Today is Lancashire day where we celebrate everything fantastic our county has to offer – but when we’ve all spent so much time at home this year, it can be hard to appreciate what is right in front of you. For our ‘Spot On At Home’ magazine we got in touch with some of our Canadian artists who had previously toured with us and asked them what stuck out for them about our lovely Lancashire…
Lancashire, a home from home
Those who know the Spot On live events programme well will know there’s a really great offering of Canadian artists, in particular artists from the Atlantic Canadian Provinces (the side closest to the UK). But did you know that Spot On has been working with Canadian performers for over 20 years?
There are striking similarities between the two locations, but there are also some remarkable differences. We took the opportunity to ask those artists their thoughts on Lancashire.
Lost in Lancs
One of the first bands to tour Lancashire with Spot On were The Polyjesters, their lasting memory of the tour in 2008 is a selection of mishaps with their GPS which led them to warm welcomes in a whole host of pubs. Polyjesters co-founder, Jason Valleau recalls “Walking into small pubs along the countryside and everyone turning their heads to see what the heck just rolled in from God knows where. We were instantly welcomed and enjoyed hand-drawn pints of ambrosia and delicious cheeses, breads and Lancashire hotpots.”
Jack Langenhuizen from Motus O, a dance company who toured in Lancashire in 2006 and 2009, remembers some accidental off roading en route to the performance venues: “Cow paths were a treat when the GPS took ‘the shortest route’”.
There were also moments to relish the beautiful scenery that Lancashire has to offer. Musician Ian Sherwood, fell in love with the coastline: “…what sticks with me the most about my times in Lancashire were the views and strolls in Lytham St Annes.” Gaylene Buckle, General Manager of Theatre Newfoundland was captivated by the countryside where they stayed: “The amazing scenery of the Darwen valley, the sheep in the field. It felt like being in an episode of Escape to the Country! It helped me realise that while the Atlantic Ocean may separate us – rural Newfoundland & Labrador and rural England have so very much in common.”
Dylan Bell from FreePlay fell in love with the heart of Lancashire and made the visit to one village a full day out: “Of all the places we saw in Lancashire what stands out the most was probably the little village of Dunsop Bridge. Tucked away in the mountains, you couldn’t imagine anything more “idyllic English country” than Dunsop Bridge. We had a performance in the afternoon so we arrived several hours early, and took a long walk around the village along the river, and then around the fields circling the village. We had a spot of lunch at Puddleducks, then a thoroughly enjoyable concert at the village hall. What a beautiful place… we can’t wait to come back!”
Rebecca Perry and her husband David Kingsmill found all sorts to do in Clitheroe, “I think the experience that stands out most was in Clitheroe, where my musician and husband, David and I had an excellent coffee at PARLR, then the lovely surprise of having a grand piano to use for our show at the library, a delightful and engaged audience in the beautiful venue, and then back to PARLR for amazing cocktails in the evening and chatting with the bartender. Such a great blend of performance, culture and community.”
Food and fare
So many of the artists commented on the delicious food offered to them by their venue hosts and Lancashire hotpot is a clear, firm favourite but there are some delicacies that just don’t translate. Perhaps it’s less of a Lancashire fare but ‘pie and wet’ was a step too far for West My Friend, a band hailing from Vancouver. Apparently mushy peas are an acquired taste across the Atlantic.
The Fitzgeralds, a step-dancing family band from Ottawa, have delicious dessert memories following their tour in 2017. “We brought a home-made custard recipe back to Canada, and have been making it for our friends ever since!”
The warm welcome
It’s very clear that these Canadian visitors were well looked after by Lancashire hosts. Marc Morin from Montreal Guitar Trio sums it up: “What stands out the most is definitely visiting all those small communities and being so welcomed by them. It was human scale, very real, sharing their table, home cooked food and stories. Meeting all those people has been a very rich and wonderful experience.”
Those friendships and bonds have lasted long after the trip back to Canada. Jason from The Polyjesters notes: “We still have contact with fans and friends we made along our journeys around England.”
Terra Spencer toured with Ryan Cook in 2019, it was her first trip off Canadian soil: “We met so many wonderful people in our travels, but I have found lasting friends whom we met at Burnley Mechanics. They were very enthusiastic about the music we shared, but when I spoke with them about the shared history of textile mills in Lancashire and my home of Windsor, Nova Scotia, they instantly became ambassadors of the area, pointing out the many attractions we should see on our next visit. They came to two more performances on our tour, carrying gift bags full of treasures from the Helmshore Textile Mill Museum! I think about them every time I look at the Cotton Mill posters framed on my living room wall.”
The language barrier
Some of the Canadian performers were from French-speaking provinces but occasionally even the English speaking artists got a bit confused with Lancashire parlance. Eden from West My Friend explained: “At one of our shows the venue host said ‘I’ve got to head out to get ready, but your tea is in the kitchen.’ After she left we went to look for ‘the tea’ and all we could find was curry on the stove. How confusing! When she got back she was shocked to hear we hadn’t found ‘the tea’. It slowly dawned on all of us that ‘tea’ means something different (or more) in the UK than it does in Canada!”
The Fitzgerald’s have some advice for other artists touring to the UK: “We learned the important distinction between “cookies” and “biscuits”, and not to announce that the venues provide unlimited cookies at the interval.” We can only imagine the speed at which the audience ran to the refreshment table in that venue!
Whether it’s custard recipes, long-lasting friendships or just a selection of photos to look back on and cherish, the Canadian artists who have toured to Lancashire over the past 20 years all have very warm and happy memories. Every one of them mentioned wanting to tour again and feel Lancashire soil under their feet. Les Borderliques Tour Manager, Audrey Janelle explains: “I feel lucky to have been able to share our show with the people of Lancashire and will never forget this experience.”
An edited version of this article originally appeared in our Spot On At Home magazine, which you can download here. It’s full of fantastic things you can make and do at home.