Hello! As promised I’m attempting to keep you up to date with news so here’s the first blog for 2017. Do prod me if I’m quiet for a while. I’ve just got home from an amazing 2 weeks touring with The Transports. Check out the website if you’d like more info. I must admit, I had no idea if this project would work or be well received at the start of the year. These projects don’t always work and we had some big shoes to fill. The original featured the likes of Martin Carthy, The Watersons, Nic Jones, June Tabor and Dave Swarbrick and is perhaps Peter Bellamy’s most loved work. We only had a total of 5 days rehearsal together before going out on the road, and who knew if members of Bellowhead, Nancy Kerr, Faustus, Greg Russell, Matthew Crampton and The Young ‘Uns would get on…musically or socially?! We’d never worked together as a group before but thankfully we realised pretty early on that we had something special on our hands and we had an absolute blast on the road. It was a truly lovely group of people to work with.
Peter Bellamy’s amazing folk ballads The Transports was released 40 years ago, yet the songs and their message about exile and migration seem more relevant and poignant than ever. We met lots of lovely people in every town we visited as part of our Parallel Lives project, charities that work with refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their countries, often to escape the horrors of war and its aftermath. The whole cast and crew went to a march in Exeter against Trump and his appalling treatment of refugees. I’d never been to anything like that before but I found it quite emotional and it certainly fired us up before the show. There are lots of stories on the website about people who have either left here or arrived and it’s well worth a read. Matthew’s Parallel Lives section of the show was new to the rest of the cast every night, we didn’t know what stories he was going to tell and on several occasions he had us fighting back the tears. It’s an important issue and it shapes who we are. I didn’t expect to find this tour so moving and I hope we can continue to work with some of the inspirational people we met.
If you don’t know the original recordings of The Transports you can check it out here. Peter Bellamy’s songs are fantastic and we loved singing them every night. It was great that every member of the cast had their moment in the show and it was so enjoyable to hear the others sing their parts. We were fortunate to have Nic Jones (who played the role of the father in the original 1977 recording) in the audience in Exeter, and Jenny Bellamy (Peter’s wife) came to the show at Cecil Sharp House in London. It felt like a big responsibility, we wanted to do the show justice and thankfully both enjoyed our modern re-telling of the original and it was lovely to chat to them afterwards. We were delighted that our production was so well received and we’re all very proud of the reviews, including 5* in The Guardian. There are plans afoot to record an album and if you’d like to be kept up to date, please sign up to our mailing list here.
As tours go, it was a pretty unhealthy one. I got the lurgy on the first day and then gave it to nearly everyone else in the touring party…sorry guys. My voice just about held out til the end of the tour but it’s abandoned me now. We didn’t manage to eat particularly healthily either and by the last week, one of the main topics of conversation was vegetables and what we were going to cook once we got home. We also enforced a swear box style fine for anyone who sang The Humane Turnkey song that Greg Russell sings in the show, as it was a real ear worm and was starting to drive us all mad. I think I owed enough to fly us all to Australia but I donated some money to my local refugee charity instead. If you can afford to donate a few pounds to yours I know it would be much appreciated.
A big thank you to everyone who came out to see us on tour and to those we chatted to after the shows. Special thanks also to Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose, Nancy Kerr, Greg Russell, Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Michael Hughes, Matthew Crampton, Andy Bell, Emma Thompson, John Rogers and Tim Dalling . It was a delight working and touring with you all. I’ve got more news that I’m excited to share soon but for now I’m off to eat some vegetables, cuddle my cat and finish knitting my tour socks.