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How I ended up playing the Ferry Boat Inn three times in a week - and getting told off for it

PUBLISHED: 16:38 09 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:38 09 October 2019

Specialist reporter David Hannant (far right) performs at The Ferry Boat with The Era, Picture: Matthew Collins

Specialist reporter David Hannant (far right) performs at The Ferry Boat with The Era, Picture: Matthew Collins

Matthew Collins

News of the sale of the former Ferry Boat Inn in Norwich has brought memories flooding back of a misspent youth attempting to be a rock 'n' roll star at the venue for specialist reporter David Hannant.

A mystery buyer has been found for the Ferry Boat Inn in Norwich Picture: Victoria PertusaA mystery buyer has been found for the Ferry Boat Inn in Norwich Picture: Victoria Pertusa

It was the early noughties, I was coming towards the end of high school - Hellesdon to be exact - and a considerable amount of my free time was spend playing in a band, as a number of my friends also did.

Mine was called The Era, it was a band I essentially stumbled into out of proximity alone; it was formed by my older brother Martyn and a few of his friends and I was just...there.

At our peak we were a five piece made up of Chris 'Colz' Collins on vocals, Martyn on lead guitar, rhythm guitarist Rob Annable, Sean Coates on the drums and myself on the bass.

Sound wise, you'd probably describe us as Britpop that arrived about a decade too late - Colz being a huge Oasis fan very much had Liam Gallagher in mind when he took to the stage.

As memory serves we were going for around three years or so, before inevitably life got in the way and were lucky enough to play a few gigs at the Waterfront and the Arts Centre - among other venues across the city.

But there was always one venue that felt more 'home' than others - the most welcoming of places for a young band looking to get their first taste of performing live. That place? The Ferry Boat Inn.

Whenever there were times that gigs felt hard to come by, The Ferry Boat was there, willing to give just about anybody a crack if they needed a place to go.

The fact this was about half my lifetime ago mean that I can't possibly recall exactly how many times I played there - along with naturally losing count - but it was quite a lot.

There was one week in particular where, not by design in the slightest, that we ended up playing there three times a week. I'm fairly sure we even played the exact same setlist.

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Generally with the FezBoz - as I used to call it - there were two or three ways of playing there. You either booked the place out and put a bill together, were invited by somebody else doing the same, or put your name down on the 'Norwich Darkside Forum' - a primitive online message board where bands would gather and chat.

I remember that same week, we had somehow lucked upon a support slot at Norwich Arts Centre, opening for Yeti - the new band of Libertines bassist John Hassall.

This was on a Thursday and we were keen to get ourselves a bit of a warm up, so we can make sure we could all still remember how to hold our instruments, so booked out the FezBoz on the Tuesday of that week.

Then, out of the blue, some friends of ours in another band asked us if we would be up for playing a gig with them on the Monday of that week. Naturally, we said yes. The venue? You guessed it. The Ferry Boat.

I'm not sure how it ended up happening, but we then also somehow ended up with another gig that week on the Friday. No prizes for guessing where it was.

That following week I was mortified to read a message to the following effect on the Darkside - from the landlord at the pub at the time. I forget their name, but the wording was pretty unforgettable.

"Can bands playing the Ferry Boat please try and mix it up with their support acts? We've seen the we've had the same band play three times this week..."

So why have I told this anecdote? Because, it perfectly sums up just what The Ferry Boat Inn was in its heyday.

It was a crutch on which any aspiring artist could lean, the place to go if you wanted a gig and needed a gig and was a true stalwart of the live music scene of Norwich - if in fact a building can be a stalwart.

Of course, it's been vacant for many years now and - in all honesty - I welcome the possibility of it being redeveloped. I'd much rather see the site be put to some use than sit there derelict, holding nothing but similar memories to my own.

It genuinely makes me sad to think that for people of a certain generation, their only memories of it will be as an eyesore, a boarded up, graffiti-laden blot on the horizon.

However for me, and I am 100pc certain for many others, it will always hold happy memories of the evenings I could say that tonight, I'm a rock 'n' roll star.

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