An Aladdin’s Cave

Rich and I spent the morning hanging the HullSongs Exhibition yesterday. You can see it in the Music Section on the ground floor of Hull Central Library, where you will find the music library space bedecked with over two dozen striking colourful images and narrative about HullSongs. The music library is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of music. You can browse the thousands of CDs, books, sheet music, and even use the recording equipment or play the piano while you are there. We are having an official opening of the exhibition on Thursday January 21st, so look out for more details coming soon.

Library Exhibition Rich

Visit Hull Library Service Website for location and opening times.

Thanks to all HullSongs contributors and those who continue to support Loudhailer Acoustic nights.

Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard.  December 2015 –

21st Century Robinson Crusoe

An Ordinary Man has followed and supported Loudhailer Acoustic from afar. He prefers to remain anonymous. In Daniel Defoe’s story, Robinson Crusoe set sail from Queen’s Dock in Hull, the hometown of An Ordinary Man. He spent 30 years castaway on a tropical island.

Why do feel like Robinson Crusoe? I have never been ship wrecked never sailed the seas.
Why do I feel like Robinson Crusoe?
Never been on a desert island even though sometimes in my mind I have been alone.
Why do I feel like Robinson Crusoe?
You walk alone and it can be your choice family ties are broken by choice or not but you walk your path sometimes alone.
Why do I feel like Robinson Crusoe?
You go through life with a companion or not but the choice is not one you can make it is sometimes made for you.
Why do I feel like Robinson Crusoe?
Can you tell me so or do I go down the path and live the life constantly feeling like Robinson Crusoe?
Why do I feel like Robinson Crusoe when you walk in crowds and go in rooms full of people?
To be honest I don’t mind feeling like Robinson Crusoe.
The reason may never be explained why I feel like Robinson Crusoe; but I lose no sleep over this situation and wake up tomorrow feeling like Robinson Crusoe.
Can anyone tell me why I feel like Robinson Crusoe or maybe its best left unexplained?”

© 2015 An Ordinary Man, Hull

Hull 6

Unintended Destination

In 2002 my partner and i came to York to give her sister a couple of weeks’ break caring for their father. There were a few days overlap on her return which we spent exploring the area neither of us knew. One trip took us to Hull, driving through Beverley and taking the Hull Road, to follow signs to the Docks. We saw lines of cranes, but no ships – not at all what i had expected, as a few years earlier i had read that there were plans for Hull to become Britain’s largest Port!!

Then, a wrong turning took us along Holderness Rd, which seemed an even more depressed area than the Stratford Rd in Birmingham, which we knew so well. I was beginning to wonder what we had come to Hull for and thought of getting out – quick! However we drove into the city, where we found little to improve our opinion until we crossed the A63 (see * below) to find ourselves face to face with ‘The Deep’.

New Art Gallery (2)
The New Art Gallery,  Walsall. Photo: Craig Holmes Photography

That was impressive! I recall it being cited with the New Walsall Art Gallery, as being among the best new buildings in Britain at the time. It had a similar impact on me as the Walsall building, but presented an entirely different image. Both buildings have water fronts, but whereas The Deep’s ship like prow strains out across the water threatening to break free from its footing while you are watching, in Walsall the massive cuboid block of the New Art Gallery has precisely the opposite affect. This monolithic block seems to have been slammed onto the ground in order to block the flow of water where it does, not the other way round. Both buildings seriously impose their presence on their respective environments.

This was mid Sunday morning, and the area around Nelson Street deserted apart from the shoal of skateboarders very happily perfecting their skills on the ramps. (It’s a pity councils don’t scrap some of their inner city scraggly bushed banks, hung with polybags and litter like psychedelic rotten fruit – and replace them with ramps for young people to exercise and demonstrate their amazing agilities.)

The Deep. Image: Philip Pankhurst

Away from this swarming activity we walk up the ramp to cross the river to The Deep. I peer over the wall – a ferocious brown gushing – a glutinous slurry of mud, swirling thunderously passed me at what seems foot level, spewing in a furious turmoil towards the Humber – There’s energy refill for you!!! even if it’s only a passing moment. That’s it!! My decision is made!! This is where i want to move to now my retirement has started!!. It’s nearer to York than Birmingham and neither i nor my partner liked that over-touristed city, so it was an easy choice to make, especially with house prices the way they were. We loved the expanse of the Humber, the fury of the battling waters, the Hull’s outgoing in its death throes against the mighty upstream push of the Humber’s incoming tide.

* It was crossable 2002. Now its a major barrier for people’s access to the marina and estuary frontage. I now really hope, with little foundation, that with the recent developments in the old commercial Fruit and Vegetable Market area, that Hull receives the funding to allow the A63 to continue at a raised level from Smith and Nephew, passed the Marina to join Myton Bridge. This would allow an unrestricted pedestrian link between the city, the estuary frontage and the developments now taking place in the Humber Street area, as well as creating a valuable open recreational space. It would create a significant tourist attraction for the area and be of real commercial benefit to the city. The single point of access created by the new castle Street Bridge will only be a chink in the barrier which would remain a division between the city and its waterside frontage.

Alternatively, and possibly cheaper, would be to divert the A63 round the North of the city     via the A164 on a route north of Cottingham to join the A1079 south of Dunswell.

One way or the other, i’d love to see the Estuary Frontage open with the City. “

© limping tiger

Hull Songs Launch Concert

Thanks to everyone who made the HullSongs launch at Kardomah94 such a brilliant night. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and everybody was ace! The night featured a host of music, spoken word and film, from a dazzling selection of HullSongs storytellers to a packed house.


We opened the show with a song inspired by the River Hull and Humber Estuary and then enjoyed a fabulous range of eclectic performances from Opher Goodwin, Graham Brady, Vivian Querido, Jim Orwin, Andrew Tomlinson, Alyx Tamminen, Jeff Parsons, Catherine Scott, Katie Spencer, Graham Graham Beck and Redeye Feenix and crew – PlayaOne, Tony Reid and Dave. The evening featured songs and stories written especially for HullSongs, and all of them featured fascinating tales of experience and life in Hull. Some were moving and poignant, some nostalgic, some celebratory, even eccentric, and all of them were brilliant.

We were delighted with the response to the HullSongs exhibition displayed around the venue, and look forward to being a part of Hull Central Library in December. Have a look at Rich’s photo gallery of the evening, click on an image and scroll along…

A big thanks to Mal Scott at Kardomah94, a fabulous venue, to Matt Lund for making the sound, lights and video excellent all  night, to Jessica Leathley of Hull Library Service for overseeing the Untold Stories project, and to Jan Tomlinson for the panoramic photo.

You can find all the HullSongs stories, songs and more on the story page. Have a click around the pages and blog posts to find out more. If you would like to know more about HullSongs just get in touch via the contact page.

Visit our Loudhailer website to find out more about Loudhailer Acoustic. It’s always a top night, all welcome, so come and listen to the music.

Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard

Hessle Road, Subway Street, Boyes, Bankside…

Jim on the Amy HowsonJim 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.

Jim Orwin Subway Street
Jim Orwin Subway Street

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.

© 2015 Jim Orwin

Jim Orwin Boyes

Visit Jim’s Website for stories, music and more

I’m gonna tell you a story…

…This one’s about living in Hull

dirty water

We are delighted to be getting cracking with HullSongs our Untold Hull project. Here’s something to set the scene. It’s The Fabulous Ducks’ version of the punk band of the 60’s – The Standell’s – river anthem, Dirty Water. Anyone who knows Ducks’ singer – and Red Guitars rhythm guitarist – John Rowley will know that John is indeed a fantastic story teller. Back in the Red Guitars days he kept us all well entertained during many tedious hours of driving between gigs on various Autobahns and autoroutes throughout Europe.

Just before you watch the video, here’s something else…after publishing our post about The Fabulous Ducks’ Dirty Water to set the HullSongs scene, another really interesting tale came to light. Rich bumped into Mark (The Legend) Kay who told him the story of how The Standell’s guitarist was from Hull. “Paul Downing was an upside down left handed guitarist (in the good company of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Parsons), known to be the best guitarist in Hull, he could play both left and right handed equally as good. Even Mick Ronson used to go and watch Paul play.”  Who’d have thought it! Mark told Rich how he bought an amp from Paul – a ’61 Vox AC30 with a top boost. When Paul came back to visit his mum on Hotham Road he always tried to buy it back. I love that story.

So, Dirty Water, recorded live at a packed out Hull Adelphi club – hot,  sweaty, dancing all night, singing along, just how it should be.

“You know I love that dirty water, oh Kingston you’re my home!”

The Fabulous Ducks Originally Not Those Five Fabulous Ducks, although there were always at least six of them, they were formed to “have a good time and make money” and were still doing the former if not the latter when Hallam moved to Cape Town in 2006. Early doors they appeared under the pseudonym The Mysteron Brothers at a benefit for the Workers’ Revolutionary Party at the Spring Bank Community Centre after John Rowley was apprehended while fly-posting. The band’s club career died with an aborted gig at the Dixon’s Arms. Hugh Whittaker, ex-Housemartin and the only man known to have performed in his own tribute band took over from Matt Higgins around the turn of the Millenium. The occasional reunion when Hal comes to visit is always a treat.  Thanks to

Rich and Lou Duffy-Howard Visit our website