17th July – The Dogs Bollix
The thing that made the gig at the Dogs Bollix so good was Angel the soundman. He was a gem and set up the audio & visual things with no probs. It was the first time that we’d been able to use our visuals and it was a real treat for us to see how the show would look if all the venues had been as well equiped as the Dogs Bollix. It seems silly to be really loving the fact that we all had our own mic and that the music and visuals were working but it was a real light in the dark tunnel of touring in difficult circumstances.
There was a small crowd there but they seemed to genuinely like what we did. Len & Elliot were there working the door and it was great that we didn’t have to worry bout that side of it. Shane (from the Literati) came down and ripped into some new pieces that he’s chosen to fit in with our show. All in all a good night.
After the gig there was socialising to be done. Bob, Elliot, Shane, Ellen, Gordon & I went on a mini pub crawl …..mini cos every bar we tried to get into was closing (early). Elliot had the bright idea of going to meet his friends in the Albian which was a 24 hour bar and we needed no further encouragement. My feet were walked off me and I was dying of drooth. We got into the bar ordered pizza & beers, played pool with Elliot’s mates. I managed to hit one cracking shot (accidently) in the whole game, which I was chuffed by!
18th July – Hamilton Central Library / Biddy Mulligans
So an early start for us today. We had to be in Auckland city centre at 9am to be filmed for TVNZ, which is the national TV station. They were interested in our show and 68 and so did a performance and interview. It was kinda cool – we haven’t even been on telly at home yet and we come away to NZ and we’re on national TV, Maori TV and Alt TV. I guess that says something.
The gig at the library was good, despite us arriving to discover there had been a plumbing malfunction where we were supposed to be performing! They had moved us upstairs into a lovely space right beside the windows and we were delighted to see a crowd already forming to see us. Once we started more and more people came to have a nosey at what all this chanting/singing/poetry racket was and we were delighted to see them stick around and enjoy the show.
In the evening we had a show at Biddy Mulligans. To be honest I thought it was going to be a disaster, especially when the owner of the bar asked if we wanted the tables moved out of the dance floor cos people would be wanting to dance………to our music?! I mean what the fck?? I thought it was going to be yet another case of a gig where Grant hadn’t informed people what was going on. I felt sick to my stomach. We were due to start at half eight. At twenty-five past there were four people in the bar and I was for calling it quits and hitting the road! But bang on half eight – Bam! People! We ended up with a jam packed crowd and playing to an audience who got what we were doing and laughed and oohed in all the right places – always a good sign!
19th July – The Butter Factory, Whangarei
The drive to Whangarei is beautiful. So stunning and my only complaint is that we were on such a tight schedule that we didn’t have time to stop and admire the view and take photographs. It was the first time I felt I had seen New Zealand on this trip and I wasn’t disappointed. The Butter Factory is an unusual venue, lots of rugs and heaters, little stage and big open barn doors. We felt right at home. When we got up to do our set, Gordon introduced us and we got a roar of applause welcoming us. Well, things could only get better from that. It was the first time that we’d felt that people were genuinely knew who we were, were interested in our show and what we were doing and so it was a pleasure to perform. The people we met were lovely and we stayed around and chatted to loads of local characters. There was an open mic after our gig and it was lovely to hear local poets strutting their stuff, including Vaughan (who organised the gig) who did a couple of great pieces.
We were staying in a beach house batch and so Roger dropped us off there after the gig. We were looked after so well by Lisa and to wake up in the morning to that stunning view was such a treat. After seeing nothing but the grey of Onehunga I was almost blinded by the beauty of the place. I would certainly love to visit again but I doubt I’ll get the chance. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the beach house, Lisa and her fantastic record collection and make the trip to Kerikeri.
20th July – The Venue, Kerikeri
On arriving at Kerikeri I declared that I was never leaving. The Venue is set in a subtropical garden (which is beautiful) and it is run by Mark and Tanya (two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet) The Venue was a lovely open space, with three of Marks huge textured paintings hung on the wall behind. The crowd were small but attentive and we really enjoyed meeting them. After the gig came the best part – Tanya showed us to our bungalows were we would be staying. OhMyGod, there were so beautiful and I really was determined not to leave. One look out the deck to the beautiful garden and I would have happily stayed there for life. Never mind the fact that I would be sleeping in a bed for the first time in three weeks, the bungalow also had officially the Worlds Greatest Shower. I think I died and went to holiday heaven. I took great delight in having a shower and then sitting in my towel in the heat, drinking a beer and revelling in the fact that I wasn’t freezing or damp in our semi squat in Onehunga. We went up to Tanya and Marks for dinner, made friends with Matai the dog and had a really lovely night.
In the morning we went over to Bob and Gordons bungalow for tour breakfast of scrambled eggs, which I was trying to enjoy out on the deck until one of the garden chickens made his way up onto the deck. I had to go inside cos I was eating eggs and just looking at the chook made me feel wile! But still it was terrible to have to eat your brekkie inside in front of the telly instead of enjoying it in the fresh air. Honestly I didn’t want to leave but all too soon Roger was rounding us up to take us back to Whangarei. I was delighted to find out that they are thinking of starting artist residency programme in the future and I told Tanya to expect an application from me. If you are ever in Kerikeri I strongly urge you to check out the Wharepuke Print Gallery, meet Mark and Tanya, chill out and recharge your soul. Tell them Scream Blue Murmur sent ya! Details can be found here.
21st July – Whangarei Central Library
WOW! Thats all I really want to say though it wouldn’t be much help to you unless I explained why WOW! In fact it would be a kinda rubbish blog…..so here goes. Firstly the library had put a lot into advertising the event, thats always a good sign. Secondly even though there were some scheduling conflicts and we thought we were going to have to cancel the gig, we were actually able to make it there.
We arrive to a lovely space with chairs set out for 60 people. There are already people there and suddenly the floodgates open and more and more start to arrive. Vaughan who had organised us in the Butter Factory brought his students down and Chris who had seen us at KeriKeri brought his students down (they both work at the Polytechnic) There were people squeezed in everywhere, sitting on the floor, perched up on table tops. standing squeezed in at the back, where they couldn’t see us but could hear. It was jammed and we were revved up and raring to go. We performed a twenty minute set and then stopped for questions and answers. The first question someone asked was “Do you have a CD I can buy?” and we were delighted to answer yes! Someone else asked how we fund the trip and we were able to explain that we don’t get (and never have got) any support from our Arts Council, this lead to a murmur (!) of disapproval from the crowd. Most people were shocked that we couldn’t get support and that we had come all that way basically cos we love performing. At the end of the gig we announced that there were CD’s for sale, Vaughan piped up and said he had a bucket for Koha (donations) at the door and he urged people to donate heavily. And they sure did. People swarmed to buy CDs and have them signed. We were touched by how many people liked what we did and spent a long time chatting and sharing stories. As Gordon would say there was a lot of love in the room. I was particularly touched by one little incident. An older lady wanted to buy a CD and asked if we took cheques. I explained that we were unable to do that cos we didn’t have an NZ bank account. A Maori lady who was behind her in the queue gave her the $10 to pay for her CD, then bought two for herself and threw in $40 leaving the rest as Koha. The two ladies hugged and we saw a wee moment of the genuine kindness of strangers. The Maori lady said she was touched by our words and that this was the only way to change the state of the world, by speaking passionately about things.
Another class moment for me was when a French girl came up to praise my French in the poem Sous Le Pave La Plage. This is a poem that Gordon had written about the struggle in France during 68. One of the teachers at my school translated it for me and then her and the French assistant taught me how to say it. When the French girl came up I thought she was going to say “Terrible French!” but she said that her English wasn’t great and that she didn’t understand a lot of the gig but that she was delighted to hear my beautiful French. Well that just put a spring in my step!
We also met Dougie who told us about the carved posts outside the library. He was responsible for a group of teenagers working on them, and that the heads at the top of the post were facing round to Belfast. Auckland is on a level with Belfast, which is something I didn’t know. So we got some really cracking pictures taken there and he is going to do a follow up article for the New Zealand Herald and the Belfast Telegraph.
We spent the rest of the day in Whangarei and keep getting stopped by people in the street who’d been to the gig and really enjoyed it. We were supposed to be leaving that afternoon to go to Rotura to visit Elliots eco farm, but as he only could get one car to take us down, and I didn’t fancy spending four hours wedged into the back of a car without a seatbelt, I said I was going to stay in Whangarei. Bob & Chelley also decided to stay. We got our kit out of the van and headed off into the unknown. Gordon and Ellen were going to head back with Roger to go to Roturua. As we were standing on the street saying our goodbye’s a lady called Den passed us, who had been at the gig, she stopped and chatted and when she found out we were planning on staying but hadn’t organised anywhere to stay yet, she offered us her house. Thats what I mean about the kindness of strangers here. We didn’t end up staying there but the fact that she offered meant such a lot to us.
We had hoped that Whangarei would be a little bit more lively than Onehunga but we were sorely disappointed. Most bars (most everything) in NZ closes quite early and I am beginning to wonder what people do for fun. We played a comedy game of pool at the Backpackers where Bob gave us two shots for every one of his and he still managed to kick our ass. We found a bar that was open and after having a comedy photograph taken with a giant bottle of champers we settled down for a few drinks. A lovely Hoegarden, a melontini and vodka & coke later and I was well on the way to the jollies! Chelley had a few Benedictines which I thought tasted vile, much to her amusement. Bob had a NZ local bourbon which I thought also tasted vile, though in that case Bob agreed with me! After the bar had closed we ended up sitting in our room in the Backpackers, ’til four in the morning with Bobs bottle of Whiskey, which I thought was vile to start with but then became less vile the more of it I drank, strangely enough. I’m such a wuss though, it was watered down that much that I think it was just water with a hint of Whiskey. The most comedy part of the night was a trip to the toilet later on when we decided that we had to forward roll Ninja style down the hallway ….. not big and not clever I know but boy it made me laugh so much.
23rd July – Albany University
Today we were guest lecturers at Albany University, for a creative writing class. It’s kinda cool you can search for it online and find us!! The uni is absolutely beautiful, puts our Coleraine campus to shame. I think I’d like learning in a place like that.
Anyways we were to do our show to “Shake the students up a bit” in the words of the lecturer Jack Ross and he wasn’t disappointed. There were about 120 students in the lecture hall in total and we ripped into our show and did our thing. Thats one thing that I’m enjoying about this tour – discovering that no matter the situation / performance venue / stress / audience type we can always give a good show. Gordon decided to really go the whole hog and leave the performance area and walk up the stairs into the crowd during Sun Brown King and really encourage/terrify them into singing along! I laughed so hard I think I did damage.
It was lovely afterwards to talk to the students, they were all really interested in our writing process. We even made a woman cry (in a good way) She said she found our Martin Luthor King trilogy piece so moving and powerful. I was really chuffed by that. Bob, Chelley and I had written three pieces about MLK and we only decided whilst on tour to put them together into one performance piece and its always good to know it works. Chelleys piece is about the aftermath of his death, Bobs piece is about today and how far we’ve fallen from the mark that King set us (as he says in his introduction) and my piece deals with some sense of hope for the future.
Our introductions to poems have been making me laugh over the last wee wile. I don’t know whether its because we’ve heard the same thing over and over again but I’m giggling more and more during intros. I never do much introduction to my poems cos I kinda think that if I have to explain it then the poem hasn’t really done its job but with this 68 show we all need to explain a wee bit more cos so many people are unaware of the issues that we’re writing about. There’s always a word or phrase of the day that needs to make its way into the intro. Gordon has started to introduce Sun Brown King and the audience participation section as something to “clean out the pipes” Bob has worked a different animal into one of his, so rather than “flogging a dead horse” it has become “kicking a dead pig” “skinning a dead cat” etc. I really do look forward to the next one!