Fernham Hall in Fareham

And so to the ‘local’ gigs. We’re making our own way until the trip back up north to Bradford on March 12th. Today Sadie is on set at Ealing Studios and unable to join us due to an ever changing schedule. I’m on the train from Mortlake to Ipswich, via Waterloo and Stratford, Simon training it from Earls Court, Nick and Dani driving from North London and picking up Terl en route, while Ron lives half an hour down the road in Colchester.

In Mediaeval times the Cornhill became the centre of trade and local government in Ipswich. The first recorded building in the area was the Flesh Market, or Shambles, mentioned in 1346 and reconstructed in 1378 and 1583. The upper part of the Shambles was an open gallery which provided a vantage point for viewing public occasions on the square below. 

The first Corn Exchange opened in 1812 and had a forbidding appearance. Its exterior was jail-like, the openings in the walls being grated with heavy iron bars, while the interior was open to the sky. In July 1849 it was covered with glass and the iron gratins converted into windows. In 1888 the fruit and vegetable market was transferred from Falcon Street to the Corn Exchange where it remained until November 1970. The last Corn Market was held at the Corn Exchange on 29th June 1972.

During 1971 the decision was made to remodel and the 'new' Corn Exchange was opened by the Duke of Gloucester on 22nd September 1975. The Grand Hall is used for live shows by touring companies and local groups, keep fit, discos, dances and dinners, an annual beer festival in September, while The Robert Cross Hall is used mainly for craft fairs, exhibitions and late night musical entertainment.

Sound check over, Simon and I pop out for dinner at ‘The Grumpy Mole’ , an old fashioned English caff, all roast beef and fish and chips, while some sample the culinary delights of Burger King…. then it’s back to the theatre, banter with Bison, quick change and we’re on… Dani doing a magnificent job, as usual, in the absence of our ‘leader’. The set gets tighter every night, everyone relaxing into their parts, playing with confidence, experimenting.

After the show, Simon and I make a quick taxi dash back to the station for the train back to London while Nick, Dani, Terl and Ron wend their weary way back down the A12. At least Ron doesn’t have far to drive tonight!!

Next up is Ferneham Hall, Fareham. The town, originally known by the name of Ferneham - hence the name of tonight’s venue - has its origins in a small settlement developed before Roman times at a crossing point of the River Wallington, close to the top of what is now High Street. The Romans arrived in about AD43 and built a large fortress at Portchester to shelter their garrison and defend Portsmouth Harbour. Evidence of settlements in Saxon times have been suggested by the discovery of flint arrowheads, knives and other implements at Hill Head while, during the Iron Age, the Celts used the River Meon as a harbour.

Ferneham Hall is one of the smaller venues we have performed in, with a cramped dressing room - and that’s putting it politely! All squeezed into the narrow ‘crew room’, we sit and talk, sup tea, apply make-up - just the girls - though Terl wouldn’t mind having a go and, back in the day, the Nelson Brothers were partial to a little eye-liner! 

After pre-show warm-ups we make our way backstage. The lights go down, Terl, Nick, Sadie and myself enter stage right, Simon, Ron and Danica stage left. As the lights go up to warm applause, Terl counts us in and the opening riff of ‘Superficial’ kickstarts another great evening.



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