As a child. I spent a lot of time with my dad’s parents. Yet it was this year, at my Grandad’s funeral, that I learned he used to sing in a choir.
I always remember it as my Grandma who put the radio on in the morning, who sang loudly at chapel and quietly to herself when baking. I knew she loved to sing, and that she loved the stories told in song. She would comment on how she didn’t like “that music” my brother and I were into as teenagers; loud, aggressive rock and metal with beats to send you into a heart attack and screechy voices which distorted the lyrics.
When he passed away, we sought to remember what we loved about Grandad and the times we spent enjoying his company. I recalled many a-time simply sitting with him in the “men’s room” while my brother and cousins played out on the lawn and the “ladies” chatted over pots of tea. It sounds so old-fashioned, but that was what I loved about it all. So often visitors would ask my Grandma where I had possibly run off to – we pretty much had free rein, and would often run down the road playing hide and seek or disappear into one of the cow fields – and she would always say, quite calmly, “with the men”.
What I loved about it most was the simplicity of it all. They would chat, but it was not chatter. They would reminisce. They would recall. They would tell stories.
And, with the influence of my mum’s side of the family – who mostly hailed from fishing-port Grimsby – I developed a love for sea shanties and pub songs. Loud, repetitive tunes which told a story of some woman, usually getting herself into trouble or waiting for her man to return to her. It was as simple as telling a story over a glass of whiskey in the room reserved for the men, and I could sit silently, as I often did as a child, and just bathe in the words and the emotion of the room.
This is what the genre of Folk Music means to me: stories told with glee.
Hull is hosting their second Hull Folk Festival, which has taken the tradition of the Maritime festival. Having had preview events on throughout the week, the festival kicks off at on Friday with a ticketed set at Fruit, featuring Martin Simpson and The Young ‘Uns. Saturday and Sunday will feature three stages, free to the public, with a variety of music. The main stage will be located outside the Minerva, with stages in walking distance at Green Bricks and Thieving Harry’s.
Speaking with one of the event organisers from company Sowden and Sowden, she explained that the aim is to keep Hull’s heritage alive through varied strands of Folk music. There will be everything from The Dyr Sister, a one-woman band using a range of instruments and kitchen utensils to tell modern ethereal fairytales, to poetic voice Jody McKenna to the Folk headliners The Hillbilly Troupe, alongside workshops on traditional dance and the docking of the boats.
Hull Folk Festival is something which touches my soul, bringing me closer to the love of storytelling my dad’s parents had and the maritime history associated with the men in my mum’s family. For more details, go to www.hull-folk.co.uk and share your thoughts on Folk music using the hashtag #hullfolk.