Tag Archives: concertina

The Unknown Land – a play about arctic exploration, at the Arden Theatre, Faversham on the 28th March

The Forgotten Land

In the 1840s, the race to discover the fabled North-West Passage gripped the public imagination.

The Unknown Land is an original play by Caroline Small for one actor and many characters. It is said to be a compelling tale of extreme survival from a time before radio communication and specialised polar equipment that includes the human tale behind the politics of the age, and the story of a man’s journey to the end of the earth and deep inside his own mind.

This production by the Cotton Grass Theatre, directed by Alan Meadows stars ex-RSC actor David Frederickson and my pal, concertinist and singer Keith Kendrick in a story inspired by true accounts of nineteenth century Arctic exploration, Inuit mythology and the fatal attraction of the polar regions.

Needless to say, I intend to be in the audience somewhere.

No flyer for a theatrical production is complete without a few quotations, so here they are:

“A terrific performance by David Frederickson in a really fascinating play full of wit and love that I didn’t expect from the title and subject matter. If it’s not the most unexpectedly joyous night out I’ll have this year it’ll do to be going on with.” (Rony Robinson, BBC Radio Sheffield)

“Absolutely gripping, multi-layered, wonderfully acted and very, very moving. See it if you can!” (Sally Goldsmith, singer/song-writer, poet)

“Spellbinding theatre. Theatrical dynamite!” (Catherine Parker, Downfall Productions)

The show in Faversham will be at the Arden Theatre on Friday 28th March at 7.30pm. Tickets are £12; call the box office on 07812 102456.

Weel may the keel row

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‘Nearly oval’ lighters on the riverbank at Newburn on the Tyne, image from Samuel Smiles’ book Lives of the Engineers, republished by Project Gutenberg. They’re a bit small to carry 20 tons of coal, but they might well be an artist’s slightly fanciful depiction of the keel

An outstanding recording of the tune known as the Keel Row popped up on my Facebook page the other day, and got me thinking about the keels of the River Tyne. The tune was played on an English concertina by a young man called Danny Chapman and must not be missed: hear it here.  You’ll notice that apart from the beautiful statement of the theme, in the way that’s traditional in the North East of England, there is a following series of stunning variations. There’s more of this stuff on this page. Well done Danny!

But what’s a Tyne keel? Believe it or not, it was an Anglo-Saxon boat type that lasted into the 20th century, though there are none around now and precious few pictures seem to exist. Still, there’s a nice history including the words of the song the Keel Row here. Jim Shead has a little more on the keel here, and the Samuel Smiles book has more to say about how the boats were used.

Finally, there’s a series of photos telling the story of the Keelman’s Hospital here. It’s a grand tale that demonstrates the independence and grit shown by the keelmen in the face of the ruthlessly capitalist coal owners, who seem to have been everyone’s enemy for centuries.

A stroll along the Deben

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Dinghies on the Deben

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Concertina player and occasional songsmith Alan Day is one of those unfortunates who would enjoy boats and boating – if only their seasickness were less severe.

Alan tells me he gets seasick standing in a puddle, but his affliction hasn’t prevented him taking this series of photos along the banks of the River Deben in Essex a few days ago. I must say it looks charming and I look forward to visiting by water sometime.

Note the name of the old wooden motor cruiser in the final photo. I gather it belongs to a local man of the cloth.

If anyone can add any information about the boats in the photos please, I’d be most grateful!

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