After a late breakfast at our hotel, Rob and I got together for a brief rehearsal ahead of our trip that evening to the Bolton Socialist Club. Once we were finished rehearsing, we then made our way to the extremely attractive town of Knutsford to meet up with some close friends for lunch and a tour of the town. I can tell you the Italian food was very good indeed and we greatly enjoyed our tour of the town’s Heritage Centre ( - in particular, the Knutsford Tapestry, a work of monumental effort and, in my view, eventual historic importance).
After saying goodbye to our pals in the late afternoon, we made our way back to the hotel, got changed, picked our gigging gear up and set off for Bolton.
That evening’s event in Bolton was connected to the re-dedication of a plaque remembering those from the town who had travelled to Spain to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The plaque, which sits on the club’s external wall by the front door, mentions in particular James Alwyn, who died defending Madrid in February 1937 at the Battle of Jarama.
Our journey to Bolton went smoothly and we arrived in good time to set ourselves up for the performance before joining the re-dedication ceremony, which included a fine speech about the Bolton volunteers and James Alwyn and a beautiful programme of songs in front of the plaque from the Clarion Choir, brightly bedecked in their red fleeces and tee-shirts.
We were met and greeted warmly by senior club organiser, Julia Simpkins, and other members of the club and taken to the performance venue, an intimate space for up to 65 people which had been wonderfully decorated with flags and relevant posters from the 1930s.
As the audience arrived for the evening, I was delighted to see one of my oldest friends, now living and working to the north of Liverpool, had come along to say ‘hello’. Having not seen each other for around 20 years, it was wonderful to catch up on personal and family news in that easy kind of way that lifelong friends seem to do.
With agreement from Julia, we split our performance into two distinct halves. The first half was specifically focused on songs relating to the Spanish Civil War and the story of the Basque children. The second half of the evening focused more on our songs about current issues - plus a fair bit of chorus singing and the occasional love song.
I am pleased to report that the evening was a resounding success. It was well attended, there was a great atmosphere, people seemed very happy to participate with choruses and there were some very very good speeches. Throughout the evening, audience members were keen to engage with us on a range of issues raised by our music and it was excellent to have Simon Martinez and colleagues there from the Basque Children of ’37 Association UK to also talk with interested audience members.
Eventually, as people drifted away at the end of the evening, we too needed to say our goodbyes and set off back to our hotel. Very many thanks to Julia and all of her colleagues at the Bolton Socialist Club for giving us such a wonderfully warm welcome (and for their gifts of club-related memorabilia which I know have in pride of place back at home). We sincerely wish the club well for the future and hope to make a return there one day.