We Are The Women (left on the shore) Show
Ian Wells a local writer, writes the following account of this show after watching it at the Fylde Folk Festival.
This show deserves a review to itself. It came together by accident: Sue and Liz were asked to do a piece for the Lancaster Maritime Festival on “women left behind” and said “But we don’t do many songs about that.” Then they checked their songbook and found around 30 songs by Ron Baxter in which they played all the parts of the women left on the shore while the men went to sea. No, they didn’t sing them regularly – many were too short for a normal song set – but put some of them together with a linking narrative and you get the impressive and moving show I saw in the Fleetwood Museum on Sunday afternoon of the Festival.
The 60-minute show opens and closes with songs from ‘The Final Trawl’, and includes songs from many different Fleetwood productions. Sweetheart, housewife, mother, working wife, good-time girl, child – you name it, Sue or Liz sang it. They also sang lovingly of the mission man and not at all lovingly of the politicians in Westminster and Brussels. From the pubs to the superstitions, from comedy to tragedy, from the three-day spend to the three-week scrimp, life in the trawler days unfolded among us.
Heard in the Fleetwood Museum itself, the fishing tragedies were especially poignant. I can’t say how often I’ve heard ‘Red Falcon’ sung, but once more, it moved me to tears. Sue told me afterwards that she had also found it very hard to sing in those surroundings. She also said that two women from the Chatsworth estate – where many of the deck-hands families lived – had seen the show advertised and just walked in to listen. In some trepidation, she’d asked “Did we get it right?” “Oh yes, they said, “But there’s so much more…”
Scolds will be happy to bring their piece to a club near you and I strongly recommend it, and them. Their relaxed professionalism is highly entertaining.
We Are The Women Who Inspired A Radio Show
By Ben Oliver
When trawlers sailed to the Arctic grounds from the old Lancashire fishing port of Fleetwood, women were left behind on the shore. For them, a stormy weather forecast didn’t just mean taking in the washing. It meant sleepless nights wondering how husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were faring out on the ocean. Many paid for their fish with their lives.
In the tight-knit fishing community of Fleetwood many women brought up a family where Dad came home for three days every three weeks. And they held down tough dockland jobs like braiding fishing nets and processing fish in the cold and wet. Money was often scarce but people helped one another when they could and the warmth of humour and comradeship often shone through.
As Scolds Bridle, Sue Bousfield and Liz Moore tell the story of those women and their children who were at the heart of Fleetwood’s fishing heritage. And it’s thanks to Sue and Liz that the story is set to reach a much wider audience. Their haunting and exciting songs will be part of the prestigious Archive Hour documentary show on Radio Four on Saturday, 14 April at 8pm. Titled: The Women Left on the Shore, it will focus on the experience of women in the fishing community both as wives and workers.
Sue and Liz were performing their show: We Are The Women at Lancaster Maritime Festival last year when cultural historian Dr Sam Riches of Lancaster University was in the audience. She said: “I was inspired by what I heard and by the way they put the story across with songs, poems and narration. I immediately thought that it deserved a much wider audience.”
Sam’s contacts in the media world lead to London-based production company Unique where Producer Bella Bannerman would create the Archive Hour show.
Bella said: “I think this is a great idea. The material I have heard so far is really good.”
Sue and Liz have folk roots deep in the Fleetwood community. They were residents in the early days of Fleetwood Folk Club – now every Thursday at The Steamer Hotel.
In 1982 they were part of a team from the club which created Final Trawl telling the story of fishing in Fleetwood and the people who gave the industry its lifeblood. Superb lyrics from Ron Baxter and music from Ross Campbell created songs for Liz and Sue to sing and play. Input from local historians Dave Pearce and Dick Gillingham built the foundations of the show. It was very successful formula that combined music, songs, drama, poetry and narration with a stunning background of images – many photographed at sea. Final Trawl toured the north west and went to Sidmouth – just as Scold’s Bridle have done in their own right along with many other festivals including many appearances at Fylde which is 35 years old this year.
The Fleetwood team created other fishing productions like Tideway to Trawlertown, It All Comes Out of the Cod End and the quirkily-titled Return of the Skate Knob Warriors - they were a dockland soccer side – and featured in an award-winning radio show called We Fished These Grounds for 50 Years.
From this body of work, Sue and Liz drew a rich supply of material for We Are The Women. They have taken the 70-minute show to appreciative audiences at festivals, clubs and other venues across the country. They have invested the show not just with their talent but with a genuine link to the people on whose lives it is based.
Sue explains: “ It is a living thing – evolving all the time – as people in the audience tell us their stories and we build them into the script.”
It’s the same with songs. The latest is a poem by Dave Pearce called Shopping In Memory Lane which recalls the dockland district now replaced by a giant supermarket. Liz, who plays guitar and bazouki, set it to music. Scolds can sketch in so much light and shade with voices which can contrast or compliment in a harmony. Songs like Sailing Day Blues sets feet tapping and The OMO Song gets a laugh with its tale of a soap packet signal by a lady of the night.
But it’s the tales of tragedy like Why Are Your Crying, Mam? And Red Falcon which underline the heartbreaking history of the industry and pluck the heartstrings of the listener.
Liz said: “They bring a tear to the eye of women and men.”
And the epic anthem Flowers of the Sea tells it all in one giant song to close the show on a massive highnote.