The Bells & The Orkney Blues

By Bernie Bell

Sorry folks, but it looks like The Orkney Blues Festival on-line extravaganza, isn’t happening – the best laid schemes and all that.

I thought I’d put this together, so that there is some kind of Blues ‘presence’ in TON this weekend, to help to keep the Spirit of the Blues, alive in Orkney.

As someone in ‘Alice’ said – I’ll begin at the beginning, go on until the end, then stop.

We – we being me and Mike – had moved to Orkney in September 2006.  By March, 2007, we’d had time to start to ‘find our feet’, when we saw a notice in ‘The Orcadian’, asking for folk to come along to a meeting of the Blues Weekend Committee, in the Stromness Hotel.

We both like Blues music – Mike goes more for deep down Delta Blues than I do – I go more for Blues/Rock which anyone seeing me dancing  to Mean Business, Bad Taste, Blue Rooster, The Fastliners, etc etc – will know !

So, we went to the Stromness Hotel, and met with some folk who were hoping to re-boot the Orkney Blues Weekend. It had had a previous incarnation, under the auspices of Colin Sinclair – Colin had stepped back from it after the 2005 event. In 2006, a few ‘hard-core’ Orkney Blues fans hastily put together a Blues Weekend.  Mike and I had meant to go to see Roy Mette at the Standing Stones Hotel, but we got roped into a quiz night at the Stenness Community Hall instead – that’s life!

The folk in the Stromness on that evening in March 2007, were hoping to get the Blues Weekend going again, on a firmer footing.   These people were – Walter Gorman, Maureen Herdman, Steev Amos, Graham Morris, Adrian Harray, and me and Mike – if I’ve left anyone out – it is a while ago, and I am now an old lady with a bad memory!

We had intended to just see what was happening, and we ended up being Chair (me) and Secretary (Mike).  We held those posts for two years – two years of working for the Blues in Orkney, listening to the Orkney Blues, and setting up basic paperwork and all that sorta thing.

It was a hoot – sometimes very trying – but – worth it.

Then things changed for us. Mike had been working freelance, which meant that, within reason, it was up to him when he got the work done – he then got a job, so – getting to committee meetings became more difficult and, as I don’t drive and we live in the sticks – hard for me to get to meetings on my own.

So, we stepped back too, but leaving the Committee and the  Blues in the very, very capable hands of Walter, Maureen, Steev, Graham, Chris Park, Graham Bevan and Mike Henderson.

At that time, it was still known as the Blues Weekend – it grew and grew, and became the Blues Festival.  A few years ago, the remaining members of the ‘old guard’ stepped back as well, leaving the Fest in the hands of Marcus and a different set of Blues enthusiasts – new blood is needed, in any organization.  It’s all too easy for Committees to stay the same, and stagnate. The Blues Committee hadn’t done that!!  But, in particular,  the younger people were a welcome breath of fresh air.

Having stepped away from our posts on the Committee, left us free to just enjoy ourselves, and –  goodness me, but we’ve enjoyed ourselves!  We missed a couple of years when I was ill, but then, when I started to recover – we were back – groovin’.

I can only manage one event per Fest, these days, so I choose carefully.  Some of the ones from recent years, I’ve written about  in ‘The Orkney News’……

I think a tribute to Coop, is a good way to finish this short memoire of my connection with the Blues Fest.  He was Blues, through and through. 

‘Orkney blues memorabilia, plus ‘The only card I need…….’

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