The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #110621 Message #2324195
Posted By: Jim Carroll
24-Apr-08 - 08:58 AM
Thread Name: Bertsongs? (songs of A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd)
Subject: RE: Bertsongs?
Contemporary my arse - both Ewan and Bert could comfortably give me 25 years plus!
Ewan's main purpose was to encourage singing - traditional songs and new songs created using traditional models. Unlike Bert, he made no claim to being an academic in the field of folk song, though he did possess a great knowledge of the subject.
Bert on the other had, was somewhat schizophrenic, wavering between being a singer and an academic.
I didn't know Bert as well as I knew Ewan, so I can only go on passing impressions.
A friend of mine is working on an interview he did with Bert for a magazine he and I were intending to publish, but which never got off the ground. Haven't had time to dig it out and listen, but I seem to remember there's some interesting stuff on it.
I too would have loved to hear 'Collector' and 'Landscape with Chimneys, 'Scouser', 'Pit stop, 'St Cecilia and the Shovel' and all the other programmes that were lost to us.
I think Ewan and Joan were sent off with an open brief and the programme was designated 'Teesdale' when what they collected was assessed.
By the way, I apologise for my date discrepency - I always thought 'collector was made much earlier than 1948.
Don't know if this is any interest to anybody - it is from Prospero and Ariel - a critique of the BBC by one of its great feature producers.
PROSPERO AND ARIEL. (The Rise And Fall Of Radio).
Victor Gollancz Ltd.1971.
The voice was a new one on the air, the voice of Ewan MacColl, but there was no mistaking the message of the tramping feet behind it.
Ewan MacColl was himself a victim of the Depression. The son of an unemployed Glasgow steelworker, who had moved to Salford in search of work during the twenties, he had suffered every privation and humiliation that poverty could contrive for him from the age of ten. His memories of his early years are still bitter-like his recollection of how to kill aimless time in a world where there was nothing else to do: "You go in the Public Library. And the old men are there standing against the pipes to get warm, all the newspaper parts are occupied, and you pick a book up. I can remember then that you got the smell of the unemployed, a kind of sour or bitter-sweet smell, mixed in with the smell of old books, dust, leather and the rest of it. So now if I pick up, say, a Dostoievsky-immediately with the first page, there's that smell of poverty in 1931. MacColl had been out busking for pennies by the Manchester theatres and cinemas. The songs he sang were unusual, Scots songs, Gaelic songs he had learnt from his mother, border ballads and folk-songs. One night while queueing up for the three-and¬sixpennies, Kenneth Adam had heard him singing outside the Manchester Paramount. He was suitably impressed. Not only did he give MacColl a handout; he also advised him to go and audition for Archie Harding at the BBC studios in Manchester's Piccadilly. This MacColl duly did. May Day in England was being cast at the time, and though it had no part for a singer, it certainly had for a good, tough, angry Voice of the People. Ewan MacColl became the Voice, a role which he has continued to fill on stage, on the air, and on a couple of hundred L.P. discs ever since.
Shortly after May Day in England went out, a letter appeared in the correspondence column of the Radio Times over the signature of one George Potter. It gave high praise to the programme and ended: "Broadcasting produces, or displays, a creative writer of real force, and the critics continue to retail nothing but the latest band-room and bar-room gossip. It is high time this particular temple is cleansed." I was surprised, when I met him a year later, to find that 'George Potter' had been a discreet pseudonym for Laurence Gilliam, who had just moved over from the Radio Times to become a London feature producer himself We were to see a great deal more of each other.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that a vital new theatre movement was born in Manchester at the time when Cotton People and Coal were giving new vitality to radio. For it was there that Joan Littlewood first gathered together the group that was later to form the nucleus of Theatre Workshop. Known at the time as Theatre Union, that body of young enthusiasts had something they wanted to express in movement no less than in voice. Ewan MacColl was one of them, for in those days Joan and he were married: they had first met up in my broadcast Tunnel. Others were recruited by Joan from among the hundreds we got to know in all parts of the North.
I asked her in a broadcast recently what the North had meant to the movement she had founded there in pre-war days. She admitted it had meant everything; that what she had been able to start in Manchester could not have been started then in London. As the seed was later to bear such splendid fruit, I like to remember where the seed was first nurtured. So does Joan Littlewood.
PS Thanks - Brian parcel arrived today