|Two days of revolt
||[Aug. 15th, 2015|06:13 pm]
We have just had a brief visit from durham_rambler's university friend S. (not the person usually referred to in this journal by that initial): we'd chosen from the dates she was available those which would allow her to join us at Thursday evening's concert, part of the annual Folkworks summer school, called Women of Rebellion: Songs of Protest and Revolution, and so that we could then visit the Magna Carta exhibition in the former University Library. Too much to cover in full, so this is the condensed version.
Concert line-up: Karine Polwart, Nancy Kerr, Bella Hardy & Bryony Griffith and Gina Le Faux. I knew nothing about Gina Le Faux, but the internet is full of Dave Swarbrick praising her fiddle playing: on Thursday she sang and played mandolin, so we missed that. Bryony Griffith used to be a Witch of Elswick; she sings traditional songs in a fine bold voice, with a mannered delivery which I find off-putting. Bella Hardy was charming and had a sweet voice, but the only song she did that I found at all memorable was Jolly Good Luck to the Girl That Loves a Soldier, based on a Vesta Tilley song and written for a First World War centenary project: any song which namechecks Maria Bochkareva and her Women's Battalion of Death is liable to linger in the memory.
Worst thing about the concert: held in Elvet Methodist church, which I like as a venue, but it doesn't have a raised stage, and five seated perfomers are liable to be invisible to much of the audience. Build them a plinth to sit on, or find them higher chairs, or just ask them to stand up.
Best thing about the concert: Nancy Kerr, inevitably. She sang new songs from the Sweet Liberties project, which I look forward to hearing again (and at least one of which cried out for the Simpson, Kerr and Cutting treatment)...
Next best thing about the concert: Karine Polwart. I associate her with winning awards for writing songs which I find 'inspirational' in a country music sort of way, which I suppose means cloying. She opened the concert, leading the singing on The Jute Mill Song, which I have known forever, and told us what I had not known, that its author Mary Brookbank became the first woman to be quoted on the Canongate Wall on the Scottish Parliament building when a verse from the song was added to the wall in 2009. I'd go and see her again.
The Magna Carta exhibition, on the other hand: well, it was interesting, but...
Best thing about the exhibition: you enter the exhibition space, and are greeted by a quotation from Gerrard Winstanley (probably, if I remember rightly, this one: "For freedom is the man that will turn the world upside down, therefore no wonder he hath enemies"). Turn left, and there's a case containing Durham' own copy of Magna Carta, the only surviving copy of the 1216 Charter issued by William the Marshall on behalf of the young king Henry. That's pretty cool. Opposite, another case contains two more charters issued by King John and bearing his seal (one of the given to Finchale Priory...).
Worst thing about the exhibition: it peaks too soon. After that strong opening, it's downhill all the way. We enjoyed the huge enlarged image, with a key passage highlighted, and with the help of the translation alongside, we were able to read it. But thereafter, individual interesting things (Wars of the Roses cap badges, Jacobite drinking glasses) but nowhere near enough revolt.
Alternative worst thing about the exhibition: it is mis-named. Lots of historical information, starting from the point that the Charter is not actually about the liberty of the individual, it is part of the struggle to limit the rights of the king, and looking at successive conflicts of king and people, mostly people who were powerful to start with. Not entirely: there was a bit about the Peasants' Revolt, and those Jacobite glasses (arguing that alongside visible Jacobite revolt, you had all the quiet toasts to 'the king over the water', the silent dissent). But no more about the Diggers, just the Wars of the Roses and the Glorious Revolution - anyway, I was disappointed less because of any fault with what I saw than because I had expected something else.
Guest now delivered to her train, in the hope that her next host will meet her as (almost but not quite) arranged...