I worked my way north for four days from Ilfracombe to Loanhead last week. The longest trip ever between gigs in my travelling life, it was both relaxing and enjoyable to watch Britain unfurl through my lorry windscreen. The best was the last day of course. If you are ever planning a road trip to Edinburgh from anywhere in the West of Britain, I thoroughly recommend the A701 crossing from Moffat. There is always a temptation to cross further South from the M6, but the A701 is by far the most sensational route in terms of scenery and natural beauty. It is also not such a major hurdle, once you have made a reasonably easy climb out of Moffat, the remainder of the trip follows the peaks of the hills with some amazing vistas opening at every turn.
Scotland’s galas are special, and Loanhead’s one of the best I have attended. I think they are closely tied into ex-mining communities and a way which historically they allowed hard working families to have a day to really look forward to every year, and which allowed for one local family’s child to be promoted to Gala Queen for the year. It is a fascinating tradition and galvanizes the community in a way which doesn’t happen elsewhere.
I arrived a couple of days early which allowed a slow and easy set up on the field, the town’s Memorial Park. The day before the gala all the local schools (during school time) arrived for a special show in the park. Part of the show involved them all singing the Loanhead Gala song
Loanhead, Loanhead Gala Day (repeat three times)
Loanhead for you, Loanhead for me
I had the song earworming through my head for the whole stay.
The gala day itself is over almost before it has begun. A big parade to the park arrives at 1.30, three shows with the last one at 3.30 and then everyone was gone. Luckily the promised rain didn’t arrive and the afternoon ended in warm sunshine and very well-attended shows.
Also on the field was a colleague, Andrew Van Buren with his illusion show, and it was a great pleasure to have a few minutes to catch up with him. Andrew’s father Fred started a family tradition of illusionists which is wonderfully told in a DVD which Andrew gave me. Andrew is establishing a celebration of the life of Philip Astley (1742 -1814), the ‘father of modern circus’ in Astley’s home town of Newcastle next year and I look forward to being involved with that.
As I was setting up on the field the day before the usual line of portaloos were being run alongside my pitch. As I watched it became obvious that the line of toilets would reach right into the space that my audience would occupy. I went over to the men and asked them to stop as it was obviously some mistake. The leader of the men was a Glaswegian and built like a brick version of the plastic toilets he was unloading. He also had anger management issues. Why is it that Glasgow male citizens often have this classic character trait?
You can imagine the situation as I remonstrated that the line of toilets couldn’t come into my audience space and he insisted that he was placing the toilets where he had been told to do and I could just ‘F*** off’. I managed just in time to find a committee member to ask angry toilet man to put them elsewhere, but not before he threatened to drop a toilet which he had lifted single-handed from his truck onto my head.
Oh the joys of open-air entertainment.
All the best from a road near you,