A strange but brilliant gig.

Broadstairs Travel Blog

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Reef Bar, scene of a very odd gig.

Quite frankly this particular journal entry is the act of a complete madman but those that know me will instantly recognise that this is nothing unusual.  

I am still up to my eyeballs in trying to finish off the saga of my four day trip to Holland that ended up three and a half months later in Rome, several thousand miles and numerous trips to the laundry later.  For readers who may be vaguely interested, it is all in my "Lying low in the low countries" journal elsewhere on my page.  For those brave souls who are following that I should say that I have only a few more days to write up there but an absolute shedload of reviews to write.  Trust me, I'm on it.

Add into the mix two quite lengthry trips to Canada, a couple to Sri Lanka, another couple round Northern Ireland and Scotland and you get the picture.

Musicians at the Reef Bar.
  Why, therefore, am I starting yet another journal entry?  A very good question and one to which I effectively have no answer.

I had come back to London with the intention of heading straight out to Canada to hook up with TravBuddy member Ravenswing and taking off in our campervan (or RV as they call them in those parts) but for various reasons that idea blew out.  So, planxty in UK heading towards the second week of August, what to do?  Very simple answer, go to Broadstairs Folk Week.  

I am sitting writing this in a pub in Broadstairs weeks after Folk Week has ended and am having great difficulty in  deciding what to write next.
Audience at the Reef Bar.
  I know that people will say that I write far too much anyway and I fully appreciate that I do so I shall try to summarise this as best I can.  This is a travel site albeit it serves a lot of people as being a personal remembrance of travels which is what it is to me.

With the serious downsizing of Sidmouth, Broadstairs is easily the largest folk festival in the UK and before anyone starts screaming and shouting, Cambridge is not a folk festival any more (yes, I have played there too).  Until 2016 I had played Broadstairs for either 21 or 22 consecutive years in a number of guises and with a number of bands and it was just about sacred in my annual calender but in 2015 when I had to pay a serious amount of money to return to play it I decided I had to make a choice.  The reason for the uncertainty about how many years I played is that the records of the old festivals were destroyed when the old committee left but it is about right.

When asked to play there in 2016 I had a massively difficult choice to make and I thanked Kim (the recently retired artistic director) profusely but told her I couldn't cover it and went on to have a brilliant roadtrip in Canada which will eventually form the basis of a journal here if I ever get enough time!

Anyway, enough of the backstory and, believe me, there are enough stories about my antics in that town to fill a rather large book and onto the travel journal that this is meant to be.  

My journey started at Stratford International station which is wonderfully convenient to my home in the East End of London.  I can get there in about four Tube (Metro) stops but I chose the bus (route 25 if the reader is interested) as the stop is literally about three hundred yards from my front door.  No problem getting to Stratford in about 20 minutes on a Sunday morning and then it all started unravelling.  

I eventually managed to negotiate my way through the massive Westfield shopping centre which is so big it has it's own Postcode (zipcode).  I have been through there many times and still always manage to get lost as the signage is so bad.  Full details are in the attached review.  I am convinced it is deliberately done to drag you past every single shop in the place in the hope of an impulse buy.

Having finally located what is an international rail terminal things went from bad to worse.  I had purchased a ticket online previously as walk up fares in the UK on public transport are an obsceneity and a national disgrace but I suppose that is what happens when you hive off national assets to foreign companies who care not a fig for the customer.  Several misgovernments of my country in the past sowed the wind, you can guess the rest.  

To my personal tale of woe now, I could not get my ticket despite the assistance of a very friendly railway lady and so ended up spending over £41 on a "walk-up" ticket because their machinery had failed.  Utterly appalling and just about what I would have expected from Southeastern rail but in fairness to them the journey is so quick now (an hour and fifteen minutes as opposed to the previous two plus hours from Victoria) that it may just be worth it.  I have constructed a review on it on this page.

I knew that accommodation in Broadstairs was going to be a complete impossibility as those that do not camp on the excellent campsite have booked literally year on year and a B&B is just a non-starter so I had booked a night in Ramsgate which is only about four miles distant and is actually a gorgeous walk on a decent day.  I wandered downhill from the train station (everything is downhill from there) and straight into my friend Crissi's pub, the Prince Albert which again has a large place in my heart as I have played some brilliant gigs there not to mention watching many dear friends knocking out brilliant sets whilst I was becoming a little unsteady at the bar!

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Reef Bar, scene of a very odd gig.
Reef Bar, scene of a very odd gig.
Musicians at the Reef Bar.
Musicians at the Reef Bar.
Audience at the Reef Bar.
Audience at the Reef Bar.
photo by: planxty