(Short attention span? Like pictures but not words? Skip straight to the video)
There’s nothing more exciting than trying to do the impossible; or at least the seemingly impossible. The stuff that feels like magic is happening, the stuff that feels that, in some small and positive way, it’s had an impact on someone’s life. If we can share an awesome experience with a crowd of lovely folk, it feels like we’ve achieved something; something more than selling a T-Shirt or a CD, something more than just playing a bunch of songs back to back and not interacting with people, something more important than turning a profit. It’s why we believe in the power of events and involving people in what we do.
On the 15th June 2013, we played with the biggest bunch of musicians we’ve ever had on stage with us. At Grassington Festival, 45 Grassington locals joined us for the culmination of 6 weeks of workshops in village halls, pubs and churches (why do we always end up working in churches? My feet set on fire most every time I pass the threshold) for our headline show in Grassington Town Hall. The project was called A Band Anyone Can Join, and it did exactly what it said on the tin.
“A Band Anyone Can Join” came out of conversations with Grassington Festival’s awesome Kate Beard, and seemed like a logical extension of lots of things we’ve done before: getting people singing on our records, giving kazoos to people so they can play our brass lines, recording wine-bottle orchestras and band-development projects like Skipton Rocks… we like getting people making art and having fun.
The initial plan was to work with existing community groups, and to pair them up in potentially unexpected ways. We wanted to get the Women’s Institute working with the rugby team, and the school band working with the old people’s home, that sort of thing. As it happened, coordinating that proved more difficult than maybe we’d hoped. As we’re a relative unknown getting that initial commitment from people to join us was a bit tricky (I imagine getting people to join U2 for a month would be a fairly easy task). So we ditched that… and we set about taking the music to the people.
On the 21st of May we stationed ourselves in the town hall and held two open-gig/rehearsals throughout the day. These weren’t auditions mind. We weren’t looking to exclude people from our band, we wanted to have people get to share in the joy of making music. We’re not X-Factor. Anyway, it turns out that us playing in front of people is a pretty good way of getting people enthused about getting involved. We got out our tuned bells and ran headlong into a lively set. During that 1st session we got people, some of whom had never played with musicians in their lives, singing, kazooing, and belling along with glee. We had the start of the band.
Then we took over a room in the pub for when the Grassington Divas (their local women’s rounders team) finished their Tuesday match. They’d lost, and were in a generally stinking mood. Kate had got us some funding for 10 ukuleles which we loaned to the rounders team. They’re joyous little things ukuleles. Four strings, four fingers and The Truth. Within minutes the Divas loosened up, forgot the match result (booze may have helped) and before long, the voice of Ukulele-newbie Lisa came across the room loud and clear: “F&£% me, I’m playing an instrument!”.
We’d got ’em.
To make A Band Anyone Can Join work, leaps of faith were made, by most everyone involved. What if this was something that’d just turn out a bit rubbish, pedestrian & lacklustre (don’tchajust hate it when YOUR lustre is lacking – Have you tried “Lustre Duster” TM? It’s like WD-40/Mister Sheen for the heart!)? What if we couldn’t get everyone playing in time or singing in tune. What if, like Andre Previn conducting Eric Morecambe we could shape this band of merry peeps into playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in all the right order?
Well I’ll refrain from telling you how awesome it was. If a picture says a thousand words then this video is going to do a far better job than me of describing the goings on. Filmed by our Leeds mates Logistik, this is a delicious hint of what A Band Anyone Can Join tasted like.
What were the highlights? Well, the lit-up faces of all 51 band members, the audience, Kate crying at the end (you can tell in the video, bless ‘er), Felix the young keyboard player surrounded by a bevvy of fan-girls (that’s another person not getting a proper job in the near future – another life ruined by the bright lights and allure of attention, sorry Felix’s mam and dad). At the very end of the evening, all the Uke players came up to us asking where we wanted them to put their ukuleles… We just couldn’t separate ’em from their trusty instruments. So hopefully, somewhere in Grassington, there are ten ukuleles being affectionately strummed to the tune of H&S, or AC-DC for that matter. We just hope that they’re getting some use, that they’re bringing some happiness.
So, muchos respect to the 45 Grassington players and singers who invested precious evenings, emotional energy, and their own time to practice. Thanks again to Logistik for making the film happen. To the audience for coming to see 45 amateurs led by 6 ramshackle, blue-jacket wearing $£%*wits headline a show in their home town, thank you.
The hugest of props go to Kate Beard of Grassington Festival who took a punt on us making this happen. It was her belief in us that made the whole thing possible. She sourced the funding, battled on our behalf to have us back to the festival for the second year on the bounce, and was our ears and eyes in Grassington, linking us with groups and individuals who fancied brushing up on their musical chops, or fancied being a musician on-stage for the first time. I think it might be the best thing we’ve ever done; if you like the look of this, please do pop over twitter to Grassington Festival on Facebook, or to Logistik’s twitter acct and let ’em know. Or if you think you’re town could handle a bit of “A Band Anyone Can Join” magic, then please drop us a mail, tweet us, or just shout at the internet and we’ll probably hear you, and try and make the impossible happen. All the music from the Grassington one is still up here if you like. You too can be part of H&S. [grins]
Other magical happenings:
We’ve two more things going on this year. One is Bring The Happy, which has two more outings in 2013, Barnsley, and Leeds (tickets still available), and we’ve managed to squeeze a London date in. It’s a charideee doo, and for a great cause, full deets here. You can get all the details for all of our shows here.
Hope to see y’all before the end of the year, and as we always used to say in Liverpool, “only 27 more shoplifting days ’til Christmas”.
PS – here’s a picture of Hope Cottage in Grassington. It’s for sale. Can you buy it for us please: