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SouthWest of England Tour 5-11th dec 2008!


 We have now hit the southwest of england for some serious Rural Touring where we are performing in mainly local village churches! (an idea put forward by Mark Wallace from Beafordarts in the southwest)… this is a part of the world that is very dear to my heart as its the first place i ever visited outside of london as a ten year old boy.


A place called Bridgewater, Somerset! in a pub owned by the parents of my former Primary School teacher (knowned to us then as Miss Hawkins)! this pub called ‘The British Flag’ was where me and about half a dozen kids spent the six week summer holidays of 69.

This experience was life changing on so many levels! 1st, it gave me a love and appreciation for the country side and open spaces! now as someone that was born and raised in hackney east london, from a big family of eight, where everything feels so cramed and stacked, Somerset was like a heavenly place to be.

2nd, we had so much adventure and fun with our school teacher’s Miss Hawkins (who we now call by first name Georgina…Remember? we could’nt call our teachers by first names as a mark of respect! hope that has’nt changed!) and another teacher Sally who had taken us all.

The folks there made so much fuss of us! i even remember doing my Louis Armstrong impersonation for them all..( i guess that was one of my first live gigs).

There’s also a poem i was taught by the pub landlord George that i remember most of still today! its called the ‘Black Bird poem’ “I know where those black birds be” etc….). i’ve been telling this story and reciting it each night of the tour hoping to perfect it before we get to our last stop in Wonstrow, Somerset.

First stop, Cornwall, Calstock! we are playing in the village hall where it seems like all the local folks are on hand to help with the set up, ( as we have to bring and install most of the equipment like sound and lights etc….) we have a first class soundman on board with us ‘Paul Bull’ who was born in the southwest, Exeter! which was very handy for us all.

I just love it when you turn your equipment on and it just does what its suppose to do ( i.e meaning it works and sounds great)….paul has hired some really great equipment so this little village hall sounds fantastic accoustically.

The stage did feel a little insecure though, (i think in retrospect it would have been better if we had just played the concert from the floor level)..all the same, nice concert and very warm and freindly people, made even more special by our hosts Martin & Tish.

A friend of there’s Mellissa, kindly allowed us to eat and prepare for the gig at her splendid lake side house.

All the remaining dates were performed in beautiful old village churches, most of the time in the middle of a field. it was such a great sonic experience to hear my music in this setting! having Accoustic bass player Mark Hodgson and Drummer Shaney Forbes who are part of my regular Trio (CWT) and Sound Engineer Paul Bull really allowed me to explore my musical palate as they play with such great sensitivity and really listen.

Stockland, North Devon, St Michael & all Angels Church really set the tone for these village church dates! we had been warned by our host Wendy that this event was soldout and the scheduled Vocal Improvisation workshop to be well attended with new local vicar Alistair McCollum up for the workshop.

Local Hero, Wendy (an artist in her own right) who organizes a lot of events in this church and around north devon was so key in making this such a successful workshop and concert! it was during the workshop that vicar Alistair McCollum enlightened me to the fact that these old churches around england have the design of the Ark from the story in the bible of Noah’s Ark.

That info really lined up well with my workshop introductions where i describe us all going on a journey out to sea on a boat.

One of the great things about doing these type of voice workshops is to see people young and old rediscovering there voices and really going for it. 

In all, we were fortunate to visit seven villages in the southwest! the two mentioned above plus: Heaton Punchard, Crediton, Chulmleigh, Asbrittle, and Wonstrow. 

In order to get to our final date in Wonstrow we had to drive through Bridgewater, so i was really exited by the prospect of Re-visiting the pub i mentioned above The British Flag, Chilton Street, Bridgewater Somerset, (i can still remember the exact address from all those years ago) for the satnav, making it real easy to find. it looked exactly as i remembered it, shaney had the video camera in hand as i was knocking the pub window to get someones attention! ( it was still only about 11am) and i guess we looked a little suspicious.

I was able to get one chaps attention (who was reluctant to open the door) as i was telling him the story of visiting this place a long time ago)! he then said “the lady that owned this pub still lives across the street at the blue door”! (WOW) .. as she opened, i mentioned my name, and she said Cleveland Watkiss? and with a big smile on her face invited us inside. Thus to say, the gig that night was one of our best.

Now at the end of this tour, its given me some of the best musical experiences of my career. i strongly endorse Rural Touring! its been a great way of bringing my art of vocal improvisation to people that love and appreciate it.