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I’M WRITING this in Utrecht, Holland, after a lovely gig on Wednesday, despite a depleted audience due to the Specials playing a couple of hundred yards away.
Last Thursday, I come to the last night of my first EU tour since Covid and first one since the reality of Brexit hit home: 12 gigs, 13 days, four countries, several thousand miles, all on trains of varying reliability — but all comfortable and relaxing and the scene of many interesting interactions with my fellow travellers.
In 42 years and over 3,500 gigs I have never done a tour by train before. I thought the relaxing nature of train travel, and the feeling that I was part of something essentially environmentally friendly, might lessen my disappointment at not being able to bring my band due to the expensive and dispiriting post-Brexit bureaucracy now in place. I was right.
Yes, it’s been a challenge sometimes, mainly lugging the stuff about. Mentally and spiritually I still feel as I did when I started as Attila 42 years ago, and physically I am as strong as ever, but I’m 64.
Basic blueprint: enough sleep, simple as that. I go to bed when my body tells me to, regardless of how long it is since I’ve seen the friends I used to stay up till 4am getting pissed with: I don’t drink QUITE as much as I used to.
That’s all really. Wonderful time.
And a fitting climax to come later on Friday at OCII in Amsterdam, where that wonderful community venue, an old squatted theatre now legalised and a fixture on the landscape, celebrates its 30th anniversary as I celebrate my 40th as Attila.
I’m performing alongside Cor from Trespassers W, a long time friend and collaborator whom I first met almost exactly 40 years ago.
The difference in property law in mainland Europe has given a huge boost to the music scene there. In Germany (and certain other European countries, notably Holland and to a degree Austria, Switzerland and Italy) the laws governing vacant properties which have been left neglected and with no demonstrable future intention of use by owners are very different to those in place in Britain, and have been for decades.
If a building (could be an old barracks, an old factory, a disused warehouse or a big derelict house, to name a few examples) is left obviously neglected and is eventually squatted, the owners, whether a public body or private individuals, have to prove they are going to do something with their property in the very near future in order to get the squatters evicted.
If they won’t, can’t or are simply uncontactable, and the squatters can prove they are going to make improvements to the building and use it for something useful to the wider community, they can apply for a temporary licence from the local council.
If the owners still don’t respond with a declared use for the building this can be extended, and ultimately the squatters given a contract entitling them to stay for years, often with local council support.
They can end up buying it or staying at a peppercorn rent. And if the owners eventually decide they are going to reclaim use of their property the council will often offer an alternative place for them to move into. About as different from British law as it is possible to get.
Tomorrow I go home to Robina, whom I have missed so much — Covid’s enforced togetherness made us both realise just how lucky we are, although we already knew!
And then on Saturday I’m off to Nibley Festival, and next Friday part of Shout Out For Shelley, a big celebration of the radical poet in his former home of Horsham.
But after that I have the whole of July at home before a busy August at Rebellion Punk Music Festival, PBH’s Free Fringe at Bannermans Bar in Edinburgh and then back to Germany and Austria to play the shows I had to postpone due to Covid and Unsere Zeitung (UZ) - Pressefest - Fest des Friedens und der Solidaritat in Berlin, the festival of our sister paper in Germany.
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