Tom Kitchen - New Podcast
Right now, in these extraordinary and unnerving times, it would be hard to think of anyone embarking on a busking tour of England. But that's what top flight fiddler Tom Kitching, a former BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Musician of the Year finalist did for 18 months in 2018-19, walking out of his Manchester home one April day to find 'a place called England.'
Writing what became a popular 'Busk England' blog as he travelled the length and breadth of the country, from Berwick on Tweed to Brighton, Cromer to Carlisle, Kitching took his readers with him into myriad high streets and shopping centres on a country-wide adventure both quirky and thought provoking, humorous and poignant.
That unusual experience has now spawned the 35-year-old's first podcast alongside a book -and he couldn't have known then how eerily prescient his chosen title would become – Seasons of Change. The 4-part podcast is the tale of that post-Brexit referendum, pre COVID-19 journey, trying as he put it "to get under the skin of a country I thought I knew and really explore an instrument I also thought I knew - a year and a half of the most intense practise I'd ever done!"
Tom's busking bonanza has also triggered a live show and an accompanying album of the same name. The project was supported by an Arts Council England lottery grant and an English Folk Dance and Song Society bursary.
Says Tom: "I wonder if starting a podcast is the new 'moving into caravan ownership' for middle-aged men like me?! It isn't really a podcast about busking. It's about people, place and that elusive beast - Englishness. Fiddling through the streets of England offered a key to finding out how the English view themselves and how they deal with change – perhaps never more pertinent than now."
"Kitching is part of a new wave of English folk instrumentalists redefining the dance and tune tradition" – The Independent
The podcast has been created from cuts of live readings to an audience at Guide Bridge Theatre, Manchester along with field recordings and music from the album.
Long hit by the busking bug, Kitching became a fly-on-the-street observer. He wanted to see if beyond the music and the violin collecting case, he could find out more about the English. Is there anything that unites people across England's many cultural divides, from picture postcard Cotswold villages to former mining towns huddled beside abandoned pits, from multicultural cities to Anglo-Saxon market towns?
Chance encounters made a mockery of his careful planning – among myriad passers-by he sometimes found murmurs of hostility but was mostly overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers who gave him places to stay, only having to pay for a few nights' accommodation along the way. His up close observations resulted in him formulating his own 'busker's miscellany' of the various types of people who would reward him from "the nonchalant flipper" to "the 1p grandma".
In a career spanning nearly 15 years Cheshire-born Kitching has fine-tuned an exuberant, expressive and emotive fiddle style full of 'tear up the rule book' innovation. He is a member of the brilliant, BBC award-nominated 'trad with a twist' band Pilgrims' Way, and has been described by Living Tradition magazine as "one of the best fiddlers in Britain".
Streetwise Tom is now familiar with some 50 English towns, their cafes and best busking pitches. He says: "The busker has a remarkable view of the world. You watch the same street and see it change over the day. I saw the seasons go round, played through the heart of winter and earned the warmth of summer. The very variety that makes England so hard to pin down also made it infinitely fascinating, no two places were the same. I feared repetition; I ended up not knowing when to stop."