Monday, 6 December 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

This weekend I did something a bit different: I spent all day Saturday roaming around Wolf & Badger in Notting Hill while playing the fiddle.

I wasn’t there to create a nuisance; The Liberty Belles, a banjo and fiddle duo of which I am half, were asked to provide background music for a trunk show there. Showcased in the “Vogue Top 50” boutique were brogues, boots, and loafers by carreducker, who make beautiful bespoke footwear in the time-honoured, hand-sewn tradition.

Music has been a lifelong hobby of mine, so when I’m not designing or making jewellery I can usually be found playing the fiddle (or violin – call it what you will). I am obsessed with a rather niche genre of music called Bluegrass, as well as it’s sister genre, Old Time. Although fairly well known in the USA, old American music is practically unknown to the British public, apart from a very small community of acoustic musicians.

Upon our arrival at Wolf & Badger, Lois (the banjo half of the Liberty Belles) and I were greeted by the lovely James and Deborah of carreducker, as well the passionately fashionista shop staff who made us feel right at home. Within five minutes of arriving we’d all got onto the subject of underwear and had all flashed our knickers at each other (The men’s fashion pants put our old stockings & suspenders to shame) – and this was all before we’d got hold of the whiskey.

But we weren’t there to compare undergarment brands. We were there to provide background music while an unsuspecting public shopped for shoes. After a wee snifter we tuned up our instruments and began wandering the shop while playing some of the more genteel tunes from our set, carefully giving customers a wide berth so as not to serenade them out of the shop. Although it was certainly a new situation for me to find myself in, nobody seemed to find it strange. I guess when you’re shopping you just take things as they come – if two ladies are roaming around a shop playing banjo and fiddle, well, so be it.

It would have been downright greedy to keep the music indoors so we decided to brave the cold and take it out onto the street. Planting ourselves on the shop forecourt, we burst into a rousing rendition of “Cripple Creek” – always a crowd pleaser. A crowd soon formed, dancing toddlers, yummy mummies, and intensely curious retirees. Even better, after staring at us for a few minutes, they went straight into the shop, which made us feel useful as well as entertaining.

We were dressed in Christmas red frocks which happened to match the festive wrapping-paper-teradachtyl window display. But in a telling lesson in the power of branding, Deborah was accosted by a woman on the street who asked, “What’s going on there? Is it something to do with Virgin Atlantic?”

With near-freezing temperatures we did return indoors at various points throughout the day, but the most fun was had playing outside. The joy and curiosity on people’s faces when they see and hear something totally new to them is a delight to behold. At one point I noticed what I thought was a gentleman down on his luck; he stood on the corner nearby with his head hung low, carrying a large bag and swaying slightly. It was only when he came over to us after a few tunes that I realised he was just a regular guy doing his Christmas shopping. He was fascinated by the music but obviously just wanted to enjoy it from a slight distance for a while.

The day was a success for all involved. Shoes sold, music played, hearts won. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon in December.

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