I had chosen a path that was lead by my tongue and I was set for life. I was travelling the world, getting a good lifestyle and for once… a good reputation for being a tale-teller. 

“I could have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky Governmental education cuts…!” 

So I did the only other thing that I knew… and that was to sing and play… again. 

I hadn’t played seriously in front of adults for nearly 15 years and it all felt a bit strange to say the least. I was used to working with huge groups of children and that…was a doddle. I was beset with nerves and doubts… but determined. 

The first busker’s night I went to I left everything in the boot and scouted the pub to see what it was like. I helped put their P.A. system up, organise the single light and only went and got the guitar when I felt that it was going to be all right.

Nobody was in when I played, which suited me fine. I did the only 5 songs I could remember and then I had a fire inside of me that made me go on to do another busker’s night, that night, in South Shields and I played the same 5 songs… but better.

I became a regular at quite a number of open mic sessions and I was told to ‘learn some stuff that people know’. So I duly dragged up some Bowie and Jackson Browne songs that, the people who had asked for them got up and went to the toilet.

I met so many encouraging people, audience members, organisers and fellow players and I became more willing to sing my own songs. If people were going to leave the room for well known players, they might as well leave to one of mine.

I wanted to branch out and go further afield. This involved me going through the back catalogue of my own songs that I had thankfully kept on cassette. I had to painstakingly transcribe them before they all wrapped themselves around the spindle or disintegrated to dust. 

I was encouraged in all of this by my wife Anne who would get to hear me sing and play in the house and my sister Anne who would come with me and lend me her car to travel around. Finding places to play was a matter of searching the internet.

The last time I had played, the only thing that was digital were your fingers, but there were a lot of places to explore and a lot of open mic nights with the promise of a free pint for players. I would often do two or three, (the record was 4 in one day), and my repertoire was expanding. As was my confidence, competence and cheekiness.  

I played anywhere and everywhere that would have me and travelled all around the Northeast and even did buskers nights when I was away, working in schools, as a storyteller in Manchester, Birmingham, Skipton and Leeds. I wanted to make sure that I had the stamina…. and the want to do all of the journeying as well as the playing.

I began to get very comfortable with playing, singing and developing my stage presence and basically… remembering what it was that I used to do. I discovered songs from the 1980s that I had written and forgotten about and was eager to re-learn them, having never sung them in public before. 

I was definitely getting there. I would get extended ‘turns’ at open mic nights and not just do the standard ‘two songs for a free pint’. Since I was driving I was very popular as I would give mine away to someone else who was playing that night. Then I was asked by my lifetime friend Tom McConville if I would like to play alongside him…. 

This was proper ‘big boy’ stuff. I felt as if I had gone from the shop floor to the directors’ box in one step. No more people walking out as you play their requests. This was the concert stage, audiences who had paid to listen and had very high standards of what they wanted.

I was, once again, learning how to present a song and getting a taste for touring and re-kindliing a love of folk clubs and folk-club audiences … in a duo…. but one night, when I was watching Tom play in  a folk club in Newcastle, the club organizer asked me if I did any singing and I said, “No.” I knew that I still had a way to go. I was writing a lot of songs but more work was needed.

I still continued my 3-4 nights a week playing at Busker’s nights but knew I needed to up my game. I was offered a guest spot on a songwriters’ night by my good friend Johnny Boyle and I felt as if I had arrived! I started to go to Folk clubs and sing traditional folk songs as well as my own songs and tunes.  

In 2018 I was asked to be the MD on a production of “The Wind in the Willows” at the People’s in Newcastle. It was a baptism of fire but for the run I was on stage… all night and I was completely back! I became a regular, resident performer at a number of clubs and then, low and behold, I got calls out of the blue to ask if I would be a solo guest at some folk clubs, then festivals and the world was mine……. to sing.