Band Filkins Drift walk 870 miles on tour around Wales

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By Rowenna Hoskin

BBC News

Two musicians have taken sustainable touring to the next level – walking 870 miles (1,400 km) with their instruments strapped to their backs.

While Beyoncé flies in a private jet, Filkins Drift have walked around Wales, performing almost 50 gigs.

After hiking through two named storms, Chris Roberts and Seth Bye finish their 60-day tour in Chepstow, Monmouthshire, on Tuesday.

They said the music industry has to change its “mindset” on sustainability.

The subject of how musicians tour hit the headlines in the summer when Beyoncé arrived for a gig in Cardiff by private jet, while Coldplay’s Chris Martin took the train to the city a few weeks later.

Chris Roberts, from Cardiff, said: “We’re not at all suggesting that everyone should give up driving and walk to all their gigs because it has completely taken over our lives, but things like choosing more sustainable routes (should be considered).”

The guitar player said the 27-year-olds had discovered “how little stuff” they need to gig, each carrying a 15kg (33lb) bag.

Seth, from Gloucestershire, said: “I’ve got kind of a medium-sized backpack and using an elaborate system of carabiners, my fiddle is strapped to the back of a bag, and I’ve also got the mic.

“Chris has got his sort of massive guitar, which has got various bag straps on the outside of it and clothes stuffed in with the guitar.”


Image caption,

Filkins Drift have been recording sounds and stories on their travels to make into a new album

The duo began their walk in Flintshire on 3 September, travelling through counties including Gwynedd, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Swansea and Bridgend.

After more than 45 gigs and 60 days, the journey is set to finish in Chepstow, with Chris adding: “It’s been mad because we’ve got a set of clothes that we walk in and one we do a gig in.”

They said it has changed the way they plan to gig in the future, although it will probably be more focused on public transport than hiking.

The pair came up with the walking tour idea after lockdown.

Seth said when they began gigging again, their time was mostly “spent in a car stuck in a traffic jam, which isn’t very good for the environment, or mental and physical health”.

“We were just wondering whether there was a better way to tour,” he said.


Image caption,

Chris Roberts says having only the possessions he can carry on his back has been “refreshing”

They were inspired by old Bardic traditions, said Chris: “Walking like this isn’t a new idea, it’s something that has just been forgotten.

“This is actually how people used to work for years and years, especially around Wales, along the coast.”

The guitarist said planning felt like a “massive puzzle” because they had to find venues every 15 miles (24km).

“Fortunately, almost every single village on the coast of Wales has either a chapel, a pub – or both,” he said.

However they had to get creative in some areas, with places such as Llanelli Wetland Centre putting on a gig for the first time.

Chris said another aspect of their tour has been to bring live music to communities and places that do not often have access.

“We’re raising money for a charity called Live Music Now, who bring music to people who can’t come out to conventional concerts – so care homes and special needs schools and hospitals and things like that,” he said.


Image caption,

Seth Bye uses an intricate system of carabiners and shoelaces to carry his fiddle and other gear on his back

In the two months the pair have been walking, two named storms hit the UK.

Seth said: “We’ve been ridiculously lucky with the weather – Storm Agnes was meant to hit us but completely missed.

“It’s been phenomenal – we’ve had days where we finish the walk and get to the venue and then it just starts tipping it down.”

They said there was one day, where they were hiking Yr Eifl, a group of hills on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynedd, where they got “absolutely drenched”.

“Neither of us had quite figured out the waterproofing strategies for the bags – various waterproof covers secured with shoelaces and duct tape,” Seth said.

They also managed to avoid the worst of Storm Babet.


Image caption,

The two musicians say they have stayed with some amazing people who have offered up their homes

People would call “out of the blue” to offer their home for the night.

Seth said, despite having walked for two months, they have had “no blisters, no aches and pains” despite the fact they had “not actually trained” for the journey.

“We walk all day, we have an hour for food, and then we do a gig, it’s just back to back – to start with it felt incredibly daunting, but now we have just settled into the natural rhythm of life,” he said.