ArtyParti – Celebrating the Songs of Sunderland
Written by Jay Sykes on 8th January 2018
Keith Gregson – Singer/Songwriter
“I come from a family of entertainers – my dad and grandparents were musicians – and I’ve always enjoyed entertaining.”
Keith has spent 33 years as a teacher, 14 as a freelance writer, and now he’s curating the plethora of music he’s been creating over the past 50 years.
Today, he shared some of those songs (The Metronom Blues, the Flanders Mare, Dockside and From Seal to Selkie) – as well as bringing in his 2-euro wooden whistle from Lithuania for a live rendition of The Lark in the Clearing.
“Somebody can put six holes into a piece of wood or metal and charge you hundreds of pounds. A lot of these expensive ones get damp as they get older, and the sound goes. But when you find lots of cheap whistles in, say, a charity shop, a couple of those might work really well.”
Keith shared about the benefits of the North East’s active folk music scene – and why it’s still important to him:
“Performing focuses your mind – even if you’re experienced. You can get blase about it when you become a seasoned performer.”
Eileen Richardson – Sunderland Song Collector
“Even if a song doesn’t tell a story, there’s a story attached to it. And sometimes you don’t know if the songs have ever been sung – and it’s really nice to resurrect them so their stories can be enjoyed once more.”
Eileen has been collecting traditional songs about Sunderland from throughout history. Most of the songs Eileen collects are tuneless, as they’ve been written down and forgotten to oral tradition. Today, Eileen performed a live rendition of “The Stormy Petrol”:
“I collect songs from the area, and I found this one on a little newspaper cutting – it looked like it was used as a bookmark. I found out it was about a local hero called Joseph Hodgson, who became well known for many rescues, and was known to wander up and down the coast looking for people to rescue.
“Apparently, on the 4th of January 1857, there was a huge storm, and about four French ships were in trouble off the coast. Joseph Hodgson, nicknamed “The Stormy Petrol” was awarded the silver medal by Napoleon Bonaparte.”
Listen to this episode of ArtyParti to hear Eileen’s rendition of this Sunderland-focused story.
Brian Hunt – Folk Singer / Former Dancer
Originally from Newcastle and living in South Shields, Brian has been singing and dancing for the part 47 years.
“I started going to local folk clubs when I was 17 , 18 ish, at what was the Marsden Folk Club in South Shields. It’s now called the South Shields Folk Club, and I’m still involved to this day. And with my dancing, I’ve traveled the world, going to places like America, Italy, Germany and all over Europe.”
Folk Afternoons at the Stumble Inn
The Stumble Inn in Sunderland holds a regular folk & acoustic music afternoon – the 4th Tuesday of each month from 1pm.
“Generally folk clubs are very supportive of people who are starting out – and it’s all about participation. We’re a friendly bunch.” – Eileen Richardson.
“And you get people who were quite famous back in the day, when the folk clubs were big in the 70s – and the anecdotes come out then! It’s as much about laughter as it is singing.” – Keith Gregson.
“Anybody is welcome in the Stumble Inn in Sunderland. Everybody’s encouraged – if they want to – to get up and sing.” – Brian Hunt.
On advice for emerging folk / acoustic musicians:
“Go out, go to a folk club, get the feel for it. There are so many in the area, (the Central Bar in Gateshead on Thursday afternoons, the Davey Lamp Folk Club in Washington, the first Saturday of every month, the Millstone and the Bridge Folk Club in Newcastle… [The list goes on!]) with guests who come from all over the country.” – Eileen Richardson.
ArtyParti is a weekly radio show celebrating participatory arts in the North East.