Back By Popular Demand

Those of you who came to ‘Bike to The Future’ last year will have seen the multi-talented Rob Whale in all his glory. Rest assured, this time he’ll be properly dressed!

Want to See More?

If you weren’t there, you may be wondering what I’m on about. Suffice to say, wearing his Lycra cycling gear, some of Rob’s outstanding features were somewhat enhanced by the stage lighting. Which – apparently – some found rather distracting.

But enough of that. Rob is a hugely talented musician: violinist, composer, arranger, pianist, bassist, guitarist – and, of course, keen cyclist. Rob made a late appearance in last year’s show and many audience members suggested they’d like to see more of him. (How much more of him could you possibly want to see?!)

Small Instrument – Big Impact

So, whereas his visual impact may be a little restrained this time around, Rob will be onstage throughout the set. And, in addition to the violin and harmony vocals he provided last time, he will now also be playing ukulele bass. Yes – you read that correctly ukelele bass.

There’s a reason for choosing this diminutive instrument to provide a little more bottom end – so to speak. And that is that Rob will be accompanying me throughout my cycle tour, of which our appearance in Making a Song & Dance is a part. Carrying a full-scale bass guitar, together with the rest of the gear, would be out of the question. Hence the ukulele.

When you see Rob in action, you’ll be surprised at what a big impact such a small instrument can have (behave!).

Icing On The Cake

And there’s more…

Last year, we had the amazing Martin Craddick join us on guitar for the show’s finale at the Old Theatre Royal. This time around, we have another mystery guest. Oh yes. But I won’t be revealing their identity.

Suffice to say we’ve appeared together before and recently recorded – in another band setting – at one of the UK’s most iconic studios. When you see them perform, I think you’ll agree they provide the icing on the cake, as far as this show is concerned. And there really is only one way to find out whether you agree.

You know what to do…

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Let’s Get Things Moving

Last week, I told you a little about the dance piece ‘2020 Vision’ – the opening act of ‘Making a Song & Dance’. Now I’d like to introduce you to the facilitator of that piece: the multi-talented Kara Herbert

In Retreat

Kara has been dancing for more years than would be polite to mention. I suspect she has a portrait in the attic, as you’d never guess quite how long. And her eternal youthfulness may have something to do with all the hours of yoga she puts in.

My other dance collaborators and I often joke, when Kara doesn’t appear at one of our meetings, that she’s probably on an island somewhere. No, Kara’s not some millionaire play-person: she goes to said islands to work (… and play a bit). The work in question is running yoga retreats. Which – as mentioned – clearly work. For Kara, at least.

Education, Education, Education

When not on an island, Kara runs regular contemporary dance sessions in Bath. These are open to all, though the standard is high and dancers are expected to stretch themselves (geddit?). In fact, some of her regulars will be appearing in 2020 Vision, so you’ll get to see just how accomplished they are.

Other strings to Kara’s bow are working with the elderly and school pupils. In fact, keeping people of all ages and abilities moving is her driving passion. So, Kara really is the ideal person to facilitate the movement element of Making a Song & Dance. And I’m delighted to have her aboard.

Structured Improvisation

Last week, Kara and I spent some time at Burdall’s Yard to plan-out how the dance will work within the space. As you may remember, this will be improvised during workshops on the day of the performance. Rest assured, we have thoroughly planned the structure, so that it will deliver a coherent, developed, yet spontaneous experience for both participants and audience.

Alongside Kara’s students will be current and former students of Bath Spa’s amazing undergraduate and post-graduate Dance courses. These are joined by students of physical theatre, some local practising dancers and one or two less experienced – yet enthusiastic – participants. And this blend of styles and abilities is key to what we hope to achieve.

Where ‘Audience’ Ends & ‘Performer’ Begins

As with my previous shows, I’m keen to explore the dynamic between audience and performer. I would argue that, in any good show, each is equally important and all are participants. This doesn’t mean audiences need to be put into an uncomfortable situation. Rather, they are encouraged to be actively present and engaged.

In this instance, the piece will allow for a degree of active participation on the part of audience members. However, this is by no means a requirement. None of us likes to be coerced or manipulated and we certainly won’t be aiming for that with 2020 Vision.

And don’t forget, the second half will be a straight forward ‘gig’. Then you’ll really be able to let go. More of which later…

Being There

But, in order for this to be a performance at all, it does require an audience. So can I please urge you to book your tickets now? We’ve made advanced booking cheaper for you. And, for structural reasons, it will be really useful to know in advance how many to expect.

The space is genuinely limited, so we are hoping for a sell-out. That being the case, there won’t be tickets on the door. So please do book early and secure your spot.

Sales pitch over… for now 😊.

Thank you.

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Time To Connect

I explained before how the sound-scape ‘2020 Vision’ came into being (here). Let’s now see how this will form the basis for an improvised dance performance at this year’s Bath Fringe.

Community Collaboration          

One of the great things about putting on these shows has been the opportunity to collaborate with the wider artistic community in and around Bath. In particular, Bath Spa University has been a great source of support and student participants. And this time is no exception.

The university has vibrant dance, drama and music departments. In previous shows, I have worked with members of the student choir and their leader Francis Faux, as well as undergraduate dance students. This time, current and former dance and acting students will be joining members of other local groups and societies.

Fresh, Improvised & Engaging

The piece will be workshopped on the day of the performance, then presented for your edification that evening. So, the movement will be fresh, improvised and engaging. You, the audience, will be in among the action. You may even be moved (excuse the pun) to join in!

But don’t let that frighten you. You may have noticed I’ve avoided the words ‘audience participation’. This is clearly anathema to some and can conjure images of cloying, enforced ‘fun’. Rest assured there’ll be none of that (cloying, I mean 😊)!

Collective Experience

The point of the piece is to explore our need for connection. And this especially in the light of recent collective experience. So, nobody will be made to feel uncomfortable. You can sit back and enjoy the ride, or get involved, as you wish.

I’m confident the soundtrack alone will sweep you away into a place of contemplation, with moments of humour, darkness and reflection. Coupled with the close-up movement, this will be a unique and immersive experience. Intrigued? You should be.

Who’s The Mummy in The Photo?

Well, that’s me, of course. We wanted to present an image for Making a Song & Dance that combines its two halves. I won’t actually be singing during the dance. That comes later.

It’s really a show of two halves. The first, as described, an immersive soundscape and dance improvisation. The second will be a fairly straight forward ‘gig’. I’ll write a little more about that shortly but suffice to say, it will feature songs and stories that take forward the themes of connection and collective action.

The Future Keeps On Coming

If you came to last year’s Bike to The Future, you’ll be familiar with some of the songs. And you’ll have met my more talented half, Rob Whale. By popular demand, Rob will be performing throughout the set this time, rather than just at the end. Perhaps more importantly, he’ll also be properly dressed. And there may also be the odd guest appearance. By which, I mean the appearance of an odd guest.

Our contribution to Making a Song & Dance forms part of this year’s Bike to The Future tour. This sees us cycling from Bath to Shindig Festival (near Ilminster), back – via Frome – for this show then on to Pembrokeshire. We’ll then return – once again – to Bath, before finishing at a little party on a farm in Pilton, Somerset.

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

The Big One!

It’s Time To Be Heard

OK people, this is very exciting. I’ve been invited by Greenpeace to perform at this weekend’s ‘The Big One’ event in Parliament Square. This is being coordinated by Extinction Rebellion but – in case you associate that name with disruption and anarchy – will be an inclusive, peaceful weekend .

What to Expect

According to the event’s web site, more than 200 organisations are supporting – including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and PCS Union (me neither…) to name but a few. It promises to be:

  • Family friendly
  • Accessible and welcoming
  • Creative
  • Engaging

The streets will be transformed with People’s Pickets outside government departments and a diverse programme of speakers, performers and workshops, awash with colour and culture. There will be art and music, talks from experts, places to listen and engage, and activities for the kids. 

Come On Down (Or Up?)

If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll be going ‘up’ to the city. For the rest of us, we’ll be travelling down to London. Although I’m making this an official part of my ‘Bike to The Future’ tour, I won’t be able to get there by bike on this occasion, so will jump on a train instead. London is – of course – easily accessible by public transport and there are extra coaches being laid on from major towns and cities around the UK.

Say Hello

It would be great to see you there. Swing by the Greenpeace Activism Corner tent at 12:10 or 16:05 on Saturday to catch my performance. Then do come and say hello afterwards.

Choices… Choices

The nature of this event means I’ll just be doing 30-minute sets, so ‘ll need to choose my songs carefully (especially if they include the usual rambling intros!). I’m thinking ‘Barry Maunder Day’, ‘Gated Society’, ‘Change’, ‘It Can’t Go On’, ‘Calling From The Future’, ‘The Best That You Can Do’. If you are there on the day – and know my songs – come and shout out some requests (but keep it polite – this is a family event)!

Why Bother?

Our so-called leaders are not paying attention to the really pressing issues that face us all. Focusing on ‘growth’, ‘GDP’ and ‘the economy’ is clearly getting us nowhere. We need actual change and we need ongoing consultation with ‘ordinary’ people (of course, you’re all extraordinary really). That’s what this weekend is all about.

And if you can’t be there, that’s OK. But do keep up pressure on yourself and everyone you know to do the things we all know to be necessary. We have to stop using fossil fuels urgently. We can all make a massive impact by switching to a plant-based diet. And we really do need to keep pushing for systemic change on a national and international level in order to combat the climate emergency.

And it really is an emergency.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

2020 Vision - Brian Madigan. Making a Song & Dance, Burdell's Yard, Bath, May 31st.

A local reviewer – who shall remain nameless (I’ll call him ‘Steve’) – wrote of my Fringe show last year “Perhaps the high concept would go better with the more abstract instrumental pieces which are [Brian’s] bread & butter output as a working composer”… OK Steve – you asked for it!

2020 Vision

Remember 2020? I’m sure you do. Well, for me, it started with a request from artist Natasha Parker-Edwards to create a soundscape for her installation ‘Roar & Pelting’. This was to be presented that summer but, sadly, went the way of so many things during the pandemic. I’d already done much of the work before the show had to be axed, so decided to complete my composition regardless.

The soundscape was created using multiple voice recordings. Originally, Natasha and I were each going to interview people from our respective networks of friends, family and associates. From these, I would craft a sound collage that would provide the backdrop to her visual works. In the event, we had to send out the questions and ask our contacts to record themselves. Which, actually, provided a useful starting point.

No Filters

Participants were invited to record their responses on first reading our questions, with no preparation or planning and using whatever means they had available. This generated a variety of monologues, each with distinct acoustic characteristics and wildly varied interpretations of the subjects raised. But what instantly struck me was that it was often the little asides between coherent phrases that were most interesting.

So, I set about isolating the ‘good bits’, superimposing these upon one another. And what then fascinated me was how the brain immediately makes connections between these disparate voices. We innately want to make sense of things and create a narrative, even where one doesn’t exist.

I then made myself a set of rules for how these voice clips could be repeated, looped and grouped in order to build a complete work. In addition, piano, synthesizers and beats were used to enhance the colour, dynamics and rhythms of the voices. Originally, the whole piece lasted two hours, twenty minutes and was to be played as a continuous loop throughout the show. But then something happened…

Tipping Point

Curator Anna Novakov approached me in 2022, to ask whether I would like to contribute to an audio installation for Bath Fringe Arts. Titled ‘Tipping Point’, this was a meditation on our collectively precarious situation, post-Covid, in the face of multiple global threats. I explained about my lockdown-interview-generated piece and Anna agreed this would be a perfect fit.

Except it wasn’t. The pieces for inclusion within Tipping Point were limited to a maximum 50 minutes’ duration. So, I set about cutting down my epic soundscape to meet this stipulation. And something quite magical happened. Using the rules I’d set myself in the original creation of what had now become ‘2020 Vision’, I found that the 50-minute cut-off created an extraordinarily satisfying – and poignant – end to the piece.

Want to Know?

If you didn’t make it along to last year’s Tipping Point and want to know how it does end there’s some good news. 2020 Vision will form the first half of a double-header – titled ‘Making a Song & Dance’ – at this year’s Fringe. The soundscape will underscore a unique, immersive dance improvisation at Bath Fringe’s newest venue, Burdall’s Yard, on Wednesday 31st May.

To book your tickets, please use the link below. I’ll explain a little more about the dance itself in a future post. And reveal what the second half of this double-header will be. Or – of you can’t wait for those – click through to the booking page and find out!…

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Bill The Bass

I’ve invited my brother-in-rhythm from alt-folk combo ‘Rivers of England’ to join us on double bass for Bike to The Future. Also a keen cyclist, Bill lives near some of the most horrendous hills in the country!

Melodic and Mercurial

If you’ve seen Rivers of England in action, you’ll know that Bill’s bass playing is both driving and melodic. He has the knack of providing distinctive patterns that help propel the songs forward. And, at the same time, Bill introduces elements of counter-melody that can only really be delivered by the double-bass.

Dom The Drum

But wait… there’s more! On drums, I’ve invited Dominic Bailey-Clay, who also has a Rivers connection. Dom produced our recent EP ‘Eight In The Evening in Spring’, as well as my own album ‘Never There at All’, the title track of which appears in this show…

Album Favourites

Phew… brought it back round! Yes, the show will feature that song, as well as other album favourites and a couple you won’t have heard before (even if you came to the first version of Bike to The Future). So grab yourself a ticket and get along to the Old Theatre Royal Bath tomorrow night at 8pm. Doors will be open from 7pm and there is a bar – so come early and grab yourself a drink and a seat at the front.

Mystery Guitarist

And – last but not least – we have a special guest appearance from a mystery guitarist. I can’t say too much but, rest assured, he’s a leading-light in his field of music…

Is That All?

Of course not! This is a Fringe show. There will be the usual surprises; breaking of barriers and opportunities to get involved. I’ll say no more, as I want you to enjoy everything as it unfolds. But, to do so, you really will need to be there…

A Hard Act to Follow

The Bike to The Future tour got underway at the weekend, with a trip down to perform at Shindig festival, where I met the inspirational ‘Spoke & Chain’.

On its new site – Dillington Park – the weekend was a joyous, colourful occasion that somehow managed to be both Drum & Bass-heavy and child-friendly!

Next stop: Bath Fringe (June 1st, Old Theatre Royal Bath, 8pm)…


On the way down to Shindig, I stopped for some much-needed refreshment at a tea-room in Somerton (former capital of ancient Wessex, apparently). Parked nearby, I noticed two heavily-laden bikes, with enormous frames and a mish-mash of intriguing luggage. As I later pitched my tent at the festival, these two vehicles wheeled into the space next door.

Naturally, I got talking to the occupants of said bicycles and they turned out to be quite inspirational. These two – we’ll call them ‘Kevin and Sylvia’ (since those are their names) – have been touring all over Europe for the past eight years. They carry their home and belongings, as well as props for their show, with them as they travel from town to town.

Vision & Bravery

The duo goes under the name ‘Spoke & Chain’. I didn’t actually get to see them perform their show but did get a glimpse of one of their giant puppets, as they did a quick ‘walk-about’ during the festival. And I also had the pleasure of spending time with the couple over the course of the weekend.

How wonderful it is to meet people with such vision and bravery. Kevin & Sylvia have let go of the certainties of a fixed home and income. But they gain in having the freedom to roam and the joy of performing to appreciative audiences. They have also experienced a huge amount of human kindness from strangers offering them food and lodgings in return for their entertainment and company.

Experience It For Yourself

If I can be even a fraction as inspiring as Spoke & Chain, I’ll have done my job. A lot of time and effort has gone into planning my latest Fringe offering ‘Bike to The Future’ and I’m hoping you can be there to experience it for yourself. Come along and see what you think. You’ll certainly be entertained and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Do let me know (if you haven’t already) if you’re coming.

Saving The Planet? Really??

‘Saving the planet’: rather a bold claim? Yes but a) I’ve got to say something to get you to my show and b) there is genuine intent within that. Let me explain…

Changing The Narrative

The other day, I attended a talk by George Monbiot, as part of the Bath Literature Festival. He is somebody who has dedicated himself to the understanding of complex ecological and socio-economic systems. And he has the ability to share this understanding in a way that is accessible to all.

Much of what George had to say was, not surprisingly, rather frightening. However, he remains positive that we, collectively, have the wherewithal and opportunity to make the changes needed in order to save ourselves from calamity. The technology and knowledge required are already there. However, what we really need to change – to facilitate the necessary revolution in both thought and practice – is the narrative.

Rethinking Stories

Which is where I come in. Well, not just me – obviously. All of us, really. We all need to rethink the stories we tell ourselves. Recent history has shown that our perceived certainties are shaky at best. So, we face the opportunity and obligation to challenge those – and quickly.

If it’s possible to address this situation with wit and humour – in a way that is provocative and entertaining – then that would seem to be a good step to take. And, with the limited means at my disposal, it feels like the best I have to offer. When I say ‘saving the planet’, that is meant collectively. Honestly, if I could do it for you, I would. But I’m afraid we’re all going to need to pull together on this one. 

Part of The Process

I’ve no idea whether me singing a few songs and telling some stories is going to provoke actual change in anyone. However, if the greatest mind of which I’m aware – when it comes to the climate emergency – is calling for a change of narrative, then I feel it’s my duty to at least attempt to be a part of that process.

What the hell am I on about? Come along to the Old Theatre Royal Bath, on June 1st at 8pm, to find out. At the very least, you can be assured an entertaining evening of songs, stories, surprises and some very special guests. You never know – it may just help provoke a revolution…

The Crown Jools

Once again, it’s my pleasure to announce that the wonderful Jools Scott will be making a guest appearance in Bike to The Future.

Man of Many Parts

Jools is a supremely talented composer, pianist and producer. His Oratorio ‘The Cool Web’ was commissioned for inclusion during the Armistice Centenary commemorations at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2018. Which had a certain symmetry to it, since Jools had been a choirboy there. He even sang the traditional solo for Once in Royal David’s City, from the Whispering Gallery, in 1992!

Full English

Jools and I first met whilst playing in bands appearing on the same line-up at various gigs and festivals. Once we discovered a shared interest in composition, we hit on the novel idea of meeting whilst sober! So, a semi-regular routine of breakfast meetings was established.

During these encounters, we’ve discussed all sorts of things – both music-related and unrelated. Among these were the initial ideas for my first Fringe outing ‘Think of a Song’. Jools has been a constant source of support and ideas. So, it’s especially pleasing to have him on board for this latest Fringe spectacular.

In a Field of His Own

As with Rob (Whale – violinist), Jools is due to accompany me at a lesser-known event in some fields near the village of Pilton, later in June. What Jools doesn’t yet know is that we’re scheduled to play at midday on Saturday. Which is not a bad time to play – since there is little competition from the main stages at that juncture. However, it may prove a little early for someone of Jools’ constitution.

So, if you are attending said event, do come along and find us. But don’t bank on Jools (or any other band members) being there. In fact, the one way in which you can ensure you’ll see the full line-up is to come to the show at the Old Theatre Royal on June 1st. Plus, there will be one or two other surprises in store. Trust me.

Be Prepared

Don’t delay. Book now to avoid disappointment and do get in touch to say you are coming. If you forward your confirmation to I’ll even send you a free album download. Then you can swat-up on the songs beforehand and be ready to sing along!

The Full Package

With just under three weeks until Bike to The Future, it’s time to introduce my special guests. And gently remind you to book your tickets…

The Full Package

First up: Rob Whale. Anyone who saw his appearance at The Rondo, last Autumn, will agree he really is the full package. Fiddle player, singer, songwriter, arranger and avid cyclist, Rob is someone with whom it’s always an honour to share the stage.

Mimes Past

We first met as music students in London, back in the late 1980s (I know – hard to believe ether of us is that old). In the orchestra there, Rob developed his talent for miming, on the back desk of the violins. Meanwhile, I was humiliating myself on percussion, coming in – fortissimo – on cymbals in all the wrong places.

Funk Soul Brothers

But things improved from there. Rob formed his funk/soul outfit Rob Whale and The Marleys, for whom I played drums. We traipsed round the usual London haunts, including the legendary Half Moon in Putney and Moonlight Club. The band featured Charlie Round-Turner (now Midge Ure’s keyboard player) on keys and Lisa Walsingham (Jools Holland) and Jason Yarde (Jazz Warriors) on sax. (Bet they wish they’d been invited to play for Bike to The Future…)

Award Winner

Rob went on to teach music, winning the Classic FM/TES Teacher of The Year award in its inaugural year of 1999. He continued to write and arrange, forming the African-influenced outfit Super Rhythm Express, with whom I had the privilege of recording. Today, Rob is a regular member of folk outfit Jake’s Rake and sometime member of a Band named Brian.

Somewhere in a Field

Rob will be accompanying me at a lesser-known event in some fields near the village of Pilton, later in June. But before that you can see him in all his glory (and you’ll know what I mean when you do see him), at the Bath Fringe. This is a fabulous event and it’s always a pleasure to perform in the magnificent Old Theatre Royal. If you’ve not been before, it’s worth coming just to experience the venue.

The Only Choice

So, when I was looking for a well-equipped, fiddle-playing, backing-vocal-singing, cycling enthusiast for Bike to The Future, there really was only one choice! Come along on June 1st and see for yourself.