I returned from Australia in June 2011 wanting to produce more books of Cornish music. I had already done two song books for schools: Lev Krev and Hoolybus. I met with Clive Boutle of Francis Boutle Publishing in September who was interested but questioned what would sell. Cornish pub songs and carols seemed the most obvious to him and so that’s where I decided to begin. I knew he was right but was also aware of how much more of a challenge it would be than my other books; this was a living tradition. How do you pin a song down and not offend someone who is very likely to have a different version? That was when I had the idea of recording songs in situ; where they d’belong to be, across Cornwall. I wanted to show that all sorts of people were singing these songs, in many different ways, for many different reasons and in many lovely pubs! Pubs can be special places – I understood that; hadn’t I, as a young teenager gazed in through the windows of The Queens Head in Albaston, The Tamar at Calstock, wanting to be in those warm, sociable places? Hearing the singing, seeing the men close their eyes in bliss to the harmonies of Cadgwith or some other song?
So asking Sally Burley to be my comrade, like ‘Thelma & Louise’, we planned our project. But first we met with problems raising the money – turned down by some businesses, unable to contact breweries and our funding bids rejected! Yet the wheels of this engine did not want to stop turning and after a period of wanting to throw it all in, the enthusiasm returned: we travelled to Calstock for the May Reveland were caught up in the mayhem and glory of it all
– the charging giant, the musicians playing Calstock May Revel, the singing of the Farewell Shanty as the giant sailed away down the stream of the Tamar and the raucous singing in the Tamar Inn afterwards – it reminded me what it was all about.
And then we visited St Day on Feast Day, Sally’s home town – real and proper. Where her family have danced in the Furry for many years.
There in the pub we sang and met other singers –
‘I’ve sung for forty years with Holman-
Climax, and before that, too. I remember when the Chapel people would stand outside the pub and listen to the music inside, then would join in and would sound far better!”
We are outside gazing in; we wish to belong; this world often alienates us, but a shout can give us that way in, a way of joining others – there are no dues, no membership fees, no auditions, we can belong.
So the engine wheels turned – we got our funding, pubs supported us and now the adventure begins!