Many years ago, even before me or you were even particles of existence, a terrible tragedy took place in my local town.
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I live in the Lake District, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve been lying to you. One reason for this is because if I actually told you the name of where I live and you were from say, London, you’d give me a funny look and go “eh?”. Another reason for this is because when you say you are from the Lake District, people associate you with being posh, but as I said, I’m not. By that I mean from the Lake District, I’m definitely posh… I’m joking… Well…
The little fishing town called Whitehaven is where I have lived for all my life, it is mostly known for being a harbour, as it was a key stop for large ships and boats over the slave trade period, and if my facts are correct, also a town which had a role in the making of sugar? I could be wrong though, so don’t quote me on it.
When you talk about Whitehaven to anyone who may not have heard of it before, I guarantee you they will click into autopilot and think 12 miles South, to the large-scale nuclear facility; Sellafield, they may also think of men in tight clad lycra who dip a back bike wheel in the town’s harbour on the start of the Coast-to-Coast ride, Mr Bean also schooled here! Hated it apparently. But I assure you, this is not the original look the town has always had…
Whitehaven is, I think, best known for being a mining town, the phrase “jam eaters” originated here, although people from the area hate to admit that, they love, however, to blame it on the next town, which is Workington. This ‘insult’ goes back to when the mines were up and running, workers down the pit would work for hours on end, and for lunch, eat a jam sandwich, again, nobody is exactly clear if that is Whitehaven or Workington, and I’m not sure if we ever will.
In 1947, one of the worst pit disasters ever to take place, made its mark into the history books, sadly resulting in 102 men and boys losing their lives, along with two from the rescue brigade. All in the name of their town, their lives were stolen, but now thanks to a local music lover, he ensures they will not be forgotten.
A musical was written following the event by John Marcangelo, known best for writing the song ‘Clog Dance’, which became a huge hit in the film ‘Brassed Off’. John has previously appeared on ‘Top of the Pops’ with his band Violinski, and if you read my blog a few weeks ago, he also appeared in the Necomandus return.
To commemorate the disaster, the musical ‘Clog Dance’ was written by John Marcangelo, and in 2017, the musical is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary. Yup, the show was originally performed in Whitehaven Civic Hall in 2007. Since it was a huge success, to mark its 10th birthday, the team (or some of them) have come back together to resurface the musical again, with some old faces along with some new ones (INCLUDING ME!), the show will be tapping its way back to Whitehaven’s Civic Hall Stage from 24th-28th October (that’s October half term!), if you would like to take a trip down memory lane… or just a lane if you weren’t here in 1947, then this show may just be for you, or just if you want to see a great musical, which is bound to entertain. Not that I’m biased or anything…
The show is based mainly on the pit disaster, which clearly is a huge part of history of this little coastal town that we can talk about, however, also looking at the history of clog dancing, without giving too much away, the author of the production based the show on his experiences growing up in a mining town, but also walking past the clog makers shop everyday, he also felt that it too should play a part in helping to tell the story of the town he loves and grew up in, but more importantly, grew apart of.
In the words of the Mr Marcangelo, “all of us living in this area owes a huge debt of gratitude to those miners and their families who shaped the history of our town, which is why this musical is dedicated to their memory.” I couldn’t agree with John anymore here either because this show gives us the opportunity to portray a major event which happened in our town, and the fact that is able to be seen through the medium of song, dance and drama helps bring locals together to remember the tragedy of the people that shaped Whitehaven into what it is today.
So, if you strip away the nuclear power plant, men in tight nit clothes and Rowan Atkinson you get something real and original, and it’s all something that has been here for centuries on end… TALENT!
Now I’m at the end of this blog, I know that on Tuesday, I said I’ll be going away for a while to catch up on some ideas and free time, so I’ll be back for a one-off on October 24, until then, which I believe is about two weeks away.
Until then, take care,
*You are able to buy tickets for ‘Clog Dance’ at the Solway Hall website, or alternatively, the Solway Hall desk in Whitehaven, they are very helpful! Tickets are selling fast, so get yours today!*