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13 f Ranting & Reeling

recently found out that a colleague of mine is an Irish dancer. A champi- on Irish dancer at that. In all the years I’ve known her she’s never dis- closed this pastime in which she clearly excels. But knowing that I now know, she explained that it’s not something she shares at work because, in her words, “It’s a bit weird, isn’t it?”


If she’d been a Civil War reenactor, party clown or furry (Google it) I’d have understood the bashfulness. But Irish dancing isn’t such a strange hobby any more, is it? Did Michael Flatley lose the buttons on his shirt for nothing? But hav- ing been let into her secret I felt more comfortable inviting her to my folk festi- val. (Did I mention that I staged a folk fes- tival? It was great. Might do it again.)

Because I’m also aware that this aspect of my life makes little sense to those who aren’t part of it. Not that it stops me telling them, but there’s an ever - present frustration that no-one I know outside of folk ever really understands what it is I do at nights.

For a while I kidded myself that folk people were my people, and in their com-

pany I could be truly myself. That’s balls. And I’ve started to think I should keep my day job to myself when I’m around them.

When I tell folk people that I work in television (which I do. It’s not some kind of Munchausian fabrication I concocted to impress strangers. If I wanted to do that I’d tell them I was Seth Lakeman. Again.) their reaction is often peculiar. A lot of the folk people I talk to about working in television respond with the words, “I don’t watch television,” which I don’t really believe. Watching The Great British Bake Off several days late on an iPad still counts.

Worse still, some of the folk people I’ve told have gone so far as to inform me, quite smugly that they don’t own a televi- sion. That might be an interesting topic of conversation in itself but it’s not really appropriate in this instance. When people say they work in renewable energy I don’t huffily reply, “Oh really? I don’t own a wind turbine.” Although someone recent- ly confessed to me that they work in frack- ing and I had to sympathise. But crucially I didn’t tell them I don’t have any untapped gas. That’s plainly untrue.

And before

you complain that this isn’t all folk people, I know. I’m not prejudiced;

some of my best friends own tankards. But no-one else I’ve met responds this way. It’s only folk people

who view my job as something shameful, which makes me wonder if there’s a con- nection. And yet I’ve read AL Lloyd’s Folk Song In England from cover to cover and it makes no mention of ditching the telly to become a true devotee of the traditional arts. So perhaps it’s more a side effect of a life lived in age-old pursuits, where certain aspects of modernity no longer feel com- patible. A bit like those guys who love 1950s rock’n’roll so much that they furnish their flats in Formica and Bakelite.

My colleague did come to the folk fes- tival in the end, so that was nice. But she found it a bit weird.

Tim Chipping

there’s people/And they’re young and alive.” And suddenly I’m one of them. Sucked through a wormhole to where the end of the verse is playing in the Stu- dents Union at Goldsmith’s and I’m get- ting my student ID.

The Elusive Ethnomusicologist I

n a shop on a university campus, Morrissey at his best with The Smiths is blasting out “Take me out tonight /Where there’s music and

So musical careers can go on and on.

Yet bizarrely I’m also still in this shop buying food for my daughter, who nearby is valiantly making her own new university room look cosy. Music’s ability to conflate time is so complete that even the slosh of cold water as I catch sight of my knack- ered, baggy reflection, barely impinges on my reconnected vitality and the sense I’m someone with a future, just stepping out.

“There is no generation gap, well, nothing a Croydon facelift [hair pulled back extraordinarily tight in a ponytail] can’t fix,” I think, grabbing tinned toma- toes off the shelf. “Really, now that all music through all time is available at the click of a mouse, musicians young and old, dead or alive are always relevant to some- one somewhere, of any age.”

That’s why 74 (looking at you, Mick) is the new 50, or 40 or 17. Because continuing to work creatively with popular culture, whichever your bit of it, is to constantly engage with life anew. It’s why Police Dog Hogan are finding fabulous mid-life musi- cal success. It’s why our Ed. can go back on the road, looking like he’s never left it, (in a good way). It’s why my daughter loved The Specials when she saw them for the first time at BoomTown, 2017.

And stellar musicians around long enough to have become ‘legends’ bring fresh life to new music. Just before this university trip, I saw BJ Cole appear with young rising Country star Courtney Marie Andrews.

Andrews has an outstanding voice, and some great tunes, it was good. But then BJ pitched up on stage and the whole thing was transformed, transcen- dent with his subtle and total mastery of the pedal steel and the music, her vocals, everything, simply soared, sparkling on a higher plane. I was prevented from run- ning back home and trying again to play my own pedal steel guitar because “our neighbours are not saying ‘transcendent’

as they’re

banging on the wall”.

Then dur-

ing the journey to the universi- ty Dusty Springfield points out she can only be taught by the son of a

preacher man

and I’m back playing saxophone in a Hackney pub with a band at someone in East Enders’ birthday party. And I feel the joy of playing. Right then. In the car. Do it again! I tell myself. No matter the birthdays in between.

Whether we’re creating it or listening to it, music frees us. It reconnects us with a youthful optimism and delivers great dol- lops of ‘just get on with it, who gives a shit?!’ attitude. As that Morrissey song goes “There is a light that never goes out”. Standing in it we can even start again, whether we’re 18 or 98. Whatever the neighbours say.

Elizabeth Kinder

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