by Josie

Hm, well, not all gigs work out.  This one just wasn’t right for us so I’m not including it in the 60 performances, just giving it a nominal 8a listing!

As one of our 4 appearances at Tenterden Folk Festival 2023 we were to perform at an event billed as ‘Mainly Music Session – Brown boots invite you along to play some good old folk tunes with guest spots from Milton Hide’, from 7.30 – 10.45.  We arrived before 7 at the pub/tapas bar heaving with diners and the lady at the bar said they’d cleared the space in front of the mirrors for us, so we placed our trolley of instruments there and went outside to have a drink. By the time we went back in the place was even more full, this time with musicians, mainly with melodions and fiddles. Jim’s was the only guitar in the place and there certainly wasn’t another cajon or clarinet. But there was a harp! 

We’d seen Will and Martin of Brown Boots play earlier in the day and really enjoyed their music and energy, but come 7.40 they still weren’t there and the ‘natives were getting restless’. And I was getting more and more anxious, feeling totally out of place. We don’t play traditional english folk and that’s what these people were into. It had not been a good day for me and the black cloud was threatening to totally engulf me. Now I was having great doubts about whether Milton Hide should be playing folk festivals at all and suffering a massive crisis of confidence. I was also unreasonably concerned that the staff were having to squeeze between musicians with hot plates of food and nobody seemed inclined to move out of the way. 

When the hosts did arrive and started to play, everyone was joining in with the traditional english tunes – most were part of Morris sides and it seemed that everyone there knew eachother as well as the tunes. Jim joined in with some on his guitar and I tried adding some cajon but really couldn’t hear it. When Will nodded to us to play a song, it felt to me like nobody was interested so they mostly took the opportunity to have a good chat. It felt rude at the time but some had evidently listened (we played All Gone South) as we got a smattering of applause after the first number.  Later when Will and Martin persuaded us to sing again, we decided to play something a bit more relevant to the evening’s tempo and did Making Progress – by the time we got to the last verse I was so wound up that nobody was listening (fiddlers next to us had actually turned their backs to have a conversation) that I literally couldn’t sing and had to step outside immediately we’d finished playing.  Jim came out, calmed me down (yes, I was feeling like a complete diva by then) and I went back in but the combination of numerous fiddles and melodions plus a  penny whistle and my general malaise was giving me a pounding head so I gave up my chair to a kneeling fiddle player and sat by the open back door to get some fresh air.

A while later Will persuaded us to perform once more so we did our guaranteed singalong. Romance at the Panto. I honestly hadn’t thought they would join in and tried to refuse but Jim had gauged it right and they did, with gusto.  

It was a brilliant evening of english folk music, really well attended with some great musicians and great music. It just wasn’t the right time or place for Milton Hide. Or for me. I put my mood down partly to not having eaten properly but I’d felt kind of disconnected before we even left home. Tomorrow I’ll be fine, as the song goes. (And I was!).

About the venue. The Ancient Boro is a lovely pub opposite the rec at the top of Tenterden High Street which serves tapas – see the menu on the mirror! Their beer was reasonably priced and the staff friendly. We walked up from the campsite, about 10 – 15 minutes away (uphill) with a trolley and carrying guitars. Our fee for playing at the festival included as many performances as we liked so this was included in the overall fee, but wouldn’t normally be a paid gig. The pub hosts regular sessions. 

No CDs sold, no additions to the mailing list, but we did meet some friends, John and Di Cullen there and got to meet face to face with Valmay and Bryan Goodyear from the Elephant and Castle Folk Club.