Fancy a cuppa? By Steve

Whalebone Tea Mugs

Anyone Anyone who has spent any time in our company will know that we just don't work without a cuppa. Actually without lots of cuppas. (Our mates the Kidderminster Four know this well, and bought us teabags and biccies to dunk for Christmas - thanks folks, they were delicious!) For a while we had a teapot in a flightcase that we took to gigs, (no, really) but now we make do with just taking teamugs for a bit of home-from-home comfort. And yes, we know home is sometimes only an hour away, but that's not the point. Our mugs have travelled with us to several hundred gigs, so we thought we'd share a photo of this road-hardened trio, taken while packing up at Harmer Hill last weekend.

Roots and Fusion Radio Session Podcast

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter... thankfully we seem to have seen the last of the snow for the moment. It caused us a bit of disruption, not least because we had to pull out of a trip to record a live session and interview with Rick Stuart of Roots and Shoots, who puts together an eclectic music programme featuring Blues, Roots, World Folk and beyond on Stockport's Pure Radio 107.8fm. A week later than planned, the white stuff having melted a bit, we made the trip up the M6 and it was well worth the wait.

Rather than record in the studio, Rick and sound engineer Jason had the idea that we should record an impromptu, unadvertised gig at the amazing Ash Tea Rooms, a rather splendid and refined establishment incorporating CC Cakes, who have supplied wedding cakes to the Royal Family. (They can now add to their CV 'supplier of 2 sausage and bean casseroles and a greek salad to Whalebone'.) We played the gig to a slightly startled but friendly audience and recorded an interview which you can hear here - thankfully no recording was made of us demolishing the sausage and bean casserole... You can find the link to the podcast and a couple of photos from the day below:


Ash Tea Rooms - big cake!

Ash Tea Rooms - more cakes :)

To listen to a podcast of the live session and a bit of chat between us and Rick click the photo of us all below or this link -  Whalebone in session on Roots and Fusion

Roots and Fusion group pic

FolkCast 078 Autumn Crackler 2012

Our tune 'November' is part of Folkcast's special 'Autumn Crackler' podcast: 80 minutes of music and poetry for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. You can check out the show by clicking on the link below. Our tune features a poem by Keats. :-)

Gig Art and an Impressive Raffle, by Char

We travelled up north to a very picturesque village near Leek Staffordshire, Horton Village Hall, lovely people, lovely gig, punctuated by wonderful artists in the audience...

James Yates with his brilliant interpretations of our name and logo - what a talented young man!


and coincidentally, Joe Curtis has visually represented two of the stories currently being told as part of our Origins Tour shows. The 1st is a Wenlock Hare caught in some car headlights...

and the 2nd is his take on Tam Lin, with a tortoise called 'Janet' at the crossroads with the hell bound procession approaching - you can't knock him for not listening, and 10 out of 10 for interpretation and visualisation Mr Curtis:

Thank you to both James and Joe, you made us giggle and the artwork is fab :)

The following night on Sunday evening, we played at St Peter's Church in Chelmarsh to help raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Again, the night was made by lovely people, but it also featured the best raffle prize we have ever come across- 2 tickets to see 'Jersey Boys' in London's West End. This took us by surprise for two reasons, firstly we were sitting opposite the table where the raffle prizes were displayed and it had the usual range of bottled alcohol and Liquorice Allsorts, no mention of this mega prize, and secondly, most of the raffles we have encountered have nothing like this calibre of prize, our favourite instance being a catering sized roll of aluminium foil (which we didn't win either!)

Sustainable gigs (or, What we learned from eating muffins at Cinnamon... ), By Steve

For more or less all of Whalebone's existence the idea of 'sustainability' has been part of our landscape, though not necessarily because of any high minded principles. We played some of our earliest gigs at Cinnamon, a funky arts cafe run (in those far off days anyway) by fiddler Sarah. Cinnamon was firmly rooted in the concept of using Fairtrade and organic ingredients, so while we were working our way through a mountain of organic muffins post gig (well, there wasn't a TV to throw out of the window) there were also benefits both for the farmers who produced the raw ingredients and the soil the food was grown in - a win-win-win situation (though as far as we were concerned, the main issue was the muffins... and those flapjacks with all the seeds in, food of the Gods...)

We've also been enthusiastic users of Taylor guitars, using them on every gig and recording we've ever done from day one. Taylor are a company committed not only to using timber from sustainable sources but also to giving the workers in the timber industry a better deal. So, while we love Taylor guitars for their gorgeous tone and looks we can also feel good about the ethics behind their creation - once again, everyone wins.



So... what's this got to do with gigging? Well, we realised a while ago that a 'take the money and run' policy was not going to benefit us in the long term. We'd heard many lurid tales, including those about so called 'brilliant' agents who manage to get astronomical fees for their clients, negotiating two or three times the going rate at venues. Good news for the artist, yes? Maybe not... The trouble with this sort of deal is that you can only really pull it off once - the venue more than likely loses money, resulting at best a loss of any return bookings for the artist and at worst a decision by the venue to give up on live music altogether. So, a few good paydays later, the artist's work starts to dry up as the agent runs out of venues to pull the trick on...

After a lot of time spent looking at which methods have worked for us in the past, (and maybe more importantly trying to figure out why we've sometimes fallen flat on our faces,) we've come to a simple conclusion; Rather than negotiating hard for a fee that's unrealistic (and incidentally making the venue feel bad about you before you've even arrived,) we now work in partnership with venues and concert promoters, with both the venue and ourselves having a stake in the outcome of the gig.

Taking this approach means the promoters are keen to make the concert a success, which results in better promotion locally, which in turn results in better attendance, making both the venue and ourselves happy. We honour our side of the deal by working our 'taters off to give the audience a memorable and entertaining evening, and hopefully the audience do their bit too by applauding, heckling, and when they're not doing either of those things, spending money at the bar. Result? The audience leaves with a smile, the venue makes a profit and we have a great gig. This all-round happy outcome makes everyone feel enthusiastic about doing it all again, so we get an invitation to return in the future.

And there you have it. Sustainable gigging. A win-win-win situation. Just like the muffins at Cinnamon...

Whalebone Muffin

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