The Pitmen Poets announce their farewell tour

Piitmen Poets

The Pitmen Poets celebrate the songs, humour, and culture of North East England’s Coal Mining tradition, bringing together four of the region’s leading champions of its musical heritage. Ex-Lindisfarne & Jack The Lad singer and writer Billy Mitchell, Song Man from London’s West End musical Warhorse, Bob Fox, leading exponent of Tyneside song Benny Graham, and much-covered BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards nominee songwriter Jez Lowe – individually and collectively, The Pitmen Poets.

This is a journey through the centuries of a once-great industry, from the songs that saw it thrive and dominate, to those that saw its demise and the resulting aftermath.

Now, after two albums and several hugely successful tours, the band prepare to release their farewell album to accompany their twenty-three date farewell tour.

“The audience sang along, laughed and also shared moments of sadness as the combined talents of Billy Mitchell, Jez Lowe, Benny Graham and Bob Fox took them on an epic journey through the life and times of the Northumberland and Durham coalfields.  What a great night!” (Brian Coles – Rock of the North).

With every member coming from coal mining stock, this quartet represents the first generation of their families not to take up the tradition of working down the pit.

As Billy Mitchell explains: With every member coming from coal mining stock, they represent the first generation of their families not to take up the tradition of working down the pit. As Billy Mitchell explains:

“Our parents all said ‘you’re not going down the pit, get a good education and do something worthwhile with your lives’….so now we sing songs and tell stories…. about coal mining. It’s quite ironic really but it’s very important to keep the stories we all heard growing up in the form of songs for the next generation.

“Life working in the pit was tough and to reflect that, our songs aren’t all happy tunes as we look at the terrible tragedies that affected whole villages when disaster struck. But there’s also humour too in great doses in our songs as that’s how families got through the bad times.

“We’re playing a lot of former coal mining areas and the songs will resonate with many people there who made their living from coal.  Our music and the subject matter will entertain audiences from Berwick in the North, Croydon in the South, East to Canterbury and West to Blackwood in South Wales. We’re all looking forward to going out on our 2019 tour and meeting the public and literally taking our coals from the Newcastle area to the rest of the country.

Artists’ website: www.thepitmenpoets.co.uk

‘Black Leg Mining Man’ – live:

The Pitmen Poets Farewell Tour 2019

OCTOBER

16TH CANNOCK PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE 01543 578 762

17TH LEEK FOXLOWE ARTS CENTRE 01538 386 112

18TH CONSETT EMPIRE THEATRE 03000 262 400

20TH MANSFIELD PALACE THEATRE 01623 633 133

21ST NETTLEBED VILLAGE CLUB 01628 636 620

22ND CROYDON STANLEY HALLS 0208 251 0184

23RD MILTON KEYNES THE STABLES 01908 280 800

24TH WORCESTER HUNTINGDON HALL 01905 611 427

25TH BARNSLEY CIVIC 01226 327 000

26TH BUXTON OPERA HOUSE 0129 872 190

27TH KESWICK THEATRE BY THE LAKE 017687 74411

28TH LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC 0151 709 3789

29TH RUNCORN BRINDLEY THEATRE 0151 907 8360

30TH SHREWSBURY THEATRE SEVERN 01743 281 281

31ST SALE WATERSIDE ARTS CENTRE 0161 912 5616

NOVEMBER

1ST LINCOLN NEW THEATRE ROYAL 01522 519 999

2ND MALTON MILTON ROOMS 01653 696 240

3RD BARNARD CASTLE WITHAM 01833 631 107

4TH SELBY TOWN HALL 01757 708 449

6TH SOUTH SHIELDS CUSTOMS HOUSE 0191 454 1234

7TH OTLEY COURTHOUSE 01943 467 466

8TH AMBLE DOVECOTE CENTRE 01665 713 655

9TH DURHAM GALA THEATRE 03000 266 600

12TH CHESTERFIELD WINDING WHEEL 01246 345 222

13TH SOLIHULL CORE THEATRE 0121 704 6962

14TH BLACKWOOD MINERS INSTITUTE 01495 227 206

15TH CHELTENHAM PUMP ROOM 0844 576 2210

16TH CANTERBURY GULBENKIAN THEATRE 01227 769 075

17TH BILLINGHAM FORUM THEATRE 01642 552 663

19TH BURY MET 0161 761 2216

20TH BERWICK MALTINGS 01289 330 999

22ND WHITLEY BAY PLAYHOUSE 0844 248 1588

23RD HEXHAM QUEENS HALL 01434 652 477

24TH GATESHEAD, SAGE 0191 443 4661

 

www.thepitmenpoets.co.uk

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Destination (Fellside Recordings FECD282)

Fellside RecordingsThe Fellside Recording label has been a major force in independent folk music recording for 42 years and has over 600 albums to its credit, many by some very big names in the genre. Now, Paul and Linda Adams have decided to slow down, and though the label remains in business, it will have a lower profile and won’t be taking on new artists. The end of an era, but by no means the end of the story. Destination is a mighty collection of tracks – three CDs worth – specially recorded by some of the many fine artists who’ve been associated with the label, plus some archive material.

The material here covers the spectrum from dance tunes to modern songs by treasured artists like Peter Bellamy (two of his Kipling settings are provided here, one sung by Terry Docherty) and Alex Glasgow, to a wide selection of traditional songs (even the occasional Child ballad). Well over half the tracks here have not been released previously. Given the calibre of the musicians here, that alone has to make it worth buying. There are also a handful of unusual jazz performances from Fellside’s sibling label Lake.

Because of the sheer number of tracks provided here (64!), my usual practice of including a full track listing didn’t seem altogether appropriate. Here are just a few more of the performers and writers who are represented in this collection, which may be enough to persuade you to take a closer look: Jez Lowe, Bram Taylor, Steve Turner, Pete Morton, Bobby Eaglesham, Sara Grey, Alistair Anderson, Paul Metsers, Brian Dewhurst, Bob Davenport…

Here are few tracks that stand out for me personally, but there’s such a wide range of artists here that your personal highlights might be quite different

  • Maddy Prior’s unaccompanied ‘Sheepcrook And Black Dog’, proving that Steeleye Span maybe always needed her more than she needed them. (Not that I didn’t like the Steeleye version.)
  • Swan Arcade’s stunning version of Sting’s ‘We Work The Black Seam’.
  • The much-missed Vin Garbutt singing ‘Boulavogue’.
  • Hedy West singing ‘Little Sadie’ – as Pete Seeger said when she sang it on his Rainbow Quest series in the ’60s, “That’s the real thing…
  • Peggy Seeger’s exquisite ‘Single Girl’ – if my ears don’t fail me, from a 1958 recording with Guy Carawan.
  • Diz Disley and friends in full Django/Hot Club mode on ‘Shine’.
  • Marilyn Middleton-Pollock’s version of ‘Melancholy Blues’, recorded long ago by Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds.
  • Bob Fox’s version of Alex Glasgow’s ‘Standing At The Door’. A fine performance from someone who’s no mean songwriter himself.
  • Tom Kitching & Gren Bartley with a blistering performance of ‘Whisky Head’.

But there are too many classy tracks here to list all the ones I can imagine myself listening to for a long time yet.

Buy it. You’ll certainly find enough tracks to make it worth your while.

David Harley

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‘Single Girl’ – Peggy Seeger and Guy Carawan

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.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Folk Awards 2015 (Proper PROPERFOLK16)

FolkAwards2015It’s that time again when the folk world looks back and hands out gongs to the great and good while conspiracy theories abound. Actually there have been far fewer of those this year; the detractors must have finally decided that the BBC keeps the names of the voters secret to avoid them being showered by gifts of Rolexes and vintage champagne in attempts to win approval. As if!

All in all, we’re looking back on a vintage year. I listen to more new music than the average punter and I’d heard only ten of the twenty-three tracks chosen to represent 2014 in this collection, so I’m clearly not trying hard enough. As ever the double-CD is well programmed by the four compilers – this is not just an audio catalogue: it has to stand as a listenable collection in its own right, which it does.

The opener is the sprightly ‘Moorlough Mary’ by Cara Dillon which breaks the ice nicely. Next is ‘It Would Not Be A Rose’ from Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker sounding rather more bitter taken out of the context of their album. You might expect The Will Pound Band to rock the rafters but the selection here is the rather down-beat ‘Jimmy Ward’s’ given a bluesy, slightly jazzy persona. That eases into Jez Lowe’s almost lullaby ‘The Pitmen Poets’ and a traditional Gaelic song from Cruinn. By now you’re settled back into your armchair and drifting, only to snapped back to wakefullness by Nancy Kerr’s ‘Never Ever Lay Them Down’ a super song from an album that has somehow managed to elude me so far.

The first set closes with The Young’Uns’ ‘John Hill’ with its borrowed tune and piano sounding almost like a hymn and second opens with the similarly powerful but restrained ‘Waking Dreams (Awake, Awake)’ from Martin & Eliza Carthy. Then, from out of nowhere, comes Naomi Bedford with ‘The Spider And The Wolf’, a song written by her partner Paul Simmonds and taken from her album A History Of Insolence. The other in-yer-face track here is ‘Bedlam’ by Stick In The Wheel and if you haven’t heard them yet you’re in for treat and you won’t be able to forget ‘I Saw The Dead’ by Martin Green with Becky Unthank in a hurry either.

Finally we have the four nominees for The Young Folk Award: Talisk, Wildwood Kin, Roseanne Reid and Cup O’Joe. Impossible to say who the winner will be but I’d like to hear more of Roseanne Reid.

Dai Jeffries

THE YOUNG ‘UNS – Never Forget (Heretue Records YNGS10)

NeverForgetNever Forget begins and ends with contrasting views of the EDL march on the Bull Lane mosque following the murder of Lee Rigby. I caution you not to listen to ‘A Lovely Cup Of Tea’ before you have appreciated ‘The Biscuits Of Bull Lane’. Listening first in the car I got it wrong and thought that the former was too close to the edge. Even now I think it may be ill-advised but I’ll leave the judgement to you. Jez Lowe’s ‘Hands Feet’ certainly makes their position clear if anyone is in any doubt but I wonder if David is, in fact, saying that a fascist can’t be reformed.

In between, Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle are firmly grounded in their native north-east with two songs by Graeme Miles and six by Cooney including the wonderful ‘The Sandwell Gate’, a perfect representation of place and history in just four verses. Cicely Fox Smith may be a bit Hampshire but ‘Rosario’ is such a glorious combination of words and music that we’ll forgive her. ‘John Ball’ is the other southerner but he knew which side he was on.

I have to be critical of a couple of issues – but not the music. First, I was constantly increasing the volume. I know The Young ‘Uns aren’t The Wilson Family and there may be a sound technical reason for it but I was desperate for a bit more welly. Second, nowhere do the guys list their names or say who does what. It may be excessive modesty on their part but it may come over as cockiness. You can get away with it when you’re Pink Floyd but not just yet, chaps. This is a very good record but the devil remains in the detail.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://www.theyounguns.co.uk