The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878 Message #4029588
Posted By: Vic Smith
22-Jan-20 - 07:23 AM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Please don't tell me I am calling people 'liars': this isn't what I mean at all.
Certainly I would not call you a liar for what you are saying about Bob Copper but I would say that you are exhibiting a profound lack of empathy for the way that Bob expressed himself as well a complete misunderstanding of the way that we should regard Bob's statements, musings, reflections and stories. They are not academic attempts to get to the factual roots of past occurrences; they are Oral History and as such they are very important for informing us not only about events, but also about attitudes, opinions and a recognition of the things the go towards defining the spoken cultural heritage of a community. They are vital.
An interviewer should say as little as possible and give the informant his or her head about what is important in their view - and nearly always they are right. There are many points in the interviews that I have conducted where I have not realised the significance of what I have recorded until some time afterwards.
The interviewer should never express disbelief, never contradict, never challenge. This is not a media situation where a politician is being grilled on behalf of the public. It is much more intimate and eventually much more revealing than that. This became even more important when I interviewed some of the greatest tradition bearers amongst the Scots travellers - a severely marginalised group for whom the supernatural was part of their everyday lives. If I had said anything like, "That's not true - that didn't actually happen - I don't believe you." etc. then they would have dried up on me straight away and I would have failed to uncover the attitudes that led to their view of the world and that was what I was after.
I suppose what I have written reveals as much about myself as anything else; I have always been much more interested in people than raw information.
Coming back to Bob - and to his singing contemporaries in Sussex - the likes of Johnny Doughty, Gordon Hall, Bob Blake, Ron Spicer, Louie Fuller, George Belton, Scan Tester - all of whom I interviewed (probably others, I don't keep lists), usually but not always for the weekly BBC Radio Sussex folk music programme "Minstrels Gallery" which I introduced for 17 years, I can only thank them belatedly for the hours of enormous pleasure that I spent in their company and the huge insights that I gained from talking to them.
But particularly Bob Copper.... We used him on our programme many, many times during those years and he was such a great natural broadcaster and could speak knowledgeably on a wide range of subjects. I remember saying to him on one occasion after again being really impressed with his performance in front of a microphone, "You know, Bob, you could have been the BBC's countryman, another Franklin Engelmann, another John Arlott." But I knew that in those days on his wife's illness that he did not want to be away from home for more than a short while; so the trip over to our studios in Brighton would be about right. His reply was brief but firm - "Family first! Always family first." - and, as always, he was right.