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u3a Sea Shanties and Online Storytelling

There are three interwoven strands involved here.   Childrens stories live on the internet, The Ramshackle Shantymen, and being a life-long stammerer.

I have had a varied career which includes being a Chartered Surveyor, a Lecturer, a School Inspector and a Magistrate. I have also been a folk singer for over 50 years.

Being able to take early retirement at age 60 gave me the opportunity to loosen up from my previous formal roles in the community. I created the Filey Folk Festival, which is still going strong, was able to entertain widely and fund-raise for charities, and was a founder member, and secretary, of the Filey & District u3a.

Out of that mixture emerged The Ramshackle Shantymen, five “gentlemen”, all with bus passes, and willing and able to sing unaccompanied anywhere up and down the Yorkshire Coast, in pubs, cafes, bandstands, on board ships, and at any community events that would have us. We have been going over seven years now but, of course, have not even been able to meet for over a year. Just today, however, I received an enquiry asking if The Ramshackle Shantymen would be free for an event in September. So we may be dusting off the fishermens’ jumpers and lubricating our tonsils with a drop of navy rum again.

I also read stories to children – and since lockdown have started a YouTube channel with an international audience. This arose from Filey Library, where I am a volunteer, helping to keep the library open. I was asked about three years ago if I would do a ½ hour session with pre-school children telling stories, nursery rhymes etc. This is where the stammering aspect comes in. I find, like most stammerers, that when I sing I do not stammerer. Likewise, talking with exagerated speech, role play, and funny voices, also avoids the stammer so I was happy to do it. When Covid lockdown came I was asked whether I would record the sessions for the County Library Facebook page. I was not keen because I feared that speaking to a laptop might bring the stammer on. However, it did not and I enjoyed the freedom of being silly on screen. I was persuaded to put the videos onto YouTube and have been amazed how popular these short clips have proved, and indeed are being watched world-wide. Interestingly I know that many adults without children are also watching them because as one contact said “We all need a bit of silliness in these times”

I have had a feature in our local press, which was followed up by a BBC Local Radio interview (I was pleased with how this came out) which in turn was expanded by BBC Radio North onto their Facebook page. Going back to Sea Shanties, because they are popular at the moment, having been featured on TikTok, I was approached by a London-based media production company to contribute some shanties to an audio production about the cultural heritage of the North Yorkshire Coast. I did the recording, solo, and am awaiting to hear the result, which I understand might be available in due course on the BBC Sounds app.

So, I shall be 80 later this year, but still very active and outgoing. Singing shanties and other folk songs, either with my Ramshackle friends, or solo, and telling silly stories to small children. I have also contributed articles on coping with stammering to the British Stammering Association and also to the Masonic Province of North & East Yorkshire, both of which have been published.