I must start with an apology. It’s been ages since I sent a few words to everyone who visits my site. I’m so proud of it and that you can see what’s going on and what I’m doing, while I’m doing it!
I do try to keep up with using Twitter and Facebook too, but sometimes I’m just in the midst of my work and life and it can be hard to find a moment to sit down and let you all know how grateful I am that you are so interested and committed to me and my music.
The last time I wrote was earlier this year, and it was a very busy time. I had an EP which was being rushed out to coincide with the 2017 concert tour in February and March of this year. Troy Donockley, with whom I’m always keen to record, was very busy with Nightwish, his band, for most for 2016 and so didn’t have much time to devote to recording with me. I therefore put together some ideas of songs I liked and hadn’t recorded before; ‘October Song’, ‘Farewell to Fiunary’ and two traditional songs I had been re-arranging myself, ‘The Laird o’ the Dainty Dounby’ and ‘The Palace Grand’, plus one original song inspired by Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh called ‘The Hill’. I took all this to Troy and he arranged and recorded these songs, so it didn’t take quite so long to achieve a new offering as normally would be the case. I was well prepared and determined to get something new out in time.
The tour itself earlier this year was a joy. I rarely see my lovely band, apart from Nick, so it’s quite an emotional time when we get together after a long lay-off for rehearsals.
Many of you were at the shows and once again (I know I always say this!) it was the best-ever for me. It seemed that the set list we chose had something for everyone. I must admit I was tired at the end of the tour, but it was no longer, really, than usual and I’m more than keen to continue. Already, we’re talking about the beginning of 2019 to start all over again.
I really enjoyed being a member of the company of ‘The Ballads of Child Migration’ so when I was asked to participate again in a very truncated version at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards from the Royal Albert Hall on the 5th April, I had to be there. One of my oldest friends was having a celebration of 50 years of marriage at an hotel in Liverpool and because of my commitment to the Child Migration project, I missed being there to wish ‘the bride’ well, from her bridesmaid of so long ago!
After Easter, I took off to the Isle of Man. This was my first show after the band tour and I was once again back in my duo format with Nick. Sadly, I was struck down by an awful cold virus and had to cancel the BBC Quay Sessions on the day prior to my departure for my sold-out two concerts in Peel. It was very unfortunate as I was still struggling during the shows, looking for cough sweets and all sorts of cures but finally told the audience that there was very little I could do apart from keep going! So, I did, and they were very supportive. I love the Isle of Man and Peel is superb. If you get a chance, go there. It’s very historic and beautiful.
My ‘Quay Session’, incidentally, was performed by the lovely Alice Marra, daughter of the late, great Michael. She did really well and I am most grateful to her for that.
In May, I attended Sam Lee’s wonderful ‘Singing with the Nightingales,’ this time at Grafham Water in Huntingdonshire. I did hear the nightingale singing and it was truly astoundingly beautiful, but I didn’t actually sing with him. Sam has promised me that next time I will!
I had a lovely June this year, as I had two holidays. Very unusual for me; quite unusual for me to have one holiday a year, but Oliver and I decided to go to Crete for a proper rest in the sunshine and afterwards, following on from that, we went to visit our old friends who have a house on the south side of Clew Bay in Co. Mayo, Ireland; the most far-reaching views and fabulous restful environment. So different to Greece, but just as lovely. To see Croag Patrick, St Patrick’s holy mountain, every morning was a treat, I can tell you.
The only show Nick and I performed during June was one of the most unusual and lovely of our diary, in Inchyra, a Georgian house near Perth. The venue is in a converted stable and is well attended and supported by the local people, so it does well. However, I was told, we did exceptionally well for them. We got to stay overnight at the house too, so to wake up in such a setting was an added bonus.
I visited the Isle of Coll, in the Inner Hebrides, in July to do a fund-raiser for the island hall. We had a fantastic time there and the weather was wonderful, while the rain poured down in Edinburgh, I was told. We love the islands. They are superb both for hospitality and also the scenery is breathtaking.
Nick and I embarked on three shows in the course of a week at the end of July/beginning of August, at Warwick Folk Festival, Sidmouth Folk Week and Snape Proms in Aldeburgh in Suffolk. These shows were all fantastic. We played to thousands of people in that space of time. Normally we’d take the big band to shows like these, but Nick and I proved that we can make enough noise to satisfy people in a large venue.
So, we’re about to get going on the Autumn tour dates. Nick, David, Oliver and I will set off with Antony Toner, the wonderful Irish songwriter who supports me, in a couple of weeks’ time. We’ll play all over the country. Please check out our tour dates here on the site and of course, I’ll be out signing after the shows, meeting everyone. The added bit of news is that the live double CD of our 2017 tour, ‘In Good Company: Barbara Dickson, Live 2017', will be out for the first show at Pocklington Arts Centre and on sale on our merchandise table that night.
After we complete those dates, we’re off to Ireland for eight consecutive shows this time, once again with Anthony as our guest. Anthony has a lovely new album called ‘Ink’ which came out this year and he’s promoting that with us. We’ve got some terrific venues this time and I’ll be back in Westport in Co. Mayo where I was in June. I hope the folks there will be out in force!
I’ll be guesting with Emily Smith at the Queen’s Hall here in Edinburgh in December, then I’m off to South Africa for a little break before Christmas.
As I write I’ve just completed my stints at the Edinburgh Festival and at Beyond Borders, last weekend. I had an ‘In Conversation’ with one song, talking to Graham Spiers, about my life and work; there was also an Edinburgh International Festival show on the work of the Incredible String Band which was very interesting to play, with lots of talented and diverse artistes. I sang with Sam Lee, with Withered Arm, with Alasdair Roberts and Karine Polwart and others. One of my heroes, Green Gartside, was there too so we all sang together, celebrating the work of the ISB and Mike Heron, one of the original members, was with us on stage and Rose Simpson joined us for the last song.
My mentor, Archie Fisher, played at the AMC during the festival and so I attended his show with Alastair, my brother, who is making work in Scotland for a show of his sculpture, in November, at Firestation Creative in Dunfermline. At the same venue the previous week I’d been to see my old friend Charlie Dore, appearing with Julian Littman, and they were terrific. It’s so good to see Charlie live again. She’s such a talent.
I’m off to the opening of an extension to the Carnegie Library in Dunfermline on the 6th September and then I'm talking to the BBC about the centenary of the Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline which is coming up in October. All serving the local community, as a local girl!
My house is finished, the garden is done, although I’m still planting and working on that. My brother is with me which gives me great joy, as he normally lives in Canada. My children are all scattered. Two in Edinburgh, one in Bristol, all seeming quite happy and well.
I’m working on a string quartet CD with John O’Hara, the distinguished musician who works with Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. He happens to be my brother-in-law and you may remember I performed ‘The Bargee’s Wife’ at Gloucester for the Three Choirs Festival a couple of years ago now. That was his composition. We’ve talked about getting together with Troy and doing a project but in the meanwhile, I’ll be doing rearrangements of songs from my repertoire. We haven’t finalised the songs, or the recording schedule, but hope to start in the winter months.
I’m also hoping to get together with Troy to plan our next move, but that’s in the future again.
So, as Autumn approaches fast, I hope you all have a lovely remainder of 2017. Come and see me and Nick play, if you can, when we’re on tour - I hope to be able to say hello to many of you in the next few months wherever we’re performing!
Lots of love,