Here at last the long-promised Pete Atkin / Monyash Festival mailing. As always in the broadcast and consumer electronics field we at RWT have been especially busy leading up to Christmas. Now the holiday has arrived and I have had a moment (twixt turkey and Christmas pud) to pull this together. May I wish you and yours all the best for what remains of the holiday.
If you're reading this you should be one of the following (if not please disregard):
For our 50th birthday and 15th wedding anniversary year (just coming to its close) and our 5th year at Dale House Farm, my wife Carole and I had originally intended to have a huge party: marquee, catering, music, the whole thing, inviting everyone we've ever cared about (those who are still around, at least) and many others besides. As the summer (and my birthday) approached with nothing fixed, we began to realise that it wasn't going to happen. And for all kinds of reasons: a basic reticence we both suffer from, that made it hard to approach old friends we'd lost touch with, those who never loved as much as we did, or who'd gone cold since we remarried; or new acquaintances we'd like to know better. Plus all the usual excuses: pressure of work, the inability to accommodate everyone we'd like to on the premises, pure laziness ...
But had we gone ahead our ideal guest musician, and that of many of our friends, would have been Pete. With most of our generation we had followed the more progressive trends in popular music through the mid-sixties to mid-seventies, from Beatles and Beach Boys through the R&B revival to Cream and Traffic, from the Hollies to the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan, from the Moodies to Yes, Queen and Genesis, from Dylan to ISB and Fairport, Neil Young to the Eagles and Jackson Browne, and much that lies between, under the guidance of broadcasters like Kenny Everett, John Peel and Bob Harris. But among everything from that period Pete Atkin's songs represented the ultimate crafting of words that said something real about the shared human experience, with music that, well, transported those words straight to the heart. Nothing was banal, pompous, compromised, or embarrassing to analyse or recommend to anyone's hearing. It carried the art, conviction and humour of a lyricist (Clive James) steeped in the classics of poetry and literature, combined with Pete's synthesis of influences from the jazz greats to 60s rock, expressed in melodies that captured by their unexpectedness.
But Pete had been "missing" (to us) for 20 years. To have him play for us seemed just a crazy dream. And then, this summer, we found him. No, not sleeping rough on the streets of Memphis, but producing radio programmes for the BBC in Bristol. And he still has that old Gibson.
In the spirit of the World-Wide Web, I set up this summer a site on our RWT server dedicated to Pete and his music, with full discography and over 100 song lyrics with a word-search facility, which (thanks to AltaVista, HotBot and the others) is how most of you found us. The volume and quality of interest was overwhelming, with over 600 separate visits to the site since August on the RWT server alone, especially high considering how few of Pete's fans from the 70s were likely (I thought) to be browsing the Internet. After Pete's one-off Eastbourne folk club appearance (described on the Web page) Carole suggested we approach him to play a similar gig for us and a few fans in 1997, even though we'd dismissed the "party" idea. To our delight Pete agreed.
At around the same time we became aware that Ed Driscoll, whose Smithy's Brew folk group have organised annual musical events on our village green (lately in aid of the parish church restoration fund) was looking to expand the event in 1997 to a fully-fledged festival, but didn't have a suitable site or a headline name. Carole proposed we pull the whole thing together at Dale House Farm (where we have 9 acres of grassland on the edge of the village) and combine what was to have been a folk and beer Festival with our Pete Atkin revival concert, to create the first Monyash Festival.
Monyash is a small village in the northwestern Derbyshire Dales and the southeastern part of the Peak District National Park, amid the limestone country known as the White Peak. We are in the centre of the parallelogram defined by the cities of Sheffield, Manchester, Stoke and Derby, or, more precisely, between the tourist towns of Bakewell and Buxton. Dale House Farm is on the northern edge of the village, at NGR SK149671. We're about 3 hours drive from London -- M1 Jct 29 (A617) is recommended as the most direct run from the motorway network when approaching from the southeast. Our Monyash Web page (http://www.rwt.co.uk/monyash.htm) will feature maps of the area, access and accommodation details, but there's not much there yet! Please stay tuned.
The sole financial aim of the Festival is to raise money for the Monyash Church Restoration Fund -- we are seeking only to cover expenses. In this way we can count on the help of many willing village folk to make the event run smoothly. This being a tourist area, accommodation is readily available if booked far enough in advance. There is no shortage of parking adjacent to the site, and limited camping facilities will be available for those so inclined. Our not-yet-fully-formed thoughts are for an audience of 500 or so, with sound system, marquee and bar to suit, and the ability to open everything up al fresco, weather permitting or crowd size compelling. The weekend Friday 15th to Sunday 17th August 1997 has been selected, with the only remaining uncertainty being where the Festival will lie on the continuum between a Saturday afternoon/evening gathering and a 3-day event. So far the support bands lined up are from the local folk scene, as befits the folk nature of Ed's original Monyash concept, but we are still contemplating a split along the lines of folk and beer Saturday, jazz and wine Sunday, to satisfy an eclectic audience mix, if we can summon the energy. At present it looks unlikely at this distance that we could attract a guest as special as (say) Clive James, and my guess is we will default to an everything-on-Saturday event.
The event will be publicised nearer the time in the national press and the mature popular music press (Mojo, Q, Record Collector etc.) as well as on the folk network, local radio and the Internet. But there must be legions of us who saw Pete on his college tours in the 70s, treasured his records, and now never go near a computer or a music paper but would trade vital organs for the opportunity to see him again. Please spread the word -- any help with publicity will be welcomed! Those of your friends needing more information but without Internet or e-mail can call or write Carole here, details in the e-mail signature. (Web readers please contact us via e-mail.)
What all of our respondents want is a full re-issue of Pete's albums on CD. I don't mean a private remastering from vinyl to CD-R for enthusiasts -- that would infringe copyright (and anyway I can't seem to find sufficiently unworn copies ;-) -- but a full re-issue, either by Pete's "current" record company RCA, or perhaps one of the specialist re-issue labels like See For Miles, with proper promotion rather than the unfortunately unannounced and mis-filed effort that accompanied the 1990 CD compilation release.
I've written to SFM and BGO Records proposing this, but so far have had no reply. Perhaps a mass assault might help here. I have contact names of Mark Rye at See For Miles Records Ltd., 10 Littleton House, Littleton Road, Ashford, Middx. TW15 1UU, Tel 01784 247176, Fax 241168, and Mike Gott at Beat Goes On, 7 St Andrews Street North, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 1TZ, Tel 01284 724406, Fax 762245.
Pete reckons Clive could be behind us on the re-issue front. Apparently he (CJ) is delighted with the idea of the Web archive (fill in the response form, Clive!), though I'm not sure what direct influence he could bring. However he may be ready to publish his song lyrics in book form in the near future. This could of course stimulate the CD re-issue process (though it might kill my on-line lyrics archive), and may even lead to a new album -- Pete has a good album's-worth of unreleased songs (apart from the early ones listed on the Web site) ready for recording, and from what I've heard these are up there with the best of "Road of Silk" or "Secret Drinker".
That's all the information we have for the present, but we'll send out another mailing as soon as there are any new developments. The dual nature of the Festival, together with the need to set a realistic upper limit on numbers, means that we can expect to sell out in the event of large demand for tickets. We are anxious that a large local folk following doesn't exclude the Pete Atkin enthusiasts, and so we recommend you and your friends respond early when we announce ticket availability, some time around May. The Web site is due for a complete overhaul too, so keep checking back to http://www.rwt.co.uk/pa.htm.
A happy 1997 to you all!
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