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Greek odyssey by camper van

By Margaret Chrystall

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Rob Ellen (left) with Cigar Box Don Jack. Picture: Callum Mackay
Rob Ellen (left) with Cigar Box Don Jack. Picture: Callum Mackay

HIGHLAND promoter Rob Ellen sets off later this month on a 21st century Greek odyssey by camper van – with local musical talents along for the ride.

With only the help of his trusty GPS system, Rob hopes to make it from Scotland to Greece by mid-October for the WOMEX music convention in Thessalonika to talk about DIY music.

And along the way, he will be putting the DIY approach to music into practice with guerrilla gigs, radio shows, online videocasts – even recording live shows and duplicating them onto CDs for sale afterwards.

Hoping to help finance the trip through France, Switzerland and Italy with the odd gig en route with some help from the House Concert Hub, Rob will also be stopping off just outside Paris to open the first-ever International Cigar Box Guitar Festival on October 6 with a live set.

Rob plays tea chest bass to fellow Highlander Don Jack’s homemade cigar box guitar in their duo The Slim Panatellas playing barrel house, country blues and hokum.

Inverness guitarist Hamish Roberts – hooking up with the European odyssey after a gig in the Scottish borders – will be joining them.

Rob said: “Hamish is an extra slim Panatella and will be helping bring down both the weight and age coefficient on the trip.

“Don who gets requests to build cigar box guitars for people every time we play – and usually has them ready by the next gig – is building one of the special guitars for Hamish to play.”

Also joining the three on the way is musician Mark Mulholland, who – unlike Don who will leave the troubadours at the Paris festival – will join them after his own French dates to continue all the way to Greece where he also has a role helping Haitian recovery through music.

And during the journey, other musicians will join the party – such as Tim O’Connor for dates in France and Switzerland The camper van sets off from Dingwall on the first leg of the long journey on September 22, after a Slim Panatellas’ gig at the Tea Posy at the Dingwall’s Greenhouse.

“We had a dry run playing the Live At Troon festival last week and it went well,” said Rob.

“I think troubadours have travelled around instinctively playing for forever.”

Rob revealed that the camper van had been gifted to him after a spell not being driven and she had now been made ready for her trip.

He said: “She didn’t have a lot of mileage as she had usually just gone on summer trips.

“But the poor girl landed with me and will be thoroughly tested on this trip.

“I’ve got insurance for her, so she’ll get back whatever.”

Then Rob confessed: “For me it’s Greece or bust.

“But we’ve not worked out exactly how we’re getting home yet. I suppose it’s like Everest, you get to the top and then worry about getting down!”

For more details, go to www.medicinemobile.co.uk and www.medicineshowontheroad.co.u?k to find out how to catch up with the odyssey at www.facebook,com events/404341736294198/

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