We’re really excited about the public launch of HullSongs tomorrow night at Kardomah94. There will be performances from 12 of the amazing artists – songwriters, storytellers and performance poets. A really eclectic mix – some of the pieces are nostalgic, some personal and poignant, and some are very funny. There are tales from all over Hull – Gypsyville, Longhill, Hessle Road, the River Hull itself. The Orchard Park high rise angels, old record shops of Hull, and even Bun in the Oven by the old bus station get a mention. And of course Hull City. Here’s Redeye Feenix and crew’s brilliant brand new Hip Hop track – Hip upon Hull – with ::Si2::/Hull Graffiti, Piotr Infini Korczynski of City Elemenz and PlayaOne from endoflevelbaddie. The track is produced and mastered by Kremlin Blakk. I can’t stop singing along…. Tigers Tigers Ra Ra Ra!
Kardomah 94, 94 Alfred Gelder St, Hull, HU1 2AN on Friday November 27th. The celebratory public event includes the opening of the HullSongs exhibition which can be previewed before moving to Hull Central Library during December. The launch event is free of charge, doors 7pm, music from 7.30 pm. Come and join us!
Jim Orwin’s songs about Hull – Hessle Road, Subway Street, Boyes, Bankside, Gypsyville and Willerby Road – tell the most evocative stories. We were mesmerised from the very first time he came to play at Loudhailer Acoustic. Half Ballad for Bobby Pearce really did make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Jim told a little more of the background in his introduction each time, and here, especially for HullSongs we are delighted to have the full story. Jim launched his three track EP, Gypsyville Girls – a fine recording, beautifully designed and packaged – at our Loudhailer Seaside Special. Listen to Jim’s recording of Half Balled for Bobby Pearce and read his story below.
When I was about 6 years old, my family moved from Rosyth to Hull; to Daltry Street, Hessle Road, where I first met Bobby Pearce. The house we moved into, a corner-terrace house (Alfred’s Terrace) that used to be a corner shop, had previously belonged to my Gran. My older brother and sister and I attended Daltry Street Primary School, where I was put in the same class as Bobby Pearce. Bobby was one of the tough kids, along with the Beaumont brothers, Chrissie and Ricky. (Ricky, who was a year older and in the year above us, went on to box for Hull Fish Trades ABC and won the ABA Featherweight Championship at the National Championship at Wembley Arena in 1975; eventually he became a professional boxer). As kids, the Beaumonts kept pigeons in a loft in their back yard.
I was the new, shy ‘wee Scottish boy’, and an easy target for general teasing and tormenting in both the classroom and the school yard. I remember Bobby Pearce taught me how to whistle using just one finger; but he could, like all kids, have a bit of a mean streak, especially in retaliation to being teased or insulted. But we all got through primary school without any serious incidents.
At about the time Ricky Beaumont was becoming something of a local hero, as a seventeen-year-old I got myself arrested on a night out with some older friends. I was prosecuted, found guilty of ‘causing an affray’, and fined. During one of my visits to the courts in Alfred Gelder Street, to pay my monthly instalment, I bumped in to Bobby Pearce in a corridor. He recognized me and asked me how I had ended up in the courts. I explained what had happened, and he laughed; then someone called out his name, which echoed loudly down the corridor, and we went our separate ways.
Over twenty-five years later, I heard he’d died; it must have been around 2000. He can only have been 43 years old (I was the same age, of course), which for me was quite shocking and made me think, probably for the first time, about my own mortality.
The lyric: ‘recognition in his smile at the terror on my face’, is my way of expressing his familiarity (because of the bullying) with how I looked when I was terrified. Bobby never ‘gave me someone’s name’; and he didn’t say ‘Don’t give up hoping …’ etc. Those bits are invented; poetic licence.
In fairness to Bobby, we were all cruel kids at times: Bobby had siblings with a different surname, which I and others occasionally teased him about. I’m not sure if the father was Bobby’s step-dad or simply step-dad to his siblings. Either way, it shows how we could all be just as cruel as each other.
In the song, there’s a passing reference to another incident: the first time any of my contemporaries had greeted me with a hand-shake. One day in the city centre, another former Daltry Street Primary School classmate walked towards me holding out his hand, which took me by surprise. Rather than representing a greeting, I suppose assigning this to Bobby, it becomes a metaphor for a final parting. The hand-shake incident must have occurred between my seeing Bobby in the courts and him dying.
The phrase ‘still would be allowed’ is lifted directly from Philip Larkin’s poem ‘No Road’.
Anyone from Hull will recognise the reference to Boyes; and Hessle-roaders will get the Bankside and Subway Street references.
I first performed an early version of the song in the upstairs room at the Haworth Arms in 2004. At the end of the evening, someone asked me how I would feel if, in fact, Bobby Pearce hadn’t died, and he turned up at one of my performances and heard me singing about him. My response was that I wished that could be true and would actually happen. I’d be delighted to see him again and talk about our different takes on our shared childhood experiences.
One definition of a ballad is: ‘a kind of poem or song that tells a story (such as a story about a famous person from history)’. So my designating the song a ‘Half-ballad’ seems appropriate. I’d like to think, in some way, this song will help to keep an ordinary, non-famous person’s name alive for a few more years.”
Half-ballad for Bobby Pearce
I’ve been thinking of Bobby Pearce (because today I heard he’d died),
and the last time that I saw him, in a courthouse;
and I won’t forget the look of recognition in his smile
at the terror on my face from that terrifying place.
He asked me how I got there, so I told him what I knew,
and I couldn’t stop him laughing then, so I started laughing too;
and I said: “I gave up trying ’cause everything’s the same,
and I need someone to talk to”, so Bobby gave me someone’s name.
And he said: “Don’t give up hoping, things will change you wait and see;
though it may not be for you, Jim, and it will not be for me;
but someone who we knew at school, or someone who we love –
and we’ll read it in the papers, and that will be enough.”
Then someone called his name out loud, and he shook me by the hand,
which took me by surprise back then, but now I understand;
and I never knew his destiny, or saw his face again:
the last time that I saw him was in that courthouse.
But I remember when we first met, he’d beat me up at school,
we were only kids back then, and kids are fucking cruel;
and if I had the chance to talk it over with him now I’d say:
“Bobby, it really doesn’t matter; we got through it all somehow.”
(Going back there still would be allowed.)
He’d chase me through the school-yards, but I’d be quicker on my feet;
and he’d chase me all along Bankside, right up Subway Street;
he’d ambush me in Boyes’s (that was Bobby’s game!);
but I’d teased about his step-dad and I’d teased about his name:
so me and Bobby Pearce were just the same.
He said: “Don ‘t give up hoping, things will change you wait and see;
though it may not be for you, Jim, and it will not be for me;
but someone who we recognise, or someone down our street;
or someone at a party who we never thought we’d meet;
or someone who we knew at school, or someone who we love –
and we’ll read it in the papers, and that will be enough.”
Me and Bobby Pearce – all that ‘stuff’!
I’ve been thinking of Bobby Pearce (because today I heard he’d died);
and though I never will forget him, I can’t pretend I cried.
Opher and Liz have been our good friends for years, and regulars at Loudhailer Acoustic. It was just over a year ago that Opher asked how to set up a blog. He has embraced it wholeheartedly and published over a thousand posts (to add to his 43 books) in his first year. Here’s Opher’s story about coming to Hull.
They make ‘em tough in Hull!
We were living in a tiny bedsit in London with a baby. We were left a house in Hull when my wife’s grandmother died and set about moving up north. Before we could get it sorted Hull City Council placed a demolition order on our house and offered £25 compensation. We were flummoxed. Undeterred, now that I had secured a place at Hull University to do a teaching course, we journey by thumb up from London and bought a house for £800. Job done. We’d been successfully pushed through the Watford Gap.
The weeks passed. My wife moved up to our new home in Fleet Street off Stepney Lane which joined Beverley Road next to the Beverley Road baths and swimming pool, with our toddler. I was due to follow in a few weeks. I just had to finish my work and research contract.
There were no phones back then. These were the days of antiquation not far removed from Wells Fargo. I had one week to complete and then I would join the family and start a new life – except I wasn’t well. I was peeing dark brown liquid and felt terrible. It was worse than flu – worse than man-flu. I went to the doctor. I was called in. The doctor looked up. ‘Stop there!’ he ordered brusquely. I halted. He never took his eyes off me and yet somehow managed to write a note. He placed it on the edge of his desk and retreated to the corner of the room. I watched with some trepidation. It looked serious. ‘Take this note and go straight to hospital,’ he ordered. ‘You have hepatitis. Do not go near anyone. You are highly contagious.’ Feeling a wave of anxiety I watched forward as the doctor cringed in the corner of the surgery, took the note off the desk and backed away.
I made my way out and straight to the nearby Royal Free Hospital. I was feeling so ill I could hardly think. At the hospital I handed the note into reception and began to tell her the story of my highly infectious disease. She wasn’t interested. ‘Go and sit over there,’ she informed me, pointing to the full waiting room. Once again I tried to tell her about my highly infectious condition. ‘If you do not sit over there you will not be seen,’ she informed me sternly. I was too ill to object and timidly did as instructed. Eventually the doctor saw me. ‘What on earth were you doing sitting in the waiting room?’ He asked aghast. ‘You could have infected half of London!’ I mumbled about the receptionist. ‘We will have to get you into solitary confinement straight away,’ the doctor informed me. ‘You are highly infectious and extremely ill. I mumbled something about my wife and child being in Hull and wouldn’t it be possible to get admitted up there. ‘If you dismiss yourself you will have to fill in this disclaimer,’ he informed me sniffily. ‘I cannot take responsibility for what happens to you.’ I filled in the form.
In a haze I somehow negotiated trains and buses, attempting to keep myself away from all contact and stepped off the final bus at the baths on Beverley Road. That’s where the plan fell apart. In my addled state I could not remember where to go. I was bewildered. I found myself standing outside the Bull, which, owing to the fact that it was still afternoon, did not have inebriated individuals collapsed on the pavement outside …… yet. I don’t think I’d have had the energy to step over them. I spied a young boy and asked him the directions to Fleet Street. He looked at me with suspicion as if I was an idiot. ‘See that lad having a lot off to the bairn over there,’ he said with a rich Hull twang. ‘Yer go down der tenny t’end ‘n turn right.’ I stood and stared, completely uncomprehending. I might as well have been on Mars. He was talking a different language. What was all this about lads, bairns and tennis? I nodded my thanks and headed off in the general direction.
My how my wife was amazed to find me knocking on the door a week early, especially when I told her not to come within fifteen feet as I was dying of a highly infectious and lethal disease. She brought me a cup of tea and we set off to Hull General. I was turned away. Seemingly they do not have a casualty department. I was directed to Hull Royal Infirmary. It sounded right – I was completely infirm. Besides, if it was good enough for royalty……. I don’t remember how I got there it was a blur. Eventually they explained I had to go home, they could not see me because I did not have a GP. I had to register first. Somehow I got ‘home’ and the next morning registered.
A locum came out to see me. He examined me with stethoscope, thermometer and hand, on the floor of the spare bedroom and pronounced that I did indeed have hepatitis. He gave me a prescription for paracetamol and told me to go to bed and take two every eight hours and lots of fluids. I was passed caring. ‘What about the wife and child?’ I mumbled. ‘Use separate towels,’ he instructed as he packed up to leave, taking my deadly virus with him to the next patient.
In London I was a terminal patient in need of intensive care in an isolation ward; in Hull I was in need of a couple of days in bed and a few paracetamol.
Catherine took Loudhailer Acoustic by storm in May 2015 enchanting the audience with her wickedly witty spoken word set. Her fantastic uplifting stories of growing older gracefully, office politics…and that particular cockerel are inspiring. We are delighted that Catherine has written a new poem, I’m a Hullaholic especially for HullSongs.
Rich took Catherine’s portrait this morning and I recorded her reading the poem. Look out for it here soon!