Hang on, we appear to be part of a community.
Boarding a severely delayed train home in the pouring rain is something the two of us are very used to. It usually happens almost prophetically predictably following a dreadful gig or disastrous weekend at a festival, where the second you get on the train you shut your brain off and try and think about anything other than where you’re leaving, and instead focus on getting home and upcoming palpable relief of being back on familiar turf. Today this isn’t the case, and what a strangely wonderful feeling that is.
Drenched and knackered, we spent the entire journey consolidating our picture of Trowbridge. Not through a sense of duty or being on the clock, rather due to being genuinely interested and excited that we had started to understand the town. No longer constantly referring to notes and half-remembered facts, we were speaking about the people we had met and the places we’d been with an undercurrent of both knowing how they are linked and the strands that tie them. I think familiarity with a place is obviously very achievable but usually takes a while - for example you map somewhere out in your head over a number of years gigging there or chance meetings with locals after shows or at pubs and so on. So when you’re sat on public transport discussing everything from the local council affairs to the early 19th century controversies at the woollen mill of the community which months ago you barely could point to on a map, there is a genuine heartwarming feeling of starting to become truly involved and invested. We’re no longer researching Trowbridge, we’re knee-deep in the cogs - and that is far more exciting.
We spent a few days wandering the town chatting with residents in a far less formal setting than we’d done in previous trips, casting aside sit-down note-taking interviews and instead opting for bumping into people on a dog walk, having a smoke with someone, chatting to the barman - things like that. By and large everyone still found the idea of making art about Trowbridge quite odd and laughable (“Making a song? It’ll be a shit song if it’s about here. Here is shit”) but after all the gags and derision were slightly more open to giving us a little positivity about the community. Without fail, locals felt like Trowbridge had been shafted and forgotten, and weren’t overjoyed about living there, but we’re starting to see many more raised smiles about growing up there as children, how supportive neighbours have been, how beautiful the canal walk is - the list goes on. It’s almost as if there’s a stock conversation about Trowbridge being dreadful that people feel like they have to open with, knowing that the conversation won’t go any further than that and it’s a nice little release to get it off their chest for the day - but once you’ve done that and got it out the way, the residents seem a bit taken by surprise when they find themselves saying ‘here’s something nice for your song’ or ‘that place does good eggs’.
It’s a long old road but we’re getting there. There’s a warmth in Trowbridge that feels buried under a pavlovian need to consider it a cold, dark place, however it seems it might not be particularly hard to find after all. Also we ended the trip with a cup of coffee on a narrowboat with a friend, a dog, and a fire. It’s pretty hard to find fault in anywhere that you can do that.