please pay it a visit and be sure to say hello if you make it along to any of the venues and shows I’ve been banging on about.
Mind how you go and orra best,