On being busy and loving it! (London and Milton Keynes)

Well, haven’t I been busy lately? A couple of years ago I really couldn’t take any more travelling and I kind of curtailed travelling around to gigs and things, mostly because of the day job and the logistics involved in trying to get to places far and wide. It all became something of a trial, until I found myself in a position where I was having to cancel gigs at the last moment due to work and the sheer impossibility of getting to them.

This year has brought a new philosophy to what I do, the idea that I am only doing gigs where everything is planned out in advance and that I might enjoy them and really not have to worry about anything. My thinking now is that I don’t really have anything to prove. I’ve hit all of the targets I had when I first started spoken word, and anything which happens now is a bonus. Plus there’s the added excitement of being very comfortable now with my performances and my material. Of course, it could all go fits up at any moment.

The last two months have been very busy for me. I’ve been zipping around the country like a mad thing, guesting at various events and taking my tea based poetry show to various fringes and festivals. Not only Edinburgh, but then immediately afterwards a gig in Hampshire, then. Devon, then up to London for some filming, back to Devon, then up to Milton Keynes for a gig. Next week I’m in Newcastle and then I’ve got a gig in Cornwall. If I had an agent they would probably have been fired by now!

Sunday was huge fun. I went up on Saturday night and stayed at the cheapest hotel I could find in Woking. It’s a place I’ve stayed in before, and amazingly I had the exact same room I’d had the night I performed in Hampshire. The streets of Woking were busy and it kind of reminded me of the Edinburgh fringe, except nobody wanted to go and see a show and I didn’t have to flier. My room had all the equipment necessary for making a late night cup of tea, except for a kettle. The lady in reception apologised profusely. They were out of kettles, and someone must have purloined it and nobody had noticed. It didn’t matter, it was late and I was very tired.

The next day I went up to London and met up with Peter Hayhoe of the Muddy Feet poetry YouTube channel. I am a big admirer of their output and I have had a couple of poems videod by them in the past. We met at Canada Water and he drove me out to Barking, where the filming studio was on an industrial estate. The whole process was made somewhat harder by the fact that a rap video was being filmed in the studio next door, so there was significant sound bleed, in fact it reminded me again of the Edinburgh fringe. Nevertheless, we did some filming and the whole experience was very enjoyable.

From the industrial estate, I caught the bus to Barking, the overground to Liverpool Street, the underground to Paddington, the train to Newton Abbot, and then the bus to Brixham where I spent the night at my mothers. It took seven hours to get home.

Two days later and I caught a train back to London, and then up to Milton Keynes. Scribal Gathering is a gig I’ve wanted to do again for some time, having performed there five or six years ago. I was picked up from the hotel by a man holding a large sign which read, ‘Robert Garnham, Professor of Whimsy’, which I found most amusing, and we drove out to the venue in Stony Stratford. And wow, what an amazing gig it was, a variety of music, comedy, storytelling and poetry, and the audience really did seem to like what I did. A performer would do anything for such a response, and to be honest it made me feel invincible, if only for a few minutes. I met some lonely people, too, and they let me keep one of the posters from the wall advertising the gig.

At such times I really do get a case of imposter syndrome. Before a gig, I tell myself that I’m really not worthy of headlining, reasoning that I really have no right to come along and profess to be so good at spoken word as to deserve such a slot. And afterwards, I always think that I’ve been somewhat mistaken and that it didn’t go as well as I’d thought. But at the time of performing, I felt absolutely amazing, and perhaps that’s why I travelled there in the first place.

So the gigs seem to fizzle out mid October and I’m looking forward to a bit of a rest. I’ve got a very special performance coming up of my show from last year, In the Glare of the Neon Yak, with the Totnes jazz rock band Shadow Factory, and that’s taking all of my energies at the moment. As I caught the train back from London to Devon today, I listened to various recordings and tried to run through the lines in my head.

I know that eventually these gigs and opportunities and excuses for zipping around the country will finish and I’ll be left with just the memories, and I’m okay with that. It’s the accumulation of memories which makes life worthwhile and I’m glad I’ve sorted out my mind to a point in which this is the foremost consideration. Each day is an adventure at the moment. And the next stop is Newcastle!

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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