Beyond The Fringe

Another hit show at Bath Fringe. But – beyond the Fringe – some devastating news…


Rob joined me in Bath for a couple of days’ preparation before our Fringe show at Burdall’s Yard. This was well-attended and well-received, with good audience participation and lovely feedback from the venue. Unfortunately, as we were about to set-off for the get-in, I had a call from The George in Newnham. They reported that, due to poor advance ticket sales, they would be cancelling. The day before!

I was too furious to speak but also my mind was on the Fringe show, which needed some preparation, being a more complex affair than the standard gigs. Months of planning had gone into the tour and to be confronted with this at the eleventh hour was soul destroying. And unacceptable.

Reflecting Awhile

With less time pressure the following morning, we set off a little later than planned. Cycling along the Bristol to Bath Railway Path, I was reminded of the same journey last year, when I received news that my beloved mother-in-law had died. So, we made a stop at the tea room in Bitten to reflect awhile. Some other cyclists, with whom Rob got chatting, scoffed at the fact we were resting after only 9 miles’ ride. F*ck ‘em.

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2

I’ve made the journey through/around North Bristol numerous times and the route this time was like a ‘greatest hits’ of previous trips. We avoided the tedious grind alongside the dual-carriageway bypass, which was a relief. But we did then seem to veer unnecessarily far west before heading up along the coast to the Severn bridge.

Great Views

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2 - great views

The crossing was windy but with great views over the estuary, towards the newer bridge, at high tide. There are some well thought-out cycleways to negotiate all this safely. And, after a stretch of main-road shadowing, our route found some nifty backways around the fringes of Chepstow.

In need of refreshment, we made an ill-advised stop at a well-known chain ‘pub’. Here, bored teenagers processed us. Nonetheless, we valued the shade, liquid and opportunity to sit in relative comfort.

We then had little option but to follow the main road all the way to Newnham. This was not a pleasant experience, mainly due to kamikaze drivers. These maniacs would rather risk full-frontal collision than ease their foot a little off the right-hand pedal (let alone try the middle one). After some lengthy climbs along this busy stretch, we reached our destination, an unassuming terraced cottage on the outskirts of the village.

Convivial, Flowing and Compelling

Once inside, this turned out to be a remarkable, beautiful home, full of musical instruments and family history. Our hosts – Ian and Siobhan – could not have been more hospitable and were as baffled as we were by the cancellation. They offered us tea, a hot shower, dinner, wine and companionship. We did say we’d be prepared to honour our gig commitment for a reduced fee if that would help. But were told by a venue representative that this was ‘not possible’. My arse.

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2 - wonderful hosts

Instead, we offered to play for Ian, Siobhan and friends in their living room. They also invited Annie, my old Rivers of England bandmate, to join us. After a convivial dinner, flowing wine and compelling conversation, all thoughts of performing were forgotten. Which seemed to suit everyone fine. To be honest, our bubble had been somewhat burst.

Generating Local Interest

My mistake – of course – had been to not issue a formal contract. However, this was a longstanding arrangement and to cancel at the last minute was just not on. We’d have been happy to play to a smaller audience. However, we were also aware that there would have been little pressure to book in advance, since we are not known in the area. So, who knows how many may have turned up? And we’ll remain unknown here unless we get to play and generate local interest.

As a footnote, I must mention that the venue organisers later realised this had – indeed – been a mistake.  And they agreed to settle the fee in full. Nonetheless, the impact of the cancellation went beyond financial concerns. It had a detrimental impact on our morale and self-belief.

Logistics & Planning

'Beyond The Fringe' a Band named Brian's Just Songs tour blog - part 2 - planning & logistics

No matter what the level, it takes a certain amount of inner fortitude to stand up and perform in front of strangers. Not to mention all the preparation, not only in terms of writing, rehearsing and finessing the music. There’s also all the logistics, marketing, cajoling, confirming and reconfirming. And the cycle-planning: finding concurrent gigs at appropriate distances, plotting routes, arranging accommodation, training, etc. etc.

Please. Do. Not. Cancel.