A Nest of Songbirds: new songs in Newhaven

“As you were sleeping on your pillows Dreamt ye ought o’ oor poor fellows?

Darkling as they face the billows A’ to fill the woven willow.”

(Wha’ll buy my) Caller Herring

Apprentice storyteller Jan Bee Brown moved back to Newhaven three years ago and has launched a new project, inspired by the rich history of the area, with her intergenerational story project The Thrive Archive. The Thrive Archive was set up to help diverse communities tell their own story in their own words through a range of cross arts projects involving ensembles of professional artists, performers, singers, musicians and makars.

Newhaven has inspired many stories, traditions and song and importantly people who want to come together to explore, sing and tell these stories.   The title for the initiative comes from a description of Newhaven in the 19th century when the village hosted two famous choirs.  The Fishwives sang of their brave men and the sea and Fisher lassies sang about them too – all in harmony. This tradition has been reformed with a new Newhaven Community Choir being set up two years ago by Citizen Curator. Jan, sings with the choir and has relished the opporitunity to find her voice and sing with others.

Building on this revived song tradition, A Nest of Songbirds will provide new opportunities for song and stories to be created.  Local musician Jed Milroy will lead ‘songbirds songwriting’ sessions over the month of September 2016 and in October Jo Jeffries and the Kipper Ceilidh Band will be writing tunes. All taking place on a Tuesday from 6.30 – 8pm at Victoria Primary School. 

Jo Jeffries will also compose a new fiddle tune inspired by the Everywoman Poetry written by a group of contemporary women poets in response to the Dazzle Ship in Leith docks and she will be choreographing a new ceilidh dance ‘Burlin Libby’ to go with it.

Alongside the song and tune writing,  Jan has been telling stories at Victoria Primary in Newhaven about life on the German U-Boats in WW1. P7’s have already written a dub step track inspired by the listening stations that were built along The Firth of Forth. The children have visited the Dazzle Ship Everywoman in Leith Docks and the Edinburgh Arts Festival outreach team. Working with Jan and local musician Jed Milroy, the P7 class have already written poetry to help them write their song.

The songs, tunes and dance will be performed and celebrated at a Giddy Kipper Ceilidh to be at Victoria Primary School hall on Monday Dec 5th. 

You can follow progress of A Nest of Songbirds here