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Barnstorming all over with a footy break at the oasis of Wrexham FC

JUST surfaced to write this week’s column after a wonderful band gig last night at the Dublin Castle in Camden, the first in London with my brand new “1649” Barnstormer.  

Word is getting around about the fact that we’re moving in uncharted territory — mixing early music and punk with songs and tunes based around the time of the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters and other radical visionaries of the English revolution.

Our substantial audience included a fully kitted out Roundhead re-enactor soldier, an expert on John Milton and Andrew Marvell’s poetry and a bloke who’s written a book about the Commonwealth era of 1649-1660. Plus, of course, the usual wide mix of poetry fans, punk rockers and activists including, I’m happy to say, four old anti-fascist comrades from the gig and street battles of the ‘80s. Ancient and modern indeed.

That gig was the fifth in a week: we started last Friday at Centrala in Birmingham, a lovely community space hosting all kinds of events with beautiful acoustics for the ancient sounds of the crumhorn, cornamuse and recorders which feature so strongly in the sound of our band.  

Some representatives of the more traditional end of the early music community turned up, and sadly, soon were gone, hands over ears. “It’s too loud!” That’s why it’s called Renaissancecore, folks.
But we have a solution. Read on…

The next day, last Saturday, we were playing in Wrexham and that afternoon I took the opportunity to visit the Racecourse Ground for the local team’s match with Maidstone United.

Wrexham and Brighton fans have a firm bond, the result of our shared support for each other during long battles against profiteering bastards who nearly destroyed our clubs.

They are now community owned, and it was heartwarming to walk round with Marc, one of the directors, and feel the bond between the fans which comes from a successful fight to save your club – a feeling that we at Brighton know only too well.

When the game began I discovered that we had something else in common, since their centre forward was Chris Holroyd, who started 16 matches for us in League One 10 years ago as a central striker without ever remotely looking like putting the ball in the net.

He played exactly as I remembered, didn’t have a shot and I was subsequently astonished to learn that he is Wrexham’s top scorer.  

It didn’t matter though: they won 1-0. I really hope they make it back into the League from the Conference this season and that their Kop, currently a derelict, empty wasteland covering a quarter of the ground, is soon restored to its former glory.  

The gig in the evening was at Saith Seren, the local pub of the organisers, fan group Partisans CPD Wrecsam. Like the ground it is community-owned and is a hub of the local Welsh language community. Hospitality and reception were wonderful, beer amazing. Diolch!

And from there to Lancaster, a packed gig in a tiny pub, and a long journey back home through the night (huge thanks to sound man and driver Dave for his sterling efforts on our behalf!) for the following day’s gig.  

It was a Labour Party fundraiser at the lovely Schooner harbourside pub in my home town of Southwick, and as an experiment we performed totally acoustic — as, of course, we’d always have had to do back in 1649.  

It was a resounding success and means that, upon request, the more fragile end of the early music and folk scene will be able to enjoy what we do in comfort. Although the bombarde and rauschpfeife will still cause a bit of consternation, I fear.

Robb Johnson, Steve White (of Protest Family fame) and Lawrie and the Volunteers served up fine sets too and a good wedge was raised for forthcoming battles in our newly marginal East Worthing and Shoreham constituency.

Tonight, the full-on Barnstormer is at my other local, the Duke of Wellington in Shoreham — fittingly, a few hundred yards form where Charles II escaped after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the fact that gave me the idea for the new songs in the first place.
Loads more gigs coming round the country: hope to see you somewhere soon.

Attila the Stockbroker


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