A 40th anniversary revival of Peter Bellamy’s most revered work The Transports was billed as one of the key folk music events of 2017.
Now there is a second chance to see the famed and emotive story of 18th century exile, with the original cast reprising their roles.
The Young’uns, BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards Best Group (2016 and 2015) will join forces with fellow Folk Awards winners Nancy Kerr (Folk Singer of the
Year 2015) and Greg Russell (Young Folk Award and Horizon Award).
They will be joined by ex Bellowhead cellist Rachael McShane and celebrated trio Faustus (Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose).
Sartin, another former member of the esteemed and much-missed Bellowhead, is also musical director of the project while author, storyteller and folk singer Matthew Crampton is once again the narrator and Tim Dalling (The New Rope String Band) is creative director.
The collective are taking the ground-breaking ballad opera back on the road this month in a 14-date tour which includes a visit to Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel on January 20.
Supported by Arts Council England, the show fuses together moving, inspirational music and spellbinding storytelling within a vital historical and contemporary tapestry.
Rarely can Bellamy’s famed folk opera - a tale of 18th century exile - have been more pertinent, set against the current tide of forced migration.
Bellamy, a unique singer, musician and composer, tragically took his own life in 1991 at the age of just 47, but left a treasure trove of work of which The Transports is seenas his greatest triumph.
Complementing the tour once again will be the accompanying Parallel Lives project which aims to link the show to refugee support groups in the tour towns.
The Transports was written after Bellamy read a story in his local Norfolk newspaper about the first transport ship to Australia. It is based on the remarkable true tale of convicts Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes. Imprisoned for theft at Norwich Gaol prior to being transported the pair fall in love and have a son but are refused permission to marry.
As Susannah awaits transportation to Australia at the quayside her son is refused passage but a guard, taking pity on her, travels with the infant to London to appeal to Lord Sydney, Home Secretary. Sydney orders that Cabell and Holmes be reunited, allowed to marry and transported together with their son as a family.
The folk opera was released on Free Reed Records in 1977 featuring some of the biggest names from the Seventies folk revival – The Watersons, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, A.L Lloyd, June Tabor, Cyril Tawney and Dave Swarbrick – and was named The Guardian’s Folk Album of the Year. It was first performed at Norwich Castle and has enjoyed several revivals since then including one marking its 25th anniversary.
While Paul Sartin has composed new musical arrangements storyteller Matthew Crampton has created fresh narrative elements to tell more fully the extraordinary story behind The Transports.
Says Paul: “This is perhaps Peter Bellamy’s greatest legacy - an immensely powerful, beautiful and haunting collection of songs and texts crafted in a traditional English idiom. Unique in its conception, it is unified by a narrative which speaks with immediacy and passion and demands both musical and human responses.”
Matthew has toured a show based on his latest book Human Cargo: Stories and Songs of Emigration, Slavery and Transportation. He says: “Mass migration is a
defining dilemma of today. There’s seldom been a more vital moment to revisit The Transports - it’s not just a great musical experience but a sharp reminder of folk music’s power in portraying the way the world works.”
Tickets cost £22 and £20 (child) to see The Transports: A Tale of Exile and Migration at the Winding Wheel, Chesterfield. To book, call 01246 345222 or www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk