The English and their Roots
It struck me, as I was driving back from Hastings last week, that of all the peoples of Europe, England has the least respect, interest and pride in her own music, song and traditions.
I don't say this lightly and it is more than tinged with a hint of sadness, but it seems to me that - for whatever reason - the English have pretty much lost contact with their roots.
I'll give you an example...
A few years back I found myself in a bar with a group of young people of various nationalities.
After a few drinks the singing started; there were Russians, Poles, Irish, French, Spanish and several other nationalities together with a scattering of English kids.
The songs went turn by turn passing round the room, and each nationality sang something from their tradition.
Now this wasn't a folk weekend so the young people concerned weren't steeped in their traditions, yet they all had a song to sing except the English who sang bits of Yellow Submarine that they'd probably been taught at school (they were far too young to have learned it first time round).
So, how come the kids of most major European cultures know some, at least, of their own native songs and music while the English don't?
When I was at primary school we all sat down at a certain time (I think it was Tuesday 11am) and we all sang along to the BBC Schools Programme on the radio, Singing Together it was called, and we did.
It was there I learned songs like Down In Demerara, Donkey Riding, Barbara Allen, Blow The Man Down and The Mermaid; and it was there I learned to love people singing together.
No matter how rough the voices or dodgy the pitching it's still great to hear a pack of people singing.
Some people say it was radio and the music hall that robbed us of our music and song; others say it was World War I; another theory has it that because England turned from being a largely rural country to one of huge urban centres the music was lost.
I suppose it's a combination of all of these and more. As a conspiracy theorist of some note, I suspect that the Establishment certainly didn't want to foster any sense of togetherness (unless it came to jingoing men off to war) because that way led trade unions and mutual benefit societies.
In the last ten years there has been a re-kindling of interest in traditional music and song, in spite of sneers from most of the commentariat, and it seems that young performers like Seth Lakeman, Bella Hardy and Jackie Oates are having a really positive effect on a new generation. I live in hope.