: big bash

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In Support of WaterAidOn the 17th & 18 April 2015, I plan to mark my 40th birthday by playing drums and percussion non-stop for 40 hours, raising funds for WaterAid in the process. 'The Big Bash 2015' will be a feast of music, with a jazz jam, open workshops, drumming students, a mighty drum battle, acoustic sessions, live bands and more. Add some great food and drinks; games; face painting; a sealed bids auction; and so on, and you get a splendid party for the whole family, which also helps a great cause.


so below you will find all the details apart from how to get there! Please do phone, text or email me if you'd like to attend but you don't know where it is.


You will be able to follow the action streaming live on this page! Join us from wherever else you might have to be that weekend.

If you use Twitter, you can join in the build-up and the event itself by following @TheBigBash2015.

You can contribute by:

Now for some practical details...


Warm!! The Roundhouse is *not* a conventional building, and fresh air abounds! Please wear lots of warm clothing and sturdy shoes. You may also wish to bring a cushion, blanket or camping chair on which to sit.


There will be tea and coffee, some seriously good cake and epic pies, beer and wine, available throughout the weekend. I'm hoping you'll spend your money on those, raising funds as we go. Feel free to bring some of your own too if you prefer - and if you need a proper meal, there is a good pub and a good cafe nearby.

(**If you'd like to contribute to the cake table, please do get in touch!**)


  • sturdy shoes and *loads of warm clothing* as mentioned
  • your kids if you like, especially for the Saturday afternoon/evening. It'll be a family friendly event (apart from the late and overnight bits!)
  • a couple of your choicest friends!
  • your instrument if you want to play
  • your tent/camper if you'd like to stay
  • your wallet!


  • anyone you wouldn't introduce to your nan
  • any presents, thank you (donations to WaterAid instead please!)
  • any pets, without checking first


Please be kind to our neighbours by driving carefully and courteously through the village, and by keeping the noise to a considerate level during the overnight session. Our use of The Roundhouse is dependant on the good will of our neighbours.


**We'll really need some help!**

So if you fancy giving us a hand for a few hours on the weekend with:

  • general logistics
  • stage and equipment logistics
  • cake baking (beforehand, obvs!)
  • tea/coffee making & cake-selling
  • bar tending & pie-vending!

then please let me know how you'd like to help, and we'll pop your name down on the list.

(Rather than allocate all the volunteers a particular slot, several key players will have a list of people who have offered to help, so that we can be flexible enough - and hopefully so that no-one has to do too much!) Thanks a million!



This is a sketch of the weekend's most notable features, though of course the schedule may be subject to some changes. Details of each event are below. There will be plenty of other activities going on all weekend too, and we're open to spontaneity if you have a good idea!


08:00 - The Beginning!

(Health warning: some quite substantial chunks of the Friday will be mostly just me drumming. Very tedious for everyone else!)

11-12:00 - School Workshops

13-14:00 - School Workshops

17:00-19:00ish - Aaron Meli's open African Drumming workshop

20:00 - A 12-hour marker!

20:30ish onwards - Open Jazz Night

and into


01:00ish - Ballads Hour

02:00ish onward - "The Soft Sessions"

08:00 a 24-hour marker!

09-12:00 - Sponsored Students

12:00 "Geek hour!", if time allows: an open, informal rhythm workshop

13-16:00 - Sponsored Students

16:20 - A 61st Birthday Duet!

18:00 The Drum Battle!

20:00-21:15 - That Funky Trio

22:00 til the midnight finish - Goose


A very informal blend of leisurely breakfasts, picnics, hanging out and gentle clearing up!


Here is a quick description of each of the events listed above.


Aaron Meli, an African Drumming expert and educator, will be working with children from local primary schools during these times. You're probably welcome to watch, but we'll let the kids do the drumming!


Aaron Meli also happens to be one of the nicest people on the planet! His open workshop on the Friday evening will be a chance for *everyone* to get involved in playing percussion, whether a complete novice or already an expert. Expect fascinating instruments, an inclusive atmosphere, and large amounts of Aaron's warm, boundless enthusiasm. Don't miss it, it'll be a fantastic way to start your weekend!


Previous attendees of our jazz evenings will know the score for this one! There will be a 'house band', namely The Roundhouse Jazz Quartet (Donal Whelan, tenor sax; Matthew Holt, keys; Ashley John Long, double bass; iolo Whelan, drums). There will also (we hope!) be a host of our jazz-loving friends and colleagues there, jumping up to join us for a tune or a song.

The idea is that musicians play a few tunes each with the house band - so there is no telling beforehand what new combinations and improvisations might occur!

We tend to play the tunes that jazz musicians love to play for their own pleasure: we think you will enjoy them too.


Many jazz gigs will include a gentle ballad, but it's not often you can get away with playing several in a row. This necessarily low-volume, middle-of-the-night session is a perfect opportunity to play as many tasty ballads as we want to, as late into the night as we like - assuming there are still some musicians standing from the jazz jam!


We will be keeping our neighbours in mind by playing on the soft side of the dynamic spectrum overnight. There's a lot of fun to be had with wire brushes, soft beaters and - I hope - some acoustic music by some of our many talented friends. *I'd love some company to help keep me awake through this "graveyard shift" - if anyone is game for that, do let me know!*


Many of my drum students will be collecting sponsorship to do their own stint of unbroken drumming – from 10 minutes (which is a long time when you're six!) up to maybe an hour at a time. There will be three drum kits on the go, and each student will take their turn for a jam, either one or two at a time. Come and support the drummers of the future as they go through their paces!


I share a birthday with one of my former students: Rory O'Neill is now about to finish a drumming degree in Brighton, and will be turning 21 on the same day as I turn 40. Time for a celebratory duet! Make the most of the chance to see Rory up close - he's destined for bigger stages than this one.


A spectacular version of a long-standing tradition, this drum battle will feature some of the most fabulously able, widely experienced and most of all, musical drummers that you will ever see jamming together. Five drummers will be joining me for an improvised, unrehearsed 'woodshed' session, trading ideas, grooves and solos. Six acoustic kits; six stealthy drummers; one hour to play; anything could happen! The one thing we can guarantee is a massive groove!


This group does exactly what it says on the label! I'll be taking a sideways step to my percussion set-up to accompany these guys: expect some nasty grooves and well-loved songs led by the seriously soulful Richard Metherall: this funky trio of keys, bass and drums is gonna get the party going in earnest.


A crack team of local musicians, fronted by the inimitable Colum Regan: this well-heeled and much-loved covers band is just the thing to wind the party to its climax. Get your boogie shoes on people, we're gonna cook that Goose!