Friday, 23 September 2016

Local Group Report – Easebourne Thursday 15th September 2016

Thunder and lightning accompanied us at our Selham session on 15th September but eleven of us soldiered through with a rousing set of old and new songs in our repertoire including The Woodcutter's Song and Oak, Ash and Thorn. We're looking forward to singing at our 'home' ground at Midhurst on 24th September. Alan then gave us some lovely old Music Hall songs such as What a Mouth (What a North and South) and those of us old enough to remember them joined in. He then sang the lovely The Parting Song and for Emma, the Three Moles landlady, he sang The Freeborn Man of the Travelling People.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Shoreham Wordfest Event

Dear Singers,
One of our members, Janet Behan, is performing a play she has written on 2nd October 2016, see the flyer below, it looks very interesting. More information.
See you soon
Peter Bo

Friday, 16 September 2016

Local Group Report – Beechwood, Wednesday 7th September 2016

We welcomed two new singers to our recent gathering to sing at the Beechwood. In preparation for our September events we raised our voices in praise of the Sussex Hills before singing the ‘Kipling songs’, and revisiting and refining our rendition of The Woodcutter’s song. The rich tones of The Magpie and rustic tones of The Turnip Hoer were enjoyed as ever, as were some old favourites Ebernoe Horn Fair, Rolling in the Dew and Ale Glorious Ale. Thanks to all contributors. Notices about our SDFS and other events of local interest were shared, and reminders were given about the extra session at the Beechwood on 28th September (to refresh our winter season repertoire), and about the AGM preceding the singing at the next regular Beechwood session on 5th October.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

“South Downs Folk Singers” – A.G.M. Notice

This year’s A.G.M. will be on Wednesday 5th October 2016. As previously it will be held at the Beechwood Hall Hotel in Worthing starting at 7.00pm.

(It precedes our usual monthly singing session there, so the early start allows for a break and goodly time to sing afterwards.)

The AGM is our opportunity collectively to review our activities and achievements from the last year and to make plans for the next year. As usual, the Meeting Minutes file, the Constitution and the Accounts will all be available to view.

There will also be the annual elections for our committee, and now is your chance to volunteer to join the team! To date there have been about four or five committee meetings each year, using the “Beechwood” as a venue central to the current members.

You can become a member without having to take on a specific role in the Committee – but if willing to get more involved we currently have some ‘vacancies’ where the help of a Minutes Secretary and a Publicity Officer would be of great benefit to us all!

So… if you are interested in doing more than the singing and want to have a more active role in discussing, organizing and planning for the future of the SDFS… Please contact me as soon as possible via the SDFS email address ( with your name, the name of another singer willing to nominate you and another singer happy to second this.

You can also support others wishing to stand for election by nominating them or seconding their nomination.

Voting will be conducted at the AGM by a show of hands and carried on a simple majority of those present. I look forward to seeing you there.

Henny (Chairperson)

The SDFS go ‘To The Woods’ and then ‘To The Shore’

Update 20th September: For anybody planning to use the trains this weekend, please be aware that there will be replacement buses between Littlehampton and Chichester/Bognor on both days due to engineering work at Ford. Read more.
A celebration of the heritage of the South Downs is being held in Midhurst on Saturday 24th September followed by the Southdowns Folk Festival in Bognor Regis on Sunday 25th September.

Midhurst Saturday 24th September

The celebration marks the end of the Secrets of the High Woods project and will be held at the headquarters of the South Downs National Park Authority in North Street, Midhurst opposite the main bus departure point, with various activities and performances (details here) taking place from 10.00am.

We will be singing two song sets, at 11.00am and 1.45pm. Please arrive by 10.30am.

Buffet lunch and drinks will be provided, and parking will be available on a ‘first come first served’ basis in the visitors parking at the front of the Centre. If all parking places are taken, further parking is in the main municipal car park opposite (pay and display).

Download a sketch plan (pdf file) of the venue.

In case of precipitation the Memorial Hall will be available to the side of the ‘arena’.

For those of you who would like to learn more about this three-year HLF-backed project culminating this autumn, the travelling interactive exhibition will be on site with a précis of that information (further information here).

First set:
  1. Country Life
  2. Pleasant And Delightful
  3. On Sussex Hills
  4. Rolling In The Dew
  5. Rosebuds In June
  6. Run Of The Downs
  7. Smuggler’s Song
  8. West Sussex Drinking Song
  9. Hard Times Of Old England
  10. Green Grow The Laurel
  11. The Turnip Hoer

Second set:
  1. Oak, Ash And Thorn
  2. Twanky Dillo
  3. The Magpie
  4. The Woodcutter’s Song
  5. The Nightingale
  6. Fathom The Bowl
  7. Ebernoe Horn Fair
  8. Life Of A Man
  9. Thousands Or More
  10. Sussex By The Sea
  11. Jolly Good Song

Bognor Regis Sunday 25th September

The Southdowns Folk Festival is on all weekend but we will be singing only one song set at 12.40pm outside on the patio of (or if raining inside) The William Hardwicke pub in High Street, Bognor. The street will be pedestrianised for the event and the William Hardwicke will have a Real Ale Festival in full swing. We will be preceded by Bellacapella and followed by the two-hour Sussex Young Folk Competition.

Please be there by 12.10pm. Parking will be at a premium, especially if the weather is as good as in previous years. I will again be parking in a residential road to the north of the A259 and walking in. There is of course the bus or train if you intend to imbibe some wobbly juice!

The song set is:
  1. Country Life
  2. West Sussex Drinking Song
  3. On Sussex Hills
  4. Pleasant And Delightful
  5. Smuggler’s Song
  6. Ale, Glorious Ale
  7. The Magpie
  8. Thousands Or More
  9. Life Of A Man
  10. Sussex By The Sea
  11. Jolly Good Song

See you there
John C.

Local Group Report – Lewes Tuesday 16th August 2016

We spent a very pleasant evening at The John Harvey Tavern singing through the songs that are most likely to be used at future events. Angela B sang with her usual enthusiasm as she won’t be able to get to Arundel Festival or September’s Beechwood session. And we have heard that Cat won’t be able to sing with us again because she is expecting a baby in the autumn and routines will be changing! Thank you to Keith for rearranging the lyrics and recordings so that they are all under the same section which will make it much easier to find for photocopying, specially for our newer recruits.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Another Date For Your Diary

An Extra Singing Session – 28th September
Open to all our singers wanting to contribute to our public performances.

Although whilst writing this post it is still the summer, we are already looking ahead to our events in the winter and festive season (the first of which is in November). So to help prepare and refresh our winter repertoire in readiness, an extra session has been booked at The Beechwood Hall Hotel in Worthing for 7.30pm on Wednesday 28th September 2016

The more the merrier! See you there!

Bateman’s 2016

John C
John C
Fiona Hancock of the National Trust thanked us for “Again contributing to a very successful WW1 Remembrance weekend, with your fine selection of songs celebrating Kipling, and reflecting the traumatic effects of the war on the society that endured it.”

Colin B videoed the event and together with Keith D’s recordings, both here and at the Sullington Flower Festival, moved us toward promoting ourselves further to attract more members.

John C
Peter B
Special thanks to Emily, Amaryllis and Libby for providing the extra songs that were sung in the entrance hall of the house (till we were turfed out) and when ‘under fire’ afterwards, protected by the hedge in the garden when the whistles blew for ‘over the top’.

Mike, understudying David, did us proud with the song announcements which he was seen rehearsing at various points within the gardens between performances.

The event generated our best turnout of Singers so far this year.

Fiona is considering changing the format next year, so I will keep more closely in touch.

John C
Peter B
John C
Peter B

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sid Wakeham, 1937 – 2016

Many people will be sad to learn of the death of Sid Wakeham who passed away on 18th August, aged 79.

Everyone knew Sid as ‘Father Christmas’, a role he played in the Sompting Village Morris ‘Mummer’s Play’ for decades. Sid was a founding member of Sompting Village Morris and kept dancing long after the other founding members had hung up their bells and hankies.

I interviewed Sid at his local pub and second home, The Richard Cobden in Cobden Road, in 2004. Looking back on those notes today it can be said that Sid was as dyed-in-the-wool Sussex as any man could be and to use that old, but on this occasion entirely apt, cliché, “we will not see his like again.”

Sid was born on the 30th January 1937 above Claxton’s butcher’s shop in Lyndhurst Road. All his family were born and bred in Sussex. His dad’s family had come from Horsham, including his grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 104. His father’s family came from Petworth. One grandfather fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Sid was brought up with singing. His dad sang music hall songs, but his grandfather sang the old folk songs of Sussex that died out so quickly after the First World War. The only songs that Sid sang as a young man were rugby songs. In the late 1960s he was playing rugby at Castle Carey when he bumped into an old friend who was dancing with Broadwood Morris from Horsham. From then on Sid was hooked.

At first Sid and his friends would drive to join Morris sides in other towns but the oil crisis of the early 1970s changed all that, as Sid explained, “When petrol went up to 50p a gallon we thought, ‘we can’t keep going up there, we’ll form a side in Worthing.’” Mickey Sparkes, “an old postman and fisherman down by the Half Brick,” managed to secure the Post Office Social Club in Chapel Road as a practice venue.

In good weather they practised outside. One day an old lady came up to them said “Would you like the Sompting Village Mummer’s Play?” Her name was Mrs Pullenbury and her uncle, brother and father had all performed the play in Sompting before the First World War. She still had the original script and hoped that Sid and his friends would revive the play after a gap of sixty years. They were delighted to do so and indeed so impressed were they that they decided to call themselves The Sompting Village Morris in honour on the ancient play.

Sid with his great beard was the obvious choice to play Father Christmas. “In those days I had to spray it white but obviously that did not become necessary in later years!” Sid remembered Sompting Village Morris were one of the first sides to allow women to join and to dance – “that was our folly,” Sid told we with a laugh. In actual fact, the inclusion of women greatly increased their membership – to over 60 – and their popularity.

By the 1980s Sompting Village Morris were singing all across Sussex. They then started appearing at folk festivals, including Sidmouth in Devon and eventually internationally too. Mrs Pullenbury’s relatives probably never left Sompting village unless it was to fight in the Great War.

Sid recalled that two of the early members, Mike Longhurst and Mike Palmer, knew a number of old folk songs that they taught to Sid and the other members. They also used to go to The Fountain at Ashurst where the old landlord, Len Pelling, knew and sang many old Sussex songs. Soon the whole side were singing their hearts out at the end of a performance. This was especially true at the George and Dragon at Burpham on Boxing Day following the performance of the Mummer’s Play. That is where I first met Sid and the other dancers in the early 1980s. Boxing Day afternoon singing at Burpham remained a great fixture for many years, until the pub ‘gentrified’ and the boozy bellowing of old anthems began to sit rather uncomfortably with the refined diners in the pub restaurant!

Sid had some wonderful memories of Worthing in the 1940s and 50s. He remembered that family members sought to get around wartime rationing by catching and cooking their own food. As well as rabbits, rooks and pigeons were a regular dish. Sid remembered that the family once sat down to seagull but “it was horrible – oily and rank.”

Sid had memories of the war coming very directly to Worthing, including the day bombs dropped close to the family home in Lyndhurst Road – on that occasion a number of Canadian soldiers billeted in a neighbouring house were killed. Despite such incidents, Sid did not really see the danger: “I thought the war as a small boy was brilliant.” On one occasion he and some friends stole some live bullets from commandos stationed in the town. They later threw them on a bonfire, which they thought was great fun. Other children in the town were killed playing with live ammunition – Sid’s life could have ended before it had really begun! But children were far less under parental control during the war, with fathers away and mothers working hard to keep family and home together under trying circumstances.

Life did not get easier for people after the war, with rationing continuing until 1955. Sid remembered that Christmas presents in the late 1940s included an orange and a pen, although the handmade train set that his dad made for him, complete with replicas of Ham and Ladydell bridges, was the very best present of all! People used to make their own sweets and their own toffee – Sid remembered going from house to house to ask neighbours to contribute ingredients.

He was sad to see the end of the old bonfire night tradition in Worthing. For generations, Worthing folk had built great bonfires on the beach, but in the early 1970s Worthing Council banned the old tradition. Many local youths ignored the new by-law and continued to build bonfires, but council bulldozers came along to plough their efforts into the sea. When others persisted and built and lit bonfires on the evening of November 5th, the authorities intervened as Sid recalled: “The last time we had a bonfire on the beach, the fire brigade came down and put it out. That was a shame. They’d stop Lewes if they could.”

Sid was very pleased at all the money that Sompting Village Morris raised for charity – £12,000 in 2004, the year I interviewed him. Sid had a big heart and was never happier than in the company of family and friends. Boxing Day will never be quite the same again.

Chris Hare

Local Group Report – Easebourne Thursday 18th August 2016

It was a warm and balmy evening for our Selham session on 18th August and we were pleased to welcome Amaryllis and her friend Dermot who came with Peter and Carol. We also welcomed two newcomers Sally and Sarah who joined in the singing with great gusto. We went through the 'new' songs for Arundel Festival and then invited requests from the floor which included 'Thousands or More', which Amaryllis requested in memory of a friend, and as Sarah knew 'Cruel Sister' we sang that for her. Recent recruit Gordon sang us a tongue-in-cheek song he'd written about a Petworth well and blocked drains! We finished off the evening with a rousing rendition of 'Rolling Home' before 15 happy singers rolled home. Hopefully we'll see everyone there again on 15th September plus some missing regulars!