To spend time with Wayne, Gial and Donald is a joy. Big hearts, big smiles and genuinely lovely people. Wayne and Gial are married and Donald is Gial’s father who in now in his late nineties.
Humph Hall, where they live and where they work, is in Allambie Heights, a suburb north of Sydney. It used to be a church and people still congregate there for spiritual fulfilment. Wayne and Gial bought the place several years ago and converted the main body of the church into a performance space and the rest of the building into their living area. They put on a lot of gigs for touring and local musicians as well as producing their own shows under the banner of Loosely Woven.
Loosely Woven is a bunch of like-minded people with a love for music. It’s a not-for-profit enterprise and aside from Humph Hall, they also perform around local care homes free of charge.
Wayne is passionate about acoustic music and loathes the use of amplification where it’s not needed. As you’d expect, Humph Hall has great acoustics. Wayne does, however, commit the cardinal sin of wearing socks with sandals, but as a gesture of goodwill it’s never a matching pair (the socks – the sandals match fine!).
When I set up the gig I’d asked if they could put us up for the night and received the response I’d have put money on. “Stay as long as you like. There might be other musos here but we’ll sort it out.” When you’re in Wayne’s world you go with the flow.
They have a great set up at Humph Hall for videoing the gigs and as such a terrific archive to look back on. The best of which has to be Donald’s solo. It’s a three camera shot, keep your eye on Donald, the elderly gent in the left hand screen and then Gial in the bottom right. I’ll say no more, except that it’s well worth thirty seconds of your time. (Wayne is the dude on the piano.) You can follow the link here.
We arrived in the evening on Thursday 24th January via Gosford. The detour to Gosford was of major importance. While playing at Illawarra Festival we sang Grateful for the Rain and I explained that it was normally played on the banjo, but unfortunately I’d had to leave my beloved banjo back in the UK. After the gig a gent introduced himself to Kip (I was selling CD’s. Hallelujah!!) and said he’d be happy to lend us a banjo for the time we were in New South Wales. This very generous offer came as no surprise to be honest. I’ve lent out guitars and amps to touring musicians in the UK with no issues, but it is good for the heart when someone else does the same for you. The chap in question is Cec Bucello who produces a music magazine called Trad & Now. We’ve had dealings with Cec in the past as Trad & Now had published a feature for our last tour and very kindly did again this time around, so it was good to meet the man in the flesh. Here is Cec’s trusty banjo (with makeshift strap) in action at Humph Hall.
As I mentioned we arrived on the Thursday evening and we knew our way around as we had performed here on our last visit. We were delighted to see that Donald is still mobile and in good spirits. He received a worthy mention for his love of breakfast cereals in our previous tour blog. This passion does appear to have waned somewhat but he still has a good appetite. After a bite to eat we all sat down to watch a movie, The Last Laugh with Chevy Chase, Richard Dreyfus and Andi McDowel. It was a feel-good film that had a good piece of advice from Andi McDowel’s character. “Every now and then take off your shoes and feel the earth beneath your feet.” I can highly recommend this; it’s good for the soul (and the soles – can you see what I did there?).
Donald makes himself comfy – yep, that is two-seater sofa.
The gig was the following night and we were sharing the evening with Canadian songstress Dana Sipos. It was a stressful evening for Wayne as the gig had oversold which created a lot seating issues for him. Thankfully we had the easy part.
Dana opened up with a solo set of her own songs. She has a relaxed distinctive style that’s very much her own. We saw her briefly at Illawarra Festival where we were on the same bill on the first evening. Dana had arrived just minutes before, literally flying in from a festival in Tasmania where she’d co-opted a drummer and fiddle player to join her on stage. Either way, solo or with accompaniment, her songs work and she has the experience to slot in with others at the drop of a hat. There’s proof of this in the video below. Wayne had asked earlier if we thought we could work something out to sing with Dana at the end of the show. After a brief chat and one run through beforehand we decided on Joni Mitchell’s classic A Case Of You. There was a slight stutter over some misremembered lines but it worked itself out and was a lot of fun to sing.
Our part of the gig trundled along nicely. The audience was great, there was plenty of banter and they joined in in the right places. We had a gent and his wife from the UK who’d come to see us as they had seen us at the Union Chapel in London when we toured with Fairport Convention last year.
Since we’d last played at Humph Hall, Loosely Woven have picked up one of our songs. After hearing us sing it in 2017, they then performed Who Will Remember Me? in one of their productions last year and several of them joined us in singing it at the gig (video link below). It never ceases to amaze me how songs can travel. I wrote Who Will Remember Me? for Pauline Dobson, a lovely lady living in our home town of Sleaford who’d asked me to write some songs for a play that she was producing, based on the writings of a man called David Smith, who’d lived in the watermill on Westgate in Sleaford in the late 1800s. (Sleaford is my home town and where we now live.) I based the song on an extract from David Smith’s diary, and we recorded it for a CD which featured songs from Pauline’s play Footprints. Thanks to the late Jeanne Furnival of Sleaford (Jeanne collected and recorded David Smith’s original writings and tracked down his family), the CD made its way to members of David Smith’s family in Canada. We are touring in Canada later this year – wouldn’t it be great if some of those relatives could get to a gig and sing it with us? That’s another thing we need to work on.
From Sleaford to Australia to Canada – there’s plenty that have done far more, but this’ll do for us.
Wayne has uploaded several videos from the show at Humph Hall that can been seen on the Humph Hall YouTube channel.
With Wayne, Gial and Dana after the show.