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Show of Hands

27 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 24 April 2010

Helen Mark visits the landscapes that have inspired award winning folk group Show of Hands who have won many awards for their music depicting rural life in Dorset and the West Country. Helen meets singer/songwriter Steve Knightley in his home town of Topsham on the Exe Estuary in Devon. He talks about his love of the area and explains why he chooses to sing about the countryside and its people in a way that's earned him the reputation for being 'the gravelly voiced spokesman of the rural poor'. The group's song Country Life encapsulates many of the harsher realities of contemporary rural England. Helen meets some of the characters who feature in those songs that have been described as 'music on an inspired and intelligent level... about the desecration of British country life.'
Among them is Dave Kerley, a former fisherman who has given up commercial fishing and now runs a fish business on dry land. Knightley's song The Dive tells the story of how Dave and his father used to dive for scallops until one fateful day when their dive nearly went tragically wrong. Giles Frampton, a long time friend of Steve's, feels strongly about rural poverty and deprivation. His own experiences of seeing the decline of villages and market towns and the closure of his family's butcher shop are the references for the song 'The Cold Heart of England'. The life of the small farmer is frequently referred to in Show of Hands' music and Helen visits a Dorset hill farmer where Steve Knightley's mother spent several years as an evacuee during the second world war which he records in his song, 'The Vale'.

Produced by Maggie Ayre.



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