Perfectly imperfect

A colleague just sent me a link to a wonderful thread on twitter about veg boxes and the internet and how it makes the tweeter feel. It started with this post:

Rachel muses on what it is she likes about it….

…..and concludes with a question…..

This all chimed with the way the house concerts we hold at Ryepiece Barn in our village have morphed and evolved in a lovely mix of the digital and the very real.


We book brilliant musicians to come and play to a bunch of (mainly) villagers in a lovely old barn that the owners generously open up to us all. The audience have generally never heard of any of the people we book. But they trust us to only get interesting artists. Actually a lot is done on trust. I book an artist – usually over the phone. There’s no contract. We verbally agree a fee and a date. The date arrives and they turn up and play. I pay them and everyone’s happy. You can see our little wordpress site here.

We’ve made it more complicated for ourselves by providing a simple meal as part of the ticket price. Our friend Bev is an amazing cook and sorts all that side of things out for us.

But in the early days we’d book a small folk group or a couple of jazz musicians, agree to pay them say £250, print off some tickets which we put on sale in the village shop, put up a few posters and then hope for the best. The concerts are always on a Friday night. I’d often go into the shop on a Sunday to see how many tickets we’d sold….Rob would search out the ice cream tub* with the tickets in and tell me that we’d sold….oh two or maybe four tickets!


*actually a Tesco Triple Chocolate ice-cream tub 

At some point on a Thursday Bev would message me from a supermarket to find out how many she was catering for. At that exact moment we might have only sold….for cash…half a dozen tickets. We had started to get emails from people asking us to hold tickets for them on the door….so I’d suggest Bev cater for, say, 25 or 30? It was all rather ‘seat of the pants’.

Gradually we’ve built up a mailing list that we send just two emails to for each concert.

I make 10 posters which I laminate and put up on telegraph poles round the village two weeks before each concert.

We have our wordpress site plus a Facebook page and a twitter feed (where you can see Bev in action) and most recently we started using to sell tickets too.

For the last couple of years we’ve started ignoring ticket sales when Bev calls. In fact she’s stopped checking in. We always get around 50 people.

Then this year something very weird happened….we had to start turning people away! For our most recent concert (the wonderful Laura Moody) we sold 20 tickets in the shop; 13 online and had 30 people ask us to hold tickets for them. We knew we’d sold out at that point because we’d counted how many seats we had. And it was 63.


Chatting to folks as they arrived I discovered that one couple had been walking in Ettington a couple of weeks before. They’d stopped in the Church yard to have their sandwiches and saw our laminated poster on the notice board. They thought it looked interesting so they bought two tickets.

An elderly chap in the village comes to every concert and he always buys his tickets at (he’s just finished upgrading his impressive film collection to BluRay from DVD).

Sarah usually messages me on FB to say how many tickets she wants saving. She didn’t this time…but turned up anyway on the off chance…so we squeezed her in.

Another couple had seen Laura play at the Wilderness Festival…in Bjork’s band…and then doing a set of her own. They’d then followed her on Spotify and got a Bandsintown alert that she was playing in Ettington (they live up the Fosseway in Leicestershire).

Roger is an old friend of two other regulars. He bumped into them in Shipston the day before so he thought he’d come along too.

And so it goes on.

I love that our village shop sells tickets from an old ice cream tub but I also love that someone who didn’t know we existed gets to join us because of Spotify, Bandsintown and

Do we have to move to a world where everything is digital and driven by algorithms? Can’t we have a lovely blend of the old and the new? The hi-tech and the analogue? The digital and the human?

Especially when it brings us all together to experience magic like this…….


One response to “Perfectly imperfect

  1. Your musings about the concerts reminded me of family friends, John & Phyllis, from my childhood. They owned an old water mill in Somerset (the County of my birth), that they’d refurbished to provide a concert hall – with the water wheel refurbished and working. A few times a year they put on an amateur production of an opera for family and friends – they chose what to perform and directed the operas.
    Capacity was similar I’d guess to your Barn, and as far as I can recall they didn’t charge for tickets but people were expected to make a donation towards the cost if not participating directly.
    As a teenager going to see an opera felt like a penance, not a pleasure! All the more so because I’d had an overdose of classical music from Radio 3 being almost permanently on at home. Nevertheless, I still remember the warm atmosphere and appreciate the effort that they made and the pleasure they gave many people.


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