Jackie Oates to perform lace making ‘radio ballad’ at Nettlebed Folk Club

A WORLD premiere is coming to Nettlebed Folk Club on Monday, July 8, thanks to Jackie Oates.

Called Lace Tellings, the show fuses spoken word with music and songs to create a unique radio ballad.

Jackie said the previous ballads have looked at traditional industries as fishing, steel making and mining, while this one explores those who worked in lace making.

She added that she was initially drawn to the subject when she discovered a display of lace bobbins in the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) at the University of Reading, similar to her Mother’s collection.

This play is the culmination of her 18-month-long ‘Artist in Residence’ at MERL.

The aim was to create a piece of ‘audio art’ and there are plans to record it be used as an educational resource at MERL.

Jackie knew of ‘waukling songs’ sung in Scotland, but set about some extensive research into the songs sung by the lace makers primarily in the counties of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. She discovered the songs were so commonplace that the tunes were never recorded, only the titles and lyrics.

The girls would sing to each other whilst making lace, and they had a repertoire of special Cattern Day songs, the most obvious example of these being Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick.

Jackie has set about bringing these ‘lace tells’ back to life, through writing new melodies, or matching the words to Victorian Flemish lace-telling tunes.

The songs also served as an outlet from the trials, tribulations and hardship the girls faced in everyday life.

The origins of lace making go back to the 1400s, and it was a huge industry in the UK by Victorian times, with children sometimes being sent to ‘Lace Schools’ instead of normal schools.

As the art of lacemaking has now mainly been taken over by machine, it has become a lost tradition and it’s important that the old skills are remembered and appreciated.

Jackie will be joined on stage at Nettlebed by some of the best folk musicians around, including Megan Henwood, John Spiers, Mike Cosgrave, John Parker and Jack Rutter. There will be some costumes involved, which will include the wearing of lace by all.

Graham Hobbs, who is the co-editor of Shire Folk, said: “It will be an evening not to be missed.”

The event takes place at Nettlebed Village Club from 7.45pm on Monday, July 8.

For more details, call the box office on 01628 636620 or log on to www.nettlebedfolkclub.co.uk

Published by
John Wakefield
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