Harwich International Shanty Festival 2018 – a review
From its small beginnings in 2006, the Harwich International Shanty Festival has expanded to become the second largest shanty festival in the UK, filling the old town of Harwich, with its rich maritime history, with song, music and nautical entertainment for thirteen years. This year’s festival took place on the 5th, 6th and 7th October and featured 204 events, 30 ticketed, 174 free! Over 5000 festival goers were in town for the weekend, and 37 artists, old and new, were included in the programme, with many from the UK and seven coming from abroad – from Ireland, Russia, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“In Christmas time, and especially on plough Monday, several Men dresse themselves in Womens Close and goes from House to House a Dancing along with fiddles” so the entry in the Arderon papers at the Norfolk Record Office reads. It dates from the mid 18th century.
This was the inspiration behind the formation of the Norwich Kitwitches Molly side. Like many of the traditional sides we do not start practising until November and only dance out in December and January. Being a 21st century Molly side, we are mixed and therefore the women have to dress as men, dressed as women. Perhaps it was this fact that led Andrew Logan to ask us to dance in the 2018 Alternative Miss World, whilst the judges were making up their mind as to which of the contestants had won the coveted crown. This was the reason why we broke with tradition to dance in October on stage at the Globe. It was combined with dancing on the South Bank and outside the Globe as the audience was entering. Luckily it was fine weather. We stood at the side of the stage for most of the show and our pantomime dame outfits, wigs and make-up did not look out of place amongst an audience of alternative Londoners. We had been asked to provide ten minutes entertainment at the final interval before the winner was to be crowned Alternative Miss World 2018. There was time for two dances and the stage at the Globe was large enough for two sets as well as the musicians. We started with the traditional Comberton Molly dance ‘The Special’ published by Cyril Papworth. It is a linked handkerchief dance but instead of handerchiefs the Kitwitches have always used bras which seemed very appropriate for that evening. We have also added a final figure – the lock – similar to Rapper sides, but with underwear instead of swords and inspired by the Illmington Maid of the Mill dance. It was well received and we finished off with one of our own Norwich dances, ‘The Witch’ with its now, fairly traditional zombie ending. It was a rare but thoroughly enjoyable outing to the capital, but now we need to prepare ourselves for Plough Monday and the winter weather in Norfolk.
Les Ray, who writes a regular column for Unicorn magazine, has agreed to become our Cambridgeshire correspondent. In practice this means he will write reviews of relevant events and CDs. We will also share the column he writes for Unicorn. Les also presents Strummers and Dreamers, a fortnightly folk programme broadcast fortnightly. See the foot of his first contribution for broadcasting details.
Over 300 children enjoyed another morning of dance at Kelsale primary school on June 26th. There were lots of happy smiling faces as the children danced in glorious sunshine to music provided by Syzewell Gap and this year's caller Jon Hooton.
Two Noble Kinsmen Shakespeare and Fletcher Globe Theatre, London (until 30/06/18) music by Eliza Carthy Review by Jonathan Seath
This light, late Jacobean romance was first published in 1634 and is attributed to both John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. The normally complex text has been carefully edited to highlight the major plot: in true Shakespearean style two friends fall for the same woman and decide to resolve things with a duel, only for a twist of fate to result in the victor being fatally thrown from his horse, leaving the loser to marry his girl.
Inspired by the play’s Morris language and references, The Two Noble Kinsmen is set in pastoral ‘Merrie England’ and brought to life with original music composed by Eliza Carthy, with dance choreographed by Ewan Wardrop. A walking group of musicians (including James Delarre from Mawkin on fiddle) supports the action and is the band for a range of exciting dances including clogging, stick dancing and high energy routines.
The costumes and choreography are fabulous and the open air, closeness of the action and acoustic music result in a marvellous spectacle with a modern but always strong, traditional feel. The songs naturally support the action and the final ‘farewell’ song from all the cast and musicians on stage was particularly memorable.
Unfortunately the run is quite short but highly recommended if you can get tickets. If you are prepared to promenade, prices are competitive. This is a new venture for Eliza and you can hear her talking more about the project below. Apparently, The Globe have filmed the show and will be selling DVDs in their shop soon. There are no other plans at this time to record.