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 Post subject: RIP Craig Pickering
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:20 pm 
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A name that very few will know outside the folk and roots music scene, Craig was a close mate of mine since the age of 12, united with me in having to support Port Vale and an enthusiasm for less mainstream musical offerings. He was a wild child in his youth - after hanging out with Wayne/Jayne County in his mid to late teens, there was another period where sex and heavy drugs were involved but after shock tactics from a doctor when he was diagnosed with hepatitis, the doctor asked him about his habit and he turned himself around, found the love of a good woman and brought up a strong, intelligent and beautiful daughter. I was his gig buddy, taxi and musical sparring partner.

He couldn't sing, dance or play any instrument so he put all his efforts into sharing his love of music with others by becoming the promoter at Biddulph Up in Arms. He saw no reason - quite rightly, why, if an act was given an audience, fair pay and friendly treatment they couldn't be booked. We'd both been to enough gigs in obscure places to know that you don't have to have anywhere special to put on a concert but that a special concert can happen in the most unlikely of places. And put on gigs he did - starting with Jackie Leven and Michael Weston King at the local... dare I mutter it...Conservative Club - he went on to book a veritable who's who of the folk and Americana scene - My Darling Clementine and Michael Weston King (who's produced a stunning obituary for Craig on Facebook), Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Kris Drever, Lau, Julie Fowlis, Emily Smith, Oysterband, Carrie Rodriguez, Mary Gauthier, Kate Rusby, Danny and the Champions of the World, Hannah Aldridge, Neil McSweeney, MG Boulter, Stephen Fearing, Martin Simpson, Andy Cutting, Lilly Hiatt, Whitney Rose, Robert Vincent, Dean Owens, Amy Speace, Hot Club of Cowtown, Chris While & Julie Matthews, Chumbawamba,Richard Shifnell, Andrew Combs, Steve Knightley, Rob Heron & the Teapad Orchestra, Rachel Harrington, The Goat Roper Rodeo band, Kitty MacFarlane, Sam Carter, Ciaran Algar, Chance McCoy of Old Crow medicine Show, Emily Barker, Miles Hunt, Ian McNabb, Martyn Joseph, Kim Richey, Ben Glover, Eilen Jewell, Bennett Wilson Poole, Rod Picott, Orphan Colours, Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay, Edgelarks, John Bramwell, Don Gallardo, Lynne Hanson, Josienne Clarke, Lauren Housley and the Chorlton gang, Adam Holmes and the Embers, Slaid Cleaves, I'm with her, Madison Violet, ahab, Cara Dillon, The Rockingbirds, Les Barker, Otis Gibbs, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook, Vin Garbutt, Megson, Faustus, Heidi Talbot, Martha Tilston, Boo Hewerdine, John Tams....the list goes on.

And that's about half of the names I can quickly find and doesn't mention all the dozens and dozens of local bands who were given support slots, headline showcases, new album releases and exposure to bigger crowds. He'd turn up with his bag of flyers at most local gigs and was enthusiastic but honest in his opinions about who he liked and what would work with different audiences. He combined his love of a proper pint with getting in beer from local breweries and selling it at gigs at cheap but still profitable prices, which in turn helped to subsidise chancier gigs by artists that might not pull a big crowd but that we wanted to see and to share with others - and there were always a few spare for the acts too (One quite well-known act from Crewe way got quite merry before going on stage after too much free Plum Porter) . His enthusiasm was infectious and local gig-goers came to trust his judgement that they'd have a good night - and they always did.

Six years ago, he was diagnosed with lung related cancer and was given experimental drugs which - it turns out - gave him five years more than he should have had. Twelve months ago we went to see Irish singer John Blek in Coventry and Craig wasn't his usual self, turning down a lock in and chat with the act. His drugs had stopped working and he was put on to chemo for a large part of the year. Lockdown arrived and all gigs were off, which took away a lot of his enjoyment although he still beavered away on his iPad rearranging things. Amazingly we managed to squeeze in a socially distanced gig with Robert Vincent in October, which was a gloriously emotional night. It was to be his last one - on New Year's day I got two phone calls within half an hour. The first one told me of a walking friend who'd had a heart attack and died on the way to a local takeaway on New Year's Eve. The second was Craig, telling me he'd only got six months left at most as the hospital couldn't do any more for him. I spoke to him nearly every day about music and life up until 3 days before he passed. Although I was on the other end of the phone, I could tell from previous experience that he was in decline. Yesterday, 4th February, he was taken from us. I promised him that I'd deliver the remaining gigs we have in the books for this year and that i will do - and then discuss with the other members of the Biddulph Team about what's going to happen moving forwards. In his memory, I hope this isn't the end, but new beginnings. Rest easy my friend - wherever Craig is, he's almost certainly pestering David Bowie for a reduced price deal on a double-header with Lou Reed in some celestial village hall.

Craig Pickering - 1963-2021
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 Post subject: Re: RIP Craig Pickering
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2021 5:22 am 
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So sorry to hear your news, Nick. Craig sounds like he was a great mate & a true lover of music. x

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 Post subject: Re: RIP Craig Pickering
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 5:16 pm 
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Hawleytastic!
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Location: Cheshire
From Michael Weston King's Facebook:

For Craig;

This really is such heartbreaking news. Finding out yesterday that the most decent of men, Craig Pickering, finally lost his battle to cancer. To use a northern expression, it has really knocked me for 6 We knew he was being treated for quite a while now but I am stunned to think he has gone.
Craig was first and foremost such a nice guy and he battled his illness with a fortitude and positivity that exemplified the man he was. I am sure on his own, at times it was a mental battle but in public you would never know

He was also, of course, such a music enthusiast, who began as a fan, became a promoter and a musicians friend, while still always remaining a fan

Craig, like a number of others we all know, promoted shows for the love of the music not to make a profit. People like him are the life blood of so many musicians and I know I speak for all who played for him over the years that we really appreciate what he did.

Craig brought so many fine touring artists to his part of Staffordshire. Most American or Canadian, and even a few British musicians, had never even heard of Biddulph before they got there. But Craig put it on the touring map for so many.

The music loving people of that part of the world never had it so good. He must have introduced so many people to so much new music over the years. I hope they are already working on the statue
Craig was not alone in his musical endeavours, his wife Jo ably assisted with food and drink for musicians and was an ever smiling face at the venues, and also Eric (who ran the Biddulph Folk cub for years) who Craig took over from to some extent, was always a support and willing collaborator

I maybe wrong but I think the first show Craig was involved in booking and promoting was myself and Jackie Leven at the Biddulph Labour Club. A quick glance at my touring archive tells me it was May 6th 2004. My last show for him was with My Darling Clementine on Dec 18th 2019 at St Lawrences Church. And there must have been 9 or 10 at least in between (solo, duo, band, in--the-round shows)
One of the earliest My Darling Clementine concerts was for Craig, at Biddulph Town Hall, and it was he who suggested that we should collaborate with Mark Billingham, which then resulted in “The Other Half” album, audio book and show.

I have often gazed down from many a festival stage to see a beaming Craig at the front, often all the happier for a having had a few light ales, just revelling in the music, the atmosphere and the company of very good, like-minded friends.

My heart goes out to Jo and his lovely talented daughter Jenny. I send my love and condolences to them, a sweet and beautiful family.

So, farewell then Craig. Rest easy my friend. I hope they have a suitable concert room where you are now and you already have the program booked. One with a TV downstairs so we can go and check the midweek football scores.

Thanks for all you did, and I hope as musicians, we all gave plenty back to you.
See you on the other side.

Love Michael

My meetings with Craig over the years were fleeting - picking up tickets on the door at Biddulph - bumping into him at the Bar - hanging by a Merch Stall after a show - nattering about something and nothing - he had no edge just kindness and enthusiasm that was infectious - as Nick and Michael have said 'thanks for everything'.


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