Actually it was more of a German tour with one date in Belgium.
Mainly organised by my friend Male who I met at Mannifest Festival 2011 Germany. Male is an artist and art therapist. When we met in 2011 she was organising a mosaic workshop called 'Mosaic For Utoya' (which was a response to the tragic massacre in Utoya Norway). Everyone at the festival was invited to create a mosaic piece as a gift to the survivors of Utoya who were suffering from trauma and to the people that had lost someone close to show them that the German people care and to try to give hope to people in a dark time. Male then transported all the beautiful mosaics to Norway where they were displayed at the Utoya memorial site.
You can read more about Male's project here https://www.facebook.com/MosaikUtoya. Meeting Male and hearing about all the great work that she had been doing really inspired me and when I left Germany we stayed in touch.
After having such a good time together Male and I decided that when my new album was ready we would make a tour of Germany together. With our friend Jens onboard as sound man we were set up, the world was our oyster. Male got in touch with people she knew and before we knew it we had 7 concerts lined up at some very unusual places including a camp site for single parents, a cat hotel, an art and therapy centre and the wonderful Klinik Hohe Mark which is a very inspiring clinic that treats people with depression and burnout in a holistic/spiritual way. The other concerts were mostly garden or house concerts depending on the weather.
So the adventure begins....
On the 23rd of August 2013 I arrive at Frankfurt Airport to be greeted by Male carrying a large pink heart shaped balloon, so that it's easy to find each other....the balloon worked a treat. Good thinking Male!
That evening Male made a lovely dinner for the two of us outside in her garden, she made the table look so beautiful with candle light and flowers. I had a revelation that evening on how amazing the female species is. It's like I placed myself in a man's body and imagined how a man might feel in a woman's presence . I think this photo says it all....Male will you marry me?
Saturday August 24th - Male's House Concert, Herborn
The following day Jens arrived and we started to prepare Males garden for the evenings concert. The weather forecast was not great but we decided to take the risk and make the concert happen in the garden. We hoped our positive attitude would somehow keep the rain away.
Many hours were spent setting up the gazebo and the PA but as the day wore on clouds started to gather in the sky and finally a thunder storm. We had no choice but to abandon the garden concert and to move the PA and instruments into Male's flat...for a lounge/kitchen concert.
Male told me after the concert that her son Tilman thought the rain was my bad karma for singing the lyric 'God damn fire' in my pagan klezmer song...oh dear!
Male and Jens checking the weather forecast, it doesn't look good!
After I played I invited some people from the audience to play a song or two. John who is originally from Scotland graced us with a Talking Heads song, Male's son Tilman played a piano improvisation and Elouise sang a touching song she had written about her grandfather. Towards the end of the evening when the rain had stopped Male's good friend Katrin suprised us all with some fire dancing in the garden.
Below are some pics from the evening and a short clip of Male and I singing Kings and Queens in German.
Sunday August 25th - Wim and Els ( Cat Hotel ) Antwerp
I first Met Wim and Els through my friend Esther. She had met them whilst busking on the streets of Antwerp and they invited her to play at their house party.
The following year during our gypsy travels Esther and I went back there to play another concert for them.
So this year with my new album Roses At The Top finished they invited me again to perform for their friends and family.
Els and Wim are an extraordinary couple. From their home they run a dog grooming business a cat hotel and a photography studio. They have a great big open space that Wim uses for his studio which is where we played our concert.
As we approached Wim and Els's road we saw a huge group of cyclists, maybe 50 or more, happily cycling along together. I was quite struck by the group of cyclists as it's just not something you would see in England. It's a shame! it looked like a fun thing to be part of. However we do have The Brighton Naked Cycling Event which happens once a year on Brighton sea front but that doesn't appeal as much.
After unpacking the car we spent the afternoon setting the PA up and sound checking. Around 7pm people started to arrive. Wim and Els put on a lovely spread of food and drink and after everyone had eaten the concert started.
Male opened with a couple of beautiful songs she had recently composed and then I played a couple of sets. Wim invited all his roller skating friends and they turned up for the second set - I forgot to mention that Wim is an amazing roller skater and is part of a big skating community in Antwerp. Like the cyclists that I saw they also go out as a big group skating around the town.
The concert went well but I was not sure that my music was everybody's cup of tea, however, everyone was really respectful and present during my performance and I really enjoyed playing in that space. Afterwards, Wim's friend Frank came up to me and said that he loved my voice but he thought that there was not enough pain in my music. I was quite stumped by what he had said because the songs have evolved from some very dark places and are full of longing.... but there is a spiritual aspect to my music which attempts to transform these dark places into light but obviously he was not hearing these depths. I appreciated his honest feedback and even if he didn't like my songs as much as my voice he bought the album. Quite a few folks bought the album so perhaps it went better than I thought it did.
Monday August 26th - Sabine's place, Cologne
On arriving in Cologne we got to see a little bit of the town, such beautiful shops. There were so many things I wanted to buy. Then we went to meet Sabine at work to pick up the keys for her flat so we could start setting up for the concert.
Sabine has a beautiful garden and we were hoping to make a garden concert but unfortunately it was raining again so we decided to do the concert in her flat completely un-amplified.
It was a relief not to set up the PA again as we were all so tired. It was also really nice to see Jens relaxing as he had been working so hard for us, driving, setting up the PA, doing the sound.
Jens's friend Wilfred turned up and we chatted about his small record label that he runs in Germany and about the folk artists he has signed.
The concert went well but during my song Waiting Game a young lady from the audience burst out crying and she didn't stop until it was over. I felt so bad for writing such sad songs but I also recognised that crying is a release, like laughter, it's healing, it's necessary...in that sense I am glad I was able to help her get some sad feelings out. Music is a healing force.
As the evening wore on my mosquito bites seemed to swell and swell and get bigger and bigger. I am allergic to them and I was itching like crazy. Everyone at the party was so sweet and helpful, one lady recommended taking calcium tablets and searched Sabine's house for them. Male went to the late night chemist and got some cream and some pills to help ease the itching and take the swelling down. Needless to say I didn't sleep much that night. In fact I hardly slept the whole tour. I seemed to be constantly awake and sleepless like an over excited zombie.
The following day Male had plans to take me round Cologne and show me the sights but I was feeling so dreadful. Most of the bites were on my feet and I was finding it difficult to walk so we decided to head back to Herborn and spend the day relaxing. I think male was a little bit disappointed but she remained as gracious as ever. On our return to Herborn, Male booked me into see her local doctor and I got some stronger anti-histamine pills, some calamine lotion and some mosquito repellant. By this point I had so many creams, sprays and pills, I was a pharmacy on legs.
Tuesday August 27th - Dillenberg, centre for mentally handicapped adults
I liked the ethos of the place and wondered whether there were similar incentives like that in the UK. I hope so. I played a short concert whilst people were having there lunch break and after I played the manager presented me with a bouquet of flowers. What a sweet gesture!
Wednesday August 28th - Alsfeld with Anna
Anna then took us over to her neighbours courtyard where the concert was being held and we started setting up. Nervous of the weather we noticed that the sky was looking rather cloudy again however Anna's neighbour convinced us that it was not going to rain. She was so confident about it not raining that our doubts disappeared and amazingly so did the clouds.
Luckily Anna took some really great photo's of this concert.
The next morning I met up with Male and Jens and we had a walk round Alsfeld. It was such a stunning old German town with Hansel and Gretel type houses, apparently the buildings are over 500 years old. We visited an amazing gift shop that seemed to go on and on forever, it really was a magical place. I brought some really cool fairy lights and some presents for friends back home then at Male's request we tried a bit of busking in the town square.
Thursday August 29th - Beverungen, Single Parents Campsite
Friday August 30th - Oberusal, Klinik Hohe Mark
I had played at the Klinik the year before and was really happy to return as it was such a special concert for me. The Klinik is for people who are suffering from depression and mental health problems, anything from burn out to eating disorders. What I love about the Klinik is it's values. Male showed me around the building and the grounds and what struck me was how many theatres and music rooms there were. There was also meditation rooms and art galleries and sculptures everywhere. The Klinik is based upon a christian ethos and Male tells me that their approach to healing is very holistic. The Klinik does not believe in drugging people into zombies it believes in group therapy, counceling and prayer. They host many concerts for patients and encourage healing through art and music.
Friends, if I ever have a breakdown please send me here....
I played my concert in the church room which has an upright piano. It was so great to play a real piano again. The church was packed, over 100 people showed up. Seeing most of the residents at the concert made me realise how invisible depression and mental health problems are. Everyone looked 'normal', whatever 'normal' is?
What I mean is that you could not tell that people were suffering. It's a reminder to always have compassion for all people because you never know what is really going on in their lives.
This concert was definitely another highlight of the tour. I felt really appreciated and the church room was the perfect setting to listen to my music.
After the concert some young women came up to me and one of them asked me why I didn't mention Jesus in my songs. I tried to explain that although my songs have a spiritual nature I was not a Christian and that my concept of god was not based around organised religion.
She looked puzzled. I also re-assured her that I have complete respect for her religious beliefs. Thank you everyone at Klink Hohe Mark for being so receptive to my music and for showing up. It was a great night.
We then headed back to Dirks place and for the first time during the whole tour I actually slept the whole night through.... how wonderful!
Saturday 31st August - Montabaur, Atelier Kunst and Therapie
For me, this was my favourite gig of the whole tour. It really was a beautiful evening and such a great way to end the tour. Thank you Heike for all the love and effort you put into promoting this concert and making it such a special event. Heike also hired a photographer to take photos of the concert.
Not only did Heike promote the concert she also sold quite a few of my CD's upfront. I felt there was a lot of excitement about this concert and it really spurred me on.
This concert was the roses at the top! here are some lovely memories from the show, thanks to the photographer who made these beautiful collage pictures.
That evening we all stayed at Heike's house and spent the next day relaxing in her garden and enjoying some creative activities such as drawing and painting.
Despite the fun activities, I couldn't help but feel sad that it was my last day in Germany but was happy to be spending it with Male and Jens. We had shared such great times together. Thank you Jens and Male for being part of this adventure together. I loved it.
Thanks also to everyone who either hosted a concert or just showed up...I hope it won't be too long before I see you all again.
Here's some pics of our last day at Heike's house: