When Danny Pedler was recording the voices and stories of the South Holland area of rural Lincolnshire for an oral history research project, he was struck by the complete absence of any references to folk songs in the region. Driven on by this finding, and with an exciting new project in his mind, Danny enlisted the songwriting talents of Greg Russell to compose and sing some new songs about life around the agriculture and industry of that part of the county. The result was an Arts Council funded show, a book, and a CD, of innovative music incorporating samples of rural voices, factory sounds, and the rhythms of life: Field & Dyke was born!
With Greg providing most of the vocals and guitar, and Danny playing accordion and hurdy gurdy, the quality of the music was excellent, and the way the tunes followed the rhythms of the factory soundtrack was very clever indeed. Not necessarily the farm sounds you might expect - South Holland is all about food production but has significantly moved indoors in recent decades. As an example, the track with the snazzy title ‘Delta 3000 LD SB XY Plastic Presser’ neatly follows the rhythm of the machine that puts a Styrofoam disk under a pizza, while another references the tomato sauce applicator! That’s the Lincolnshire fens today!
I’m guessing (and partly remembering!) that Danny is mostly responsible for the lovely way the tunes blend with the machinery soundtrack, and he has included a couple of excellent accordion tunes in the mix. Similarly, I suspect it was Greg who turned some of the sampled voices into song themes. As Danny said in his introduction, the project included voices expressing views they agreed with as well as views they strongly disagreed with - but they are all relevant and needed airing. Similarly, the songs covered some controversial themes in a balanced way. Immigration, unemployment, rural isolation, love and loss, are all given space in the project.
If you missed the show at the Poppy Folk Club, please do try to catch it somewhere during the tour. The tunes and rhythms get into your blood, and you’ll be humming the title track for ages!
Big thanks go to the performers who started each half of the concert with a ‘song from the floor’. The room was full of very talented musicians, to the extent that it was hard to decide which would be asked to do this - we were spoilt for choice! In the end we chose well, and had a song from Sarah Matthews and Doug Eunson, and one from ‘Stonesthrow’ (who will be performing at our March 2020 Folk Day!
After the concert, a small but perfectly formed group of us stayed behind, as is the Poppy way, for an hour’s singaround. Thanks to Phil Preen, Julie Palmer, Jenny Bell, Wil Walker, Nick Murphy (our sound engineer for the night), Dave Walters, Ian Price, Allison Turner, Juliet Woodin, Wilma, Nigel Bull, and Stonesthrow (Julie and Steve Wigley with Tony Fowkes), for taking part.
Well, that was interesting ... and fun!
After most of the 2020 events (for the club and for pretty much everyone else) were put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic, we thought we should try to have an on-line get-together and sing a few songs on what would have been the night of our June club meeting. Other clubs have been doing this for some time and one or two have mastered the technology really well. For us, this was a bit of a suck it and see moment, but I’m pleased to say it was good fun, worked pretty well and was well worth the effort.
On the night we had songs or tunes from Dave Walters, Jim Hellewell, Jenny Bell, Dave Taylor, Marc Block, Andy Cooper (& joined by Dave Quick via pre-recorded video), Ally Turner and daughter Ruby Turner, Steve and Julie Wigley, Wil Walker, Juliet Woodin, Ian Price, and (all the way from Somerset!) Phil Preen and Julie Palmer.
Wilma Young and Mary Smith also joined us so we had an audience!
Because of the well-known network time-lag we had everyone ‘muted’ except for the current singer. This inevitably makes a big difference to the feel of a singaround session, but we were all singing along in our own homes, we could see everyone singing (even though we couldn’t hear), and some were silently accompanying the singers on their own instruments (with the added bonus that I could try out my own playing with no-one else hearing the mistakes!).
It’s never going to be quite like singing in a room with friends, but it was a pleasant experience and worth repeating sometime. And we were all home well before midnight! A huge thank-you to everyone who joined in the experiment and made it work!
We had a lovely time on Sunday night with our first Poppy Zoom club night for some time. In more favourable times we would have been having our Christmas Concert and party that night, with Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews as our special guests, but it was great that they joined us for most of the Zoom session and performed two songs from their seasonal show.
In addition to Doug & Sarah, we had lovely seasonal contributions from sixteen 'floor singers', and interspersed among them were pre-recorded video songs: one from AJAR (Ally, Juliet and Rick Dyzon) and three sing-along carols from members of the Poppy team.
Best of all, another forty or so people joined us as an audience. We couldn't here them singing, of course (as is the way with Zoom) but it was terrific to see so many friends, and quite a few new faces (one couple from the USA!) in the audience. The Poppy Team would like to thank everyone who came, but particularly our performers who all did us proud:
Doug Eunson and Sarah Matthews; Steve and Julie Wigley; Wil Walker (who started the show with a set of tunes); Jenny Bell, Marc Block, Trevor Marriott, Hugh Miller, Andy Cooper, Samir Goswami, Yvonne Dreyer, Jerry Simon, and the Poppy Folk Club's very own Phil Preen, Julie Palmer, Juliet Woodin, Ian Price, Ally Turner, Wilma Young, and Dave Walters & Mary Smith.
Until we can meet again, have a lovely Christmas and Healthy New Year. And keep singing