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12 Silk Handkerchiefs
A song cycle by Reg Meuross and a multi media show about the Hull Triple Trawler Disaster of 1968 and the revolutionary Lillian Bilocca
Acclaimed singer/songwriter Reg Meuross has joined artistic forces with author Brian W Lavery to present ´12 Silk Handkerchiefs´ which tells in music, narration and pictures the story of Hull’s 1968 triple trawler disaster and subsequent uprising led by fighting fishwife Mrs Lillian Bilocca, calling for greater safety on the trawlers. The song cycle, written by Reg, is performed by himself alongside Hull musicians Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry. The multi-media show includes never-seen-before images, TV, newsreel and radio archive from the time and a series of narrative links by Brian W Lavery from his book. The music and narration will also be released as a CD on December 14th.
Reg is currently raising funds through CD pre-orders. Please support the project!
In January and February 1968 three trawlers, the St Romanus, Kingston Peridot and Ross Cleveland sank in atrocious weather conditions within 3 weeks of each other. 58 men lost their lives and the Hessel Road community was torn apart. The miraculous survival of one man, Harry Eddom, mate of the Ross Cleveland, drew attention to this almost constantly grieving city and the incredibly dangerous industry where health and safety practices were less than basic. The uprising that followed, spearheaded by ´Big Lil´ and her ´Headscarf Revolutionaries´ and their tireless campaign, is now recognised as one of that century’s most successful campaigns of civil disobedience. The result was new safety measures which saved thousands of lives in the decade ahead, at great personal cost to the campaigners (from blacklisting to death threats) before the industry itself went into decline.
Reg said: ‘In March 2017 I was invited to play a concert in Hull. I had already heard about Big Lil´ Bilocca and her fight in the late Sixties to pressure the Government into introducing much tighter safety after the triple trawler disaster of 1968 and I was drawn to find out more while I was there. My research led me to the book ´The Headscarf Revolutionaries´ by Brian W Lavery and to a meeting with Brian’s friend, local musician Mick McGarry (who turned out to have been my support, along with Sam Martyn, at the gig I’d just played). Together we went for an in-depth tour of the old fish docks. Mick also gave me a collection of local songs and Brian gave me a copy of his book. The detail in the book provided some really rich source material for a song cycle based on this fascinating and important period of British industrial history.’
Brian added, "I was greatly honoured when I heard the song cycle Reg had written. He is truly a gifted songwriter and it seemed obvious that we should work together on what became ´12 Silk Handkerchiefs´. The title comes from the fact that Lil’s last action was to send her daughter to buy a set of handkerchiefs to give as gifts to those who had treated her is hospital before her death in 1988. Reg’s music honours and complements the story of the Dark Winter that claimed so many of our brave trawler men. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a Meuross song must be worth so much more. With these six wonderful songs, this poet has re-cast a story that took me eighty-thousand words to tell. And I am honoured and delighted that he did."
The next full show is on Thursday 8th November 2018 in Hull Minster, and the audio CD will be released on December 14th. ´12 Silk Handkerchiefs´ will be on the road in 2019 as the multi-media experience, as well as within Reg’s solo touring.
Please support the project by pre-ordering a CD, and if you can, coming to the gig, which is raising funds for Humber Rescue. If you would like to book the multi-media show or the Reg Meuross solo experience, please get in touch with katie@fromthewhitehouse. com.
12 Silk Handkerchiefs Show details:
Thursday 8th November, Hull Minster South Church Side Hull, England, HU1 1RU
Music: Reg Meuross with Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry, narration and slide show by Brian W Lavery
TICKETS £8 via hullminster.org & hullboxo ffice.com 01482 221113
Hullminster ticket link
CD pre-order and release details
Fundraising pre-order link
Music: Reg Meuross with Sam Martyn and Mick McGarry, narrated by Brian W Lavery
HAT 013 Release date 14 December 2018 via Proper Records
Described by BBC Radio 2’s Mark Radcliffe as ‘a brilliant singer-songwriter with a social conscience’, Reg Meuross first emerged onto the acoustic music scene in the 1980s with the fast paced duo Panic Brothers and has, over the years of touring and playing solo as well as with many other acclaimed artists, developed a style that as Pete Townshend says ´allows the listener to embrace the whole breadth of his work over many years without distraction… he sings in the neutral accent of an Englishman who travels the entirety of the British Isles, and tastes all its flavours, influenced by all its most profound national colours. In this he reminds one of Roy Harper or Ewan McColl, recent greats who went before him.´ Reg then went on to form the band The Flamingos which featured ex Graham Parker guitarist Martin Belmont, Bob Loveday from The Penguin Cafe Orchestra & Bob Geldof’s Band & Alison Jones of The Barely Works. They recorded one album called ‘Arrested’.
In 1996 Reg decided to go solo and has since released 13 highly acclaimed studio albums. Reg´s appearances at art centres, music clubs and festivals throughout the UK and abroad, and his albums have established his songs as ‘the hinges upon which swing the doors of perceptive English folk’ (Folkwords). Festival appearances include: Cropredy, Folk on the Coast, Bude, Great British Folk Festival, Auckland Festival NZ, Broadstairs Folk Week, Gate To Southwell, Costa Del Folk, Illawarra Folk Festival (Australia) and many more, small and large. Reg is the patron artist of Priston Folk Festival in Somerset and Bridport Folk Festival in Dorset and of Holywell Music and Folk in Oxford.
Quotes: ´One of the most talented storytellers of our generation´ Pennyblack Music. ´Powerful and moving songwriting´ Martin Chilton, The Telegraph. ´A mighty songwriter and an equally fine singer’. Martin Carthy regmeuross.com
Brian W Lavery was born in Glasgow’s East End in 1959. He has been a factory worker, car valet, market trader, waiter, university dropout, VAT officer (very briefly) and latterly a journalist, university tutor and writer. After more than twenty-five years of various senior roles in national and regional journalism he returned to higher education and gained a first in English literature and creative writing at the University of Hull. His book, The Headscarf Revolutionaries (Barbican Press, 2015) – now optioned by a major television production company – derived from a funded PhD at that university, where he taught creative nonfiction. His new book The Luckiest Thirteen, the story of the St Finbarr 1966 Christmas Day trawler disaster has already established itself as another best-seller for Barbican Press this year.
In 2017, he contributed to End Notes, a collection published by the University of Hull as part of its Crossing Over project; and Hull: Culture, History, Place(Liverpool University Press, 2017) – with a chapter about trawler safety campaigner Lillian Bilocca.
His programme for BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought series, entitled Courage and Effect, was also drawn from his doctoral research. The Oxford University National Dictionary of Biography (‘the biographer’s Bible’) commissioned him to write the entry on Mrs Bilocca, aka Big Lil. Planet Publications (Wales) and Umber has published his short fiction over the years, and Other Poetry, About Larkin and the Larkin Press have published his poetry.
Dr Lavery has lived in Hull with his wife Kathryn for more than thirty-five years. They have two grown-up daughters, Catriona and Rose, and a border collie called Dylan. He is an honorary research associate at the University of Hull and works as a writer, journalist and creative writing tutor. He is proud to teach with the Workers’ Educational Association brianwlavery.com
Sam Martyn is a member of Hull folk band Beggar’s Bridge, the White Horse Ceilidh Band and the Green Ginger Garland dancers, and she also performs solo - when she can find the time! Combining her rich, traditional singing style with piano, low and high whistle, and harmonium, her eclectic repertoire stretches from folk ballads to her own reworkings of musical and popular songs.
Mick McGarry is a stalwart of the Hull folk scene for the past fifty years. He sings with the highly-respected singing group Spare Hands and is front man with cult-status steam-punk folk rockers The Hillbilly Troupe. He has sang and performed with some of the biggest names in the business and is much admired as ‘the singer’s singer.’