BBC dramatises Michael Morpugo’s book, Alone On The Wide Wide Sea

Wide Wide Sea

BBC Radio 2 is to broadcast a drama starring Toby Jones and Jason Donovan based on award-winning author Michael Morpurgo’s child migration novel, Alone On A Wide Wide Sea. The four-part drama, the first ever adaptation of the book, stars Toby Jones and Jason Donovan alongside cameo appearances from Michael Morpurgo and Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

The 30-minute episodes will be broadcast across four days during Jeremy Vine’s show at 1.30pm-2pm from Monday 7 to Thursday 10 August. The drama will also feature original music from the album The Ballads Of Child Migration, as well as new songs which have been written especially for the radio drama.

Between 1869 and 1970 around 100,000 British children were sent overseas – without their parents – by leading British churches and charities to new lives in Australia and Canada. Michael Morpurgo’s story, which was adapted for radio by Ian McMillan, is inspired by this sad part of history. It tells of the adventures of two child migrants, Arthur and Marty, who dispatched from London to a working farm in the Australian outback.

In the drama, Toby Jones plays Mr Piggy Bacon, who runs the farm where the child migrants are put to work on the land, and Jason Donovan portrays Arthur Hobhouse, who as an orphan child was sent from London to Australia as part of a child migration scheme.

The play covers 50 years of Arthur Hobhouse’s life and so features three different actors portraying the character, though Jason is a constant throughout playing ‘old Arthur’. Michael Morpurgo narrates the story, while Maggie Aderin-Pocock (presenter of the BBC’s Sky at Night) plays an astronaut in the International Space Station.

Specially curated music from the drama was performed to great acclaim at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2017 on Wednesday 5 April at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Lewis Carnie, Head of Radio 2, says: “I’m delighted BBC Radio 2 is bringing such distinctive drama and music to the heart of our daytime schedule. The powerful and engaging writing of Michael Morpurgo will be beautifully brought to life by the superb cast.”

Michael Morpurgo says: “What is hard and uncomfortable to remember and believe, is always salutary and important to acknowledge. The migrant crisis the world faces today is not new. Wherever there has been war or hunger, homelessness or poverty, there will be refugees seeking sanctuary, seeking to survive. Among those who suffer most in such circumstances are children, children alone or unwanted in the world.

“After the Second World War, there were thousands of such children in this country in need of homes and in need of the security and love only a family can provide. Many of these children were sent away to the other side of the world, separated from all they knew, to Australia, and elsewhere, where it was thought they would be well looked after. Some were, but others found themselves living in abject misery and hardship, were exploited and abused, their lives blighted.

Alone On A Wide Wide Sea traces the lives of these children, of one in particular, and of his family. He struggles all his life to come to terms with his isolation and banishment, as he and his daughter try to rediscover their roots, to find a way back to their family and a sense of identity.”

Jason Donovan said: “Michael Morpurgo is such a wonderful writer and Alone On A Wide Wide Sea is a moving, beautiful story. It’s an absolute pleasure to be invited to play one of his characters.

“Being Australian I’m very aware of the child migration schemes and the terrible hardships that some of those children endured when they went to Australia. In his usual magical way, Michael manages to weave a delightful adventure out of a terribly sad piece of history. I hope that this production will help to make more people aware of the story of child migrants.”

Alone On A Wide Wide Sea was published in 2006 and the book’s title is taken from a line in English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s longest major poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.

The drama is directed by Frank Stirling, and edited and produced by John Leonard of 7digital productions. This is the second drama that John and Michael Morpurgo have worked together on for Radio 2. In 2014, John produced a version of Michael’s War Horse for the network.

R2 magazine said of the album, The Ballads Of Child Migration:

The trick for both the writers and project co-ordinator Gordon Lynch is to avoid saying the same thing over and over again. While and Matthews’ ‘Small Cases Full Of Big Dreams’ which opens the set almost says it all. Jez Lowe immediately provides another point of view with the jolly ‘Barnardo’s Party Time’ and his ‘Snow To Nova Scotia’ and John Doyle’s ‘Liberty’s Sweet Shore’ both offer optimism but by now you’ve read the notes and the enormity of the subject is sinking in. At this point the hymn, ‘Whither Pilgrims Are You Going’, performed by CBS and O’Hooley & Tidow might just leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

If you would like to order a copy then click on the The Ballads Of Child Migration link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

The 2017 Folking Awards

Welcome to the 2017 Folking Awards. Last year’s inaugural poll was such a success that we had to do it again. The nominations, in eight categories, come from our ever-expanding team of writers and were wrangled into shape with sweat, tears and not a little blood by the Folkmeister and the Editor.

There are five nominees in each category, all of whom have been featured in the pages of folking.com in 2016.

As with the format last year, all are winners in our eyes. However, its not just down to what we think, so again, there will be a public vote to decide the overall winner of each category.

Soloist Of The Year

Luke Jackson
Ralph McTell
Kelly Oliver
Steve Pledger
Alasdair Roberts


Best Duo

Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
Ange Hardy & Lukas Drinkwater
O’Hooley & Tidow
Ninebarrow
Show Of Hands


Best Band

Afro Celt Sound System
Fairport Convention
Harp And A Monkey
Nancy Kerr and The Sweet Visitor Band
Merry Hell


Best Live Act

The James Brothers
Robb Johnson and the My Best Regards Band
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys
Mad Dog Mcrea
Megson


Best Album

Tall Tales & Rumours – Luke Jackson
Ballads Of The Broken Few – Seth Lakeman/Wildwood Kin
Preternatural – Moulettes
Somewhere Between – Steve Pledger
Dodgy Bastards – Steeleye Span


Best Musician

Ciaran Algar
Phil Beer
Rachel Newton
Gill Sandell
Kathryn Tickell


Rising Star Act

The Brewer’s Daughter
Hattie Briggs
Said The Maiden
Sunjay
Emily Mae Winters


Best International Act

Applewood Road
The Bills
David Francey
Michael McDermott
Eve Selis


Public Vote

The public vote closed Midday Saturday 22 April 2017 and the winners have now been announced HERE


If you would like to order a copy of an album (in CD or Vinyl) of any of the artists featured here, download an album or track or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then type what you are looking for in the search bar above to be taken to that relevant page via our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Room For All: Shrewsbury Folk Festival launches new cultural diversity project

Room For All

A new project to celebrate cultural diversity and highlight the plight of refugees has been launched by Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

Organisers of the annual four-day music festival have secured a £95,000 investment from Arts Council England for the 18-month Room For All initiative that will include a new music commission featuring refugee musicians and a programme of education and outreach work in the county. Shropshire Council has awarded the festival a £1,000 Arts Revenue Grant.

Room For All follows on from the festival’s successful All Together Now programme that focused on introducing a new audience to world music and dance during 2015 and 2016.

The new music commission will be led by duo O’Hooley & Tidow and an ensemble of refugee musicians and will premiere at this year’s festival.

Room For All will include performances by culturally diverse musicians at the 2017 and 2018 festival, an outreach talent development programme for young people led by inspiring artists to pass on different folk traditions and nurture new talent, music workshops in Telford schools giving young people an introduction to folk music, Indian Kathak dance workshops in schools, continued support for the Shropshire Youth Folk Ensemble and for Shropshire’s only school rapper side at Ford Trinity School, which is a legacy from All Together Now.

Festival Director Alan Surtees said the idea for Room for All came as a direct response to the racial hatred and opposition to refugees that emerged during the Brexit campaign.

“We felt so despondent and downhearted at the division, negativity and prejudice that surfaced during the campaign we decided to try and bring some decency and optimism to the plight of refugees, if only to our own small event,” he explained.

“Room for all to grow and thrive encapsulates the festival’s welcoming philosophy of celebrating diversity and fostering talent. Through this project, we are hoping to encourage understanding of different cultures in a world that can sometimes seem less that welcoming or tolerant and, with that deeper cultural understanding, we can build a better legacy for the future.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted to be investing in Shrewsbury Folk Festival’s plans to celebrate and promote cultural diversity through this new project.

“It’s essential that England’s diversity is reflected in our arts and cultural landscape, Room for All is a perfect example of how that can be done. By collaborating with traditional and refugee musicians as well as hosting workshops and promoting outreach work this project will inspire new artists and nurture talent in rural Shropshire.”

Project Manager Joy Lamont said the festival’s growing commitment to education and outreach work had been widely welcomed by the schools it had reached so far.

“We recognise that in many rural parts of Shropshire it can be hard to promote cultural diversity and understanding through the arts. Room for All aims to continue the work we started with All Together Now and provide high quality and multi cultural arts activities to schools and young people in Shropshire.”

This year’s festival runs from August 25 to 28 at the West Mid Showground and tickets are available at
www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk.

Belinda O’Hooley talks to Folking about Coven

Coven
Photograph by Elly Lucas

There’s a new gang in town and if their publicity photographs are any guide they mean business. Coven combines the talents of O’Hooley & Tidow, Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans) and singer Grace Petrie. Belinda O’Hooley explains how it all came about.

“We were introduced to Grace’s work by Huw Pudner at The Valley Folk Club in Pontardawe. He was raving about her, and around the same time, Jude Abbott from the No Masters Co-op was also singing her praises. We watched some of her stuff on YouTube and thought she was such a firebrand, standing up for what she believes in and doing great things for women. We spent a summer doing the same concerts at festivals as Lady Maisery and were blown away by their live show. We got to know them along the way. Heidi and Rowan chatted about doing something as a collective at some point, and here we all are!

“Coven was Heidi’s idea. She had previously set up a Women Make Music night in Huddersfield and had experience of this sort of thing. Both Lady Maisery and Grace Petrie were well up for forming a collective with us and celebrating International Women’s Day in a series of concerts. The first Coven tour was just three dates which all sold out. The second year, we played ten dates and this year, we’ve got twelve.”

The name could be something of a hostage to fortune. Whose idea was it?

“I can’t remember who thought the name up, it wasn’t me. I think it suits us; a gaggle of witches.”

I couldn’t possibly comment on that but the press photos seem to suggest that Belinda and Heidi are the dominant force. Either that or it’s a case of big’uns in the middle and little-uns on the ends.

Coven
Photograph by Elly Lucas

“Ha! I think it looks like me and Rowan have got married and the rest of Coven are our bridesmaids. Elly Lucas took the photo at Kellam Island in Sheffield. We love the way she utilises the background of a rusty metal fence with the sunlight, to create texture and atmosphere. She’s a bit good. Looking at that photo, I wouldn’t want to mess with any of us.”

Again, I couldn’t possibly comment but what can we expect from a Coven gig?

“The show consists of us performing separately in our bands and also collectively together on existing material and also songs that Coven members have brought to the group. Over the course of the last two tours, these songs have taken on a life of their own and it has been very rewarding and exciting to record them and make an EP.”

Having developed rather below the radar over the last couple of years, Coven are embarking on a fully-fledged tour in March. Can we take it that Coven will be an on-going project?

“I think all of us want Coven to be an ever developing project as we all have so much to give to it. We all seem to get on really well and there is room for creativity and expression both individually and as a collective. It helps that we all like vegan food too. Hannah James is the most wonderful vegan chef, and kept us all fed beautifully for the five days we spent at Cooper Hall, Frome recording the EP. Fay Goodridge invited us there, and through their bursary scheme, we were able to record in their extraordinary venue. This EP, recorded by me and Heidi and mixed and mastered by Neil Ferguson will be available initially exclusively on the tour”

And that’s something else to look forward to.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ websites: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/ https://www.ladymaisery.com/about
http://gracepetrie.com/

Coven – new supergroup tour in March

Coven

Three of the British folk scene’s finest, most formidable and forthright female acts take to the stage to celebrate International Women’s Day 2017. BBC 6 Music favourites and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 Best Duo nominees O’Hooley and Tidow will be joined by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Finalists Lady Maisery and the irrepressible Leicester songwriter Grace Petrie to form Coven. This is a rare opportunity to experience these thought provoking, heartfelt, entertaining and enthralling women in one unrepeatable performance.

Coven are recording an EP for sale on the tour.

O’Hooley and Tidow: “Defiant, robust, political, northern, poetical folk music for the times we live in.” Independent

Lady Maisery: “…are women with ideas, purpose and urgency. They create powerful, enthralling work.” Songlines

Grace Petrie: “A powerful new songwriting voice.” Guardian

Artists’ websites: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/ http://www.ladymaisery.com/ http://gracepetrie.com/

March Tour Dates

01 SHEFFIELD Greystones

02 SHEFFIELD Greystones

03 LEEDS All Hallows Church

04 HUDDERSFIELD Lawrence Batley Theatre

05 NEWCASTLE Cluny 2

07 LIVERPOOL Philharmonic Music Room

08 ALDERSHOT West End Centre

09 BRIDPORT Arts Centre

10 LONDON St John on Bethnal Green

11 LONDON The Ivy House Nunhead

12 FROME Cooper Hall

13 LEICESTER Guildhall

O’HOOLEY & TIDOW – Shadows (NoMasters NMCE47)

ShadowsTheir third album in as many years, after the two-handed format of The Hum and the limited hand-signed micro-release Summat’s Brewin’, the duo’s fifth studio outing, Shadows, sees them return to the fuller sound of their first two albums with a post-Bellowhead Pete Flood on drums, Andy Seward on double bass, frequent collaborator Jude Abbott providing brass and Rowan Rheingans on fiddle and viola. There’s also a, perhaps surprise, appearance from Michele Stodart of The Magic Numbers contributing electric bass guitars and Ebow.

With songs about home, the environment, nature, inspirational women and social issues, it’s familiar territory, comprising a couple of covers alongside the self-penned material, the latter including two instrumentals. But familiarity doesn’t breed complacency, and the writing and performances here as every much as impassioned as any fledgling act looking to make an impressive debut.

It opens with a love letter to their home, ‘Colne Valley Hearts’, and the strength and fortitude it instils, the songs itself beginning with birth (“smacked me head coming out, made me rugged, shoulders broad. Ready to carry, ready to work”) as Belinda provides jittery piano accompaniment to Heidi’s vocals, the chorus refrain “cold hands, warm hearts lighting up the cut tonight” as much a defiant anthem of Northern pride as “the fog on the Tyne is all mine”.

From Huddersfield, the album expands to take in the bigger picture with the first of the socio-political numbers, the trumpet-streaked ‘Made In England’. Written in response to the worrying rise of UKIP a few years back, it draws as much on music hall as it does traditional folk it’s a ‘Ballad of Britain’ for “you everyone that inhabit dear old Albion”, a rejection of the UKIP view (and that of “Mosely’s henchmen” before them) that “foreigners are thieves and perves” who just “pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap”, and a celebration of multiculturalism “with me ruby murray, kebab in a hurry, fags and Becks from the corner shop, head to toe in Pradamark.”

Equally pointed, based on an old Sunday School hymn titled ‘Little Reapers’ and sung with starkly interwoven voices, sombre piano ballad ‘Reapers’ is in the voice of a child and initially appears to about innocents, leading lost souls to God, but, in the second verse takes on a darker hue that explains why it is dedicated to all children abused at the hands of the Church.

The abuse of children, in this case their forced migration to Commonwealth countries between 1869 and 1970, is at the heart of ‘The Dark Rolling Sea’. It’s actually a short piano instrumental that grew out of Tidow’s obsession with an instrumental passage in ‘Why Did I Leave Thee?’, a setting of a poem by child migrant Frederick Henderson, the duo set to music for last year’s Ballads Of Child Migration album. The other instrumental, a solo O’Hooley composition, is the simple but no less resonant title track, which, played on the Machynlleth Tabernacle Trust’s Steinway, she says reflects how playing piano helps express emotions she finds hard to verbalise.

It’s not all gloom. ‘Blankets’ may concern baby elephants orphaned by poachers or human-wildlife conflict (it’s inspired by the David Sheldrick Widlife Trust in Kenya), but its tremulously crooned, brass and piano slow waltz focuses on the brightly coloured blankets that give them comfort, safety and warmth. Likewise, turning to inspiring women, the uptempo ‘Beryl’ is a tribute to Beryl Burton, a Leeds cyclist who, despite chronic health problems, became a champion racing cyclist, the track taking an appropriately jaunty approach with the sort of breezy chorus Gracie Fields who have loved. This is followed by its companion piece, the piano tinkling ‘The Pixie’, another tribute (commissioned for the WWI commemoration event at 2014 Glastonbury), this time to Oxenham’s Daisy “Pixie” Daking, a dance teacher and member of the Cecil Sharp’s EFDS, who, in 1917, went to France as part of the YMCA to boost the war-weary troops’ morale by teaching them morris, sword, and country dancing, something she continued until 1919.

Of the album’s two covers, one is the strings-adorned ‘River’, Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-set bluesy regretful rumination on a lost relationship, a song they featured in last year’s winter shows in Marsden, while the other, the dreamy and rather lovely piano ballad ‘Small, Big Love’ was actually penned for them by Kathryn Williams and Graham Hardy to celebrate their wedding.

Which leaves ‘The Needle and the Hand’, a key track yet also the only number that doesn’t have an annotation in the lyric booklet. However, gradually swelling on drums and swirling strings, rhyming pewter and fuchsia and with lyrics that concern changing seasons, regeneration, tattooing – or rather beautilation – (it actually features the sound of a tattoo needle) and memory, it draws on Tidow’s own troubled childhood as seen through now adult eyes and concerns guilt, love, self-worth, self-discovery and embracing the fullness of life. These are shadows you really do want to lose and find yourself in.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the O’HOOLEY & TIDOW link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artists’ website: http://ohooleyandtidow.com/

‘Beryl’ – live at Grewelthorpe Village Hall: