December 14, 2018

A Happy Christmas and A Lynn Carol from the Penland Phezants

As we reach the end of our hectic first year,  may I on behalf of the Penland Phezants wish all our listeners (including the 70 more lovely people who helped bring alive our True Story of Hereward the Wake at Elmswell History group at our last gig of the year last night!)  A Very Happy Christmas and a Brand New Year. 

Press Release: A Lynn Carol

Sedgeford folk music-storytelling combo The Penland Phezants have released a Christmas carol especially for and about Lynn.  The carol embraces the timeless message of Christmas by linking Lynn across 600 years. 

The writer of the first autobiography in English the mystic Margery Kempe lived all her life on the Lynn waterfront at the turn of the 15C. In her "Book of Margery Kempe", she describes many extraordinary visions of love and joy including one in which she hears the Holy Ghost as a robin redbreast singing merrily in her right ear!

The Phezants bring this story timelessly into the present amid the Christmas rush as follows. 

Now starry angels on the tree 
Grow larger in the dusk 
To heaven-blue and Eden-green 
And gold and reindeer-musk. 

And what was heard by Margery, 
The Visionary of Lynn, 
Rings out on tills for checkout girls 
Who hear that robin sing. 

The only gift left on the shelf, 
That nothing else can rise above, 
Includes all treasures, lasts forever, 
And grows when shared with others: love. 

The carol was enjoyed by a packed Lynn Minster when it was performed by a full cast as part of "Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe" last September.

The CD "Songs for Skirting Heresy" with songs (including the two featured here) about Lynn through the ages is on sale at True's Yard fisherfolk museum or online at:

September 18, 2018

Skirting Heresy (the Life and Times of Margery Kempe) at Lynn Minster - the full story

The subject

Burning William Sawtrey, late priest of this parish. Skirting Heresy at Lynn Minster September 2018

Skirting Heresy  is a play about Margery of Lynn (c1373-c1443) Margery lived all her long life on Lynn waterfront - her merchant father was 5 times mayor and MP of Lynn - and wrote the first autobiography in English. She was repeatedly accused of heresy and very nearly burned for it. She broke many of the bounds imposed on women of her day by travelling the world and practising a Christianity she was not allowed as a woman to preach. 

The author

Wall Street journalist Elizabeth Macdonald, a native of Rockville Centre, New York, has written an exciting dramatisation of a Lynn woman called 'Skirting Heresy,' which you can see at Lynn Minster on September 22. 

KLFM interview with the author  (in which, among other things, Macdonald argues that Margery should be made the patron saint of gossip victims and that Lynn should be given credit for being the cradle of a common sense revaluation of Christianity in her time)
The woman concerned was the mystic Margery Kempe, who lived at the turn of the 15C. It was England's darkest hour. This is the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, the era of the unsung heroes who changed the faith, it would be another century before Martin Luther and King Henry VIII upended Catholicism. It was a time when unauthorized preaching was against the law, and for the first time a death penalty was enacted to stop heresy; even Catholic priests were being burned alive.

Macdonald explains: "This was the world Margery Kempe of Lynn was born into. She dared to follow her truth, and the calling she believed came from Jesus Christ himself. But she paid mightily for it, and she was repeatedly arrested, put on trial, even threatened with death. Kempe's only lifeline was her wit, determination, and a few influential friends who believed in her cause."

You will be riveted by this drama of a woman who is credited with dictating the first autobiography in English, The Book of Margery Kempe. It is an account of a rare and courageous woman who dared stand up for what she believed in.

Macdonald has a journalist's keen eye for the foibles of humanity along with the artist's sympathy for its plight. She also has the necessary sense of humour to combine the two (notably scripting a whoopee cushion as a counterpoint to any pretentiousness in her characters!)

The author has taken a keen interest in the Lynn production of her play, which premieres  in Lynn Minster on Sep 22, visiting Lynn in the past for Dr Paul Richards' heritage walks, meeting the Skirting Heresy director Christopher Yarnell, script and music advisor Gareth Calway, stage manager Jan Sayer, and the local production team led by Lindsey Bavin (True's yard fisherfolk museum) and Rebecca Rees (Marriott's Warehouse Trust)  and on Skype, enthusing and consulting them throughout, and now even flying in from New York for the performance!

Macdonald's day job is anchoring FOX Business Network’s (FBN) The Evening Edit with Elizabeth MacDonald. She joined the network as stocks editor in September 2007.

Prior to joining FBN, MacDonald was a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal and was a senior editor at Forbes Magazine, where she covered stock market and government corruption and created "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" annual list.

MacDonald was one of the first journalists in the USA to sound the alarm about the coming wave of accounting scandals in the mid-nineties. Her financial news coverage led MacDonald to be called in twice to testify before Congress.

MacDonald has received 14 awards, including the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business Journalism (and won a nomination in an ensuing year); the Society of Professional Journalists' Award for Outstanding Public Service reporting; and the Newswomen's Club of New York Front Page Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism.

The current play is her own dramatisation of her book  “Skirting Heresy: The Life and Times of Margery Kempe” (Franciscan Media, June 2014)

The production

(the following section was first published in the Lynn News) 

After centuries of neglect, the 15C author, pilgrim and mystic Margery Kempe of Lynn is bursting out all over. 

She is currently the subject of a hit play "The Saintliness Of Margery Kempe" showing on Broadway. A Margery Kempe Society was formed at a Conference about her at Oxford University last April. A King's Lynn Civic Society recently honoured her with a handsome engraved bench situated outside her beloved Minster.  And now "Skirting Heresy," an epic production written by Wall Street journalist and playwright Liz Macdonald, scheduled for its premiere in Lynn Minster (her beloved parish church 600 years ago) is in production in her home town.

Margery Kempe's Book, the first autobiography in English, is taught at American Universities and there has always been academic interest on the other side of the pond. But New Yorker Liz Macdonald's interest was kindled by a visit to Lynn and a tour by Lynn historian Dr Paul Richards. She commented with characteristic enthusiasm recently "I love Lynn. Your area is the home of unsung heroes. Let's right this wrong."

The 'Skirting Heresy' project was launched last year by a steering committee led by Lindsey Bavin, including the Lynn heritage groups The True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum and Marriott's Warehouse Trust, who, with civic and other support have tenaciously and successfully applied for grants and crowd-funding to mount a community production in Lynn Minster.

Chris Yarnell

In May, the committee appointed Chris Yarnell a first class freelance director and physical theatre maker based in London. His previous work has won the Les Enfants Terribles Partnership Award and The Stage Award. 

Chris comments "This exciting project was the first I’d ever heard of Margery Kempe and since getting on board I have been amazed not only by her incredible story but also by the town of Kings Lynn.

"The wonderful writing of Elizabeth MacDonald brings her story to life in a visceral, heart-warming and at times hilarious way that I know everyone will enjoy from start to finish. I've also been gifted with the stunning folk music of The Penland Phezants to help underscore the narrative.

"Margery was incredibly outspoken, strong, driven and determined, with the conviction to break the mould of what a woman could be at that time. This was why I was certain from the offset that I wanted to cast a strong local actor as Margery."

Chris declares himself honoured to work with a world class stage manager, Jan Sayer, a native of Lynn North End who also happens to be a former stage manager of Sydney Opera House! 

Returning from a long sojourn in Australia to her home town at just the right time for the project, Jan got wind of something exciting while working part time at Lynn Museum. Visiting True's Yard Museum to view some old photos of her family, she met project manager Lindsey Bavin, got the gen on Margery and offered her much-needed services. She comments "I only knew about Margery from a TV documentary about Julian of Norwich and a book in Lynn Museum.  I pleased to have found her and King's Lynn is lucky to have her - she is amazing."

So, thanks to a New York author, a London director, a Sydney stage manager and a local cast and band, Margery is finally coming home in style this September to her home parish of St Margaret's in Lynn.

The stage manager

Margery Kempe herself couldn't have arranged a better miracle. Somehow Jan Sayer, the Lynn-born former stage manager of Sydney Opera House, has become the backstage maestro for 'Skirting Heresy', a local theatre company's forthcoming production of Elizabeth Macdonald's epic tale about the mediaeval town's controversial mystic and author.  New Yorker Macdonald, who will attend the premiere, and who has supported the project at every stage, is thrilled to have Jan involved as part of the team.
As an author of books of urban fantasy and black comedy (writing as Jessika Jenvieve) Jan Sayer hadn't even heard of Margery Kempe until she returned to Lynn to support her writing career by working part time at the Museum. Now, she is hooked by mediaeval Lynn's amazing female rebel, the writer of the first autobiography in English.
Life has taken the multi-talented Jan on a long and unexpected journey from North Lynn to London to Sydney and back again. "I was very lucky to go to Bretton Hall College and study Drama & English back in the heady, happy days of 1968. After graduating, I tried my luck as an actress and singer, but they wanted tall blondes in those dark days. I studied Arts Administration at City University in London. I designed costumes, then I dabbled in lighting design and finally settled on a career as a stage manager.
"In 1990, I got the best job in the world as a stage manager at the Sydney Opera House and spent ten years backstage with some of the world’s greatest performers and musicians. 
"After 8 years working at the University of Sydney, I wrote a crazy book and put it on Amazon. Two more books followed but living in Sydney was too expensive if I wanted more time to write. So, in 2015, I gave up the sunshine and returned to Lynn to write full-time, supporting myself with a part-time job in a museum and the occasional stage management gig. I study and travel to improve my writing and I have done two online courses with Oxford University. 
I love art history and architecture and Lynn has a wealth of historic buildings; it is like walking in Margery’s footsteps."
Margery might recognise a kindred Lynn soul. As with Jan herself, 'Skirting Heresy' promises to combine a liberated 'doin different' Norfolk spirit with world class professionalism. 
The female lead



Emily Blake is not just an actress and singer currently bringing life, warmth and light to the relatively unknown female lead role of Margery Kempe (in New Yorker Elizabeth's Macdonald's fine new play 'Skirting Heresy' which premieres at Lynn Minster on Saturday 22 September.) She is also a professionally trained TV presenter, plus size model, singer and beauty queen! The current Miss International Curve 2017/18 is passionate about performing, presenting and helping others reach their full potential.

Emily inspires confidence in men and women through her work and social media presence. She won an award for empowering women and recently won the Curvy Model award at the Afro Model Awards after also winning the title last year along with Best Female Model at the International Achievers Awards in 2016.

Emily received national and international media coverage after winning Miss British Beauty Curve 2014/15 which opened the doors to appearance and modelling opportunities that have since taken Emily to Ibiza, Jamaica and this year, the beautiful island of Madeira.

Showing people that they can achieve their dreams no matter their financial background, heritage or looks is very close to Emily’s heart and she hopes to continue to inspire people, particularly through her own workshops. Emily teaches public speaking in order to boost confidence and holds fun catwalk classes open to everyone to teach modelling and pageant skills but mainly to teach others to learn to love themselves and realise their inner confidence.

Emily's acting of the role shows a real understanding for a complex character and has mightily impressed the author and production team.

(Margery's theme song)

The male lead

Martin Strals is playing Margery's husband John Kempe. Kempe was always a vital character in the playwright's scheme of things as he is in the same position as many in the audience - an ordinary Lynn person (rather than a cleric or a theologian) both amazed and bewildered by this visionary - loveable/maddening - woman.

The Ballad of John Kempe

Martins Strals has lived in King's Lynn for the last 13 years, originally from Ventspils in Latvia. Since then he has attended high school, as well as the local college and began work in the film and tv industry. He has produced a varied collection of work, including a feature film that was submitted to the Cannes film festival in 2013. 

He also runs a small local production company Riarmato Productions that specialises in unique as well as one off projects that both promote businesses and products, and short documentary work.

''Taking on the role of John Kempe has been an incredible experience and an honour to portray such an important part of King's Lynn diverse history. It has certainly and its challenges in wrapping my head around the way of life and social norms that were accepted in the late 14th/ early 15th century. Margery was a misunderstood woman who went up against the powerful elite at the time, and many times facing the peril of a fiery death of being burned at the stake. I have thoroughly enjoyed the process and look very much forward to performing in the church that Margery prayed in and where she is also buried."

A labour of love

Has all the hard work Martin has done as an actor and film promoter of the project been worth while?

"Yes! I must also say a huge thank you to Elizabeth for making the extraordinary effort of getting the story of Margery out there, as well as the team, band and cast that have worked tirelessly for the last couple of months to bring this amazing production to fruition.'

What looks like a full Lynn house at the Minster will be able to see the result on Saturday 22 September. Don't miss your chance. Some tickets are still available on the door or here

The band - the Penland Phezants

Free fundraising concert for Skirting Heresy on Lynn Heritage Day (video)

Fenland folk music/ storytelling band The Penland Phezants will launch and recreate their entire new album live in Hanse House yard on Heritage Day this September 16.

In a free concert given to raise funds for 'Skirting Heresy' (a new production about the pilgrim, author and mystic Margery Kempe of Lynn) Gaz Phezant (narrative, vocals, percussion) Andy Phezant (lead vocals, guitar) Wood Phezant (harp, vocal harmonies) and Maz Phezant (narrative, lead and harmony vocals) will entertain Heritage Day crowds from noon. 

Their musical show, performed in costume,  includes dramatic readings from the Book of Margery Kempe about Margery's life, visions and journeys to the Holy Land and Prussia and it is hoped that costumed actors from 'Skirting Heresy' will be able to take time off from last minute rehearsals to add pageantry to the occasion.

The songs are all inspired by a gripping and hilarious new play New York author Elizabeth Macdonald has written about Lynn's famous daughter and, in an exciting development, Macdonald herself will be jetting in from New York to attend the Phezants' fundraising concert prior to  attending the premiere of her play in Lynn Minster (Margery's own parish church) on Sep 22.

Maz Phezant - the voice of Margery
The album presents musical settings of key extracts from 'The Book of Margery Kempe' and of a collection of Gaz (poet Gareth Calway) 's lyrics about Margery's contemporaries. Among these fascinating contemporaries are her merchant father and Lynn MP/Mayor John Burnham; Margery's famous fellow mystic Julian of Norwich;  Margery's husband John and her parish priest William Sawtrey of Lynn, burned as a heretic, as she herself nearly was. Fellow Phezants Andy (Wall) and Vanessa Wood Davies (Wood) have turned these lyrics into catchy folk songs, moving ballads and folk dances and helped bring Margery's incredible Book alive in compelling musical performances. Maz (Melanie Calway) is the voice of Margery.

 The album - an epic 23 tracks long - is scheduled for release at the premiere of 'Skirting Heresy' on September 22 in the Minster but advance copies will be on sale at the outdoor Hanse House concert on Sunday 16, which starts at 12 noon. 7 of the album songs will be included in the 'Skirting Heresy' production itself a week later, performed as a creative score by the Phezants. Tracks from the album will also be available for digital download online on bandcamp  (listen free before purchase)
and limitless free streaming  on soundcloud 

Skirting Heresy  title track (and play out...)

July 20, 2018

Skirting Heresy: an introduction to Margery Kempe


Hear the song here 

Margery of Lynn - author, pilgrim, mystic -
Saw things that weren't there, spoke heresy
But the Heresy She Spoke and the Things That Weren't There
Were a vision of a future reality.

The Lord Jesus spoke to her like a Song in her heart:
'Though a menace to churchmen, you’re a mystic to me,
There is none so pure as the mother who gives
This world to so many and her soul to me.

'Born before your time
It would take an eternity
To redress their abyss,
Skirting heresy.

'They would fetter your soul
With wedlock-maternity,
Apron and stain,
Skirting heresy.

'You fore-saw what the spirit
Of a woman could be
And clothed your flesh in it,
Skirting heresy.'

Margery of Lynn - author, pilgrim, mystic -
Saw things that weren't there, spoke heresy
But the Heresy She Spoke and the Things That Weren't There
Were a vision of a future reality.

The Lord Jesus spoke to her like a Song in her heart:
'Though a menace to churchmen, you’re a mystic to me,
There is none so pure as the mother who gives
This world to so many and her soul to me.

'In the arms of your soul
You may take me as boldly
As a good wife her spouse,'
Skirting heresy.

The sun of love in your heart
Burns so hot and fiercely
It scares you to life,
Skirting heresy.

'This vestment of heat 
Is the heat of the Holy.
It will burn away your sins,'
Skirting heresy.

Margery of Lynn - author, pilgrim, mystic -
Saw things that weren't there, spoke heresy
But the Heresy She Spoke and the Things That Weren't There
Were a vision of a future reality.

The Lord Jesus spoke to her like a Song in her heart:
'Though a menace to churchmen, you’re a mystic to me,
There is none so pure as the mother who gives
This world to so many and her soul to me.

Magic water, magic sky,
What land appears to be,
Shift across your vision -
Skirting heresy.

On Lynn's ebb and flow,
Dock and dreaming friary
Unravel like wool -
Skirting heresy,

As England revolts
In Plague and Lollardy,
Old habits cleave -              
Skirting heresy.

Margery of Lynn - author, pilgrim, mystic -
Saw things that weren't there, spoke heresy
But the Heresy She Spoke and the Things That Weren't There
Were a vision of a future reality.

The Lord Jesus spoke to her like a Song in her heart:
'Though a menace to churchmen, you’re a mystic to me,
There is none so pure as the mother who gives
This world to so many and her soul to me.

Your unsung fishwife Word,
Your un-nun livery,
Your Magdalene hair-shirts,
Skirting heresy,

Chat to God without a priest;
As His Mother in Galilee,
Nurse and feed Him like a Babe,
Skirting heresy,

In the dance of the Hansa,
Out of step, off the quay,
Walk on water like the sun,
Skirting heresy.

Margery of Lynn - author, pilgrim, mystic -
Saw things that weren't there, spoke heresy
But the Heresy She Spoke and the Things That Weren't There
Were a vision of a future reality.

The Lord Jesus spoke to me like a Song in my heart:
Though a menace to churchmen, you’re a mystic to me,
There is none so pure as the mother who gives
This world to so many and her soul to me.

New York playwright Liz Macdonald's play about Margery Kempe of Lynn plays Lynn Minster, Margery's own beloved parish church, on Sep 22 2018. It has 54 roles including a young Margery, an older one, England's first proto-Protestant martyr (William Sawtrey late of this parish) and King Henry IV (part 1). This is such an exciting prospect.

It also has a suite of songs for which I'm delighted to have written the lyrics. An album of these and several others about Margery's life and times has been recorded by the Penland Phezants. The lyrics of the title track of the album (which is not in the show but has a special place on the album as a tribute to the author, her title and her subject) are printed below, along with a typically captivating extract from Margery's Book and some notes about her. This song will have its premiere at a special fund-raising concert for the project as part of Heritage Day at Hanse House on Sep 16 2018.

"Our Lord also gave her another token that lasted about 16 more years and increased ever more and more, and that was a flame of fire of love - marvellously hot and delectable and very comforting, never diminishing but ever increasing, for though the weather were never so cold she felt the heart burning in her breast and at her heart, as veritably as a man would feel the material fire if he put his hand or finger into it. 
When she first felt the fire of love burning in her breast she was afraid of it, and then Our Lord answered in her mind and said, "Daughter, don’t be afraid because this heat is the heat of the Holy Ghost, which will burn away all your sins, for the fire of love quenches all sins."  (Ch. 35)…

"At last the Archbishop (of York) came into the chapel with his clerics, and he said to her abruptly "Why do you go about in white clothes? Are you a virgin?
She, kneeling before him, said, "No, sir, I am no virgin. I am a married woman."
He ordered his household to fetch a pair of fetters and said she would be fettered, for she was a false heretic, and then she said, "I am no heretic, nor shall you prove me one."
The Archbishop went away and left her standing alone. Then for a long time she said her prayers to Lord God Almighty to help her and succour her against all her enemies both spiritual and bodily, and her flesh trembled and quaked amazingly, so that she was glad to put her hands under her clothes so that it should not be noticed." (ch 52)
from "The Book of Margery Kempe", the first autobiography in English. c 1441

The Dean of Norwich Cathedral asked in 1996 was Margery Kempe mystic or menace and, like the Archbishop in 1417, concluded (with perceived Norwich bias) menace. She was born in 1373 - the year Julian of Norwich was offering her visions of certainty and comfort amidst a crisis of Faith - into a England riven with the Black Death and about to experience the Peasants' Revolt. Her birthplace Lynn had been a thriving port only since Brandon Creek re-routed the Ouse to flow out there a hundred years before but was now one of the premier ports of Hanseatic Europe. Her father John Brunham, 5 times Lynn mayor and twice MP, was its leading merchant, exporting cloth (& importing pitch, wax, timber, fish and wine) but in the 1390s, as Margery married a Lynn burgess and began her family of 14 children, the English wool industry slumped. Her traumatic first pregnancy and birth caused a mental breakdown and lifelong visions of heaven and hell. She was a great frequenter of monks and clerics, holy men and women and anchorites like the one in the cell at All Saints Church, Lynn and Mother Julian in Norwich and was much attracted to such world-renouncing people but did not join them. She had grown up as a merchant's daughter on the teeming Lynn waterfront - as a young married woman had run four Lynn (ale) pubs. After raising her family, she spent years travelling and pilgrimaging out in the world, often without the required husband's written permission or confessor's licence, incurring the wrath of archbishops and others for her holy shrieking through sermons and Masses at any mention of Jesus' suffering and for loud and sustained criticism of the church patriarchy's spiritual shortcomings. Yet she was also very soft-hearted, weeping at the sight of lepers (whom she embraced) and easily hurt by gossip and criticism, so the frequent risk she ran of being burned on a heretic's bonfire is testament to a faith well beyond her personal disposition. 

July 02, 2018

Vardy up front for England v France?

Fenland storytelling combo the Penland Phezants are conjuring up the spirit of '66 as their Hereward the Wake tour comes to All Saints Church Fring (9 July) and the Ely Folk Festival (July 14) next week.

That's 1066 and the English defeat at Hastings, folks, not the 1966 victory at Wembley, but there are hopeful parallels across (almost) a thousand years.

The title song -

Herwardi Saxonis (Hereward the Saxon)  - 'Vardy' for short - is the original English underdog who won his day, in the wake of a crushing English defeat that seemed like the end of the world at the time. 

As every English schoolchild knows, after an exhausting victory at Stamford Bridge in 1066, King Harold, the last Saxon king of England, fought bravely and his defenders were well on top at Hastings until tactically outwitted.  Harold's Saxons thought they had won the game when the Norman French dropped deep into their own half only to be caught by a devastating counter attack. A speculative arrow through the air into the penalty area hit Harold in the eye and the rest (including Saxon England as we knew it) is history.

Hereward (of Bourne in Lincolnshire) was in Belgium at the time - adding to his international reputation as a brilliant mercenary general - but returned in September 1067 to join and swiftly to lead the growing English resistance to William the Conqueror's harrowing invasion. Hereward did so most famously at Ely, leading a solid defensive formation of mighty Saxon warriors and monks and Danish diehards, all secure in local knowledge and the impregnable native fen and forest, soaking up wave after wave of attack on a waterlogged fenland pitch, then catching those offensive Normans napping on the break. Not even the services of a French witch deployed on a wooden tower could shift Hereward and his men from their fastness and the Conqueror was losing heavily and on the verge of giving up when, alas, the Abbot of Ely betrayed the secret paths through the fens to the invaders.

One loyal monk warned Hereward just in time and the great Saxon hero escaped with his men to fight (and win) many another day - in a series of madcap adventures in the greenwoods of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Warwickshire, and at Peterborough Abbey, many of which are the real originals of Robin Hood legend.

The 'overdog' Norman conquerors brought many positives into English culture but love of the underdog was not one of them. Our  enduring love of an underdog defying the odds plus the sturdy survival of English rather than Norman French as our national language can both be traced to Hereward's timely resistance.

The Penland Phezants  90 minute musical show "A Very English Resistance: The True Story of Hereward the Wake" words written and narrated by poet Gareth Calway, music by Andy Wall and Vanessa Wood Davies, the whole performed by the trio on guitar, harp and drum, plays Fring and Ely Folk Festival as the World Cup enters its Final week. If France and England are still contenders by then, it might make an interesting replay!  

Advance tickets for Fring here
 or on the door. £10 incl. glass of wine/ light refreshments.
Ely Folk Festival bookings -

May 29, 2018

Phezants tour off to a Phlyer!

The Lynn News spreading the good news

We chronicled everything and now he is gone we keep his story alive like a robin singing i' the woods...

Sedgeford-Ely folk-storytelling combo The Penland Phezants got their Hereward The Wake tour off to a flying start with a sell out show at the Bury St Edmunds Arts Festival last week.

The show, whose full name is "As Free As The Waters That Flow Through The Fen; A Very English Resistance; The True Story of Hereward the Wake"  had to be moved to a bigger venue when the original venue provided by the Milkmaid Folk Club passed its capacity. 

There was more good news for the Phezants as Fring Church booked the folk trio for a performance of Hereward's adventures on July 9, just before their performance at Ely Folk Festival on July 14. All of the words and half of the music of the 90 minute extravaganza have been written in Sedgeford and the show has had all of its rehearsals there. West Norfolk Phezant spotters now have an opportunity to see the show performed in the idyllic setting of Fring's 13C church, near the band's home ground. 

Further local interest may be piqued  by the working up of the one key incident in Hereward's story which actually happened in Norfolk, which writer Gareth Calway has plausibly set in a historically researched 11th century Lynn, then a tiny new development on the south eastern corner of the Wash.

Hereward's story is told through the eyes of the Green Monk, played by the author, who fights at Hereward's side during the underdoggĂ©d English resistance of Norman cruelty and arrogance, and through the stirring folk ballads of  Sweyn Freeborn, the Viking, played by gifted folksinger and guitarist Andy Wall. The spirit of the Greenwood is evoked by the harp melodies and harmonies of Wood, a Fairy harper played by Vanessa Wood-Davies.

May 07, 2018

1068 and All That - first stop Bury Saint Edmunds Arts Festival May 23

The Penland Phezants bring you "As Free As The Waters That Flow Through The Fen; A Very English Resistance: The True Story of Hereward The Wake."

950 years ago, Hereward the Wake came home (from outlawry, exile and a gallery of bold and magical adventures in Cornwall, Ireland and Flanders) as a famous warrior and the leading military genius of his age. He was no Little Englander, speaking several European languages and with experience of leading several foreign armies, and as at home with Danes as with Saxons: his name means 'Head of the army' in both Danish and English. But he did not come home to rest on his laurels. He came home to lead the growing English Resistance against the Norman Conquest. Hereward first avenged the Norman murder of his brother and theft of his manor in his home town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, then established himself in the Isle of Ely alongside the Earl of Morcar (the dead King Harold's brother) and King Sweyn of Denmark, repeatedly outwitting a desperate siege of the Isle personally led by William the Conqueror himself. 

So successful was Hereward's defence that William, incredibly, was on the point of offering peace terms when Hereward was betrayed by his erstwhile military allies, the Abbot and monks of Ely Abbey. The ever-elusive Hereward escaped to further historic triumphs against William's armies at Burgh (Peterborough) and the later rearguard victories against all odds in Fenland, Lincolnshire Greenwood and the ancient Saxon forests of Northamptonshire.

Gareth Calway's 90 minute narrative tells the full story, from the magical folk tales of Hereward's early continental career to his historic defence of Saxon England. Based closely on the honest Latin chronicles compiled by 12C monks, this historically-based narrative gives full rein to the Freeborn English humour and derring do of a real life Robin Hood. (The Robin Hood legend borrows much of the spirit and many of Hereward's real-life adventures.) 

The compelling narrative is given a period flavour by harp music composed and performed by Welsh Romany-influenced harpist Vanessa Wood-Davies and a folk perspective by a sequence of new ballads written by poet Gareth Calway and folk musician Andy Wall.  The Penland Phezants' stirring performance of these is a particular highlight of and perfect fit for this great English folk tale.

Starts: 8pm
Tickets: £10, £2 discount off top price band for Festival Friends, purchase ten or more tickets in one transaction and save £1 per ticket 
Venue: Station Hill Social Club, Bury St Edmunds