When I was at school a teacher told me to give up on music. You’ll get nowhere he said…

It’s the mid 80’s and an awkward lanky lad is strumming away in the music block at high school in a small Norfolk town, he’s escaping the bullies and the playground lunchtime lynchings. Over the din a teacher strolls in and looks at the lad and says “Watson! If I were you, I’d give up on music. You’ll get nowhere.” 

Imagine a teenager in this East Anglian outpost of the UK, more than a little obsessed with music ever since seeing Kate Bush swiftly followed by the mighty Slade on Top Of The Pops as a kid, is neatly tearing the latest image of one of his favourite bands out of the NME and sticking it on his wall (in this case Miles Hunt in that now famous tartan suit among a wallpapering of images, posters and gig ads) not really ever thinking one day he would share the stage with, let alone get encouragement from that very person on his bedroom wall. Those remarks from that teacher were still echoing loudly in his ears so why would he have thought that?

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Who’s this long haired young fella then? Me 1992

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Miles and that famous suit!
So fast forward to 2007. The internet has changed the music landscape, those NME cuttings are replaced by “Follow’s and Likes” the Melody Maker and many similar publications have gone, the NME is soon to become a free giveaway at HMV and this music obsessed now adult and part time musician decides to write to the aforementioned tartan wearing Miles Hunt (The Wonder Stuff) a message on MySpace (Remember that?!) I was asking why he hadn’t played an acoustic show here in Norwich and how we’d love to see him play locally.
I admit much to my surprise he promptly replied and said ” Yeh. Sort me one out.” Well what would you do? So myself and the band I was in at the time (Huck) did just that and we played a show with Miles and Erica (The Wonder Stuff violinist) at Norwich Arts Centre.

And so began, a now ten years and counting journey, I hadn’t in my wildest dreams expected would happen to some schmuck like me from this little but beautiful city. “You’ll get nowhere…” said Mr Brown. Yeh we’ll see…

That band I was in at the time was Huck. We did alright and even opened for Billy Bragg and Jamelia of all people at our local football stadium, slots with Scouting For Girls and The Undertones were had. We garnered quite a following and trecked up and down the A11 playing in London (One particularly memorable gig at the Hope &a Anchor in Islington found pop starlet of the time Dido in the audience) and local venues and Festivals wherever we could. We did well. We all liked one another. It was an exciting time to be in a band the local (and still fervent) scene was friendly and we had a great time. We were “Successful” in our own little way. Not fame and fortune successful but I guess that all depends on your point of view. We did good.

However, I quit the band in 2012. And as much as I loved the guys I was with in that band with Glyn, Allan and Giles. I wanted to do something new.

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Huck meet Billy Bragg

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Huck play Carrow Road Football Stadium
I’d met up with Miles Hunt at further gigs when he or The Wonder Stuff were nearby and I remember vividly him telling me during one particular conversation outside the cold damp concrete clad UEA LCR Venue to go and play some open mic’s and encouraged me to go make a record and all I needed was a mic, a laptop and some recording software.

This suggestion was duly noted and I did just that with a little help from my childhood mate and now Canada based whizkid studio/sound engineer Vid Cousins, who somehow made sense of these homemade recordings mixing them for me into what became my first record “Grounded” As you’ll probably know that record also featured Erica Nockalls beautiful string arrangement on the title track. Erica who’d I’d met of course alongside Miles back in 2007. And local Country singer Sam Coe sang on a couple of tracks too contributing to my first ballad “If you decide to leave”.

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Erica Nockalls (The Wonder Stuff)

The “Grounded” Promo Video. I lost days drawing and animating this little stop motion film. Worth it though I’m sure you’ll agree. I believe the ‘Erica puppet’ now resides in her art studio after I framed it and gave it to her.

I put out that record through crowdfunding platform Pledge Music in early 2014. So many people, too many to name here granted me the gift of getting that record out there. I will never be able to say thanks enough! I’d been made redundant by this point from my job of 20 years and my partner Claire had suffered some serious life changing health problems, so life was/is a bitter sweet one. She has however always been my rock and supported my folly of making music, unshaken by what life has thrown at her. 

BBC Radio 6 airplay also followed with BBC Introducing’s Tom Robinson (Yes he of the Tom Robinson Band) airing a couple of tunes from Grounded.

One of hundreds of CD’s I had to sign before posting out! Photography by the super talented photographer and Norwich Music Blogger Richard Shashamane.

 

All the time of course I was gigging, some great support slots came up along the way with Miles & Erica, Julian Cope and many more.

Ian Prowse of Amsterdam/Pele was another one those acts I decided to write to about sorting a gig here in Norwich. Pele never came this way back in the 90’s but I’d seen Ian with his band Amsterdam supporting The Wonder Stuff in 2006 at The Waterfront and was mightily impressed but I hadn’t made the connection between them and Pele at the time! I’d loved Pele’s early string of singles after seeing “Fireworks” on The Chart Show in the early 90s.  When I was in Huck, Pele’s name came up a lot in radio interviews as they were the only other band they could think of named after a footballer (We named ourselves after Norwich Striker and hero Darren Huckerby)

A small self funded UK tour in 2015 took place playing to varied sizes of audiences from two to full houses. A gig with Amsterdam in Dumfries after the longest of train journeys was a highlight.
I ended up gigging with Ian Prowse again in of all places my friend and big Prowsey fan Kathryn Wiseman’s living room. Celebrating a landmark Birthday! I joined Ian for “Does This Train Stop In Merseyside?” and “Raid The Palace” and if memory serves me right Teenage Kicks!

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House gig with Prowsey at the Wiseman’s

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BBC Radio Norfolk with Prowsey.

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Raid The Palace..!
 

Check out this short documentary about 25 years of Pele here:

Ian like Miles and Erica have always shown me the utmost support and encouragement and for that I can’t thank them all enough.

So came record two, made partly at home and partly in a local studio NRSix run by the brilliant Justin Brand who lent me his studio and helped engineer stuff out of sheer goodwill and again I was pinching myself at the kindest of gestures to help me.

Some of the Endless Shipwreck crew!

We even made a ‘Studio Diary; Making of video!

I’d also written to Mark Freegard a producer/mixer I’d always admired as he’d worked on many records I’ve loved all my life and was blown away when he also agreed to work on the record. Mark has worked with Del Amitri, The Manic Street Preachers, Marillion, The Breeders to name just a few. Mark is fantastic guy who has encouraged and mentored me along the way and continues to do so now with enthusiasm and a clear passion for music.
And so was born “The Endless Shipwreck” a record I am enormously proud of.

You can hear or even buy or download a copy of both my albums HERE.

The amazing artwork was created by local artist and printer Vicki Johnson.

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Artwork by the talented Vicki Johnson

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Vicki helping me screen print the T Shirts and Tote bags
The record again featured Erica on fiddle but also a cast of amazing local musicians Mark Howes, Andy John Keates, Giles Wakely, Ian Harvey, Kate Ross, Mark David Nash for his spoken word piece. A cast of great people whose contribution made all the difference. Again this was made possible by all the souls who were involved and the cast of hundreds who again crowdfunded it’s release. Many of them even helped make a video for “Let’s Jump Ship” thats not my song anymore, it’s theirs.

The “Let’s Jump Ship” Fan made promo. Look out for cameos from Erica and comedian Mark Watson…!

Then the height of ambition came true for me when thanks to comedian Robin Ince I was played on BBC Radio 6 once again this time by Steve Lamacq! Yes Steve Lamacq!!! “Let’s Jump Ship” leapt out of my stereo after Mr Lamacq loquaciously said my name. Praise indeed. Thanks Robin.

After all that earlier this year I then decided to walk the East Anglian Coastline and play some gigs along the way for charity! What could go wrong? It was only a 134 miles or so!!! Something I’ve always wanted to do. I love the outdoors and walking it seemed to make sense to me to join these passions together. I loved it and the support was overwhelming. I raised £1.500 to be split between the RNLI, Nelsons Journey and Change of scene for Children and Animals. 

The trip was in part supported by the amazing guys at Margins Walk and Glamp. Gin and Mark were just amazing supporting and helping organise my Norfolk Coast leg of this mad endeavour! Thanks guys your amazing.

I’ve not even begun to mention the local radio support and local media who all had a massive part to play in this mad old life of mine. Thanks to all you too!!!!!
I am lucky bloke and what I’ve done to deserve it I don’t know, but whatever it may be I’m lucky.

 Without local BBC Radio and community Radio like the wonderful Future Radio getting heard would be so much harder! Steven Bumfrey, Thordis Fridrikson,Nick Conrad at BBC Norfolk. Sam Day, Richard Penguin and Mark Thorpe at Future Radio. Si and Zoe at the now sadly finished Mustard TV. Thank you!

 

I am richer than I could ever have imagined with experience and friendships and music, not money and stuff, but a heart full of life.
Long may it continue.

Good news is, even though this has been another bitter sweet year for me I’ve finished recording a third record and hope I can find a way to get that one out in the early part of 2018. Mark Freegard is tirelessly helping make that possible again and with help again from a couple of musical friends Mark Howes, Yve Mary Barwood and SkinnyBoy Tunes. I can’t wait to share it with you all soon.

Here’s a DEMO from the forthcoming album as a teaser: “Outside (Looking In)

 

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And so here we are bang up to date and looking at my last gig of 2017 which will be with my pal Ian Prowse at Epic Studios. See you at the front?!

Here’s to the next ten years eh?

“You’ll get nowhere” He said…. Hmmm.

Matt x

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How Ed Sheeran got me to thinking about musicians, mental health and how we use social media. Part Two.

Musicians. Mental Health. The big taboo.

Now I’m happy to be open about my own mental heath problems. I have lived with them all my life. I’ve always had a propensity to depression and anxiety and its taken me a good many years to get to a point I consider I have a healthy and positive handle on it. I’m good. I’m healthy.
When things get tough as life inevitably does from time to time the ‘Black Dog’ can appear at the door, tail wagging but it never gets on my back or pulls me down the street on it’s leash anymore. I shoo it away with my well practiced dog whispering techniques.

I can’t help but think what I’ve talked about so far in part one has had an impact on many of us as musicians (Not that I should exclusively assume its just musicians that go through this I know people from all walks of life go through it but as I’m a Musician in this piece I’ll be looking at it from that perspective) without the fact that statistically we are more likely to suffer from depressive and mental illness anyway.

Here’s the results of a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/assets/publications/files/can_music_make_you_sick_summary.pdf

The issues I discussed about social media have had an impact on me for certain. But does the issue of mental health amongst musicians go much deeper than just that? Is it just the tip of a very large Iceberg?
From talking to other musicians happy to discuss their own mental health there’s certainly many positive effects being creative has on us. That I can definitely attest to. Its been my ‘Safe place’ for many years. I’ll talk about that too but there’s still many where it’s far from positive and I feel we need to peer a little in to the darkness as well to understand where to find some light.

Now lets start by saying I’m no expert in the field of mental health but I am a musician and I have suffered from mental health issues so in a way I do qualify right?
What I mean to say is there are official pieces of research and writing flagging up these issues but I wanted to put forward my own angle on it. And in the process maybe inspire others to start talking about it to. Here’s some further reading should you fancy delving in:

http://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/34088/1/why-2016-was-a-breakthrough-year-for-mental-health-in-music

As I mentioned in part one this all started from a social media post that I’d been reading and conversations I’d been involved in on Facebook regarding Ed Sheeran and his recent Glastonbury appearance. What got me the most wasn’t wether people liked Ed’s music or not but the freedom in which people used derogatory comments and language to express themselves and how this language made me feel.
To me there’s a fine line that we tread to where it spills over into an uglier place and it becomes personal and abusive. It worried me how it affected those who suffered from mental illness or indeed those who didn’t and how it could sow the seeds for issues to occur in the future perhaps?

Unlike what the popular saying says actually words can hurt you and yes they can have real impact. Personally I can’t help feeling we forget this all too readily now when within the realms of social media and online. It’s too easy to say things we can’t take back. One stroke of that enter key and bam! It’s out there online forever.

If I am completely honest I’ve been mildly depressed and had some anxiety issues recently, something I’ve put down to the comedown from a charity 134 mile walk/gig tour I completed in early June an achievement I am massively proud of but the inevitable crash afterwards did catch me out add in some recent less than positive social media interaction and comments that knocked me back a bit. Yeh I’m not as thick skinned as some have me labeled.

It knocks you back in varying ways from lowering your self esteem, you start to lack confidence, self doubt creeps in, withdrawing from people, anger too. Thoughts start to swarm around in your head like flies buzzing incessantly “Why me?” “What have I done?” “Why don’t they like me or my music?” “I must be shit?” These thoughts and emotions all too easily become all too real all too quickly.

I’m lucky, I’ve had counselling and various therapies over the years to help me deal with my bouts of depression and I’m happy to say it’s been short lived this time and I have the tools and support to deal with it and I have.

Its part of my life but not something that rules my life anymore like it has done.

In the past my illness had affected my relationships with people, at times my behaviour had been erratic or terribly introverted, particularly in my late teens and early twenties.

I’d been bullied a lot at High School. The School failing to address this meant it escalated to a point I was beaten on the street by my own skateboard and sustained a broken rib and black eyes! what fun! As far as memory serves me the reason for this attack was simply my being considered different.
It was the late 1980’s and it seemed some in my neighbourhood had a long way to go as far as accepting ‘outsiders’ goes!
I was a skateboarding and cycling fanatic obsessed with art and music. I literally devoured any music I could find like food! disappeared for hours on my own on my bike far from anyone or skated up and down our street until it was dark. My world. My safe place. I dressed a bit differently and wasn’t fashionable. Shall we say music culture caught my eye at a young age and I dressed accordingly.

I left school early refusing to return aside from completing my exams. The school denied bullying existed. Did nothing. I left with a bitter taste in my mouth. This was 1990 I was 16 years old.
This might also explain some of my feelings now about social media? It does sometimes feel like a school playground that’s for sure.

My anxiety kept me from doing many things I wanted to do as I grew up. It overwhelmed me at times. And I lost out on some opportunities through my simply not wanting to engage. I lasted two weeks at sixth form before walking out jumping on a bus and announcing to my mother I had left and got a job instead. The work environment helped me over my first personal hurdles being around adults maybe helped? Whatever it was I started to feel part of something, less anxious. All this time music and art were my friends, my go to safe place. Looking back it feels like looking at a different person but the same one as well. I did return to college in the end as a mature student and don’t feel too bad for me as I’ve come to the conclusion there’s many good things that came out of it all. I wouldn’t be here typing this had I not gone through these things.

This even made it into the lyric of one of my songs ‘Grounded’

“I’m forever in debt to the heart aches and regrets. The trouble, the joy and the pain. I’ll happily replay mistakes from different days they show me my futures way” 

 

 

Being a musician or more specifically to me, a songwriter and performer some might think that’s part of it, the whole ‘Tortured Artist’ cliche. I hate this assumption. My depression does not benefit my creativity whatsoever, it’s hindered it.

At my worst I’ll become anti social, non-committal and extremely flaky. I’ll say and focus on negative things and not see a positive in anything I do. It tends to make me lose the ability to enjoy things I love doing. Sleep more, retreat from people and avoid crowds. One recent episode saw me endure several months of stage fright and I was at a point of thinking I’d never be setting foot on stage again. This was odd seeing as the stage was a place I’ve always felt totally at home on! Numbing. Paralysing. These are words I’d use for my experiences of depression and anxiety. It’s certainly never sent me on a manic creative surge and aided me in creating my award winning masterpiece magnum opus!

It has helped me perhaps to be more sensitive to the world around me and empathy is a useful tool in songwriting I’ve found. Post depression I found I had plenty of feelings and subjects to look back on creatively but never has it aided my creativity. I’m honest now about these things and let people know how I’m feeling they then know how to handle me family and friends. They know it’ll pass and actually armed with the knowledge I’m struggling helps them help me and my recovery.

That’s my experience but how do other musicians feel about it? The answer is I’m not entirely sure.

So few of us share those feelings openly with each other. It’s that taboo the big subject no one wants to talk about. Why? How have we got to this point?
Nationally we are talking about mental health more than ever the social taboos are being addressed there is a conversation happening. People are campaigning for better services to deal with mental illness. Yet I find so many musicians unwilling to engage about it.

It’s been in the press all to recently with the sudden and shocking death of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell committing suicide shortly after leaving the stage. The list of famous musician suicides and sufferers of mental illness is sadly long. Kurt Cobain, Phil Ochs, Richard Manuel, Ian Curtis, Nick Drake to name just a few straight from memory all suffered from poor mental health often this came hand in hand with substance or alcohol abuse. Amy Winehouse admitted to self harm and eating disorders and seemingly self medicated with drugs and alcohol and its pretty certain this sadly led to her untimely demise. I too have lost a friend to mental illness. A talented musician and a gentle, kind man, he kept his clearly darkening feelings to himself and now he’s gone. You can’t help but ask yourself those what if’s in that kind of situation.

Maybe this glamorization of the ‘Tortured Artist’ is to blame? I can’t help but think it’s seen as normal and accepted in creative circles and in music media in the past much has been made of this particular cliché. What did the industry surrounding these people do to help? Did they know? We’ll never know for certain but it makes me wonder.

While all these artists should rightly be celebrated and their stellar contributions to music and culture always be remembered. There it looms in the background. Mental illness. Could any of these people have been helped, saved from themselves had we had a better handle on it earlier? We can only surmise. Now however I feel we have no excuse and a duty to be addressing it head on.

My footnote for all this? Be kind. Be considerate. At least give consideration to what you say or how your actions might affect others. Seems obvious doesn’t it? In a world increasingly connected we also seem to becoming disconnected at the same time a paradox we all will be trying to fathom for a good while yet I’m sure.

I posted on my Facebook page asking if anyone I knew who was a musician or involved with music was willing to share their stories or experiences. And some have done just that. What is also heartening is how open and honest they have been also enlightening is how they’ve used their creativity to help them cope and deal with mental illness in a positive way. Self awareness perhaps you could call it? I found reading their accounts and sharing my own a cathartic one. It’s a cliché but a good one and true.

I’ll let them tell you their stories and lets keep telling those stories to each other without a shadow of doubt or embarrassment. Mental Illness is normal.

Anyway here’s some musicians who were happy to share their experience:

Here are their stories:

So, my friend and fellow music-nerd, Matt Watson, posted on Facebook asking after musicians who have experience of mental health problems and other “taboo” rarely discussed topics.
I suppose you hit the jackpot Matt – although honestly, that’s a figure of speech, and my experience is anything but; and if it applies even in-part to anybody reading this, know that you are not alone.

I wish I hadn’t grown up surrounded by domestic violence. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (if I had one, because I am nice and kind). Some of my first, early memories are of being abused by a primary care-giver. That abuse continued throughout my childhood, into my teens. And let me tell you – that opens up a *whole* kettle of fish later down the line, just when you think you’ve grown up enough to forget; over time, and with each and every failed relationship, you eventually come to realise that your connection with other people will always be somewhat/entirely overshadowed by your history.

I’ve recently become more accepting and open with others about what has happened to me throughout my life, though not without great difficulty. I shall spare you the intricacies, but it was a conglomeration of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, neglect, being constantly surrounded by ongoing physical fights between my both my parents, and some maltreatment that could only be described as torture – I was the family scapegoat. It eventually progressed to threats of homelessness, and then actual homelessness for a year, and now here I am, not a heroin addict yet, but once again, living in a women’s refuge.

How does all this link in with being a musician?

Well… my parents hid their hideously failing marriage and child-neglect behind a typically British, middle-class home. I had hobbies and interests which they paid for. It wasn’t all drama – it’s just that the bad bits are the bits that are really ingrained – they are the memories that play on repeat, every day. Also, I may as well be dead to my parents. Neither of them have ever bothered to get to know me.

I guess what I wanted most was my parents love and admiration. So like, pretty severely “Narcissistically Deprived.” (Aren’t I a catch?)
I would draw for hours a day, and when I started music lessons I practiced Piano so god damn hard, my fingers would ache, like a tiny hand workout. I once broke my finger in the playground at school, around age 9, and was back on the keys a day later.
Unfortunately, I never got the attention I craved, but what I did get was a pretty darn great intellect. After I’d been playing piano for about a year, I began to notice my cognitive abilities were getting beyond a normal 8 year old’s, and I was morphing into a witty little shit.
See, practicing an instrument wires your brain in such a way that it reinforces the neural connectivity between both hemispheres – so while Childhood Trauma irreversibly damages a person’s frontal lobe (which is involved in the processing of visuals, memories and emotion regulation), it’s not all bad news, if you bother to practice, your scales and arpeggios. You have more “logic brain” like a little human computer.
You geek.

In conclusion:
I feel that being a creative individual has offered me a crucial level of protection from emotional suffering.
It has proved to be a source of joy and vitality, where so much else has been devoid of meaning.
In moments of complete and utter despair, it has been there for me.
It has consistently and repeatedly saved my life.
And when I am older, and have children of my own, I will pass on the very best gift that I will ever be able to give them; Music.” S.

 

I’ve always felt that musicians claim to be open minded and yet instead were usually very exclusive. As I’ve got older though it all seems to come from a place of insecurity, probably because they constantly have to expose themselves to potential rejection all the time

As for me, I’ve had depression for years. Pretty mild, and mainly brought on by physical things like lack of sleep, boozing, eating badly etc.
I’ve managed to recognise it and instead of acting out use Music, either listening, playing other people’s stuff or more recently writing my own stuff. It really helps and seems to reset my emotions
I find being in a band helps in other ways too. It’s such a social activity, energetic and emotionally positive that id say I actually get a high from it. It’s really similar to team sports for me” K.

 

When I was 16 I learned to play guitar, I wanted to perform, but music seemed the closest offer. I started learning, then one day I baby sat for a neighbour. I picked up an album with an interesting cover and was hooked on Folk/rock. I had never heard this type of music before, rock, melody’s and stories in songs.

I was hooked and wanted to show the world (as I knew it) my discovery. I sought out ‘folk’ clubs, and always performed, trying to perfect my art. However, there were always a few people who perfected the art of bullying. They could never praise me, never appreciate me for trying.

I continued, I even saved some of my hard earned summer wages to hire a room, book a named act and start my own club. I couldn’t afford a support artist, so had to rely on local singer and myself. However, I used to close my eyes when I sang, I couldn’t understand the laughter at the end of a serious ballad. Then a voice boomed ***** ’Poncenby’ *****, You have been found guilty of murdering folk music, you will be taken from this place and hanged by the neck until you are dead.” A Man in a black hood then came from behind and put a noose over my head and I got led out of my club on a rope. Yeah, of course I pretended it was a laugh, but it hurt. It still hurts today when I am told I am not a musician! I’ve never claimed to be, but I am a performer who can sing and play guitar. I think that qualifies. Grrrrrr! So much I could tell you.

That’s why I now promote others especially young musicians, they need assurance, not bullying. They are so much more musically educated than us older guys and should n’t have to suffer the bullying of bitter musicians that probably are not as talented as they are.” R.

How Ed Sheeran got me to thinking about musicians, mental health and how we use social media. Part One.

A strange headline for a blog I hear you say. Ok, so it wasn’t actually Ed and something he did or said directly but what happened online and the recent media coverage did set me to thinking about the often taboo subject of mental health, particularly among musicians. It does start with social media though.

 

Ed Sheeran headlined Glastonbury Festival last weekend and much was said both online and in the media which was both positive and negative, this was swiftly followed by a slew of social media posts praising and berating the artist, some well thought out and considered and many less so, resorting to name calling and in many cases just spiteful bile.
Maybe I felt this was a little closer to home; as like many on my local music scene here in Norwich I’d seen Ed many times gigged with him and knew what a nice hard working guy he was. I felt happy for him, not bitter and jealous of his success.

Sadly this seems par for the course on social media now but why? Are we desensitised due to the disassociation granted us by being able to be relatively anonymous? A feeling that its ok to say what you like, how you like, to who you like, from the safety behind the screen of your device or laptop?

Trolling is seen as a part of online life now wether we like it or not. The likes of Katie Hopkins on Twitter spewing her bile and controversial remarks with a lightning fast immediacy in 140 characters. Easily and direct to world.

Does this give us license to follow suit and consider that the same attitudes apply to us? Do we feel we can say what we like however inappropriate now? Freedom of speech after all is a right the majority of the planet can enjoy. So surely we can? Where is the line in the sand? When do we overstep the mark? What happens when it crosses into real life?

This last question has been bothering me for some time. As a musician the internet is now an environment we increasingly find ourselves having to inhabit. Social media to streaming services, selling ourselves and our art online. Many positives can be found for the independent musician in this digital age but so to can the many negatives.
These negatives I’ve found spilling out of the digital realm and into the everyday real world with at times alarming consequence and impact.

There’s already much said about social media and its effects on mental health. They are clear to see and we do seem to be getting a grip on some of these problems one by one slowly.
It’s still such a new thing for our simian brains to wrestle with, all that 24 hour constant information, all those ‘other peoples lives’ little windows into the thousands of lives often seemingly better than our own. We know now this isn’t the case and we have quickly wised up to the difference between the real world and the online one.

So what about when these attitudes do cross into real life?

Musicians notoriously have had a reputation for not always being particularly kind to one another.

The Ramones famously used to talk about how all those bands of that era and the scene they came out of would try and ruin each others gigs.
Artists have famously played in bands together while openly despising each other. So no surprise it still happens now then? In local scenes across the world cliques and hipster social groups form who exclude others. The tribal mentality reigns free. Friends become promoters and only book their mates bands and their mates, mates band. You get the picture.

But something I’ve recently witnessed is how it’s changing into something else. Again the event of social media has led to a place where it’s difficult to escape the cliques and closed social circles. I’ve read the same about kids being bullied online by peers from school. No longer is it confined to the playground and the walk home where once behind your front door you could at least gain some respite. It’s out there in the ether in the form of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and so on.

This happens in my world now to. I mentioned as a musician we all use these mediums to communicate with fans and each other, to seek and book gigs and advertise ourselves. It’s pretty much unavoidable.

Of course this means we leave ourselves open now to the same issues.

For the most part my online life as an artist has been just fine and I’ve gained new friends and other wonderful positives like Crowd Funding, but also I’ve felt the opposite head on.
I’ve been subject to comments from these people who see it acceptable to be abusive. Had the indignity of people from these closed groups tell me I don’t fit in and never will. Play our game or be ignored. The inevitable “Your shit mate”. I’ve been told if I didn’t show my face at the right gigs I wouldn’t get a gig myself. If I had to leave a shared bill gig early I was not deserving of being part of the ‘Scene’; regardless of the fact I would only leave early if I had other commitments and would often have preferred to stay and support my fellow acts. I’ve been accused of being aloof at times, awkward and opinionated, and the later accusation isn’t way off the mark I suppose sometimes! I do have opinions. The others? Hopefully not.

I have friends involved in varying forms in the music industry and some of those have had it on another level altogether from full online bullying and threats of violence to things I cannot share with you. Shocking stuff that involved Police. Things that have turned into actual physical real life incidents of violence and abuse.

You only have to look at recent times and the awful death of Sophie Lancaster in 2007. Beaten to death for being a part of different musical culture to others. For being what many would label a ‘Goth’ because she looked different and enjoyed expressing herself in a vibrant way she was cruelly murdered. Have we not learned anything? Perhaps we just need to regularly remind ourselves?

This lack of tolerance, all be it far less extreme for me, is something I’ve come across personally from other people involved in music. For what? A differing opinion or being involved with music you now deem not cool? Or people you deem not worthy because of your ‘Hip’ viewpoint on the world? Or maybe because I don’t shallowly align myself with the ‘right people’ to gain success or have the right ‘look’ anymore.

For the record, I think its WRONG. NOT ACCEPTABLE. EVER.

There’s space for everyone. Diversity is healthy and not something to fear.

I now realise these are people perhaps too shortsighted to see past either their egos, or cliques, or willing to accept others scenarios different from their own, or certainly show empathy or consider the impact of their words or behaviour on others.

I love playing music. I love to write. I love to sing and perform. I’m pretty well versed on using these ‘Tools’ given to me by Social Media but sometimes I feel could switch it off and never return.

I have a rule now and it’s this; Only ever say something on Social Media you’d be willing to shout out your front window or to another person face to face. I don’t believe all of these people would say the things they say in real life? What is the answer though? I’m not sure I have an answer. I do think we as musicians and as a society need to have a difficult conversation about how we behave and react online. Respect seems to have been lost.

We need to talk about this. We need to think about our impact on others through what we do and say online. I do feel social media brings a certain element of narcissism and detachment from people and to me that’s unhealthy.

Talking about these issues can make change, create awareness and only be a positive thing.

From a personal point of view as a person who has suffered from depression and anxiety at times throughout my life these things have had a negative impact on me from time to time. I’m learning how to deal with it but many can’t.

Just take a second to consider the next time you want to use your ‘freedom’ to say what you want online, who or how it might impact others. I don’t in anyway want to curb your freedom but it doesn’t do any harm to think about it.

So to the elephant in the room, the big taboo among many musicians still is. Mental Health.

In part two of this blog I’m going to explore this more.

 

Endless Coastline Diary Excerpt and video diary…

The Endless Coastline Tour 2017.

So it’s been a few weeks since my last blog a few days before I set off on my epic coastal walk and a couple of weeks since I reached the finish line on June 3rd. 134 Miles done! I raised just over £1,500.

I kept a video diary which I have edited together and posted on you tube in two parts (Suffolk week one. Norfolk week two) Which you can have a look at Part One HERE and Part Two HERE

But I wanted to to try and put down some words here fill in the gaps between the clips in the videos and share some photo’s and thoughts on my journey now I’ve had a chance to recover and digest exactly what I’ve done. So…here we go. Here’s Day one.

The journey begins.

May 20th 2017 The Gig the night before I set off. The Angel. Woodbridge with Falling From Trees.

I awake on the eve of day one with both feelings of excitement and trepidation in equal measures. Months of planning and training have led me to this day.

Equipment packed, repacked, unpacked and repacked and checked again happened over the the days prior too. My propensity to focus on the smallest detail at an all time high, all the research and prep had finished and here I was. The beginning. No going back.

The whole walk as you may already know also entailed a handful of gigs along the 134 mile route starting in Woodbridge at The Angel.

I’d arranged for a lift down to the venue with some friends and waited for them anxiously at home. I don’t live in the easiest of places to find and a couple of navigation assisting phone calls later and much pacing and calming words from Claire I was on my way. Much chat and banter was had en-route this in part was possibly my attempt to quell my nervousness and anticipation of the unknown. I’d never attempted anything like this before and my head was full of thoughts of possibilities, what if’s and I tried to keep from being distracted as I imagined what it might be or might not be like on the road that laid ahead of me. As the countryside wheeled past as we sped on our way, I couldn’t help but notice signs to places I will be soon making my way past on my way. The miles for a moment seemed endless.

My pack was heavy, a good 11kgs or so, this weighed not just on my back but my mind too. I’d not bothered with any training with the pack at it’s full weight on my back, mainly for fear the weight of it might somehow make me, mentally at least doubt I could do it all. Better I didn’t know I thought to myself. Once on the road I’d just deal with it. Sometimes I figured the unknown was the best idea. That said I had walked plenty and felt full of confidence the milage at least wouldn’t be an issue. The weather was dry but forecast to be a lot warmer than I’d expected too. At this stage it didn’t worry me, better dry than wet.

The gig was a great success made all the easier by the warm reception from Chris the hugely amiable guy who runs The Angel, manning the sound equipment and bringing an air of calm to proceedings. I liked him a lot and I felt much more at ease than I had at the beginning of the day.
I loved the pub it reminded me of the pubs I’d frequent when I was a student and gigged in my early days. So I instantly felt at home. Old oak beams and an open brick hearth with leaded windows dappled sunlight shone in as I tried to calm myself and soak it all up.

Falling From Trees who opened that evening were a bundle of harmony and fun as always and those guys never fail to impress me with their performances, now with added ‘Joey’ on Bass. Always a big ball of energy Joey brings much laughter and fun to evening. With a supportive audience in attendance the evening it couldn’t have been a more celebratory way to start my adventure. As the light disappeared outside I sung my heart out while the thought of the miles ahead drifted in and out of my thoughts as I performed.

My digs for the night were were provided by local and fan Neville Stein. He kindly provided me with Bed and Breakfast that night. I slept well that night.

May 21st. Day One.

A fine start to the day with much chat over coffee and a fine fried breakfast. Neville dropped me off and pack on back, map in hand I was on my way. The weather was fine and dry it couldn’t have been better for my early morning start:

It was time I made my way from Woodbridge Tide Mill a beautiful old mill building made of wood the morning hazy sun shone from it’s white painted wooden slats. It’s sits overlooking the Quayside on the wide River Deben that meanders out toward the North Sea. The area once the location for boat building and sail making.

The opposite sloping bank was Sutton Hoo, the ancient Anglo-Saxon burial site where famously a complete burial ship was discovered under one of the many mounds, its occupant and artefacts very much still there it gives the place an air of something I can’t quite put my finger on. Mystery? History seeped into the very fabric of the air.
It felt fitting I would be travelling on foot. My imagination allows me for a minute to think I’d be following in the footsteps of Anglo-Saxon warriors, traders, fishermen and sailors.

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Weaving along the river bank I’m in turn greeted by boat yards full of vessels propped up being repaired, painted or just collecting moss and dust as they seemingly hadn’t moved for decades. House boats sit on the tidal mud along the shallow banks. Homes made from old barges and boats cobbled together each one in a unique way from what looked like old sheds to shipping containers. Wooden walk ways linked them to the land with huge ropes holding them in place as they wait to rise and fall with the tide. Wading birds forage in the muddy pools underneath and Gulls sail overhead greeting the day a squawk.

I’m soon met by the main road and make my way over the bridge and across the road down a set of steps to join a boardwalk where the horizon disappears behind reed beds on one side and woodland on the other , buzzing with birdlife and jewel coloured Dragonflies and Damselflies darting back and forth just above the reed stems. The board walk soon turns toward the trees and then up onto a small lane trapped on both sides by lush green branches and hedgerow again buzzing with all manner of life. I head up a hill towards Bromeswell a quaint little village peppered with lovely cottages and gardens full of Foxgloves and traditional cottage flowers like Borrage and Rosemary reaching for the sunlight through the flickering light as bees forage the plants for nectar.

It’s an idyllic scene and I can’t help but think of the cream tea’s and country fete’s. Easily the scene could have been from books I read as a child like Enid Blyton’s Famous 5 or Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.

Soon I cross another main road and make my way through a woodland track before being greeted by a Golf Course!! The path crosses the course and I caught some puzzled stares from golfers and quickened my pace as I crossed the main fairway. In the distance I could hear the crack of club against ball and the gentle thud as ball lands just feet away from me. Quickly the landscape changes to scrubby heathland sands oil and tracks weave their way around the odd section of Woodland and the chainlink fence of the old RAF Woodbridge Airbase.
Its hot now and after a lunch stop. I made my across heathland toward Rendelsham Forest and my first camping stop. The heat persisted as I meandered through the heathland. The landscape dry and scrubby full of Fern and gorse bush and open farmland. It soaks the heat up like a sponge would water and emirates it back at you, so the shady relief of the pine forests were a welcome respite. Making my way through the dark alleyways between the pine trees. Dodging the odd pinecone attack from the overhead squirrels raiding their plentiful larders I’m at camp. An opening in the woodland edged by the tall pine woodland.

That evening as I crawl into my sleeping bag I’m lulled into my slumber by a distant Cuckoo then as the light fades and night fell the Two Too of nearby Tawny Owls bid me goodnight.

So… Here we go!

So. Here we go..! The Walk. Media promotion. Preparation and Playlists.

Time flies when your busy and my has it flown. It seems only a while ago this whole charity walk and gig tour was just an idea, yet here we are and here I am ready to start this coming Monday 22nd May 2017. Firstly though there is Gig number one at The Angel in Woodbridge with my mates and great band Falling From Trees. This Sunday Many 21st. I can’t wait. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

Now I’ve been quiet the last few weeks. There is plenty of good reasons though. While training had to take a little back step in favour of some work for a few days in London with ‘Festival Of The Spoken Nerd’ Sound operating on a brilliant show and their live show DVD shoot. If you love a bit of Science and a healthy dose of comedy thrown in. Check them out. I digress…

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The Sound Controller with the Nerds..!

The walk has never been far from my mind. With much tinkering and fine tuning going on in the background with such exciting things as insoles, socks and hiking stoves and the minutiae of how best prepare for a long distance hike. The detail you can get sucked into is far too easy to get caught up with trust me.
There has been plenty of distraction elsewhere to keep me from disappearing down this particular rabbit hole however in the shape of a flurry of media spots to attend to promote the Endless Coastline Tour.

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All packed and ready for Stage One. Suffolk.
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Will this really all fit in my Rucksack…?!

One thing I’ve created is a Spotify “Matt’s walking playlist” I’ll no doubt at time have my iPod on during the walk and i thought I’d share a whopping great playlist of some of my favourite tracks from guilty pleasures to lifelong favourites. Check that out HERE.

I’m never not surprised at the kindness and support from local media for my efforts be it musical or my other endeavours like this current walk.

The last couple of weeks have seen me be interviewed, allowed to select some favourite tracks by other artists and play live on BBC Radio Suffolk. I had a great hour chatting with Graeme McGloughlin. You hear it HERE 2hrs in right after Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run (Yep my choice) for a limited time on iplayer.

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Performing at BBC Radio Suffolk

I also paid a visit to local digital TV channel Mustard TV for an interview with local broadcaster Nick Conrad (Also Nick hosts a show every morning on BBC Norfolk) and then a rather sunny and warm but windswept live performance of ‘Stories From The Sea’ flanked by a backdrop of Norwich Castle also for broadcast. I’m sure the people enjoying their lunchtime break in the sunshine of Castle Gardens had no idea what was going on.

 

 

Two further interviews by phone one with East Anglia’s leading free music magazine Grapevine Live. You now read that interview online HERE. 2 hrs 15 mins in. This was followed by a phone interview on Future Radio.

Then just yesterday I popped into BBC Radio Norfolk (Currently overshadowed by a scale replica of the moon..! See pic) to chat with Thordis Fridriksson play a song and remind her this whole idea for the walk started in conversation on air with her earlier this year.
It’s always a great interview with the ever colourful and full of boundlessly enthusiastic Thordis. Again you can listen to that on the player HERE.

 

So. Here it is then. Time to get walking.

But before I set off on my coastal odyssey I just want to thanks everyone who’s supported me and donated so far. After all that’s the most important bit rain money for these three great charities. Please if you can donate HERE no sum is too small, it all makes a real difference. Thank You.

I have to list everyone and give a humble thank you, so here we go in no particular order…

Thanks to Gin and Mark from Margins for the support they’re giving me on stage two in North Norfolk. Also Chris and Jason at Deepdale Backpackers. Everyone at BBC Radio Norfolk and Suffolk. Sam Day and Richard Penguin at Future Radio. Zoe Jones and the gang at Mustard TV The Eastern Daily Press. Norfolk Magazine. Tony Bell at Grapevine Magazine. Chris Mapey at The Angel in Woodbridge. The Albatros in Wells. Carol and the gang at Sheringham MO Museum. Anto Morra. Sam Coe. Falling From Trees. Yve Mary B. Vicki Johnson for the Endless Coastline logo. Bridgedale socks for all the socks. Cicerone Books for the walking guides. The staff at Go Outdoors Norwich for their help. Sarah at Nelsons Journey. Susan at RNLI and Pauline at Change Of Scene For Children and Animals. And finally but by no means least Claire for having to live with me through all the preparation, frustrations worries and obstacles and supporting me tirelessly while navigated my way through this project.

Phew… I think that’s everyone.

Here also is the full tour itinerary. See you on the trail or maybe at a gig. Matt x

Endless Coastline Tour Details

Just keep on walking…

Just keep on walking….

It’s been a while since my last blog. Many reasons including the proverbial work commitments having to take priority for a while. Nonetheless I haven’t been idle.
The walking continues in earnest but preparation hasn’t been without its inevitable moments of doubt and excitement in equal measures. Learning curves and the hard truths that sometimes had to be faced.

It’s all in the preparation…

So while walking lot’s is certainly the order of the day there is more to it than that. Now while I had a vague idea of what I was letting myself in for having done my fair share of one day long hikes. I’ll admit there was a few moments when the realisation hit me that I’ll be doing that day after day for over 14 days. Much of it with almost 9kg of weight on my back. My trusted Rucksack for many years wasn’t big enough. An oversight on my part and one of a handful of oversights I have encountered.

Much research and advice has been sought and now I’m equipped with the right pack for the job add to that a few items of specialist clothing and other easily overlooked items by a novice. The exciting prospect of having to research and find a hiking stove for example wasn’t one I thought I’d be undertaking and the minutiae of detail needed on the weight of each item, how best it is packed and so on and so forth. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience to be mined, read and watched on YouTube. Now, YouTube oh how that’s become a wonderful resource and source of inspiration. Including this guy Gabriel and his great video diaries. He’s just one of many inspirational people online sharing their experiences of hiking and travelling: check him out below.

 

And hey, it’s not meant to be easy, its a challenge after all. Right?

That said it’s all being conquered, figured out and I can assure you, I’ll be safe, warm and dry at night and able to eat. Lessons, have indeed been learned, digested and digested once more just to be safe!!

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It’s a journey man…!

And so without wanting to sound too cheesy it’s been a journey preparing for THE Journey. Yeh, I have had moments of doubt and the obligatory “What the hell am I doing?” moments. I’m guessing that’s normal and natural to have these doubts but I’m super excited to get going and that always overrides all that.
Other bonuses have been a massive noticeable improvement in my health and fitness over the last few months a healthy bit of weight loss can’t be of any harm either. 

So with just a few weeks away from starting now I’m definitely feeling healthy mix of anticipation and the urge get out there and cracking on.

We are hoping to also have a final date on June 3rd at a venue in Thornham. you’ll be alerted as soon as this happens.

In the meantime here’s a recap of the dates and where I will be plus I’ve even made a little visual to show the route on a map. Feel free to hum the Indian Jones theme while you watch it. 

Stage 1. Suffolk Coast/Sandlings Walk. Woodbridge to Southwold. May 22nd to May 26th. Approx 54 Miles.

Sunday May 21st Gig at The Angel. Woodbridge with Falling From Trees. Details HERE:

Day 1. Monday 22nd May. Woodbridge to Upper Hollesly Common (Rendelsham Forest)
Day 2. Tuesday 23rd May. Upper Hollesly to Snape.
Day 3. Wednesday May 24th. Snape to Thorpeness.                                                                      Day 4. Thursday May 25th. Thorpness to Dunwich.
Day 5. Friday May 26th. Dunwich to Southwold.

Friday May 26th Gig The MO. Sheringham Museum. Sheringham. with Broken Maps and Yve Mary B. Details HERE:

Stage 2. Norfolk Coast Path. Norfolk. Hopton On Sea to Hunstanton. Approx 84 Miles.

Day 6. Monday 29rd May. Hopton-on-sea to California Sands (approx. 13 miles)  
Day 7. Tuesday 30th May. California Sands to Happisburgh (approx 13 miles)
Day 8. Wednesday 31st May. Happisburgh to Beeston Regis (approx. 15 miles)
Day 9. Thursday 1st. June. Beeston Regis to Stiffkey (approx. 15 miles)

Gig Wells Next The Sea at The Albatros with Anto Morra. Detail HERE:

Day 10. Friday 2nd June. Stiffkey to Burnham Deepdale staying at the campsite there (approx. 15 miles)

Gig Burnham Deepdale Backpackers and Camping. Burnham Deepdale. With Sam Coe. Details HERE.

Day 11.Saturday 3rd June. Burnham Deepdale to Hunstanton (approx. 12 miles) to complete the 84 miles. Gig TBC very soon in Thornham. 

And most importantly the reason I’m doing this. To raise money for three great charities. Please sponsor/make a donation at my Justgiving page by clicking HERE: 

Matt.

Just keep walking… and more adventures in music.

Just keep walking…and more adventures in music.

So as you have most likely gathered if you follow my music or blog. I’ve been keeping busy with gigs, my most popular blog to date and yes walking. A large amount of walking. Now don’t get me wrong I’m far from complaining.
I love walking and have been ramping up the distance’s I’m getting in. It’s odd to say that anything under 7 or 8 miles feels like not enough and I’m doing that now a few times a week.

I’ve found a couple of great walks right on my doorstep that take in the River Yare and the Wherrymans Way (a 36 miles route taking you on foot from the city centre to Great Yarmouth) that winds it way Yarmouth bound towards the North Sea. It also takes in the world famous Norfolk Broads. A national park even Bowie found worthy of giving a mention.
It’s an interesting landscape that surrounds the river’s banks. Much of it land drained by net works of drainage ditches and water pumps. Many of which take the form of now defunct wind pumps powered by towering windmill’s. The ghosts of which can be seen now boldly on the horizon line minus the all important sails and in some cases roofs.

One such trek took me to a small village Hardley and it’s staithe. A circular walk of approximately 8 miles. It took in woodland, quiet country lanes and low lying marshland and the aforementioned river always dominant.
Towards the end of the route a large and looming building of cathedral like proportions dominates the landscape on the other side of the water flanking the banks with cylindrical towers and tall chimneys. It’s the British Sugar Factory at Cantley. Likelihood is if you enjoy your tea sugared it’s probably from here. In the sunlight though this time it gleamed like a silver version of the emerald sight that greeted Dorothy in the wizard of Oz. Ok maybe that’s just my imagination but you get what I mean. An austere but at times arresting sight on such a green and pleasant landscape.

Above me I am greeted by a lone Marsh Harrier taking advantage of the warmer air circling higher and higher into the atmosphere.

Further to my right a silhouette of a rare but fully clad and fully sailed windmill stood against the hazy blue spring sky. To my surprise, as I closed in on this other grand building along the roadbeds and river banks. This I shortly find out is Hardley Mill. A fully restored wind pump you can get inside and see just how it functions and has clearly been lovingly restored.


It really is a beautiful area with big skies and you can almost feel the history. Imagine the Wherries as they made their way back and forth between the city and the coast the trade and supplies way before roads and lorries were so relied upon.

 

Music wise I haven’t been lazy. Firstly there’s a booking I’m excited to announce at Epic Studios here in Norwich on November 23rd I’ll be playing a show with not only one of my all time favourite songwriters but someone I’m happy to call a friend. Ian Prowse. Ian hails from Liverpool. Ellesmere Port to be precise and was frontman and principal songwriter with early 90’s band Pele he’s now solo artist and frontman of the equally brilliant Amsterdam.
He’s famous amongst other things like being dubbed the Scouse Springsteen for penning the song “Does this train stop on Merseyside?” A song that John Peel said never failed to make him cry.
Tickets are already on sale for this a solo show from Ian. Get tickets here:

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It’s part of Ian’s 25 Years of Fireworks. Pele’s debut album tour.

 

Something else that’s finally taken shape is the ‘Fan Clip’ video for my track “Let’s Jump Ship”.

Last year I asked people to film a clip of themselves sing or dancing or indeed as you’ll see anything we could put together as a video. They didn’t disappoint. Its an eclectic mix pf phone clips, camcorder footage and in some cases even more sophisticated clips and not to mention the costumes and crazy, beautifully mad ideas.
There’s even a couple of cameos from Erica Nockalls violinist on the track and The Wonder Stuff violinist to comedian Mark Watson larking about on a phone clip! Don’t let me keep you see yourself. I’m blown away and hope you enjoy it too.

And if this wasn’t enough there’s still much planning and preparation to be yet done for The Endless Coastline Charity Tour. I’ve even been checking the accommodation for Stage 1 is all ready. One man and a tent, no swearing and up in just 9 minutes. Success!