Bude Folk – Lucy Burrow

Photo courtesy of Lucy Burrow

Photo courtesy of Lucy Burrow

Happened upon a previous article on Bude Folk Singer, Lucy Burrow – sure she will not mind it being revamped here for those who missed it first time round!

Lucy Burrow has always been a keen singer and poet. She released her first CD in 2011, whose production was paid for as a 50th birthday gift by friends and family.

Even as a teenager, Lucy was drawn to folk, joining a folk club in her home town of Poynton, Cheshire, attending the Saturday night Ceilidhs to have fun and meet people, and generally joining in the folk scene.

Music seems to run through the family, her grandfather  a tenor banjo player and fiddler, and her daughters also fine singers.

Her move to Cornwall happened 25 years ago when she attended a barn dance at the now sadly closed Bullers Arms in Marhamchurch when on holiday. There, she met her husband (to be) Kevin, who was (and still is) a member of the Ceilidh band, The Cavaliers, belting out the shanties with his powerful voice. Kindred spirits, united by their love of folklore, history and music/dance, perhaps Lucy and Kevin were meant to be together.

She recalls their first conversation which was about the slippiness of the floor and how this could be cured by sprinkling down some washing powder (one of Lucy’s ballroom dancer tips – yes, she can do that, too). My aunt used to use talcum powder to the same effect. Having met Kevin on a Friday, Lucy had joined the band by Tuesday, playing an Australian lagerphone as part of her contribution.

The Cavaliers still play at the Bude Folk Club, an acoustic folk club held at the Falcon Hotel, which the couple started up on their wedding anniversary some years ago. There used to be a thriving folk club at the Tree Inn at Stratton but folk had all but fizzled out in Bude by the late 1990s, so, encouraged by others, Lucy and Kevin wanted somewhere for people to meet, singand play which would be central to Bude. They feel folk is a “real community thing, about people and about sharing.

“Folk music is very user-friendly with no megastars or prima donnas” explains Lucy. Kevin and Lucy enjoy their Ceilidhs (a form of country dance) because they get everyone moving, are lively and fun.  To Lucy, who is especially fond of sad songs, folk is also a form of storytelling. “It is about real life. I enjoy long, sad death ballads and sea shanties, working songs, things with meaning.”  It is an evolving, dynamic oral tradition. Lucy’s and Kevin’s daughters are also keen on the genre and were involved in production of her CD called “Autumning”.

The CD contains 14 songs, three of which I heard when visiting Lucy back in 2011. I was especially keen on the battle feel of Hopton’s Victory which evoked strong marching images, and which I  think of at the commemoration of the Battle of Stratton.This is re-enacted in Stratton by the Sealed Knot which, for many years, Kevin was an active member of. He still maintains a huge pride in and eclectic knowledge of local history and this inspired the song. I also listened to Jackie Frost dedicated to the ice sprite that caused us so much trouble in winter 2010. Lucy says the song is banned at Bude Folk Club in winter as it invariably invokes the bringer of snow. SharingLucy’s love of the sad ballads, I perhaps enjoyed more Battlefield Tree, a song about the futility of war and which reminded me of the World War I poets.

That said, while the scale of the carnage of World War I was horrendous, as Kevin pointed out, we must not forget the hardships which were already suffered by many of the soldiers in their homes, working all the hours they could and often half-starved, which perhaps helped many of them to deal with the hardships ofthe trenches. Discussing Hopton’s Victory, Kevin also described how woking men from around the district were rallied to stand up against the Parliamentarians, with not much weaponry and every expectation of losing/dying. Apparently, the average life expectancy of a 17th century musketeer was three battles. Kevin is a man who brings history to life through his own knowledge of history but also through song.

It is often a criticism that folk music is dirge-like and depressing. Lucy accepts this as inevitable as the music focuses on the issues that are important to people, some of which, inevitably, are sad. She feels a sense of who we are and where we came from is extremely important: “A lot of old songs are about a way of life we can’t comprehend; life was hard but also had great beauty. If we allow ourselves to forget what made us who we are now, it would be easy to slip back. Society still has poverty but life is much better now than it was before, so looking back helps us to understand where we are now and how we got there. Society is fascinated by history, such as family trees. We are a retrospective race, fascinated by our heritage, and this is important to instil a sense of pride of place and of worth”. This sense of historical identity also explains why Kevin and Lucy are both interested in Cornish dialect.

The multi-talented Lucy not only sings but feels strongly about education and especially working with children, and adults with special needs. Twelve years ago, she was offered a place on a course funded by the National Lottery and delivered through Folk South West which was an NVQ IV in Delivering Art Form Development. She was the second person in the country to gain the qualification. As a result, Lucy has since shared her skills in schools and community groups to benefit the young people or vulnerable adults through a folk-focused medium. “I get so much out of working with young children and people with learning difficulties because both have limited understanding yet can be incredibly perceptive”. She has also worked with Bude Youth Theatre.

The folk club operates fortnightly on Sunday evenings at the Falcon, attracting 20-30 people per session. It is inclusive, so everyone who wants to have a go at singing or playing can, regardless of experience and ability. Some people prefer to watch and appreciate the performance of others,and some slowly develop the confidence to try singing. It is open to all.

Normally, a bucket is passed around for contributions though if there is a guest performer, then people are charged £5 (£4 for members). The Bude & Stratton Folk Festival takes place at the Falcon from 24th -27th May, 2013.

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