Under the Fields of Heaton
It’s odd to say that I’ve had a lovely weekend commemorating a disaster, but there you go… The concert on Saturday night was a sell out with people packed into St Teresa’s Church Hall to hear Johnny Handle, Appletwig Songbook and Heaton Voices. One of the girls had to admit that she loved Johnny’s music but she had absolutely no idea what he was saying in between songs…. Geordie dialect a bit beyond her there! Another member of the choir posted that she had enjoyed discovering Handle – especially his old album cover:
Johnny’s new track to commemorate the disaster fits perfectly into the folk tradition and will hopefully be a long standing addition.
With my Mining Institute hat on, I sold books in the interval and chatted to people how I hope will come in and see the original maps and images behind the book and the slides. With my Heaton Voices hat on, I had to try and remember all the lyrics of these new mining songs which we have learnt specially for the Festival! Things were mostly successful, even for the songs which we only finished learning last week….
Then today there was a service of commemoration at St Teresa’s which was very moving. It’s a beautiful modern church, full of light. For me, the most poignant moment was seeing 75 candles brought to the altar because it really highlighted what 75 people actually look like rather than as a number of victims. It was particularly relevant as the range of ages was reproduced as well with ages from 6 to 80 represented in the procession just as there was in the victims.
All the music in the service had a theme of light, so Heaton Voices sang “May you See Diamonds” and then encouraged the congregation to join us and sing. People took it well and joined in and smiled! On the way out, one lovely lady caught me and gave me a hug and said “thank you so much for coming, and for being so enthusiastic! Just full of life – all of you!” I thought that was a very sweet comment, especially from a stranger!
After the service we were pleasantly surprised with cakes! There was a huge spread on in the Church Hall so thank you very much to everyone who baked. Sorry we had to run – the choir were all due at our weekly rehearsal! Despite the two gigs of the weekend, Richard had us all working hard learning “Waiting” – his piece on the Heaton disaster focusing on the lives of the widows who had to wait months for the bodies to be retrieved.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped make the weekend such a success; from the organisers and performers down to the audience who were so friendly.