Note: Dudestock, A Dudeist Music Festival will take place in York UK on August 6, 2011. For those not familiar with York, Rev. Ed Churchman makes us privy to the old city.
To say the city of York is steeped in history is to downplay just how historical it really is. It’s no small task to try and put 1,940 years of history into a succinct snippet, and I just couldn’t do it. Two drafts later and it still made the article too darned long, because there was just so much to say about modern York, which I believe to be one of the dudeliest places in the UK today. And, considering the city was founded by the fabled Roman 9th Legion as a fort after they’d decimated the local tribesmen, it’s come a long way, man!
Not only is there a great and profound sense of ‘dude’ in the modern city, but it’s also recently become the focus for a small group of Dudeists, and is soon to be the site of the first Dudeist music festival. I had the good fortune to not only return to this great city, the first time since my childhood, and revisit some of the historical wonders of York, but I also attended the most happening place in town to meet up with some of my northern compeers; including event organizer and driving force behind Dudestock, The Arch Dude Dude of York himself, Rev. Kristian Lewin, who kindly found time to give me an interview, which you can read in the second half of the article.
So, what’s the deal with York anyway? What makes it so special? Well, Dudes, that’s just it, there’s no one thing that really sets York apart as a city, it’s just matured like a fine cheese and gained value like a fossilized Roman flip-flop. There’s no one defining quality or historical event, it’s all built upon… well… the build-up. If you’d like to know a more detailed history, check out History of York, this does the job as well as anything I came up with, and it doesn’t spoil the flow of the article to do it!
Even the first 1,000 years of history alone has made York an archaeologist’s wet dream. Artifacts have been discovered from all those interim periods (Roman, Angle, Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval Norman) and are displayed and cared for in York’s many museums. Perhaps one of the greatest legacies left for the town is the architecture. From the stone walls and towers which have been built once in wood and twice in stone, to the great Minster cathedral (again, once in wood, twice in stone) and many other small medieval churches. Beyond that, many buildings still standing today were constructed in Tudor, Georgian and Victorian times and the city is a wonderful patchwork of historical architecture.
One of the best ways to see some of York’s history without ever setting foot in a museum or set of ruins is to visit its extensive collection of public houses. Yes, York has an amazingly large amount of pubs, some of which have been standing for around 400 years, and some have had licenses for over 300! That’s a long time in business. Just think how many oat sodas you could serve in 300 years… During my week in York I was blessed with having enough time to visit a lot of these great pubs, each with its own unique character and atmosphere.
It’s nice to find a real pub nowadays, seeing as trendy chain bars dominate most towns and cities, especially as they are far more conducive with a dudely attitude than their modern compeers. I’ve never felt so at home as I have in a proper, well-established, characteristic pub that serves an interesting range of real ales and ciders and its own unique selection of cooked food. When you’re within the walls of York you’re never more than a minute’s amble from a pub, a great haven for the abiding. Muslims have Mecca and five-a-day prayers, UK Dudes have York, and five-a-day pub visits. I was blessed to make my pilgrimage this year, for sure!
The second great dudely aspect of modern York: Culture
You’d be forgiven for thinking that a historical city might be a bit stuffy and out of date. York is surprisingly modern in spite of being steeped in history from corner to corner. It’s got a wonderful blend of this rich mix of cultural heritage and modern attitudes, but it doesn’t conform. I’ve been to too many towns and cities in my time that all seem to be the same; same shops, same bars, same restaurants, same cinemas, same people. One thing that makes a big difference is that most of the roads and streets within the walled centre are pedestrianized, so you can walk around causally without some a-hole rushing around on four wheels, blowing smoke in your face and making a big noise. And, it’s only about fifteen minutes from wall to wall, so it’s nice and compact, yet not really overcrowded.
York really benefits from not only being a massively popular international tourist haven, which brings in a wide variety of people at any one time, but a massive amount of shops remain fiercely independent. I mean, you still get the usual chain stores there, but the sheer amount of shop space is phenomenal and so when the chains run out you’ll find roads and roads full of independent shops selling just about anything you won’t find in the big stores.
Not only that, the chain restaurants are outnumbered by independents and the cinema at the centre of town in a Picturehouse, which is, yes, a chain… But it’s a small, low-key chain of characteristic cinemas that show foreign and arthouse films as well as mainstream UK and Hollywood flicks. In fact, Picturehouse has a place of esteem for us Dudeists, for three reasons. One, it was pretty much the only cinema chain that played A Serious Man upon UK release (despite the massive TV add campaign), two, it was the cinema chain that premiered the Volkswagen advert for Dudeism back in the day. Yup, The Dudely Lama’s already been to York, and he didn’t even know it! And three, it was the place in which the Arch Dude of York, Rev Kristian Lewin, found his inner Dude.
The city also seems to play regular host to some great buskers and bands. It’s not every day you’re walking down the road and see a girl sitting on a stone step playing the shamisen outside of Japan. In fact, in one day, I discovered two great local bands busking to promote their debut studio albums. One, the folk band Blackbeard’s Tea Party, who mostly play shanties (and whose guitarist actually chased me down the road between songs to talk shop about our long beards), the other, old timey enthusiasts The Buffalo Skinners who’ve just come back from California where they recorded a selection of their own original American roots material. And that’s not even touching upon the bands that are signed up to play Dudestock next month, some of whom came to the excellent Montey’s Rock Café during our little dudely abide-in.
And the final key aspect that defines York as a dudely city: Attitude
The UK, like many nations, can often be defined by the poor attitude of its citizens. I’m not just talking about crime here, but a sense of social cohesion. That is, being excellent to each other. In a week I saw one thing that would perhaps be called "anti-social behavior", but to be honest, the guy who instigated it was quite polite about his practical joking, and I had to do a double take to make sure he wasn’t going to start hitting things and shouting and swearing.
Crime is relatively low it seems, I saw no vandalism or graffiti and people aren’t really in a hurry. It’s amazing to see that sort of thing when you spent so much time in more modern towns where people are constantly fixated with not getting on with any other human being outside of their small clutch. York is a real eye-opener of a place if you’re used to yobs and grumps dominating your local high street by day and binge-drinking youths terrifying the town at night.
So, this historical city is actually pretty cosmopolitan and generally chilled out. It’s like walking into a small friendly village, only without the funny looks you get for being an outsider. This place really welcomes you with open arms, wherever you’re from in the world. York really did fill me with a profound sense of ‘spiritual home’ in just that short week I was there.
And so we move on to the evening of my last day, and Mini Dudestock
It was a sad thing to hear that a slow-down in support had caused Dudestock to be moved back by six weeks, but it cheered me to hear that there was to be a meet-up for all the Dudes who were set to travel in to York anyway. Hosted in the beer garden of Montey’s Rock Café, a great independent music venue, the night was excellently laid-back and still within earshot of the great bands who’d come to preview themselves before Dudestock. It was a good turn out all things considered and I met some old online friends and new friendly faces alike. I also finally got to sample some of Mother Duderior’s fabled homebrewed Cow Hula. Man, that stuff packs a smooth kick!
Not in this picture… Gordon, who was sacrificed to make a neat panorama of people. But I did manage to get his pint in the exact centre of the image!
Event organizer, Rev. Kristian Lewin, was busy that night, flipping burgers, trying to raise funds for Dudestock’s charity (York’s Special Care Baby Unit) and announcing bands, but I did manage to get a bit of time towards the end of the evening for a quick, on-the-spot interview with the Arch Dude of York himself:
Rev Ed: So, are you all excited about Dudestock?
ADY: Absolutely! It’s a lot of stress, a lot of hassle. Sometimes you think, is it really worth it?
Rev Ed: Yeah, very undude type of thing to get there.
ADY: Yeah, there is a lot of undudeness in the building of Dudestock. But, at the same time, when it’s all done with, it’s gonna be a case of: "You know what, I feel fuckin’ amazing right now, I’ve done this for charity, I’ve raised this money for the Special Care Baby Unit. I’ve done this, I’ve done that…" and, whilst it’s a little bit self-fulfilling, it has a lot of repercussions for a lot of other people as well. So, in that respect, I’m really looking forward to it, I’m really excited about it, but, yeah, a lot of stress along the way.
Rev Ed: So, what do you think about the turnout here tonight? All the people coming from different corners just to come here and meet up?
ADY: It’s been amazing, absolutely amazing. I mean, we’ve had Matti, we’ve had Dave… [He trails off, realizing this could be a long namecheck] So, I mean, it’s quite flatting, it’s quite complimentary to see all these people come from all corners. I mean, yourself, man, you’ve come from the south coast, so you know, in that respect… I love it!
Rev Ed: Have you met any of these people before?
ADY: No, apart from through Facebook. And I think that’s the power of the internet, I think Dudeism reflects that as well, because Dudeism is essentially an internet-based religion. So, this, coming together tonight, definitely puts that into context. It makes you think "I’ve never met any of these people, I had maybe completely different expectations of these people…" and it’s amazing!
ADY: I hope so. It’s quite a difficult thing to call. A lot of the people that have been in here tonight, they may be a regular Montey’s crowd, or on their way into town on a night out, but, at the same time, a lot of people have come from the Facebook page we’re created as well.
Rev Ed: What’s the response been around York? Because I know you went out recently and did a bit of a campaign for it.
ADY: We’ve had a massive campaign, I mean I’ve got an interview with BBC Radio York in a couple of weeks, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to. Generally, the feedback that we’ve had from York has been fantastic. We’ve had so much support, especially since the date changed as well. A lot of people saying "I appreciate you changed the date because you’re struggling, what can we do to help?" And that in its own sense is what Dudestock is all about, bringing people together for a common cause.
Rev Ed: So you’d rate York as a great dudely haven in the UK?
ADY: Absolutely! I mean, it’s got its downsides, like anywhere…
Rev Ed: Everywhere in society we put people into different circles, he’s a trendy, and she’s a bit alternative, and he’s a bit that… I’ve found there are so many different pubs and havens around for everyone here in York, I’ve just found it an absolutely brilliant place. There’s no one really been acting up, I don’t feel threatened by anyone, I don’t feel pissed off by anyone… it’s just great.
ADY: And that is the thing about York I think, that it is just so varied. You can walk in one pub and it’s full of youngsters, then you walk in another pub and it’s full of older gentlemen who enjoy a quiet life and enjoy a nice drink… so yeah, I think it’s very varied. I like York, my heart is in York, I mean I’m from Manchester originally… to come from Manchester to York was a big culture shock, but I like being in York. This is my home, this is where I’ll bring up my children.
ADY: Yeah, absolutely. Just knowing that something like the Special Care Baby Unit is there I think helps immensely. We were really lucky we didn’t have to use the Baby Care Unit ourselves. A good friend of ours has, their baby was born 12 weeks premature and they were in there for 11 weeks and nearly died twice. So, in that respect it’s just an amazing, amazing thing, and we can’t ignore that. So, you know we were all babies once, that’s what I’ve said to people and that’s why we’re doing it.
Big thanks to Rev Kristian Lewin and his wife Silviya for organising that little shindig, and all those other Dudes who attended Mini Dudestock back in June. Onwards to Dudestock!