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Thursday, 02 July 2015

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Vagabonds wander on the road to fame

THEIR journey took them from Barrow to The Lakes and back and they performed come rain or shine. GARETH JONES speaks to Vagabonds Phill Gregg and Gary Bridgens about their epic adventure

WHEN they set off into the unknown, Vagabonding duo, Phill Gregg and Gary Bridgens could never have anticipated the celebrity status they would have earned, come their final show.

But as they stood in the bandstand of Barrow Park and played their swansong to a bustling crowd, it became clear they had become more than two men with a cart.

Their journey around South Cumbria has been followed by many, with the ups and downs covered daily in the Evening Mail.

In 20 days, the pair covered more than 100 miles and entertained more than a 1,000 people as they told tales which revolved around the journeys of their mystical trailer, Dolly.

The roadshow, which involved 25 appearances at both indoor and outdoor venues, ended in Barrow on Sunday, with the Vagabonds playing to a packed bandstand at Barrow Park.

And even mother nature appeared to be a fan, as the rain subsided to be replaced by sunshine as the performance was due to start.

Gary ‘Gacko’ Bridgens said the last show had summed up their time on the road.

He said: “I think we timed the last show perfectly as it looked like the Apocalypse afterwards.

“It happened a few times where it looked like we would lose a show to the weather and then at the last minute we’ve found somewhere to retreat to.

“Sometimes there hasn’t been a wet weather option but, as we’ve prepared to strike the first chord, the sun has come out from nowhere. It’s quite poetic really.

“I’ve got a couple of highlights from the tour.

“The very first day on Piel Island, when we got to tell stories on an island with a massive panoramic vista.

“All of the places in the stories we told were visible from where we were stood on the island, and we could point them out to the audience.

“Barrow was always going to be our home game and it was a collection of our friends, family, supporters and people we met along the way.”

Fellow Vagabond Phill Gregg said he had enjoyed the variation of audience and shows along the way.

He said: “The set changing every night has just been magical.

“It has given depth to what we were doing as a show.

“It’s lovely. It has been impossible to get bored with it, as we have been able to change it.

“It changed every night and it needed to, as sometimes we were playing to three-year-olds and some nights we were playing to mainly drunken people.

“It’s been great really. Children’s entertainment has never been about computers or television.

“Kids like to go out and get involved in all sorts. They like to go out with their mums and dads, and that is why our show has been enjoyed, really.”

The Vagabonds were formed as part of the Lakes Alive programme to take old-fashioned entertainment to both rural and more populated areas across the South of the county.

They followed in the footsteps of Walter Wilkinson, who toured his Peep Show throughout the British Isles, with their act consisting of puppets, songs, jokes and local folk tales.

Gacko said he had enjoyed getting to meet people on the tour, which had been an ambition of his for many years.

He said: “We’ve met nothing but lovely people and it’s been quite magical.

“The Evening Mail has given us a lot of press and have kept the story rolling.

“This made us familiar, and people were immediately curious about what we have been doing.

“The very nature of us having a box was quite interesting. It’s a bit like Christmas Day as people want to know what’s inside.

“We’ve got an immediate excuse to talk to people and they feel that they can approach us and talk to us. If we were just travelling blokes with backpacks, then life would be very different for us.”

The key third member of the Vagabonds was Dolly the trolley, who also embarked on the mammoth journey.

And like Gary and Phill she will be getting some rest before work starts again.

Phill said: “We will be using her for other projects.

“We have used her for a tour called Up in Smoke in the past, and she’ll be joining us again on it.

“She won’t be going into retirement and we won’t be pushing her in a lake.

“Dolly has coped with the journey pretty well, actually, and didn’t get nearly as many knocks as we expected.

“She’ll get a bit of a rub down and then she’ll be as good as new.”

Fans will be disappointed to hear that the tour was a one-off, however the duo will continue to work together on other projects for their theatre company, Headzup.

Gary said that both himself and Phill would not have much rest before starting work again.

He said: “The Vagabonds has been a project. Phill and I run a company called Headzup, and we’re about to do a five-week schools tour which looks at the detrimental effects of smoking.

“We’ve got five weeks together. It’s a proper theatre tour. We’ll be in a van and we have a set which will be built everywhere we go.

“Then we’ve got our summer season, where we both separate because we have different acts.

“It’s a wonderful life. We spend our time working at festivals and earning a living at places where other people want to be.”

Have you seen the guys perform? Are you looking forward to them coming to your town? Have your say with the comment box below

Have your say

Just seen the Vagabonds at Kirkby-In-Furness tonight. They were superb. Setting was perfect, performing in a corner of the cricket field in front of St Cuthbert's Church on a sunny (if cold) evening, to an audience of more than 50 locals, including a group of Brownies. The Vagabonds deserve a medal for their three-week walking journey through Furness and South Cumbria. Great advert for the area with their local stories, songs and humour. Askam and Dalton performances on Saturday before their homecoming on Sunday. Come on Barrow, let's give them a fitting homecoming to Barrow Park.

Posted by jon on 20 May 2011 at 20:02

Fantastic-went to watch them at Broughton tonight, their enthusiasm and talent shone through, my 10 year old really enjoyed it and all the stories and songs were excellent. Hope they have a dry journey home and that lots of people welcome them back to Barrow.

Posted by Rachel Sheard on 19 May 2011 at 21:33

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