Got stuff to do.. Groovy.

Yesterday was the kind of day that defies description really.  Many readers will know Richard, he’s often found at Ferocious Dog gigs, festivals and countless other events – and has undergone a number of years of recurring diagnoses, remissions and recurrences of that bastard we’ve come to know as cancer.  But rather than let this be a barrier he’s relentless optimistic, sharing his company, humour and wisdom freely (despite not being able to speak any more) along with his ‘rock’ and wife Julie.

In what was originally billed by Rich as a pre-funeral – in typically dark humour – we just enjoyed a superb day and evening of entertaining bands, laughter, tears and dancing – a perfect ‘living wake’ (as I’ve seen another friend coin it).  A dedicated team of friends worked tirelessly to organise the space at The Yew Tree Inn and Lodges in Ednaston, there was space for vans to stay over, and hotels dotted around the area were booked up, and a big mob of friends brought together through a love of music came together with Rich’s family to celebrate – and did so in fine style!

From the open mic with Niamh singing along to Brian’s guitar beautifully, to Spike doing an amazing and difficult job in making a speech that Richard had written but couldn’t physically say himself, since the disease has robbed him of his voice box.  People underwent the two-verses-one-breath challenge (you have to sing two verses of The Subhumans’ Work Rest Play Die in just one breath) – kudos to Mark who learned it on guitar too and did it at the start of our set over the course of the afternoon!

I’m not going to run through all the details of every set like I normally would for a regular event – because that’s not really the point of this – the first act up was Dirty Davey, eventually joined by the rest of Darwin’s Rejects – they had been busy learning Freeborn John which gave us the chance to get Richard to surf, we had to kneel down to hold Dean aloft as the board as the ceiling wasn’t high enough for a proper attempt, but it was great to see (not that I saw much, crouched on the floor, but I’ve seen pictures since!), and Russ’s work at learning the words worked a treat!

The Star Copiers came on next – Julie had set us the challenge of learning one of Rich’s favourite songs, we were a bit nervous of this – but Alice Donut‘s Tiny Ugly World has been something we’ve worked hard on at practice and we were so thrilled to be able to play it on this occasion.  Emotional and poignant, particularly with Rich and Julie singing back every word to us – but truly one of those moments we’ll cherish.  We love the song too so will keep it in our repertoire, and of course will always have in heart and mind who introduced us to it, and why we first played it.  We later welcomed Julie on stage to play tambourine for Fifteen Years since Rich had gone missing!

Jonny Wallis and Brian Stone did what they do best – the latter’s portion of the set even interrupted by a proposal to Rich’s daughter Molly by Matt which was a lovely moment – their set culminated with them getting the whole room to unleash a gigantic polka on the upstairs function room dancefloor.  Of course, there was an inevitable appearance of Maty from Folk the System and his biscuit-tin lid too – what occasion would be complete without that?!

Downstairs the buffets were spectacular, and the weather unseasonably warm and dry meaning there was plenty of space for folks to mingle indoor and out in the spacious venue (and sample the wonderous array of gins they had on offer!).

Meanwhile some exciting prizes had been offered up by festival organisers, bands and other kind hearted folk – and Pasta had been doing an inimitably amazing job at intimidating people into buying encouraging people to buy tickets throughout the day.  Matt and Spike combined to do the draw, it was claimed to be fast and furious but perhaps fell a little short of that claim – but it was hilarious nonetheless!  There were many happy winners, not least poor Warren who snagged both prizes that we’d put in – haha, sorry Warren!

Then the treat that is Funke and the Two Tone Baby!  Dan had been around for a chunk of the day too so it was great to catch up with him in general – he’d let Rich choose his set list – which is probably a testiment to his own fine choice in songs as it was bookended with the traditional Never Used to Dance and Not Enough Bonobo.  In th middle though it was nice to hear Tales of the Place I Live and Medicine for the Soul in there in particular!  I must confess the lure of the second excellent buffet of the day did draw me downstairs part way through, though – you can’t keep a Fisher from a buffet, I’m afraid!

Headsticks were next up and got the newly refuelled room bouncing as they ever do – they even unveiled a new member, with Jamie W taking the stage for some scintillating kazoo work.  Andrew and his family spent the whole day and night partying with us, it was great to spend some time with them and only serves to exaggerate the transformation from mild-mannered friend to crazy-eyed frontman eyeballing the crowd whilst yelling Fanatics into people’s faces – exhilarating in the increasingly blisteringly hot function room.  A storming set culminating in an empassioned Killing Me America.

The final act were the wonderful Skalinskis – by this point the rigours of the day and the heat and driven me outside into the still balmy evening, although we could still enjoy excellent sound quality from there and have a bounce to irresistible ska bounciness.  Amanda and I invented some minimal dancing, which was perfect for when feeling a little weary – and frankly, we had a splendid time laughing about absolute nonsense with a fine array of our friends.  A lovely way to wind down the evening.

I’m reliably informed the party went on in to the wee small hours with the help of a bluetooth speaker – but well, it was a bit rich for me so I’d succumbed to bed.  A wonderful day though – Richard and Julie’s combined strength and courage is genuinely an absolute inspiration to me and I think everyone that knows them.  To turn a really shit hand life has dealt you into countless positive impacts on so many people is something I have learned a tremendous amount from – never taking, always giving – and always smiling.

Many of us gathered for a Sunday lunch today in the pub – the first count of raffle ticket sales and bucket collections was already well in excess of £1,000 raised for St Giles Hospice, there were some sore heads but I do think many nourished souls.  Even the fact Forest were busy losing to Derby in a pub full of Derby fans couldn’t put too much of a downer on my day, a thoroughly uplifting experience and a wonderful testament to both Richard, Julie and their friends and family who came together to not only create magical memories but raise money for such a great cause.

Inspiration in every sense of the world.  Here’s to many more groovy encounters, we should all make sure we remember that we’ve ALWAYS got stuff to do.  A living epitaph that anyone would and should be proud to continue to live up to.

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