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Hello Mum! Pic by Tony Rafferty
THE CROMWELL MUSEUM, HUNTINGDON!
'Cromwell's Talking Head' at the All Saints Church, Huntingdon the town of Cromwell's birth and education up to Cambridge. The 50 strong audience included members and executives of the Cromwell Society and the chair of the trustees of the Cromwell Museum : no pressure there then. Pic by John Goldsmith.
'Cromwell's Talking Head' (hear a full radio production here) came home to The Oliver Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon (performed in nearby All Saint's Church) on October 24. 7.30. Elegantly sandwiched between two sets of veteran period musicians Spirit of the Ayre's ravishing Cromwell-related airs, I sent the show out onto the hallowed air through a field of blinding theatrical light at the great and good of Huntingdon. (The cannonball provided gravitas passing from hand to audience hand.) A splinter of light from the vision Cromwell had of his future mission in 1630 perhaps? The vote of thanks was a work of art in itself. The gentleman who introduced me lived in the house associated with the Huntingdon lecture responsible for its enduring legacy of witch hunting via the annual lecture against witches heard, but not believed, by Cromwell as referenced in Christopher Hill's classic study 'God's Englishman'. It felt good to be at the heart of Cromwell's England.
Shockingly, the only Cromwell Museum in existence * has had its funding withdrawn (effective from 2016) - this performance was a protest against that. Unless you think Charles III is likely to equal Cromwell's achievements in building Parliamentary democracy or national prestige (the greatest between Agincourt and Trafalgar) maybe think about funding this rather than some of the other relics that pass for our national heritage?
*Oliver Cromwell House in Ely, the show's HQ, is not a museum as it contains no artefacts - with the invincible exception of the house itself and its unique historic site in the Cathedral city centre.
It was a night to remember at BINHAM LOCAL HISTORY GROUP, NORFOLK on Oct 23.
Gareth showing the Binham audience the Siege of Lynn cannonball presented on the night by Veronica Lane
Hosted by Penny Alford who runs the BLHG - ably assisted by David Frost chair of the PDC and Geoff the excellent soundman/ Priory warden this is a lovely group of interested people. It's said you should never go back (I did a show called From The Bronze Age to the Ballad Age at Binham in July 2012) - well I have and in Binham it's even better the second time. At the start of the evening, I was also presented by a 350 year old cannonball from the Siege of Lynn to take on my tour with me by Veronica Lane, an item which belonged to her late husband Nic Lane who found it on his farm near Lynn, and that doesn't happen every gig. I regard myself as a steward - not a Stuart - of this highly appreciated - and appallingly heavy - weapon of mass destruction - and when I finally hang up my Cromwell tour or in 2043, the four hundredth anniversary of the siege (whichever is earlier) I will present it to Marriott's Warehouse Trust an an exhibit. (It flew over the very room inn which it would be placed.) Meanwhile, I will be displaying it around the country. It's going abroad - to Royalist Wales - very soon.
At Binham, the local angle was provided by Norwich composer/ guitar virtuoso Tom Conway who premiered our ballads about Binham Priory and the nearby Bronze Age barrow. (the site now graced with an archaeological information board abut the legend and the history.) I hope to post these splendid folk ballads online on sound cloud in due course. The lyrics are already here
See poster below for details.
Gareth voicing the two severed heads:
Cromwell's had an unusually large brain; Charles Stuart's just a royally big head
All Binham pictures by ace rock photographer Al Pulford. Al also helped with the best post-performance celebration (in the Chequers) since the last time the Familiars met Gaz and Maz in post-show celebration at Oliver Cromwell House in Ely on Apr 24 - six months to the (next) day.
MARRIOTT WAREHOUSE TRUST'S FIRST SELL OUT SHOW!
A Lynn Double header
Out of this head: a dramatic monologue 'Cromwell's Talking Head'
- the horrible but true history of Old Noll's posthumously severed head
Dr Paul Richards - whose 'passion and common touch shines through everything he writes' (EDP) - described how besieged Lynn was a place of fishermen and merchants rather than holy warriors or politicals. The dissidents had mostly left Lynn for the New World in the 1630s, he explained.
The next engagement for Paul and I is A Hanse Christ Mess, our Christmas show on St Nicholas's Day Dec 6 in the Hamburg Suite at Hanse House. £5 and includes a mince pie and mulled wine. Book early!
The Cromwell tour poster with all the details
Original Press Release
Sep 3 Marriott’s Warehouse Upstairs, South Quay, King’s Lynn
September 3 was the date of the three decisive military victories of Cromwell’s life (1649, 1650 and 1651) and his own final victory over life (as he would see it)- his death in 1658. And long before all this, in 1643, it was the day he arrived with a bang of cannon shot at the Siege of Lynn, a siege that arguably decided the course of the English Civil War. An eighteen pound cannonball interrupted divine service smashing through a window and clearing worshippers out of St Margaret’s Church on Sunday September 3.
Gareth Calway’s tour of Cromwell’s Talking Head has been successfully entertaining audiences at folk festivals (like Ely in 2013) and storytelling venues all over East Anglia since it began its bi-annual residency at Oliver Cromwell House in Ely in 2011. In it, Cromwell’s severed head tells the true but horrible history of the Great Roundhead’s afterlife – including his posthumous hanging and beheading for ‘treason’ at the Restoration in 1661 and eventual secret burial three centuries later in Cambridge University – and also of his radical life. The radio production was described as ‘a triumph of narration and verbal colouring.’ Last winter, Gareth added a separate talk about the Siege of Lynn for local audiences and for its King’s Lynn premiere this spot has been handed to Lynn’s very own historian, Dr Paul Richards.
Dr Richards has recently published ‘King’s Lynn In Pictures’ ‘Paul’s passion and common touch shines through everything he writes’ (Trevor Heaton) the only English-authored chapter in ‘Hanse und Stadt’ a German history of the Hanseatic League (Lynn was a key member) and author of the town’s only modern history survey ‘King’s Lynn’ a complete history, packed full of information, intriguing anecdote and informed analysis. For once the term ‘expert’ may be used modestly. Dr Richards is a town guide on luminaries from Margery Kempe to Walpole to Burney; on its historic buildings, waterfront and pubs and can hold an audience entranced on any period or aspect of the town’s colourful past. This chance to hear him describe the besieged port’s month at the front line of English history in September 1643 should not be missed.
The double event takes place at 7.30 pm on September 3 in Marriott’s Warehouse Upstairs, (squeaky floor recently corrected!) at a bargain basement price of £5. Refreshments including wine- for donations only – will be provided during the interval.
Tickets are available in advance at the Custom House. It may be advisable to book early! Calway’s Cromwell tour continues solo to Binham History Group (Oct 23) and The Oliver Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon (Oct 24)