So it was that on the 10th October Cerri and I once more made our way around the M25 and headed northwards, this time towards Clee Hill in Shropshire to play at the third Serpent Festival. Clee Hill is famous for its association with serpents, so it was no surprise that, as well as musicians, there were going to be a number of storytellers on the bill.
We arrived in plenty of time, taking in the glorious countryside that surrounds Clee Hill – if you ever get the chance to go I would recommend it just for the view from the car park outside the village! The venue was the Royal Oak public house – a true Tardis of a pub! From the outside I wondered how they were going to host a small festival, but once through the door the pub somehow seemed to grow, weird…
We were the first to arrive – I never like to arrive rushed and prefer having plenty of time to tune up and set up – but pretty soon other people started to arrive, the first of which was Sue, the organiser of the festival. The room that had been chosen for the festival was a goodly size, very pleasantly set out with tables and chairs.
It was great to see a lot of OBOD members there, and to see my good storyteller friend Steve Gladwin (aka Ardan). After months in the making Steve was able to give me a copy of his new CD The Song of Taliesin by Spintale – a sonic/audio version of John Matthews wonderful tale about the Primary Bard of Britain, Taliesin. I’ll be playing a couple of stories from the CD on the next DruidCast. As ever it was also great to see my Bardic pal Paul Newman, who was also on the bill for the festival.
It wasn’t long before Sue set the scene of the festival with a great story about the Clee Hill serpent. Then, after another great storyteller, Paul took the stage and gave a brilliant performance full of his usual energy and humour – breaking two strings in the process and in the end having to borrow one of my guitars to finish his set as he’d used all of his spares! I suggested a lighter pick, maybe one with the Herne’s Apprentice logo on it…! The picture shows Paul thrashing the shite out of my lovely new Takamine. The photo’s blurry because I was quivering in fear behind the camera!
After a short beer-break it was time for my set. I have always traditionally started by sets with Song of Awen, and tonight was no exception, but I can feel a change in the air, and I think this may well be different next year. I’ve been subtly adding songs into my set that I either haven’t played for a long time, or haven’t played live at all, such as Lughnasadh, and tonight I also played Oak Broom and Meadowsweet for the first time in ages (requested by Cerri). I like this, and I’ll certainly be revisiting some of those songs in my live sets during 2010.
I played two sets with a short break in between, and had a real blast in each. The audience were with me, and we were all singing together. Also Paul grabbed a Djembe drum and added some rhythm too which helped to get the feet tapping!
So the set drew to a close. But it has been written, that whenever there is a Paul Newman and a Damh the Bard in one location, lo, they shall play Telling the Bees‘ The Worship of Trees, and thus it was. Man I love that song. Andy Letcher wrote a classic and it’s one of those songs that, every time I hear it or play it I think, damn I wish I’d written that! So the pub rocked out, and after a couple of Guinness, we made our way back south, and home once more…