FRANCIS Dunnery returned to his roots at the weekend and showed his star quality – all in the name of charity.

The annual Charlie and Kathleen Dunnery Children’s Fund weekend got off to a fantastic start on Friday night, with an intimate welcome at Summergrove.

Visitors to Cumbria for the event had travelled from all four corners of the earth, with Germany, Scandinavia and America particularly well represented.

Others had come from around the UK but, surprisingly, there weren’t too many local faces.

Mr Dunnery himself arrived just in time for the meal, and went around the room greeting fans, many of whom have become his friends as he has played a number of house concerts around the globe.

After all had been fed and watered it was back upstairs for the entertainment, a memorable set by local duo John and Wayne.

John and Wayne are Francis’ nephew, John Dunnery, and Wayne Wilkinson, and both hail from West Cumbria.

They are with Francis’ Aquarian Nation label and have a growing reputation, which has seen them signed up to support Jools Holland on his upcoming UK tour.

Many in the room will have heard their early material before, and the duo played a number of tracks from their first album, Nearly Killed Keith.

However it was the new stuff which really impressed.

The lads have a very unique style, singing in broad West Cumbrian accents (Francis himself is the only other artist I know who has that style) and about real things.

By that I mean they don’t sing about love or world peace but the things that happen to each of us every day, about their experiences and their lives.

Because they sing about real life there is a lot of humour in the lyrics, and as a West Cumbrian I was in the fortunate position of being able to make out just about every word.

The new album that the pair are working on is called Deef In Yan Lug, Blint In Yan Eye, and after explaining to the audience what that meant the duo performed some of the new material from it.

They opened with Cumbrian at Heart, a song about the difficulties they face travelling around the world and being understood when they open their mouths.

It is abundantly clear when listening to John and Wayne that they are immeasurably proud of their roots, and song after song made reference to where they come from.

One song in particular, Millom Zoo, made for very interesting listening, especially for anyone who has ever been on a night out in Millom, or Whitehaven, or Egremont…

John and Wayne did a full hour, and were given a standing ovation when they left the stage, but what was to follow was one of the most entertaining and intimate things I have ever seen.

Francis stood up and tried to encourage members of the audience to have a go on the karaoke – what followed was magical.

There was no monitor with the words on, just Francis, a keyboard player and a couple of microphones, and he sang along, beautifully, to whatever number the participant wanted to have a go at.

It was the kind of one off, never to be repeated event that will stay long in the memory for anyone in the room and Dunnery showed himself to be a natural born entertainer.

The following night he hooked up with his band and they did their best to blow the roof off Egremont Market Hall with a number of songs from his early, rockier days.

He played songs from his first solo album, Welcome to the Wild Country, as well as a few It Bites numbers.

The general consensus was that the 300 plus sell-out show had been a massive success, with many of the fans travelling up to Glasgow the following night to see the second date of the tour.

A memorable weekend with two memorable performances, roll on next year.

By Karl Connor
Published in The Whitehaven News

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