The Ocean

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01*20100208

In this series Sheffield singer songwriter Richard Hawley travels the length and breadth of the country on a unique tour of the coast. Over four episodes, he'll be looking at the numerous themes, which are recurring in songs and literature inspired by the sea; from religion and superstition to work songs, pirates and shipwrecks. Programme one looks at the sea as a great trafficker of people and the songs and stories written about people leaving and visiting the UK. On his tour of the coast from Cornwall to Aberdeen, stopping off in Liverpool, North Yorkshire and Glasgow, Richard will speak to songwriters, folklorists, historians and poets to find out how the tradition of writing about emigration and immigration has developed over time. With contributions from The Watersons in Robin Hood's Bay near Whitby, Stuart Murdoch in Glasgow, Aberdeen's city council historian, a shanty choir in Devon and poet Simon Armitage, to name a few, this programme will investigate the reasons why people have set sail towards life in a foreign land at various periods in British history.

The Clearances in Scotland, the potato famine in Ireland, the collapse of the tin mining industry in southwest England and government strategies to populate areas in Newfoundland through transportation have each lead to the mass exodus of people from the UK to unknown territories on the other side of the world. In days when conditions on board ship were poor and sea travel was incredibly dangerous, the trauma of emigration produced a rich tradition of folk songs written by those who faced life in a foreign land, and those who were left behind. Richard will visit the prison museum in Aberdeen where children were captured before being shipped to British colonies abroad. On a guided tour of Falmouth in Cornwall he will hear how people traveled, almost as human ballast, in timber ships sailing to North America and he is also treated to a private performance of a song about the loss of a loved one, sung by Norma Waterson in her front room in Robin Hood's Bay. Today with air travel and advancements of modern technology there are fewer artists writing with firsthand experience of sailing to the other side of the world and leaving their families behind forever. Richard will discover how the concept of sea travel still inspires contemporary British artists, albeit metaphorically instead of literally. He will speak to Belle and Sebastian front man Stuart Murdoch and hear a poem written and recited by Simon Armitage. Both these artists look to the ocean for the possibility of escape and a romantic notion of sea travel, rather than a place they'd actually like to set sail. Richard is from land locked Sheffield but is still enchanted by the history of seafaring culture, (the series is sound tracked by tracks penned by Hawley including The Sea Calls and The Ocean). He concludes that the ocean is a place to go and look out on the infinite, ponder the possibility of escape and remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Richard Hawley looks at how Britain's seafaring industries have influenced popular culture

0220100215

Continuing his tour of the coast from Cornwall to Aberdeen, Richard Hawley unearths some of the UK's most famous shipwrecks. He hears tales of sightings of ghost ships and finds out more about the British institutions which have long existed to keep sailors safe. The programme starts with boatman and former diver David Chamberlain, who used to work near Goodwin Sands who explains why it is the deadliest site for shipwrecks in Britain, responsible for the sinking of around 2000 ships. This lethal sandbank has inspired some of the UK's top writers from Shakespeare to Daniel Defoe. In Cornwall Richard dispels the myths about bands of wreckers, which were popularised in Daphne Du Maurier's book Jamaica Inn. In Liverpool Richard is treated to a private performance of one of his favourite songs of all time, The Wreck of Ellan Vannin sung by ex Spinners frontman Hughie Jones. In Filey in North Yorkshire, the Filey Fisherman's choir sing a version of Lower Lights and Three Score and Ten, which are classic Christian hymns about community, safety and loss of life at sea. We hear from author and maritime expert Angus Konstam about the Titanic and the Flying Dutchman, broadcaster Ian Clayton describes the events surrounding the Hull Trawler Disaster and finally Jarvis Cocker explains why he chose Sailing By as one of his Desert Island Discs. Jarvis also explains why the Shipping Forecast is important to him as an artist and Carol Ann Duffy recites one of her greatest poems, Prayer.

Richard Hawley unearths some of Britain's most famous ships and ghost ships.

03*20100222

Sheffield singer songwriter Richard Hawley travels the length and breadth of the country on a unique tour of the coast. Richard investigates spirituality, religion, superstition and mysticism in sea faring towns. He visits Filey in North Yorkshire where the Filey Fisherman's choir, a Methodist preaching band, sings about the parallels between spiritual salvation and literal rescue from stormy seas. At the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Richard is shown a boat shaped altar, where families of sailors would pray for their safety.

Richard Hawley visits Filey in North Yorkshire to meet the Filey Fisherman's choir.

04 LAST*20100301

In this programme Sheffield singer songwriter Richard Hawley travels the length and breadth of the country on a unique tour of the coast.

Richard investigates spirituality, religion, superstition and mysticism in sea faring towns.

We visit Filey in North Yorkshire where the Filey Fisherman's choir, a Methodist preaching band, sings about the parallels between spiritual salvation and literal rescue from stormy seas.

At the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Richard is shown a boat shaped altar, where families of sailors would pray for their safety.

Religion has played an important part in sea faring towns but, when your life is at the mercy of the ocean, it's good to have as many higher authorities on your side as possible and in Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire, folk singers Mike and Norma Waterson talk about pagan rituals and a reverence for the sea god Oceana, which was also common amongst sailors.

Richard will discover that it's not just pagan gods and the Christian God who play a huge part in the lives of sailors and people who live on the coast.

In Cornwall and Devon we will hear stories about mermaids and selkies and other mythical sea creatures and monsters that feature heavily in folk songs and stories in coastal towns.

Finally, in Glasgow Richard speaks to Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch about some of the most important fantasy novels written about life on the ocean and how the idea of going to sea has inspired some of the UK's most important novelists.

This episode features contributions from Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt, Poet Simon Armitage, Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch, Jon Boden from Bellowhead, folk singer Christina Stewart and Mike and Norma Waterson.

Richard Hawley continues his tour of sea faring towns around the UK.