In My Other Life

I have two blogs, this one and a book blog at https://jacey.dreamwidth.org/ where I blog every book I read and every movie I see in the cinema – that one’s a bit thin on movies this year, but rich on reading. What I don’t blog about is deeply personal stuff. There’s such a thing as oversharing.

However I thought you might like a quick peep into what I do when I’m not writing.

In my other life I’m a music booking agent for folk musicians in the UK. For obvious reasons that’s a bit quiet at the moment. Covid-19 has eliminated a lot of work for arts professionals – and that includes performers, sound and lighting technicians, roadies, tour managers, venue staff and yes, managers and booking agents too. With lockdown all gigs have been cancelled until… at least summer 2021 depending on how fast they roll the vaccine out. I’ve rearranged some tours into 2022.

But let us not look at the blip that is Covid-19. Hopefully the arts scene will begin to recover once the vaccine has been widely deployed. I’m not here to moan. I’ve been in the music industry since 1985 when I became a performer with three-part a cappella harmony group Artisan with my husband, Brian Bedford and our very talented singist friend Hilary Spencer. I suppose you could classify us as folk, but we slide across the boundaries of a few other styles, too.

Hilary Jacey and Brian

We got together to sing at a fundraising night in our local village hall, discovered we had a good blend of voices, started singing at local folk clubs (the nearest American equivalent is the coffeehouse) and people began to ask us to go back… for money. It took a few years but by 1988 we knew we were going to go professional, so in 1989 we gave up the day jobs and with a pretty full diary of gigs, went for it full time, singing songs in three part harmony. We started off singing traditional and contemporary songs but it didn’t take long before Brian was writing all our songs. This is one of his. The tune is quite lovely.

What Am I Bid?

What am I bid for a bell with no sound
In a carpet of blue by a stream?
I’ll bid you a dream

And what am I bid for a single rose
With a guard of thorns the fool soon knows?
I’ll bid what I’ve seen

I pity the man who sees no need
For the silent bell for the worthless weed
I pity the man that needs to own
And keep for himself what was freely grown

So what am I bid for a bell with no sound
In a carpet of blue by a stream?
I’ll bid you a dream~

What am I bid for the dawn I see
Mounted here in a window frame?
I’ll bid you my name

What am I bid for the virgin kiss
And the memories of my youth?
I’ll bid you the truth

I pity the man who has to buy
The painted smile and the sculpted cry
The woodland scene of what might have been
And view it alone, in a vault of stone

So what am I bid for the dawn I see
Mounted here in a window frame?
I’ll bid you my name

Is it going once to the shifty nod?
Is it going twice to the builders hod?
Is it going cheap to the rich mans heirs?
It’s obscene to buy shares
In a single rose or a silent bell
I’ll bid them to Hell

So what am I bid for the single rose
With it’s guard of thorns the fool soon knows?
I’ll bid that it grows

And what am I bid for the  bells with no sound
And the streams by which they dwell?
I’ll bid them farewell

©  May 1992 Brian Bedford. Sung by Artisan on the CD Breathing Space

Friends kept asking us if we could earn enough, especially since Brian and I had two kids – then aged 7 and 10. We simply said, “Define enough.” We were doing what we loved and managing to keep the kids in shoes. In truth, singing isn’t the best paid job in the world, but we had twenty wonderful years on the road. We were indie before it became a thing. We made fourteen albums, one video tape (remember those?) and one DVD. (All the albums and the DVD are still available on the Artisan website.) We toured the length and breadth of Great Britain and also played in Belgium, Germany, Australia (and Hong Kong on the way) – and from 1995 to 2005 we did thirty one tours to the USA and Canada, playing festivals and venues, making lots of friends and driving several thousand miles. We’ve sung to 20,000 people at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and three people and the landlord’s dog in a pub in Folkestone in the middle of a snowstorm.We did our regukar concerts all year round and then in December we toured all over with our Christmas Show. (Yes, we have Christmas albums as well.) If you want to hear what we sounded like, there are samples on our album page, and links to audience-uploaded vids on Youtube.

All things come to an end, though, and in 2005, though we still loved singing, we’d had enough of travelling. We’re still friends and we never say never again, so we did reunion tours in 2010 (withb another new album, Random Play) and 2015, and we will still occasionally come out of retirement for a festival or a charity gig.

Steve and Al from Tanglefoot and Ritchie Parrish Ritchie

In 1996 we met the fabulous Canadian band, Tanglefoot at a festival in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. I tried to get our (then) agent to book a UK tour for them, but he wasn’t able to do it, so I did. In 1998, the first Tanglefoot tour marked the beginning of my agency, which I still run. I book gigs for artists from abroad, including the wonderful Zulu Tradition and Ritchie-Parrish-Ritchie which is the band Tanglefoot morphed into after ten years of UK tours. I also book gigs for UK artists, and I facilitate Tier 5 immigration paperwork for artists from outside the EU (and from January 2021 for artists from the EU as well, depending on Brexit and what our government manages to negotiate). You can see what I do here on my agency website. What does an agent do? I research suitable venues and approach them to host a gig for my artist. If they say yes I negotiate the details, send out the contract, send publicity materials to the venue, and pass all the relevant information on to the artist. If artists are travelling from outside the UK I will often have them stay with us between gigs. It makes it easier for them and it’s fun for us. That’s not something most agents do, but I’ve turned into something of a music-mum over the years.

Zulu Tradition from KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

So where does my writing fit in to all that? I sold my first short story in 1998, then several more short stories while I was both Artisanning and agenting, and then my first full length novel in 2013, by which time the writing was only competing with the agency for my time.

I have six novels out now and the seventh, The Amber Crown, will be out at the beginning of 2022, published by DAW in the USA.

So that’s my other life.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com). She's also a Home Office / UK Visas and Immigration department licensed sponsor processing UK work permits (Certificates of Sponsorship).
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