I’m feeling pretty exhausted today after a hectic week last week that ended with our final Roving Women show at the Lexington. Apologies if this isn’t well written, but I’m feeling a need to purge before I can get on with anything else today.
Last night was fairly stressful behind the scenes; we almost couldn’t show the film and at one point I ended up running around London trying to find a particular cable to make the back up copy work. It all got sorted out at the very last minute (thanks to the people at the Lexington, Chris and also Hannah’s husband) but I think my voice was shaking a bit from the stress of it when I got up to introduce the film. Things went better from then on thankfully, and it was good to see people respond to the film again. I think we played well, probably the best of our three shows, and we had some fantastic feedback (sorry to the people we made cry!) We took a recording so I’m hoping to be able to make some tracks available soon.
The first time we did the show, at Sensoria Festival last year, it was sold out to 160 with people still turning up on the door regardless in the hope of getting in. The response we had, and the reviews, were amazing and I was so happy it had all gone so well after the year of work we’d put into it. Then I had to try and book the show a couple more times in line with the Arts Council funding we’d secured to help put on the first event, and that’s when things started to get harder.
I must have contacted hundreds of promoters around the country, different types from festivals to cinemas, small venues and mid-sized. I wanted somewhere with seating and a screen, that understood the event and would help me attract an audience. I had no response from about 99% of these. Eventually I managed to get a booking at Hebden Bridge Arts festival, but on the night we played to about 25 or 30 people.
I carried on trying to get someone to book the show a third time in London, but it was the same story; I was ignored by just about everyone. Without a promoter to help let people know about a show, it’s much harder to sell tickets when you live in another part of the country, but with no promoter forthcoming and my patience absolutely running out, we took the hand offered us by the lovely people at the Lexington, for the room hire.
The Lexington were really helpful in promoting the show though, as were lots of people – thank you to everyone who tried to help including all the people who’d been at the Cutlers Hall show, Gid Coe, Ruth Barnes, Women Produce Music*, Rough Trade and many more. I couldn’t get any more press coverage like I had last year. I’ve been pretty much spamming the event on twitter and facebook which I hate doing, but anyway – it just didn’t get people interested enough to come. Even though there were enough people there to make last night really nice (THANK YOU) and we all really enjoyed it, we’re still talking about 30-40 people in the audience, a lot of whom were our pals. It’s probably cost me a few hundred quid to put last night on, I haven’t done the accounting yet.
The whole thing seems to me a reflection of Connie’s story itself. The difficulty in getting anyone to hear her then and the difficulty in getting anyone to hear her now. I wouldn’t be moaning about this if it was one of my shows and people hadn’t come, that’s not the sort of thing I’d do and if you think this long rant is me saying boo hoo no one came to the gig poor me, then you’re misunderstanding me – it wasn’t just my show, it was Connie’s.
And every time we do this show, I have to go back into that place, into that story of her’s, into her depression. That’s not something I wanted to do over such a long space of time. I wanted this project to be done and happen all around the same time last year. It’s not like doing an ordinary gig, it’s much much harder.
I’m proud of our event, I’m proud of the arrangements we made and how we played them. I’m really glad we got to work with Cornerstone Brass. I’m over the moon that I have a friend for life in Andrea Kannes, the filmmaker (we talk all the time). I’m glad the Lonesome Lake EP is out there and I’m hoping some of last night’s recordings will come out ok too. But right now, I’m feeling that I mostly want to put this project behind me and move on. I think I’ve done my bit for Connie, and I hope other people can pick it up from here.
I’m going to try and shake off this mood and look forward to a gig-filled week. Tisso Lake in Sheffield tomorrow, then Kathryn Williams, Devon Sproule and Joanna Newsom all in one weekend. That should help.
*As I’m typing this, Women Produce Music just tweeted this and I’m in tears:
#SongsMatter #StoriesMatter @NatJohnsonband #ConnieConverse – We’re Listening.