In May 2021 Boff Whalley and I set off to run 120 miles across Devon, performing These Hills Are Ours half a dozen times along the way. It's one way to premiere a show.
Like everyone else's, our plan had been different: the show was scheduled to open at the end of March 2020. Obviously that didn't happen. So when we finally got the green light to meet an audience for the first time in over a year, we knew we needed a comeback tour with a difference: the Wild Tour.
The weather wasn't quite what we'd hoped for.
Now Bevis Bowden's beautiful film of our adventure is itself nearing its premiere. We have screenings at Hinterlands Festival and back where it started, in Devon. The online premiere takes place here at 8pm on Saturday May 28th.
We have an album out!
No Masters records have released this beautiful limited edition booklet and 8-song CD and we couldn't be more pleased with it.
The CD features all eight songs from These Hills Are Ours, specially recorded and mastered for this release. But if you no longer have a CD player and any CD will essentially be a shiny coaster, this release is still worth getting for the book.
We didn't want to just release a half-arsed version of the text from the show, with gaps where there's usually audience interaction and a series of jokes that don't work on the page. So we've created a brand new version of the text for book form, including a fair bit of new material that will never be seen on stage.
It's beautifully designed and put together and I hope you love it too.
You can buy it here.
There was never anything cool about Meat Loaf. He was a beacon to those of us who were always, whatever we did, just a little bit naff. Twelve-year-old boys attempting to grow their hair while playing Dungeons and Dragons. Girls with T-shirts showing wolves and full moons in forests. But yeah, mostly the boys. Before Peter Jackson made it ok for grown-ups to like elves and orcs, Meat Loaf was there living a life full of leather jackets, loudly revving motorbikes, B-movie horror and flames. To all of us geeks, nerds, dorks and misfits, he brought the bombastic revelation that feelings are always bigger than their containers, that you can be sincere and preposterous at the same time, that alpha masculinity isn't the only kind. He seemed at ease with his contradictions in a way I wanted to be.
To twelve-year-old me listening to Bat Out of Hell II, Meat Loaf offered a way of being a man that didn’t fit in in some of the same ways I didn't. He was straight, but not in the usual ways. You can paint your nails, and have feelings, and wear velvet trousers and seventeenth-century shirts, and still be a man. Let’s not pretend Meat Loaf’s material, or his life, is a model of anti-patriarchy, but for me he did enough to point the direction.
I didn’t listen to him much after the age of twelve or thirteen. From fourteen to sixteen I listened entirely (I'm not kidding) to either heavy metal or showtunes, when I could have got both at once by just continuing to listen to Meat Loaf. The monsters and posturing of Iron Maiden were just as daft as Meat Loaf’s wolves and strut, but the New Wave of British Heavy Metal wasn’t complicated by anything so troubling as real human emotion. Cats and Starlight Express, on the other hand, boil down emotion to the size of a sweet so that it doesn’t ever have to touch the sides. Both these things filled a need in me that they couldn't on their own. I was sixteen before I got into anything I'd still listen to, but before that point everything was just variations on Meat Loaf (and Queen, I suppose, but that's another story).
From his obituaries I learn that Meat Loaf was in about seventy movies. Somehow every time I saw him in one I thought it was quite a coup for them to have got him. In the same way as Tom Waits gets cast by directors who want to signify a kind of hardboiled drunken rapscallionism, hoping (usually forlornly] that Waits’ unrelenting wit and invention will somehow wash off on the movie, so Meat Loaf’s job on screen was simply to signify himself. He represented, and represents, a particular kind of technicolour masculinity. Somehow he was always playing a bouncer, even when he wasn’t. He was operatic, yet reassuringly beery. He might not quite fit the normative behavioural categories of cishet masculinity, but in the end you couldn't say he really disrupted them that much.
My move away from him (and from a lot of other heavy rock) coincided with starting to paint my nails and experiment with eyeliner. The Manic Street Preachers were as swaggeringly preposterous as Metallica or Guns N Roses, but instead of beer they had glitter; instead of monsters they had politics. Meanwhile, Meat Loaf’s politics were awful. He endorsed McCain and Romney, he praised Trump. He was an anti-masker and reportedly an anti-vaxxer. The world he performed in his songs was a 1950s WASP world of drive-in movies and endless highways, Friday night dances without Bruce Springsteen's working week, a male-gaze world where women always offer their throat to the wolf with the red roses. I can't deny that world formed me. But I don't want to live in it.
Still, this morning, for old time's sake, we put on “Bat Out of Hell” and danced to it with the kids. It’s even more dizzyingly ridiculous and propulsive than you remember. Longer, too. It spends the first two minutes introducing four separate musical themes, all of them foaming with adrenaline, before the vocal even comes in. A decade earlier (unbelievably, this is only nine years after "Hey Jude"), pop songs were mostly done inside three minutes; three minutes into "Bat Out of Hell" we’re not even at the first chorus. Five minutes in, the structure can't bear any more weight, it starts to crack open, it grinds to a halt. In any normal song this would be the end. At this point "Bat Out of Hell" erupts, spewing out testosterone and lava for another five minutes of motorbikes guitar solos, and keening laments where even the slow bits are unnervingly uptempo, revving up, screeching to a halt, revving up, then slamming through another wall. LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL. Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock operas are relatively restrained; this is Wile E Coyote's Acme rock opera, on heroin, standing on the seat of a motorbike, hurtling the wrong way down Route 66. LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL.
Lots of bands and artists have that one song they do that's immensely long. "Bohemian Rhapsody" (a mere six minutes), "Stairway to Heaven", "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "Hey Jude". With Meat Loaf outlandishly long songs aren't statements, they're the norm: "I Would do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" is eight minutes, as is "Paradise by the Dashboard Light", though some versions are as long as twelve. "Dead Ringer for Love" and "Two Outta Three Ain't Bad" are unusually short at a mere six and five respectively, but they still seem amped up on steroids, out of proportion with normal songs. There's nothing of restraint here. It's all far too much. The Hammer nonsense, the melodrama, the nerve. It’s in absolutely terrible taste. Despite everything I find I still love it.
Do you love me? Will you love me forever? Do you need me? Will you never leave me? I’ll probably never listen to Meat Loaf again, but I don’t need to. It'll make me so happy for the rest of my life just for having been there thirty years ago when I needed it. The music you get into at twelve stays part of you: I don’t ever need to listen to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “You Give Love a Bad Name” or “Summer of ‘69” again either. There’s nothing cool about any of this, but fuck cool. Music is a way of learning how to be yourself, if you let it, and Meat Loaf was an important stage of that for me.
In this beautifully-made short film, the painter Bill Blaine laments his failure to become a “great” artist. His work is often brilliant, across a bewildering array of styles, but he’s not content. Working on a chiaroscuro portrait, he second-guesses himself – turban or no turban? how do I render the coat? – until impatiently relegating all these confounding details to the shadows. His work is figurative, abstract, classical, modernist, lavish, minimalist; he seems equally at home in all forms and thoroughly ill at ease in himself. “I suppose I never could land on anything I could stick with long enough to create something that was, you know, personal style”.
In the film’s opening scenes he contends that “great” artists are defined by their “obsession”. They get stuck on something like a dog with a bone. They don’t go to the beach with their grandchildren, and they yell at their families when invited. They sound, to me, unhappy. Blaine is unhappy that he hasn’t been more like them.
“Greatness” is such a damaging chimera. In its pursuit we make ourselves miserable, but what is it? And who decides? Insert your own sentence about Van Gogh here, or about the seventeenth-century view of Shakespeare, or about Poussin before Blunt’s rehabilitation, or after his unmasking. Or read this recent article about Leni Riefenstahl, whose “greatness” succeeded in unmooring her from her embeddedness in Nazism, until her embededdness in Nazism unmoored her from greatness. Greatness is historically contingent. So what is Blaine after?
I’m putting words in his mouth here, or thoughts in his head, but it seems to me that what he’s after, if not greatness, is unequivocal success. A huge hit exhibition, a million-dollar painting, a commission for the Guggenheim. A definitive endorsement that what he’s doing is worthwhile. But would that be enough? Or would someone remain unconvinced, would almost any artist then zero in on that one outlying critic rather than on the yay-sayers? I learned long ago that I can’t stop myself caring about what people think, but I can choose to focus on what’s useful to me about those thoughts. I might still be galled by what isn’t useful, but I don’t let it get in the way, and it passes.
Grayson Perry describes the process of self-discovery as an artist in terms of the bus routes in (iirc) Helsinki. For the first few stops from the central bus station all routes are travelled by many buses. As the journeys continue the routes bifurcate until finally yours is the only bus on this route. As a young artist, Perry says, it can be easy to feel you’re on the wrong bus. There are too many other people here, it all feels too familiar, too well-trodden. You jump off, you head back to the depot, you start again, and you never get anywhere new. Stay on the bus, says Perry. It’s the only way to discover anything. Stay on long enough and they’ll have to let you drive it.
I’ve always found the bus metaphor illustrative, and no-one’s a better example of it than Perry - who’d have thought acerbic pots would be such primetime? In my case, doing a series of modestly experimental solo storytelling shows, I thought of myself as sticking on the bus, doing my thing. But I also knew that this wasn't the whole truth, and nor is it for many of us. I made those shows because those were the shows available to me to make: that particular structure of feeling was a meeting place between my skills and desires, and the economics of the industry in which I work. Ten years ago I was on entirely different buses, directing political clown shows and contemporary new writing. And this year my bus has been mostly all-singing all-dancing family entertainment adapted from well-known fairy stories. And retrospectively, to me all these things feel, in ways I can’t always describe, part of the same project. The body of work might look confusing to you, but it makes sense to me.
Then a couple of weeks ago the always-inspiring Steve Lawson, in passing, said that he liked looking at his whole career as building up to the work he would make after the age of fifty or sixty. Everything before then is apprenticeship. Develop a range of approaches, styles, forms, genres, hell, even artforms. Ride a few buses. You don’t have to decide everything about your life and work by thirty-five, any more than your GCSE choices determine everything about your future career.
Bill Blaine is constantly bus-hopping, and what's more, he seems to get an impressive distance from the station: none of his works are anything other than highly accomplished. There’s an argument that Blaine is too good to be great, has too much easy facility to need to pursue something difficult. Does greatness inhere in struggle? I’m not sure about that either, but, it’s clearly true that Blaine hasn’t developed anything that’s distinctively his. His term for the work his facility produces is “surfacey”. I think it’s often more penetrative than that. What it isn’t is distinctive, and this is a pursuit with which I’m in sympathy. Not greatness, which requires some kind of extrinsic endorsement and is so contingent as to be basically meaningless. Distinctiveness. But even the way Blaine signs his paintings seems to him unsatisfactory, as though there ought to be a way of, Whitman-like, singing himself more clearly.
I feel a failed pursuit of distinctiveness much more keenly than a failed pursuit of greatness, and I wonder why. I’d like to say something about our capitalist individualistic culture, but my heart’s not really in it. Anarchism also celebrates individual difference. Communism desires individual flourishing. The argument that capitalism promotes the individual while the alternatives flatten it is an argument only made by capitalists. The problem with capitalism isn’t its celebration of the individual or the idiosyncratic, it’s what it does after. Capitalism fetishizes the pioneer, in order to commodify and constrain the territory of discovery. It turns distinctiveness into greatness, which is not a meaningful term, it’s just marketing. Capitalism insists you either stay on the bus long enough to make a discovery you can monetise, or (more common) jump off regularly when you spot one going somewhere more currently marketable. Neither of these attitudes is conducive to individual flourishing. Or, for that matter, to great work - whatever that means.
Blaine goes to the beach with his grandchildren. He has a beautiful home. He works when he wants to and he’s happy when he works, but he doesn’t feel he has to. Still, he feels guilt whenever he doesn’t, and he feels a failure for his want of greatness, and he wishes he were on every bus at once. His whole life, our whole lives, are prodigiously fat with fomo. That’s the problem with capitalism.
I write this sitting in the café at Manchester Art Gallery, where I’ve just visited the Derek Jarman retrospective. Painting, film, music video, memoir, activism, even gardening, Jarman was not constrained by a sense of which bus he was or was not on. He pursued the same idea across multiple forms simultaneously, rather than worrying whether or not the turban should be in the shadows, or what bus he was on, or whether he would achieve greatness, or whether he already had, or anything other than the enquiry posed by the work itself, and its relation to the world.
The following article was commissioned by Trowbridge Town Hall, in response to a residency there by me and Boff Whalley in June this year. It was published in the most recent edition of the Trowbridge Community Newspaper.
You should check out Trowbridge Town Hall. They're a brilliant organisation. Their upcoming Christmas show Miracle on 34 Seymour Street was made through a similar process to the one described below. I'd go.
Some things just won’t resist turning into metaphor.
We spent our first morning in Trowbridge clearing scum off a pond. The sensory garden out the back of the town hall is a peaceful oasis, at least on days when there isn’t a stonecutter at work twenty feet away. But the garden only stays beautiful thanks to the indefatigable efforts of a team of volunteers. In Trowbridge, such efforts are a theme.
Yet despite the beauty of the spot and the huge good will we were met with by the volunteers, pond scum just keeps insisting on becoming a metaphor. For reasons that entirely escape me, Trowbridge is not widely regarded as a great place to be, visit, or live. Even many of the people of Trowbridge to whom we spoke were at best mealy-mouthed about the place. So consistently is it done down that, as a visitor, you start looking for things that confirm this reputation, which begins to obscure the fact that this is an incredibly handsome town. You have to clear the scum of reputation in order to see the water clearly.
That same evening we visited an allotment run by Trowbridge Environmental Community Organisation (TECO). For weeks they’ve been planting radishes only to have them eaten by slugs. So they plant more radishes, and they’re eaten by slugs too. And so on. The persistence of the TECO team is Sisyphean, it’s heroic, and again it’s an irresistible metaphor for all for work done by volunteers across the town to keep clearing away the pond scum and make it beautiful. Mel Jacobs, whose community garden in the park filled with local plant varieties had just been substantially vandalised and who, with a heavy heart, set about starting again. The team brought together by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust with whom we spent a morning in galoshes picking rubbish from Paxcroft stream. Layla in the plastic-free shop, whose business exists because plastic – plenty of which we picked out of that stream – is choking the planet, but who hadn’t served a customer for two hours before we came in to talk to her. I bought a huge quantity of nuts, enough to last the whole week, but it didn’t cover two hours of costs. As we left another customer came in.
We were brought to Trowbridge by the good folk of the Town Hall, to meet people who give up their time to make Trowbridge a better place to live, who get their hands dirty in order to transform the environment, or to preserve it. It wasn’t just environmental issues, either. We spent a fascinating and enormously enjoyable evening with the change-ringers in the church tower, geeking out on the minutiae of peals. Like so many pursuits you’re aware of but haven’t ever tried, bell-ringing is a lot more complex than you think, a whole secret world of knowledge and skill. And now whenever I hear that beautiful sound ringing out across any town, I know a little bit more about the nature of the work the ringers are putting in to creating the space I’m moving through.
Even a semi-wild place like Biss Meadows hides an incredible amount of invisible work, which we were introduced to by Jenny Fowers when she took us on a tour. Like so many people we met, she was refreshingly un-NIMBYish, celebrating the graffiti under the bridge and offering support to a homeless man taking shelter there. Some people want their beauty spots to represent a kind of perfection that’s only possible if you exclude basically all people. And as soon as you start making decisions about which people are most desirable in your beauty spots, you start excluding the kinds of people – the young, the homeless, the too-loudly-enjoying-themselves – who might have most to gain from access to places like this. Another bit of reputational scum wiped away, there.
With Gill Cooper we did a circuit of Courtfield Orchard, which despite being a historic woodland with several rare or unique trees, is under threat of development. Because of that, we couldn’t actually go into the orchard, we could only peer through the fence. The security guard came over and I was braced for a confrontation. But she was incredibly lovely and supportive, and just as keen that the orchard – and the house – be restored to use for the people of the town. It meant a lot to Gill, to save this place – she was full of memories of drama rehearsals in the house, and more – but she’s not sentimental about it. Things, times, places, they all change. Let’s just make sure it’s for the better, eh?
The change about which people most complain in Trowbridge is not unique to Trowbridge, it’s a national one, perhaps international. The gradual desertification of the town centre is a problem everywhere you go, and everyone knows it’s because of Amazon and because out-of-town shopping centres have better parking. But no individual can hold back that tide. So people pass blame to local councils, but in many cases there’s little they can do to promote local upstarts in the face of global behemoths. Their budgets are so tight that it’s hardly surprising they struggle even to offer rate relief – and plenty of that rate relief would mostly benefit landlords who themselves aren’t local either.
But what are you going to do? All you can do. Open a plastic-free shop, a small art gallery, an independent café. The slugs will come and eat some of it, so you plant it again. Pick plastic out of the water. Ring bells. People who care are the only thing that ever made a difference in this world, and they’re making a difference in Trowbridge every day.
On a personal note (and this is the paragraph that I expect might get cut from this article), I found our week in Trowbridge incredibly moving and inspiring. It resolved me to get involved in some of the kinds of activity we saw in Trowbridge in my own home town. Like a lot of people I spend a lot of time complaining, and there’s a degree to which the art I make is an extension of that complaining. I’ve been quite politically active in the past but have found the energy required impossible to sustain under the daily pressure of life when the pace of change is so slow. But the radishes I planted in Trowbridge, they grew, and now I know that you can beat the slugs anywhere.
It’s not been on for a couple of months, but for whatever reason I’ve been thinking about Ted Lasso, the TV show whose success is just as heartwarming as the show itself. Ten or so years ago a TV show this relentlessly sincere just wouldn’t have got made. Everything had to be laced with cynicism and irony, especially comedy.
In a talk to a group of writers at Leeds Playhouse a few years ago, the wonderful Jo Clifford once said that awards are too often won by gloomy plays that confirm our worst fears about the world. Plays that uncynically, sincerely live in hope, that dare to dream, or even demand that the world might be changed, are usually dismissed as naïve. They don’t win things.
Shows that live and end in gloom confirm our fears. This is reassuring. Things are bleak, they’re inevitably bleak, there’s no point in trying to fight the bleakness. Five stars.
We have to risk naivete in order to effect change.
Of course I’m not saying that all you have to do to win awards is be miserable. But if you want to make a positive contribution, look clearly into the fact that you’re less likely to win awards. Think hard about why you’re really doing this. Do you want prizes? Or do you want to help people live well in the dark?
My award-winningest show, Going Viral, is also my gloomiest. There’s a lot I love about that show, but its downbeat ending I consider a capitulation. Would it still have won awards if it had ended in hope? I don’t know. But I’d prefer it that way.
Nor am I saying you can’t go to dark places. Hell, Ted Lasso does that. Sincerity, lack of cynicism, these aren’t in fact the same as naivete or sentimentality. Life is incredibly hard. The world is a bleak and oppressive place. But if we’re going to dig into these things, let’s come back to the surface with hope or tools for change.
Two years ago I was exhausted, injured, overworked and suffering my fourth cold in six weeks. I was grumpy a lot of the time and don’t imagine I succeeded in hiding this from my kids.
Though there was a touch too much of it, I was excited by all the work and wanted to be able to bring my best self to it. I also had big running goals and wanted to be able to fully commit to training, but 50+ mile weeks make big energy demands, while my energy levels were through the floor. Something had to give.
I spent hours scanning everything on my plate trying to figure out what could be taken off it, and when the answer came it was obvious: if I cut out booze for a few months, I’ll get better sleep, recover from exercise better, preserve energy, and generally remove an unnecessary stress from my system. Like everyone, I’ve cut out the booze loads of times before, and although I think I once managed a month, most of those times it’s lasted less than a week.
This was different. It wasn’t “I ought to”, it was “I want to”. It was “if I do this, I might be able to manage everything else”. It might sound daft to excise such a pleasure from life in order to work and exercise harder, but these things, when I can do them well, they’re what bring me pleasure. If I didn’t do what I do for my job, I’d want to make space in my life to do it anyway for my hobby. I’m privileged to get to do what I do full-time, and I don’t want to piss away that privilege in hangovers. And I don’t know about you, but when exhausted, injured, hungover and ill I struggle to be good-humoured when the kids get me up at 6am.
So I was all-in, but after a week I was still knackered, and turning down drinks after gigs felt like I was hosting an alien. Three weeks in I caught another cold, which turned into a migraine, but I’d committed to this and I was going to give it a go and miracle cures probably don’t happen overnight.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when I started to feel better, but I do know that I ran a decent half marathon that December, then a week later won a race for the first time since school sports day 1996 (Hartlepool ParkRun, 19:something, not a stellar time but you can only race the people who show up, right?). Until March 2020 came along and detonated everyone’s plans, I was doing all the things I wanted to and giving them my best. Through that time I wasn’t always buzzing with energy – it comes and goes – but I was never ill or injured.
The plan had been to stay sober until June 3rd 2020, my fortieth birthday. When that date rolled around, instead of gathering in the function room of a pub with all my nearest and dearest, I was at home on a zoom quiz. Having a drink just seemed daft. Why not see if I can manage a year? When November 11th 2020 duly rolled around, an awful Wednesday in an awful month in an awful, when I was as unhappy as I’ve ever been, there was nothing whatever to celebrate and having a drink seemed totally absurd. So I quietly went from “I’m not drinking” to “I don’t drink”.
Two years on, my life feels eerily similar to November 2019. I’m at full capacity and fully committed. But I’m not exhausted, I’m not injured, I’m seldom grumpy, and I’ve had one cold in two years. The evidence is in. Two years, no beers: bring on the next two.
Two weeks ago saw a new record at Big’s Backyard Ultra. This most exquisitely sadistic of race formats goes as follows. At 8am, the competitors set out on a 4.1667 mile loop. At 9am, assuming they’re back in time, they do it again. And at 10am, 11am, 12pm, and every hour, on the hour - until there’s only one runner left. That person, having completed a final loop solo, is then declared the winner.
Four and a bit miles in an hour sounds easy. Doing it again: also fairly easy. A third time shouldn’t be too hard. But how long will it remain easy until it becomes difficult? When does a pile become a heap? The peculiar loop length means that after 24 hours, the remaining competitors will have completed exactly 100 miles. And counting.
The maxim of “a little and often” is applied, by the authors of books to be found for sale in railway stations, to almost every endeavour in life. Write for 4.1667 miles a day and before you know it you’ll have finished the first draft. Sip regularly from a glass of water and before you know it you’ll have drunk a hundred miles.
Run for half an hour four or five times a week and before you know it you’ll be entering races that will break you open and have you weeping in public. It’s no different to writing plays, really.
Before the recent Big’s Backyard Ultra, the record for most loops completed was 81, a total distance of well over 300 miles. On Tuesday afternoon, having begun running on Sunday morning, three runners set off on that record-equalling 81st loop. But halfway round, Terumichi Morishita fell, and blacked out. I’m pretty sure his brain, finding his body prone at last, simply overrode his declared wishes and enforced sleep.
You imagine the remaining runners willing their competitors to stop, the sooner for the suffering to be over. But that’s not how records get broken here. Once you’re the last one standing, you only get one more loop whether it’s the 2nd or the 82nd. To break the record, you need someone else to go all the way with you. Until just before the end, it takes teamwork. Only after that does it become Squid Game.
The record broken, Harvey Lewis and Chris Roberts were clearly hanging on by less than a thread. On the 84th loop, Roberts turned back, leaving Lewis only a solo 85th loop to complete in order to be declared the winner. A little and often, and before you know it you’ve covered 350 miles.
This race is obviously extreme, but the writers of the railway station WHSmith books aren’t completely daft. If you ran 4.1667 miles a day every day except Sunday, you’d cover a hundred miles a month - even in February. It doesn’t need to be National Novel Writing Month (although I think it probably is; it usually seems to be) to write 500 words a day. That’s 10,000 a month: no-one needs to write that much, just turn up every day and do something, just get round the block, just do enough to stay fit.
Often I have thoughts or feelings that I want to document on here, but it seems bizarre to post this or that having written nothing whatsoever for months. Why is this the thing that got me to break the silence? So I’m writing this post to start forming the habit. I’ve taken this idea out for a jog and after 4.1667 miles I'm back at the start line, but at least it’s exercise, and at least you now know about this stupid race. I’m not planning on posting every hour on the hour, but a little and often. Before you know it my stride will have smoothed out and I’ll look like I write prose all the time, and I’ll have written 86 loops.
It’s only another four and a bit miles.
WILD TOUR OF DEVON
Promoted by Beaford and Carn to Cove
In mid-May Boff and I finally premiere These Hills Are Ours. We do so in ludicrously grandiose style.
We're running from show to show, between performances in five rural locations across the whole county of Devon, and covering nearly 120 miles in the course of the week. The shows will be in a range of non-performance spaces: barns, fields, hilltops; and mostly outdoors.
We begin our journey at 3pm on Sunday 16th May in Northam Burrows, at the mouth of the River Taw on Devon's north coast. We'll be sung on our way by a small choir singing an arrangement of one of the songs from the show. Then we'll run off on the first leg of our journey.
Along the way we'll sleep in campsites, barns, and on one occasion, the pavilion of a local amateur league football club. At about halfway, we'll pass the sources of the rivers Taw and Dart, which rise within half a mile of one another, and whose mouths mark the beginning and end of our journey.
We'll finish, exactly a week after starting, at Sugary Cove, by the mouth of the River Dart, where we'll be welcomed by a larger choir singing the same song.
Then we'll collapse with grateful exhaustion.
The whole Wild Tour is a celebration of all the things we've been unable to do over the past year: perform live, sing together, and run in places too wild to be accessible from our front doors.
You can follow our progress live via OpenTracking here, where a map of the approximate route will be visible from a few days before our departure.
There'll be daily updates via various social media. A good place to start will be my Instagram and Twitter accounts. Beaford, our commissioners and promoters in Devon, will also be posting more regular updates at their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
For the numerically-inclined, the itinerary and approximate mileages are:
Sunday 16th - Northam Burrows to Woolsery - 12 miles
Monday 17th - we'll rehearse in person for the first time and open the show in Woolsery.
Tuesday 18th - Woolsery to Dolton - 22 miles
Wednesday 19th - Dolton to Bondleigh - 10 miles, with a show in the evening
Thursday 20th - Bondleigh to Chagford, via Taw Head and Dart Head - 25-26 miles, with a show in the evening
Friday 21st - Chagford to Ashburton - 16 miles, with a show in the evening
Saturday 22nd - Ashburton to Blackadon Farm - 12 miles, with a show in the evening
Sunday 23rd - Blackadon Farm to Sugary Cove - 20 miles, final choir performance, collapse
(Please note that these shows are all very-limited capacity and are on sale only within the local communities.)
Finally, during the course of the week we'll be making a film with the wonderful Bevis Bowden, which will arrive on my YouTube channel later this year. I wouldn't rule out updates turning up there during the course of the week, either.
It's going to be a hell of a way to open a show.
Running with an idea
Running commentary on: