Ignite Concerts – Runswick Bay

A few weeks ago we took Ignite Concerts on tour to the very picturesque Runswick Bay. For those of you who don’t know Runswick, it’s on the east coast in North Yorkshire between Whitby and Staithes. 

A couple of years ago with Covid restrictions still making live music very difficult I took my ‘Tour of Social Distance’ to Runswick Bay to the home of Helen and Pete Massey. There, I played a socially distanced show to around 30 people (as per the rules) with the amazing backdrop of the bay behind me and an appreciative audience in front. Playing shows in unusual and picturesque places is what I’ve come to call “Wild Gigging”. Knowing the area and the nature of the people there it seemed like the perfect place to do a wild gig with a twist, not just wild, on Runswick Bay beach but this time by candlelight.

Runswick is a unique place not just for its beautiful coastal landscape but because the people there are so friendly, welcoming and seemingly up for doing mad musical things. In short they get it, and they seem to get me. 

Led by Helen and Pete I don’t think I’ve ever met a group of people quite like it. When you do music in the way that I do, in a slightly unconventional way, you come up against hurdles, negativity and a lot of people who like to say “No”. So it’s refreshing to meet people who say and do the exact opposite. 

When I ask questions like “Can we play a show at the top of the cliff wall?” Answer, “Yes why not”. “How will we get all the gear up there?” Answer: “We’ll carry it” Question, “Can we play an impromptu show on the beach?” Answer, “Yes”. “By candlelight?” Answer, “Definitely”. So you can see why I chose Runswick Bay for the first candlelit wild gig.

I’m not gonna lie it was a challenge. It was cold that night.  But it was worth it. We’d checked the tides to make sure we’d have just enough time to get set up and off the beach in time before the sea swept us away.

As ever the team assisted by Helen kicked into gear and we set up 400 candles about half way up the beach.

But the next challenge was sound. I’ve learned over the years that sound and the means by which you amplify it is a mystery to most people. There’s an assumption that it just appears out of thin air. That an entire band sets up and “plugs into something” and within minutes there’s stadium ready sonic perfection akin to a U2 concert at Wembley. Sadly it doesn’t work like that…

I remember Gary Barlow telling a story about turning up to a working mens club before he was famous and on asking the club manager where the PA system was he pointed to a plug in the wall and a microphone. You’d be surprised how many people think sound just appears out of nowhere, in that case, a plug in wall…but they do!

The Tour of Social Distance where I played in peoples back gardens taught me a lot about playing outside and battling the elements so like the good boy scouts that I am (I never went to Scouts), I came prepared. I took a small PA system, speakers and desk…but here’s the thing, there’s no electricity on the beach. So how did we power the speakers? Two car batteries hooked up to a some gadgetry straight from the Heath Robinson handbook and bingo, we were good to go! 

And so it was the show went on. As happens in Runswick word went round and about 30 people appeared from the dark with chairs, blankets and wooly hats. Despite the remarkable weather we’ve had recently I managed to land in Runswick on a particularly chilly night with the wind coming off the sea. No matter, the fire pit was lit, the children danced and toasted marshmallows, the people sang and a candlelit spell was cast on Runswick Bay. 

As I said in my last blog post, I set up Ignite Concerts to create unique experiences that people will remember. The comedian and actor Andy Kauffman called his unique comedy events and live tv interventions where the audience and the people around him became part of the act as “a happening”. And I like to think in slightly different way we created a unique moment and I hope, a night to remember.

 A candlelit show on the beach with the backdrop of twinkling cottage lights of Runswick, the sea gently lapping on the shore, a chap with his guitar serenading a small but perfectly formed crowd, a candlelit wild gig on the Yorkshire coast. A happening.

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