Folk On Foot Preview Film

The preview film from the walk into the Wickham Festival is now available on You Tube and on the Folk On Foot Facebook page:

“This episode has by far the largest cast of walkers we’ve ever assembled – and the most musicians. The lead singer of Oysterband John Jones started walking from gig to gig and singing on the way long before our podcast was invented. He’s done it all over the country and he’s usually accompanied by a bunch of fans who call themselves the Reluctant Ramblers. On a scorching hot summer’s day, we joined them for a walk over Old Winchester Hill, along part of the South Downs Way and the Meon Valley to the Wickham Festival. On top of the hill John and his band perform “Waking Through Ithonside”. After lunch at the pub they give us “Ferryman” and on arrival at the festival the very appropriate “I Will Never Stop Moving”. Along the way John reflects on creativity and the effect of a recent brush with cancer on his view of life and making music. It is a life-affirming journey through quintessential English countryside with one of the most influential performers on the folk scene.”

Folk On Foot with John Jones and the Reluctant Ramblers

When John Jones walked into the Wickham Festival last August, he was joined by Matthew Bannister for series 4 of his Folk On Foot podcasts. As the folk musician who walks the most on foot, it had taken a couple of years to find a date and place for Matthew to walk with John. As well as talking with John, Matthew’s cameraman took many photographs. They recorded John and the Reluctant Ramblers band singing both on Old Winchester Hill and outside the festival box office as people queued to get their tickets.

The short film trailer will launch on this coming Friday, November 8th, and then the full episode will launch on the following Friday November 15th. A short clip is available already in the season 4 trailer on the Podcast site: click here for Apple and here for Google

Click here for the series 4 Folk On Foot website.

JJ-RR walkers at Wickham

Boff writes on the community of reluctant ramblers

Boff writes:

Everyone needs community nowadays. We crave it because we’re all isolated and marooned by our relationships to our screens. We spend half our lives looking at what other people are doing, always through a heavily-filtered lens. As a nation we swapped our extended families and our in-built empathy (the fine art of looking after each other) for individualism. We fell for Thatcher’s dream of ‘there is no such thing as society’ and ended up with me, me, me. That’s the depressing introduction; it’s all smiles from now on, honestly.

The golf club south of the busy A66 outside Threlkeld in the Lake District is humming with the buzz of community. A bunch of people from all over Britain are meeting on a Thursday evening in this brightly-lit, disinfectant-clean clubhouse for the sheer joy of meeting. There’s a focus to the gathering – a band, some music – but essentially this is about people getting together. I walk in late, after a strange drive up from Yorkshire; a journey full of frequent stops, lights on the dashboard and worrying about which coolant you’re supposed to use in a Mazda. As I open the doors to the Function Room (every golf club has a Function Room, with its silver cups and its photograph of the Ladies’ Captain) there are smiles everywhere, across every table, smiles and chatter and the natural joy of people meeting up again.

John Jones – lead singer with Oysterband and Meltham’s answer to Robert Plant – had an idea, a decade ago, to combine his obsession with walking with his love of music. He’d create an on/off band, set up gigs that were in walking distance from each other, and sing about walking. He put word out and waited to see who would turn up, joined by his walking mate Colin, formerly mayor of Presteigne on the Welsh Borders, check-shirted and with route maps spilling out of every pocket. That first tour – billed as John Jones and the Reluctant Ramblers – set a pattern that grew by the year, with at first just the band doing the walking and then, quite quickly, the audiences joining in. Before long this was a gathering of folk from all over who loved the music, but who saw in the walking something special and unique.

The audience not only joined the walks between concerts, but more or less took them over – by the time of the South Downs tour, there were upwards of 50 people setting off for a 15-mile walk to the next venue. This wasn’t just about music, or walking – this was about people jumping at the chance to create a community, a real-life, physical, nattering, chattering community.

That opening Thursday night at Threlkeld Golf Club is more a Ramblers’ refresher course than a concert – there’s nothing like long walks through the hills to discover the quirks and anomalies of someone’s character. So here we are, to a background of fiddle-and-melodion tunes, remembering how one Rambler has a reputation for falling into large puddles, that another can switch from twinkly-eyed optimist to grumbling nay-sayer (and back again) at the drop of a walking stick, that such-and-such always gets lost, and that whatsisname spends half of each walk obsessively studying plants, trees and wild mushrooms. It’s a mixed bunch (as bunches invariably are), and it typifies a spirit of generosity among people that we often forget.

We’re in the middle of the Brexit debacle, seemingly jumping off a big cliff behind a scatter-brained public school megalomaniac, so this walking-and-singing lark is a welcome break from the madness – there’s a rule that for three days we won’t talk about Brexit. It pretty much works. At the Golf Club, a morris dancer with glorious hair and clean white handkerchiefs does his thing as John accompanies him. Assorted Ramblers get up and play along on flute, mandolin, melodion and acapella voice as John is joined for the main body of songs by Al Scott, Tim Cotterell, Rowan Godel and myself – with Lindsey Oliver sadly sitting the weekend out and Benji Kirkpatrick turning up on the Friday. There’s pie and peas, a cheap bar and, outside, a thunderous downpour. The forecast for the weekend is heavy non-stop rain. The motley ramblers pull on their waterproofs and head off into the night, looking forward to tomorrow’s walk into the unknown.

It’s at this point that a narrative like this can turn into a travelogue – a step-by-step account of each walk with all its highs and lows. (For the record, river crossings, a stroppy goat, sunshine and storms, abandonments, bird-spotting, slips and trips and the occasional minor panic). Alternatively, this could end up as a little string of gig reviews pretending to be a Tour Diary, with pictures of set-lists and details about what kind of bazouki Benji plays (I’ve no idea). John’s set-lists are as reliable and permanent as Colin’s daily route maps – full of spidery penlines that are liable to be altered, changed or completely ignored.

But detouring away from travelogue and tour diary, boiling it all down to its essence – every day is a moving caravan of nattering, meeting, wondering and asking; plus the occasional wide-eyed look around at the cloud-shrouded lower fells or the sodden clag in each bootstep. And it’s always followed by an evening of the same nattering and chattering along to John’s songs about walking. The atmosphere that permeates the walking is there in the music; it’s a shared stage where great playing can be balanced by laughter and improvisation.

On the Friday evening, after the concert finishes and round the post-gig table at Vanya and Graham’s house, we chase the same conversation for an hour – should the Saturday walk, on which we planned to tackle Grizedale Pike, a long, tough mountain climb up to an exposed ridge, be substituted for a lower-level walk taking in High Rigg and St John’s In The Vale..? We check the weather forecast on our three different weather apps, all of which predict something different. One thing they all agree on, though, is rain. Is it irresponsible to lead fifty people up onto the notorious Grizedale ridge in bad weather? Should we wait until morning to make a decision? Do we have enough seasoned walkers among us? Do we have a clue what we’re doing?

And the thing is (and the conclusion is) that it doesn’t really matter. We’ll take the low-level route and we’ll look from our summit on High Rigg over towards the towering Grizedale – which, by Saturday lunchtime, is cloudless and bathed in sun – and we won’t care, because this whole thing is about sharing an experience, meeting up, taking time out of the Brexit-riddled media bombardment and the relentless onslaught of smiling Facebook Friends to be with actual friends who are actually smiling even when they’re not having their photographs taken.

At Saturday night’s sold-out concert in the beautiful Threlkeld Village Hall those fifty or so smiling faces are joined by locals and not-so-locals who’ve come to see a gig, who’ve come to hear the songs and the singing, come to hear Benji, Tim and Al playing sets of tunes, come to hear Rowan’s gorgeous melodies and John’s between-song ramblings across metaphorical rivers, oceans and seas (and his lyrical insight into the correct vegetable-based feed for horses). What they possibly don’t expect is a spirit of community that is visceral and practically tangible. It isn’t the community spirit conjured up by politicians to remind us that “we’re British”. It isn’t a communality created by social media algorithms. It’s something that grew from the simplicity of a bunch of like-minded people getting together and getting out… with an original soundtrack. Community – that’s all.

Boff, October 2019

With many thanks to Graham, Vanya, Colin, Tom, Fran, John Hayley, Barbara and the volunteers from the TAA.

The lakes on Friday

JJ writes:

“There are 104 words for rain in the English language. Today we had 73 of them.

We’ve crossed becks; we’ve climbed rocks; we’ve descended and ascended steep paths in one of the most spectacular areas of the north lakes.

Our views were limited today but there was an amazing spirit amongst the 50 ramblers walking today.

Waiting to sound check for the evening concert, I sit here as the summit of Blencathra comes into view with the early evening sun. We leave that for another day. “

The North Lakes 2019

Details on the walking for the weekend 26/27/28th September can be found here:

jj-rr.org/walking-and-music-in-the-lakes-2019

JJ writes: “Our weekend in the beautiful North Lakes is coming up. 3 Days of great walking and music. You are all welcome but REMEMBER – THIS IS THE LAKES -and it does help if you have some experience of walking in the fells and a degree of fitness. If our walks seem too demanding there are plenty of other easier walks to do and fantastic scenery to lose yourself in. We will all be together in the evenings.

As all the regular walkers know, we are not a guided tour party but are there, like you, to enjoy walking and music and being together in astonishing landscape. Please look after yourselves, bring the right gear, carry what you need but not too much and make your own arrangements for lifts (except on the Friday, see below). Any doubts please ask.”

Wickham thoughts from JJ

“Thanks to everyone for your great support at the RR gig at Wickham and those hardy souls who sweated it out with us on the South Downs during the day. It’s a fantastic  festival and it is an honour to be there for the opening, singing for people as they arrive.

Lindsey, Tim, Rowan, John, Benji & Al singing Never Stop Moving at the Wickham Festival Box Office, watched by Matthew Bannister and being recording for the Folk on Foot podcast.

Special thanks to the Folk on Foot Podcast team who were with us the whole day creating a word and sound picture reflecting the  quiet musings of myself and others following the silent hedgerows of the Downs, in contrast to the noise of a full-on crowd in the Big-Top when we hit the festival. Two different worlds coming together; the contrast was stunning. Thanks to you all. JJ ”

JJ with Matthew Bannister talking folk on foot

John Jones and the Reluctant Ramblers play the Village Stage at the Wickham Festival