Striding Edge on Kirkby Moor, left to right: Jon Bowie, Mike Willoughby, Dougie Cumming, Roddy Johnson
The first lineup of Striding Edge came together in February 1995. Mike Willoughby was then living on a farm up the Kirkstone Pass in Ambleside. One wild night, Kendal musicians Jon Bowie and Roddy Johnson staggered in from the cold clutching guitars, bagpipes and whistles. John (guitar) and Roddy (fiddle and highland pipes) were up for jamming with Mike to see where things might lead. Mike, playing as a soloist at that time, was very glad of the company! After several weeks of jamming, the name Striding Edge was hit upon. Shortly after this, old Windermere friend Dougie Cumming was recruited on Drums.
Edge played only two gigs in the first year: Ironically for a Lakes band, both in Yorkshire! Band logistics revealed teething problems: For the Ilkley gig, diesel was put in the tank of the hire car instead of petrol so Edge spent a cold night waiting for the AA on Ilkley Moor . Pretty soon, John bought a big red Transit everyone could travel around in, in relative comfort! Edge flowed sweetly on into their second year..
In January 96, Striding Edge recruited Furness bass player Shaun Blezard.
Shaun's 'Heavy Dub' style bass playing immediately notched the Striding Edge sound up a gear, leading to the band's first 'classic' lineup. A steady flow of local gigs followed, with forays to Lancashire, and over nine months band's musical direction really gelled. As a ceilidh band, Edge started going down a storm. The Highland bagpipes / bombarde / electric guitar combination was particularly memorable! The concert set and interesting song-arrangements were developing, too.
The autumn, however, brought change: Dougie was off to college, and Roddy to Leeds, which left a gap in the ranks, and Mike, Jon and Shaun biting their nails before their first New Years Eve gig. In the nick of time, in stepped two North Lancashire musicians: Carolyn Francis on fiddle, (to help us out, as she thought at the time, as a 'one off') and Sam Dale on drums. New Years Eve at the 'Coro in Ulverston was a belting night, and a good omen: we then knew strding Edge would not simply fizzle out, but stride boldly into it's third year...
1995-96: 28 shows
August: Leeds, Hotel: Wedding ceilidh
October: Ilkley, Cow and Calf Hotel: Wedding ceilidh
13/1 Kendal, Brewery Arts Centre: Greenpeace ceilidh
26 /1 Ambleside, Charlotte Mason College: Student ceilidh
24 /2 Bardsea, Village Hall: Naming ceremony ceilidh
28 /3 Grange, Cricket Club: Wedding ceilidh
18 /5 Lancaster, Gregson Centre,: Greenpeace ceilidh
25/5 Barrow, Duke Of Edinburgh,: Concert gig
8/6 St. Johns In The Vale, Village Hall: Wedding ceilidh
22/6 Halifax, private house: Naming ceremony ceilidh
30/6 Barrow, Dock Museum: Open air concert
5/7 Lancaster, Gregson Centre: Concert/ceilidh
6/7 Ulverston, Carnival: Open air concert
13/7 Kendal, Brewery Arts Centre: Letts scheme ceilidh
14/7 Barrow, Amphitheatre: Open air concert
27/7 Garstang, Hotel: Wedding ceilidh
18/8 Barrow Park: Open air concert
23/8 Witherslack, private house: Wedding ceilidh
24/8 Sheffield, private house: Wedding ceilidh
25/8 Carlisle, Killoran Hotel: Party concert/ceilidh
30/8 Kendal, private house: Party ceilidh
14/ Haydock, The Racecourse: Wedding ceilidh
21/9 Maryport, Hotel: Silver wedding ceilidh
27/9 Kendal Brewery Arts Centre: Greenpeace ceilidh
9/11 Patterdale, Hotel: Climbing Club ceilidh
23/11 St. Johns In The Vale, King's Arms: Party ceilidh
30/12 Carlisle, Killoran Hotel: Party ceilidh
31/12 Ulverston, Coronation Hall: New year's eve ceilidh
Carolyn's first gig with Edge