Tom Bliss with Ross Bennett and/or Den Miller and/or Dave Bowie
Back for MS Research
Gigs with Ross and Dave at the Horse and Farrier, Otley [website], North Light Arts, Leeds [website] and the City of York Roland Walls Folk Weekend, York [website], raised over £1,600. Tom and Ross' 3 gigs at The Georgian House, Alderney [website]: in Alderney raised over £1,800 (with over £1,000 in one gig)!
Donations are still coming in, but this brings the total raised, including 3 previous gigs, to more than £7,000. Thank you so very much!
The next cluster features another former Lost Lark, multi-instrumentalist Den Miller, and will include a few of his sublime songs as well as Tom's.
22nd Feb: The Topic FC, with Den Miller
27th Feb Ryburn FC, with Den Miller
29th Feb: Crookes FC, with Den Miller
24th April: Darlington FC, with Ross Bennett
Then there will be a substantial break, so DON'T MISS THESE GIGS!
'Master craftsman' multi-instrumentalist and story-songwriter Tom Bliss, who's been called 'brilliant' by Mojo, 'astonishingly moving and inspirational' by Tykes News and 'a natural stand-up comic with perfect timing" by Salut Live, first hung up his mandocello in 2010, after 10 years working mainly with banjo virtuoso Tom Napper, who'd moved to Scotland.
Worry about climate change led him back to his old profession of landscape architecture, which he was soon teaching at Leeds Beckett, and a job at the University of Leeds working with climate and tree scientists. But after a decade in music, and two in TV before that, the change was a challenge - so he barely had time to play for fun, let alone gig.
Then in 2016 his daughter Ellie was diagnosed with Remitting Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis - a neurological condition that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It can be devastatingly debilitating.
When Ellie was diagnosed, I felt the world had ended. It's terrible to see the child you've nurtured to adulthood inexplicably laid low by a currently incurable disease. Then it emerged that I know lots of sufferers, who are quietly pushing back and getting on with their lives - as is Ellie. She's a fantastic mum who holds down a challenging job as a data scientist at Lloyds Bank, but life for her will never be the same, and staying cheerful can take some doing. So I wanted to support her by raising some cash for the MS Society, who fund hugely promising research into a condition which now affects more than 100,000 people in the UK.
So Tom called up two old mates, popular York troubadour Ross Bennet, aka 'the human jukebox'(!) and bull fiddle supremo Dave Bowie, who's played with everyone from Steve Tilston to Martha Reeves, and they arranged just three pay-as-you-feel benefit gigs.
Tom's concerts have always been hugely popular: 'Never have I heard tales told and sung with such humour and skill. A spellbinding couple of hours - where did the evening go?' (Bishop FM). 'One of the best nights I've had. Tom was brilliant; great songs, great performance, superb stories. I was enthralled and so was everyone else,' (FCO Web Forum).
But Tom wasn't certain people would remember, so he set a modest target of £600 for the three gigs. He needn't have worried. The shows, dubbed ‘outstanding', 'truly wonderful' and 'even better than I thought possible', sold out - and the final total, including CD sales, Justgiving donations, and matched funding from Lloyds Bank, topped £3,600.
Naturally, everyone wanted more, but day jobs and then the pandemic intervened. Then last year worse news about Ellie's diagnosis provided another spur.
Initially there was every reason to hope that Ellie might stay much the same throughout her life, as we recently discovered my grandmother Ida had. In those days people were not always told about their illnesses, so even though she'd been a nurse, amazingly, Ida never even knew she had MS, so we didn't either. But the version Ellie has now, Secondary Progressive, does tend to get worse over time, though thankfully new drugs funded by the MS Society can slow the decline for some - as we sincerely hope they will for Ellie. Her mum Cat and I keep a close eye on progress (she helps the Society to review funding bids) and things are looking increasingly hopeful for treatments that can stop MS altogether, partly thanks to breakthroughs on the immune system from COVID vaccine research. So now seems a great moment to reassert our support for Ellie and the amazing professionals who work to treat, and let's hope defeat, this appalling condition.
So Tom's finally back - again. But he's not planning to return to regular gigging, so these pay-as-you-feel shows offer a super-rare opportunity to enjoy an evening of powerful story songs, not least 'Four Foot Track' which he wrote for Ellie long before she was diagnosed, about walking together when she was small, along the beautiful beaches of their 'home' island of Alderney (which is why they did 3 gigs there too).