The Greatest Hole in the Ground There Ever Was…

I first realised I was “different” at age 13, when all my friends were into Take That and I was listening to Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearljam. I had a biker jacket, Doc Martins (which I wore without laces like Enrico from Dial MTV, remember him?) and put braids and bells in my hair. In a time before the words Goth and Mosher came into popular use, I was a “hippy”, apparently.

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What I actually was, was out of place in a world where everyone else seemed to be into happy hardcore or boy bands. I longed for somewhere where I belonged, and where I didn’t draw scorn and abuse. So when I was old enough, my older sister snuck me into Trillians.

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It was like I had found heaven- a dark, rock music filled haven full of people who dressed like me and like the same bands as me. I fell in love (then she took me to the Mayfair and I was smitten all over, but this is about Trillians).

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Over the next few years, Trillians was my safe space, my home, the place I could be myself. Nothing could beat the feeling of walking down those stairs, under the rocking bat mouse figure on the wall, and into a dimly lit room where Alice in Chains or Nirvana or Metallica was playing. Nothing could beat holing up in my favourite seat (at the back in the corner), drinking cider and watching people come in and out. Me and my friend Lucy would go in just to look at the hot barmen (Tim, Blackie and Henry) and get giddy. Some of the best times of my life I spent in that bar, and in the Mayfair as a post-Trills club.

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I moved away to uni, and Trillians faded away as part of my life. But when I found out on facebook that it had closed unexpectedly, I was gutted and outraged. Newcastle has lost so many rock venues. Trillians was like the last bastion of rock for Newcastle, and now it was gone! I actually hurt inside, like my heart was broken; I would never walk down those stairs again, never get a pint, never sit in my favourite seat again.

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Long lost rock pubs of Newcastle…farmers

When I found out that some people were going to fight to save it, I jumped in! It was more than saving my favourite pub or preserving my memories. More and more, independent businesses are closing, alternative spaces are being shut to make way for chain bars or shopping centres. The character and history is getting built right out of our cities. How can we call Newcastle a cultural hub, a place where music is born, a city with something for everyone, if we build over and close down everything except corporate establishments? If the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign tells us anything, its that alt folk need somewhere safe to go. I know what Trillians meant to me as a younger person, and I wouldn’t want a world where there was nowhere for the alternative folk to go.

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So a group of us kicked up a fuss on social media, liaised with the former owners and potential buyers, contacted the media and the MP for Newcastle central, and made a petition. The response was out of this world- Trillians meant so much to so many! I didnt really believe it when I heard it was to be saved, but lo and behold, on Friday 13th December, Trillians reopened! Thank fuck for that!

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I will always love Trills, and here is a selection of the things some others said about our home from home. Viva Trillians!

“There are precious few places we can go and feel safe in the knowledge that everyone there is like-minded and therefore we shall not get threatened for the way we look. Please, don’t close our pub”

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“It was the first place I went to when I moved to Newcastle.. and instantly fell in love with it.. it’s always been there for me.. for the awesome times.. through some grim times… yeah.. I’ve seen some amazing bands there.. but the biggest loss is that there’s not going to be that place you can go to on your own and yet immediately find a room full of familiar faces and people who make you smile…”

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“Trillians has been my ‘safe house’ for 20+ years, I met my other half in there (as have so many others). This is not just another bar closure, it is an integral part of Newcastle’s identity. The city will be a cold and sterile place without it.”

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“Its the greatest hole in the ground there ever was and you can’t close it up. Its our hole”

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Old Year, New Shit

If I had to use a word for 2013 it would be STRESS. Or maybe SUCKED. Or if I was trying to be positive it would be INTERESTING (with an ironic edge).

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Don’t get me wrong, there have been some good points to 2013, but actually, the year has been a mixture of stress, frustration and faffing about. I don’t really feel I have progressed much, life wise, this year. But in the last month or so I have learned some valuable lessons, which will take me into 2014.

BEHOLD THE LESSONS!

1. Stop faffing about.

The other week I had a sudden epiphany, on the 192 to Stepping Hill. I always have epiphanies on the bus, its very odd.

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The epiphany was this:

I could quite easily while away another 5 or 10 years of my life living in this house, in this town, going from gig to gig.

Its not really a shocking revelation, but it hit me really hard. Because I could see it, so clearly. It might be the curse/blessing of being a performer, but we do tend to structure our year around the gigs we have booked in month by month, or at least I do. That gig that seemed ages away, it comes around quicker than you would think, and suddenly it is Xmas again and you STILL haven’t got any bloody Xmas acts…. Anyway. In this moment, I saw so easily how I could pootle along, doing the same stuff, and find myself at 40 or 45, still in the same house, the same place, with lots of gigs under my belt and lots of wonderful/stressful/glam experiences in my memory- but is that what I really want?

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Nope.

Performing is one of the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.  I have achieved my performing goals and then some. But if I am to be totally honest, it hasn’t made me happy. I am proud of what I have built from scratch, its brought me excitement and interest, but not contentment, peace of mind or security.

And its not just performing; I never wanted to settle in Manchester, I certainly don’t want to settle where I currently live. I want to write, to contribute ideas that help people, to spend more time making other people’s lives substantially better. I want more family and friends in my life. I don’t want to do the financial feast and famine (mainly famine) dance of the freelancer forever. Plus I know that there are limits on how good a performer I can be; I don’t stop trying to learn but it is annoying to aspire to “sheer brilliance” and only be capable of “reasonably entertaining”.

So I realised that I need to actively make changes to become who I want to be, and stop just hanging around seeing what will happen.

2. Stop giving valuable time to people and circumstances that I would much rather kick in the eye.

I try really hard to avoid social unpleasantness; it really upsets me because despite appearances, I am a soft and sensitive soul, plagued by social anxiety and inadequacy! This year I started to think- is it worth it? I purposefully put myself in very stressful social situations all the time, and there is always an underlying unease; what if I said or did the wrong thing? What if they don’t like me or think I don’t like them? What if what if what if? Up until now, I have always assumed this is something I have to learn to deal, but I suddenly thought- what if I don’t? What if I could actively put myself in situations that do not make me feel this way? Surround myself with people who like me, lift me up and inspire me? So I am resolved to give no more time to people or situations that make me feel bad.

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3. Working hard is not pointless.

I have always been adequately good at most things I attempted (partly cos I avoid things at which I will most likely be shit). As a consequence, I have somehow managed to get into my 30s without ever having to work hard at something for which I have no prior talent or advantage. Let me tell you, not being able to do something that I want to be good at does not sit well with me! Strop and a half! Ice skating is one of these things. I do not have a great deal of physical intelligence; I exploit this to be funny, but if I have to be elegant, coordinated etc, I am screwed. It has be very hard and often disheartening trying to learn to skate, but the feeling when you finally achieve something that seemed impossible is immense! I got a bit choked up when I finally got crossovers! Its a bit late in the day to be learning the value of putting in the time and working like a bastard to get where you want to be, but I am learning it this year. It is boosting my confidence no end, and I feel more empowered to try other things I thought I could never do. Bloody brilliant! This time next year I will be an octopus (my secret dream).

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So- three quite simple and pretty obvious lessons- but as The Matrix said “there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”. This coming year, I am going to start walking the path instead of staring pointlessly at a spoon waiting for it to bend.

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