Chantel McGregor delighted to get a real live Worthing audience

Chantel McGregor is relishing the prospect of a socially-distanced gig at the Factory Live in Worthing on May 29.

Chantel McGregor
Chantel McGregor

She will have played her first gig back a week or so before – and can’t wait to look out from the stage and actually see someone out there. “I am just hoping”, says blues/rock performer and guitar prodigy Chantel, originally from Yorkshire and now living in Cambridge.

“I think this time everything feels a lot more optimistic. It is just looking much more likely that things will be able to go ahead.”

And if it’s socially distanced, well, that’s just what we have got to live with: “I did two socially-distanced shows last August when we were able to do some shows, and it did feel a bit strange, the fact that people were allowed to clap but not cheer, the fact that everyone was six feet apart, that they were not allowed to chat with their mates, that they couldn’t meet up with their friends. But it was what it was, and it is just what we are going to have to put up with.

“Originally this (Worthing) gig was going to be a band gig, but because of the rules it is just going to be me. The band gig would be very electric, very loud, big rock guitar solos. The acoustic gig will obviously be a very different feel, much more singer-songwriter and different songs mostly. There are a few cross-overs, but acoustic versions of them, but I do think everyone will enjoy it.

“And I do think that people are ready to get back to normal now. My first event back sold out. I was really worried whether anybody would come out, whether they would be too frightened to go out, but I think people are just very eager to get a bit of normality back. There are so many people on social media who are just chomping at the bit to get back out there, and the vaccination programme is going fantastically.”

Chantel isn’t sure whether as a musician she will have been changed by all that we have been through: “I have always been very paranoid about cancelling a gig. I did a gig when I had the flu. I had bird flu or swine flu and I just didn’t want to cancel the gig. And I have done a gig with a torn ligament in my leg. I just did it on crutches.

“But when you think of the number of gigs that have been cancelled by the pandemic… and now maybe I am thinking that if I am ever poorly again, then maybe I would cancel the gig. I don’t know. It might be that once I get back into it, I will go straight back to how I was and just thinking ‘No! I mustn’t cancel anything!’”

But the return to live performance will bring opportunities on both sides, Chantel thinks.

“I think there will be more appreciation all round. The performers will appreciate having the chance to go out and perform live again, and the audiences will appreciate just being able to go out again and listen to music.”

“Last year was difficult, but I think everyone perceives it in a different way. Many people say that it was a completely wasted year, but I wouldn’t say that. I was really proactive. I have been doing a live stream every week, every Saturday, 5pm, and I have now been doing it for more than a year. I missed one when I did a gig last year and I missed Boxing Day, but I do think I will carry on. I think I will carry on for as long as people want to listen.

“There will be people that don’t feel safe going out and getting back to gigs and so the live stream will be for them. But I do think I will carry on for as long as people want it.”