The Warburton Souling Play - Performances 2011
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The Saracen's Head logo An interpretation, from our perspective, of how each evening was received.

On this page it is normal for us to give a brief description of how we got on in each venue for each evening. 
And with the season now kicked-off the reports are here.
The First Night - Tuesday 1st November 2011

This year's Gang at Larchfield House ready to leave for the Saracen's Head

The Gang, with a new face as the Enterer, at Larchfield House ready to leave for the Saracen's Head.

Well, what a start to the season. The best for many a year and we all go away on a high.
We started at the Saracen's Head, what a surprise! It was its usual quiet mid-week self but with a good number of the people there having come along to see us. A rather 'ropey' performance it must be said  but we got through.
Next it was over the Warburton Toll Bridge and into Hollins Green to the Black Swan and a very attentive audience. The performance was much improved it must be said.
After a chat with a couple of our fellow Soulers from the Antrobus Gang we were back over the toll bridge and heading to the Vine Inn in Dunham. Quiet but still very satisfactory considering we normally do the Vine later in the evening when a few more drinkers are in for last orders.

Finally it was a drive round to the Jolly Thresher in Broomedge on other side of the Bridgewater Canal. You'll notice that waterways are a pain in the area and have a habit of restricting progress on two sides of Warburton! It was quiz night at the 'Thresher and we were due at 10.30pm so when we got there the proceedings had been halted in anticipation. We therefore had a full and quiet, attentive audience. This was the best performance of the night and rounded off that wonderful start to the season. Roll on Friday when we'll be in Knutsford.

The Second Night - Friday 4th November 2011

And so to Knutsford it was for the continuation of our good start to the season. After the very good first night we we're all a little nervous as to whether any of those tonight would turn into the first 'downer'!
We started at the Legh Arms on the Congleton Road out of Knutsford and a good start to the evening it was. A bit noisy at first although once the landlord had turned the pipe music down so the general noise level dropped. As with these open plan type pubs we still had to contend with the general chatter from over the further extremities, however those around us showed the interest that was needed. As we say, a good start. Following that good start we walked up the Mobberley road to the Builders Arms. This we were warned would be quiet on a Friday. We normally perform in the 'lounge' side of the pub, however, on this occasion we found more in the 'bar' side so performed there for a change. The few people in the lounge soon came across to see what was going on.thus with those already there it became a very satisfying performance.

From there it was into the centre of Knutsford where the third pub for the night was the Lord Eldon. A few less in then we've had the past few visits but still very enjoyable. Still no sign of the first 'duff' pub or performance either. Onto the White Bear next - again a few less in than we've experienced with the last few visits, nevertheless there were enough there, with one group in particular being very attentive, that made it very worthwhile.

Four down and two to go. We'd normally do four or five pubs in an evening, however, with Knutsford being a 'walking tour' we were able to get in six this evening. So №5 was The Rose and Crown. We arrived to a very boisterous sounding pub with somewhat loud music playing. We thought, this is going to need a bit of volume from us. Throats at the ready, we first found someone leaving who was familiar enough with the pub and staff to go back in to ask for the music to be turned down.That done one of the bar staff came out to give us the nod and so off we went with the song. Still very noisy but once the Enterer had gone in it was much reduced and with King George we then had everyone taking note of the performance. In the end it was an excellent reception. The landlord loved it - it being exactly the sort of thing he wants to encourage. He had very traditional ideas for the pub and so we fell into that camp nicely. We were even provided with a beer and venison sausage roll each. Fantastic! Many thanks form the Gang.

So the the last one - next door but two - The Cross Keys. Again a quick nod was needed to the landlord and the music was extinguished and so the song commenced for the last time that night. We were struggling with one table showing total lack of interest, together with a bit of background banter but a busy bub enjoying the performance and a very fitting end to the evening. And still no sign of the first 'downer' of the year. Although we very nearly become involved in having to do another performance for a group associated with the local rugby club who arrived very late on and wanted to know what it was all about. They were offering beer for another performance! Not what we wanted at that time of night as it was now after 11.00pm and all of the Gang had wound down after the terrific night. There was probably and unfortunately not a forceful enough 'no' to the request and so there was some beer bought and a feeling that we were expected to perform again. The Gang had a distinct uneasiness about this and there was no real consensus of the approach. We certainly could not perform inside again, so perhaps on the street outside where the group were. After a sortie outside the group were showing no real interest so in order to prevent a spoiling of the evening  it was out the back door and off to our beds. A good night and good night until Saturday's tour.

The Third Night - Saturday 5th November 2011

And so still with that same trepidation as to whether we'd encounter the first duff performance we set out from the Saracen's Head after meeting there to go to the Axe and Cleaver in Dunham. It was Bonfire Night so we weren't at all sure as to how many would be in the pub at 8.30pm in the evening. Not to worry as that word 'sufficient' comes to mind. We met some of the bar staff outside and then Roger, the manager there, spotted us, turned the music off and gave us the thumbs up. So off into the song and play. There were quite a few diners in so we tried our best not to disturb them and performed where there was more space. A beer queued on the bar ready for Beelzebub then it was beers all round after the performance as well. many thanks to the pub for that.

It was then back past the Saracen's Head to get to the other side of the Bridgewater Canal to the No3. We also had to pass what remains of The Railway at Heatley after it was burnt down the previous Wednesday. It had unfortunately been closed for a few years however a local brewery wanted to take it over. Unfortunately it was also in the way of a potential housing development. We'll leave the reader to assess the circumstances of the facts there and come to a conclusion. We certainly have ours. There was a bonfire at the No3 and so we had a very busy pub indeed. It was a bit noisy at first but we did manage to make progress and were very satisfied when some young children came to the front to watch in awe. Up the road a mile to the Wheatsheaf and again a pub with a sufficient and attentive audience. Again a very satisfying performance and a beer courtesy of the Landlord at the end. Thanks for that as well.

Into the centre of Lymm next and to the Saddlers Arms, a venue we enjoy playing at but one we had to miss last year as we were unable to gain permission due to the Landlady being away. It was its usual self, perhaps not as full as in the past but still very busy giving an enjoyable visit there. So to the last, The Bull. Never any problems here either, and so we made it to the end of another very good performance and to the end of another excellent evening. Still no sign of the duff pub then. We'll have to wait until Thursday when we continue again for the last three nights to see if we get a poor reception anywhere.

The Forth Night - Thursday 10th November 2011

And so we went on to the fourth night.  Would our good run of the year continue?
The first for the night was the Volunteer in the Sale.  Here we were due to perform before the quiz started at nine o'clock so we duly started our song at 8.45 p.m. There probably weren't quite as many in as we were expecting, however there were enough people to make an good audience and to make it worthwhile.  A good start to the evening.  Next the Plough in Ashton on Mersey for a most excellent reception from a comfortably full pub.  It always is a good reception from this pub and it is satisfying that this trend continues.

Next it was a bit of a journey over to the Roebuck in Urmston.  This is always a fairly lightly populated pub and we've never quite established the best time to play there for the best audience.  It is nevertheless a good pub to play to, with the except on this occasion for one table of four gentlemen who seemed to take great pleasure in talking as loud as they could to spoil it for other people.

The next pub was the Steamhouse in the old station buildings on Urmston Station.  Last year it was Open Mic Night when we went and we were expecting quite a few people, however there weren't many there at all.  This year it was still Open Mic Night and it turned out to be as it should have been and the pub was absolutely heaving, inside and out.  We had people outside standing on the chairs trying to see in through windows as to what was going on.  Absolutely wonderful reaction and everybody thoroughly enjoyed it and people were still complimenting us when we left.  So after that it was to the  regular finishing pub, the Church Inn in Flixton.  And again, as usual, a very good reception.  This brought to close another most wonderful evening of Souling.  And still we're waiting for the first really duff pub.  Let's see what happens tomorrow night then.

The Fifth Night - Friday 11th November 2011

So we moved onto Friday and what is normally our best night by performing in the Hale and Altrincham area.  However, we start first just in the countryside of Cheshire at the Greyhound in Ashley where we normally perform as early as we can because from 8.30 p.m. onwards the pub starts to become quieter.  We duly gathered there just before 8.00p.m. and performed just after the allotted hour. It was not as full as we normally expect as one of two people have already been starting to leave, it was however, more than a satisfactory start to the night. 

We had to move on quickly from here to get to the market Tavern in Altrincham when we were due to perform prior to a band starting.  We duly arrived at our allotted time with a very good performance to those that were waiting for the band. From here we moved onto the second pub in Altrincham, the Malt Shovels, where this is always a quieter performance but nevertheless a very pleasing venue to play in, and indeed it came into that category again this evening.

So far so good, all going according to plan and so it's back in the cars and off to Timperley where we performed at the Quarry Bank.  Another good performance and thankfully without the group of people who continued talking as we performed that we experienced last year.  The repeat of last year though was the Landlady buying the Gang a drink following the performance, for which thanks are given.  One more to go for the night so into the cars and off into Hale.

 The Railway is always a busy pub for us and can be quite noisy in fact it's usually so busy that we have to push people out of the way to make room for the Turkish Champion to die in.  This was not like that at all, it was very noisy and even busier!  Everything had to be done at full volume which can detract from the performance of the play but nevertheless is still obviously enjoyable for those there.  Even though not everyone sees the play, or only sees part of it, we are still amazed by the number of people who came up to us at the end said it was fantastic and superb, and what is fast becoming the word of the year, awesome!

And that brought the evening to a close, an evening that had probably not lived up to expectation, but had exceeded it!

The Last Night - Saturday 12th November 2011

Onto the last night, or to be correct, day, as the it starts with us meeting in the Saracen's Head at lunchtime.  The year for us had been good so far and we certainly know that it would be unlikely that this last session would let us down.

So after having being suitably fed and watered we moved on for first performance of the day at the Warburton Autumn Fair in Warburton Church where we performed at 2.30.  This is always a pleasure for us to perform here, to the local community at their local autumn fair and in the local church.  There can't be many traditional plays in this country that have the privilege of doing that.  It was its usual unique self as the performance here is always different to how we conduct ourselves when playing to a pub.  An excellent start to the day

.The Gang outside the Saracen's Head on the last day

Back to the Saracen's Head for another drink and a bite to eat for those that had not already eaten before we got ourselves ready for the evening session.  A group photograph was duly taken outside the Saracen's Head, and underneath the Saracen's Head above the front door, before we moved off to perform at the Axe and Cleaver in Dunham.  We had performed here earlier in the week on Bonfire Night when it was rather quiet and so we were duly invited back to perform hopefully when it was a bit busier.  However, with the tour already planned all we could do was to tag it onto the start of the last tour. Starting at 6.30 in the evening the pub was still rather quiet although the highlight of this performance was that Beelzebub had missed the pint strategically left for his use by the bar staff.

To get to the next pub we now needed to get ourselves onto the other side of the River Bollin for a performed at the Swan with two Nicks in Little Bollington.  This is always a very enjoyable pub to perform in and once again it lived up to expectation.  It was a little difficult for us however, as the side door that we generally use to perform at the bar where we can be seen from the restaurant area was closed and so we had to come into the front door which resulted in a bit of a delay from the entrance to starting one's part.  It was a fairly brief stop here before we headed off to the Star at Statham due to us squeezing in six pubs in the evening.  We'd only ever done this pub once before and we weren't sure how many people were going to be in it at this time in the evening. There was therefore a bit of trepidation as to how full it would be.  There was no need to worry as there were quite a few people in and so it made for a very enjoyable performance in a nice cosy pub.  The Landlord was extremely enthusiastic and said that we welcome at any time so I guess we'll be going back there next year.  It was only as we were having a drink there and people started to ask about the play and ask where we were going next that we actually realised all the people in the room had come to see the play. This was rather humbling to say the least.  By the time we left the pub was more or less empty because people had either gone home where moving on to the next pub to see us.  Wonderful.

So halfway through the evening session and it was the Spread Eagle in Lymm next.  We had been asked to perform here on this Saturday so we were perhaps expecting either a full pub at that time or a special event for us to play to.  While there was a private party on upstairs, we were a fact asked to play to the few people in the lounge area downstairs.  Those that were there consisted of a number of people who had come to see us together with some rather fascinated Americans who were very generous indeed with their donation into the hat.  

Two to go.  And the first of these was the Green Dragon in Heatley, always a welcoming pub with a very welcoming landlord.  It can be a bit tricky to play to as it is a bit spread out but nevertheless it works satisfactorily enough.  It should also be noted that the landlord was extremely generous with a donation at the end - many thanks.  It is here that our transport leaves us behind as it is now only a 15 minute walk to the Saracen's Head so after another brief drink as we were getting slightly behind schedule off we set down the road to Warburton for the last performance on the night and the season.

When we got to the Saracen's Head it was immediately obvious that the bar area of the pub was extremely full.  Very encouraging.  So a quick sanity check outside to make sure that we didn't make the same blunder that we made last year when the horse came in a bit too early and it was into the song for the last time this season.  The Enterer made a most impressive entrance and the pub was totally hushed, fabulous.  It felt a superb atmophere to us and the compliments after indicated that it was a splemdind last performance, thus bringing the year to a superb conclusion.

The evening continued with music and song, although perhaps not as much song as there should have been as the musicians were very dominant this year.  It had been a superb year all round, and a superb last night, sorry, superb last day.

This page updated: 14th November 2011.