Two years ago was meant to be The Bleeding Obvious’ breakout year. We all know what happened so there’s no point going over it, but I’m pleased to say 2022 was the year of performance and (aside from the day job) very little else. 15,000 miles and a lot of new experiences later, here we are…

It began in February with the notionally-titled “Spring Tour” consisting of dates I’d mostly booked at the end of 2021: Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, London, Sheffield, a women-oriented festival called FemFest in Brighton, a few others. It was a tour without structure – set lists were built on-the-hoof and featured new songs alongside older work, some patter to join it all up – it was a bit of a try-it-out tour I guess. It was variable as you’d expect in the shadow of the pandemic – some quieter venues and some busy ones – but almost as soon as it finished I came down with COVID. Oops.

It wasn’t my first rodeo (and compared to others I got off lightly) but that particular bout was rough. Delirium reigned for a few days: I was out of it enough to not realise I’d expressed interest in taking a show to the prestigious (and insanely huge) Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as I discovered late April when Underbelly offered me a slot. Goodness knows how my mind blanked that out. Oops once again.

Recording with Cilla, Charly and Nikki – aka The Advantages – in deepest darkest South London.

In the meantime I got a bit closer to album 3. Thanks to my Pink Singers family I travelled to London for a session with close-harmony group The Advantages and a barbershop group called Barberfellas where we wrote and recorded backing vocals and choral parts. I’m looking forward to you all hearing the work we did, it’s quite special – maybe 2023 is the year.

I also compered the monthly Sips & Giggles comedy cabaret at RBT Video in Wakefield: I’m immensely proud that little night has its successes and leads to meeting lots of fab new friends and acquaintances. There’s a nice vibe. We did a bangin’ women-led lineup for International Women’s Week back in March and I got to indulge myself trying new material out occasionally. OK there were some quiet nights but a few sold-out shows too and July saw our one year anniversary. Hooray! 🙌🏻

It wasn’t just Fringe I threw myself at: during my aforementioned COVID-addled haze I applied to play a load of festivals resulting in a run which started at Barnsley Live at the beginning of June and took in London LGBTQ+ Pride Picnic, L-Fest lesbian festival in Wales and Trans Pride Brighton among others. I tried to avoid my hometown for the most part – I’ve played there a LOT and nobody really comes to the shows.

So where was Edinburgh in all this? First off I needed to work out how to take a show there – ye gods it was expensive! I spent a very very hot summer formulating the show, performing it to myself over and over, tweaking it, adding in gags, removing things which didn’t quite work (the cool kids call it ‘workshopping’). I rehearsed on the banks of the Humber in lunch hour, and in the back garden when the house was too warm. One of our local studios in Wakefield served as a venue where I’d crack one-liners to an invisible audience. Mrs Rowbottom was very tolerant.

Two comedian friends gave me solid, friendly advice – Billy McGuire who is an “old school” standup, and Ashley Frieze who I’ve known since the 80s in another guise and was very patient with me revising my press releases. Both were extremely kind with a novice like myself. By the way, if you’ve come here for Edinburgh tips I heartily recommend Ian Fox’s book How To Produce, Perform and Write An Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show, which Ash edited.

Rehearsing on the banks of the Humber during lunch hour.

Even with help I did much of it myself to save money: posters, designs, photoshoot, PR, press releases, the lot. I also didn’t take any time off work, a damn stupid move which almost cost me my sanity.

Finally on 21 July I performed the first public showing in a warmup at The Red Shed in Wakefield, flanked by two of my favourite women comedians. It went OK. I did another warmup at L Fest in Wales and then a final one at The Flamboyance in Leeds to a packed-out house. Donations helped with financing the whole venture, family helped too – the support was phenomenal.

Two major personal things happened around that time: my old school asked me to write an article about my schooldays for The Old Savilian, a move which implied I was coming out to my contemporaries (some of whom I hadn’t heard from since the late 80s). Not content with that there was an article in the local newspaper where I accidentally came out as well. I mean, it’s not a big secret really but for it to be in print out there… sheesh.

Edinburgh went as well as can be expected for someone who did it all on their own. I met some interesting and fun people mostly from our little dressing-room community. My day would start at 5am when I’d get up to work, then get a bus into Edinburgh (30 minutes away). Go flyering, sell tickets, do some more work in between. Grab cheap tea (I now know every ramen place in a 2-mile radius), some exit-flyering, do the show at 10:15pm, finish at 11:15pm, grab the piano and run across Bristo Square to do another couple of 10-spots elsewhere, back to the hotel for 2am. I did that for 12 days. Like I say, it almost cost me my sanity and it was bloody expensive. Seeing myself on a 2-metre advertising hoarding was weird.

Every night was different: what worked one show would fall flat the next. My first show was a disaster and I came out of it thinking “oh gods I have to do this again and again” – but it got better. I started altering the show, tweaking nightly based on an audience, switching out bits if they didn’t work early-on and replacing them. Dressing-room comrade Emo Majok had a phrase for it: “Every night you’re sharpening the blade”.

Bristo Square on day 1 – the bags under the eyes hadn’t yet appeared.

The most nerve-wracking nights were when friends came to see me perform. I had some lovely surprises, such as an old school friend I’d not seen in 35 years coming to see the show, and an old industry pal from ISP days.

For me Edinburgh Fringe wasn’t a festival; it wasn’t about opportunity or getting discovered (although it’d led to some good things happening which hopefully I can tell you about next year). It was boot camp, sharpening the blade every night. Audience left nice comments and lovely reviews (although I’m still a little sore that one particular superb review only got me 3.5 stars!).

Oh, before I went back to Wakefield I bought myself an autoharp to say “well done Jess” – the chap who sold me it in the shop on St Patricks was part of a band I’d photographed in 2015. Funny old world innit.

When I eventually returned home I was a wreck: Mum declared I had PTSD. I mean, it didn’t stop me getting big ideas and booking another tour for November before I lost impetus but I did want to take time off in the meantime and concentrate on the day job. Would I do Fringe again? Hell yes, though maybe sit next year out.

By mid-September I missed the road trips (as did Helen) so off I went again taking the Fringe show around the country throughout November. I flyered, postered, did radio spots and every bit of PR I could – but the whole run was absolutely bipolar with either a full house or empty seats, nothing in between. Despite decent presales in Newcastle I played to one single audience member (not counting the support act, the barman or my wife) in a bizarre immersive-theatre performance. Then on the flip side I did a show to a full house at Wharf Chambers, Leeds (arguably the best show of the year) where everything went just right – the lines, the riffing, the music, the lot. It would have made a really super end to the run but Sheffield was the following night and unfortunately a bit quieter.

Finishing the year at BBC Radio Leeds for a live performance of “The Last Thought”.

Helen and I discovered lovely little places like Faversham on that tour. I got recognised in Sheffield market by someone who saw me at Fringe – that felt odd! A friend-of-a-friend abused me online and said “you can’t even do drag properly” (nice one love, that’ll go in the routine). Oh, and a hotel in South London upgraded me to a suite because they’d googled me and thought I was famous – go figure!

The year finished with a live song on BBC Radio Leeds courtesy of the wonderful Gayle Lofthouse who’s been a massive supporter throughout 2022. Finally I moved into a project workspace so I can have somewhere to work on things including a secret-squirrel thing which happened back at Fringe – there’s a big whiteboard which is already covered in multicoloured scribble.

Aside from all that I learned to screen-print, got rejected for another radio play, went to a stag weekend, took Mum to the Ivy, had a huge health scare which reset my outlook on life, learned how to use the holy triumvirate of 1176-2A-Pultec for vocal processing (thanks Jon!), kept the tourbus running even though it sounds like it’s on 60 Rothmans a day, and almost cut my fingertip off.

So, see you next year?