Did you know? Boat building on stage, with sex

Oysters poster

The astonishingly enterprising folks at the Pioneer Sailing Trust at Brightlingsea have commissioned a touring play about the oyster trade, and boat building. Well, it’s one way to make sure people know the story of Brightlingsea’s oyster trade, and probably a good one as it will reach new audiences and get newspaper coverage.

One I saw suggested that boat building itself is about to become sexy. Well it is already, of course!

My thanks to Paul Quarry for letting me know about this – I’ve no doubt it will be illuminating as well as entertaining. I wonder whether it will be coming our way. Read more about it on the website of the theatre company currently performing the show, Eastern Angles, including some reviews.

Here’s what the trust says about it:

“A tale of sex, boat-building and bivalve molluscs”

Oysters is a new touring theatre production from Eastern Angles.
This play will tour the East of England from March 11th – June 6th
It is sponsored by Ipswich Building Society & Abellio Greater Anglia
Oysters is written and directed by Eastern Angles’ Artistic Director,
Ivan Cutting. Combining local fact and contemporary storytelling, this new play captures the soul of an ancient East Anglian industry, celebrating and preserving the past by putting in on stage.
Focusing on the restoration of an Essex Oyster Smack, the show incorporates oral history accounts of boatbuilding and Oyster cultivation with the fictional story of an Essex boat builder and his intriguing family back-story.

The main character, Mo has just turned fifty and is busy restoring an oyster dredger recovered from an Essex riverbed. Helping him bring the boat back to life is Angie, a young apprentice with chip on her shoulder. Also in the frame are Kasey an intern from the local university, Pamela the formidable fundraiser in charge of the restoration project and the mystical Pearl, an ‘Earth Mother’ with a potent story to tell. When a piece of Mo’s beloved dredger goes missing their lives are up-ended and the past floats to the surface.

Oysters has been researched and developed as part of the Pioneer Sailing Trust Land and Sea project, which is focused on restoring the 1893 Oyster Smack Priscilla.

Eastern Angles are known for creating theatre work with a local flavour. Ivan Cutting’s previous maritime-related shows include When The Boats Came In(about the Lowestoft fishing industry) and Beyond The Breakers (about East Coast Lifeboat service). He also directed the Arthur Ransome adaptation We Didn’t Mean to Go To Sea and Up Out o’ The Sea.

Oysters will tour the East of England from March 11th – June 6th. It will be performed at the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich from Monday 20th April – Saturday 25th April with a free pre-show talk on Monday 20th 7pm – 7.30pm.

Eastern Angles will also take the show to the Pioneer Sailing Trust’s headquarters in Brightlingsea for a three-day residency on the 7th, 8th and 9thMay. Friday night will be a special £15 a ticket Gala performance including complimentary pre-show drinks and an introductory talk whilst Saturday’s shows will be part of a full day of PST activities and wraparound events.

 

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The Firth of Forth fishery dreg songs come to life

The photo above is one of Bob’s and was borrowed from his weblog. Click on it to visit his site

Crews from three Scottish Coastal Rowing clubs, Boatie Blest, Newhaven and Portobello this week dressed up in old fashioned clothes, assembled on the beach at Porty and sang the traditional dreg songs as recorded and noted in the 1930s by US folklorist James Madison Carpenter.

The result was captured by BBC radio programme-makers – you can hear it here, for as long as the BBC keeps it online. The relevant segment starts at 1:18:45, and in it US folklorist Bob Walser explains how the songs work.

There’s also some video here.

Academics from Edinburgh Napier University including Graham Weir recorded the singing. There’s a sample here.

Bob found the songs while studying Carpenter’s material, and it was originally his dream that they should be sung in their proper setting by authentic voices.

He and the rowing clubs organised it all to coincide with Bob’s visit to Scotland to perform at the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy last weekend.

Bob seems more than delighted with the results – his weblog makes it clear that it was a great night with lots of singing.

There’s a report also at the Scottish Coastal Rowing website.

I’m so glad it all came off. I couldn’t be at the event, but did manage a small contribution of my own.

When Bob asked whether I could tell him anything about the dreg songs I couldn’t help directly but suggested local rowers might be interested in learning and using them. I’d already had a communication from coastal rower Osbert Lancaster in the old Firth of Forth oyster fishery area enquiring about rowing songs… So I put the two gentlemen in touch and they got to organising. The rest, as they say, is hard work by Bob and the clubs to bring it about, a memorable night of singing, a good story… and history. Fabulous stuff!

Oyster fishing under sail at Falmouth

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Oyster fishing on the Fal film

This is a super short film about the sail powered Falmouth oyster fishery is by David Young of POD Films. My thanks to Jim Godfrey for pointing the way.

Take a moment to look at their other stuff while you’re there – there’s a particularly charming one about Flora Day at Helston, with its extraordinary dancing celebration to mark the end of winter, and the Hal-an-Tow ritual.

For more intheboatshed.net posts relating to Cornwall, click here.