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MARSTON VALE PROJECT

The Marston Vale Project is all about getting schoolchildren and members of the community to understand something about their immediate environment’s heritage, history & future through songs about the area, as well as giving the children the experience of being involved in the recording of the music. Four songs include the voices of the school choir of Marston Vale Middle School, Stewartby, Bedfordshire, and together with a number of other songs and tunes recorded separately, form a short-run CD produced for the children in the choir and others interested locally. Profits from any sales the school makes go to the school.

 

Life & Times also performed with the choir at two school assemblies and in a concert held at the school in the evening for parents and other interested people. Other possible appearances are also being sought. For the concert and assemblies, the children participated in a number of other songs too.

 

THE LAST SEVEN CHIMNEYS OF THE BRICKWORKS AT STEWARTBY

 

Our thanks to Liz Law, music co-ordinator at the school, for her efforts in ensuring the children were suitably prepared for the recording. Our thanks also to Jim Godfrey, head teacher at Marston Vale Middle School, for his enthusiastic welcoming of the project.

 

 

THE PROJECT

 

The school choir were recorded on Monday March 16th 2009, singing the choruses to the following songs:

  • The B&MK
  • Jump With The Devil
  • The Last Hoffmans
  • Marston Vale

 

In most cases they were adding extra power to the choruses by the addition of their voices but their singing of a monotone on the choruses of The Last Hoffmans gave it the desired eerie effect as the song respectfully said goodbye to the brick kilns that had given much needed employment to the area for so long.

 

MARSTON VALE MIDDLE SCHOOL CHOIR STEWARTBY, BEDS.

 

Our thanks to our Time of Your Life colleague, Steve Poore, for his work in recording us on his mobile recording equipment.

 

STEVE POORE RECORDING AT THE SCHOOL

 

 

RECORDING

 

“…excellent CD – I am really impressed by it and thoroughly enjoyed listening to it…”

Tony Talbot

Managing Director

Forest of Marston Vale

 

The CD is entitled MARSTON VALE and has been produced in a limited edition of 150, essentially for the children of the choir and other locally interested parties.

 

 

MARSTON VALE CD COVER

 

The full range of songs and tunes recorded is as follows:

  • E Pericoloso Sporghesi/Non Fumatore (G)
  • The B&MK (M)
  • Brickmaking (M)
  • Little Italy (G)
  • The Pits that Scar The Land (M)
  • Bedfordshire Brickmakers (M)
  • Man of Clay (M)
  • Marmalade Polka (Trad)/John’s Bunion (G)
  • Jump With The Devil (M)
  • Holes and Homes (M)
  • The Last Hoffmans (M)
  • Seven Chimneys/The Stewartby Phorpres (M)
  • Marston Vale (M)

 

(G) = written by Barry Goodman

(M) = written by Graeme Meek

 

The recording features:

  • Graeme on guitar, bouzouki, bass guitar

                                                 and voice

  • Barry on melodeons and voice
  • Debbie Chalmers on violin

     (see Time of Your Life and Suntrap)

 

DEBBIE CHALMERS

 

 

THE CD

 

Many of the songs and tunes have connections with the area’s brickmaking heritage, it having once been home to the world’s largest and second largest brickworks. The last part of the works finally closed in February 2008 after around 130 years of working. You may have heard us singing Brickmaking on an earlier recording that was broadcast as part of BBC Radio 4’s You And Yours in February 2008 when the brickworks was about to close. Other features of the songs and music are:

  • A celebration of the enormous influx of Italian workers who were recruited into the area after WWII;
  • The proposed new waterway that is intended to make its way across the area by 2030;
  • Morris tunes from the local Marston Tradition of Redbornstoke Morris;
  • An old legend regarding the devil and Marston Moretaine church;
  • The establishment of the Marston Vale Millennium Country Park as a new forest for the future.   

 

MARSTON MORETAINE CHURCH TOWER

THE LEGENDARY SCENE

OF DEVILISH GOINGS-ON!

 

 

THE SONGS AND MUSIC

 

On June 30th 2009, together with the school choir, we performed a concert at the school for parents and other interested parties. The choir performed admirably and both they and the audience thoroughly enjoyed an unexpected appearance by Ampthill’s Redbornstoke Morris who danced two of their Marston Tradition dances between songs in the programme. Our thanks to the lads of Redbornstoke for turning out on such a hot and humid evening to add to everyone’s entertainment. Amongst the audience were Central Bedfordshire Council’s Arts Development Officer and an oral historian from the Greensand Trust.

 

The school assemblies took place in front of staff and children on July 10th 2009.

 

 

THE CONCERT

 

Two of the songs recorded with the children can be heard on the internet. Firstly, you can hear The B&MK by clicking a link at the bottom of the Supporters page of the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway website. Click here for the page which also displays the words of the song.

 

You can also hear The B&MK accompanying a slideshow on YouTube by clicking here.

 

A slideshow accompanied by Marston Vale can be found here on YouTube.

 

 

HEAR THE MUSIC ON THE INTERNET

 

 

 

SANDS OF TIME

Sands of Time is an oral history project by the Greensand Trust about Leighton Buzzard’s sand heritage. Over a period of time, many people who had worked in the local sand pits or those with connections (spouses etc.) provided invaluable information about their experiences of the sand industry.

 

 

THE PROJECT

 

Life & Times were asked to write songs based on the transcripts of the interviews conducted with former sand workers in a similar way to those we had produced about the brick industry for the Marston Vale Project (see above). The intention is to include two of the songs on the Virtual Sand Museum website when it goes online in March/April 2010 and to use the songs in workshops in Leighton Buzzard schools to encourage the children to take an interest in their heritage and to publicise the website when it goes live. School packs distributed to local schools in Leighton Buzzard will include a CD and sheet music.

 

 

LIFE & TIMES’ INVOLVEMENT

 

The songs written are:

 

  • THE ENGINE BOY (B. Goodman)

The story in this song is taken directly from oral history transcripts produced for the Sands of Time project. It tells of the daily routines of the engine boy (Ray Gurney b.1941) and his comrades. Ray was employed on the narrow gauge railway that transported sand from the pits to the end of the line where it was loaded onto goods trains on the old Luton, Dunstable and Welwyn Junction branch line.

 

  • DOBBING (G. Meek)

Dobbers are the men who worked in the sand pits, shovelling sand all day. This song tells of the hard work, the poor pay, the method of extraction, the typical dobber’s ‘uniform’ the various colours of sand to be found in and around Leighton Buzzard and some of the pits from which the sand was extracted.

 

  • SAND (G. Meek)

In one particular oral history transcript, Mrs. Vera Shales (b. 1915?) tells about her husband’s work as a dobber. Working past his retirement, he would regularly come home from work bringing with him volumes of sand that had accumulated in his pockets, turn-ups etc. It was always a big job for her to empty out the sand before she would be able to wash his clothes in the large copper every washday (Monday) ready for a new week’s work. 

 

Hear the songs Sand and The Engine Boy at www.myspace.com/broadsidesrevisited.

 

THE SONGS

 

We went to St Leonard’s Lower School, Heath & Reach in the morning of Monday March 8th and Dovery Down Lower School in Leighton Buzzard in the early afternoon. Using the song The Engine Boy, we involved the children through locomotive-style percussion.

 

We worked with the children at Leighton Middle School on Friday March 19th with two Year 6 groups, one in the early morning and one in the afternoon. We had a late morning workshop with Years 3 and 4 at Pulford Lower School. The Leighton Middle School workshops involved getting the children to sing parts of the songs Dobbing and Sand. At Pulford, we got the children to supply percussion for The Engine Boy again.

 

 

THE SCHOOLS

 

The whole project was celebrated on March 30th with a reception at Leighton Buzzard Theatre for all involved as volunteers and interviewees. Life & Times sang our songs to the people whose stories had inspired them. Framed copies of the songs were presented to Ray Gurney (The Engine Boy) and the family of Vera Shales (Sand). A framed copy of The Engine Boy was also presented to Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway. It was a wonderful experience and we would like to thank Carmela Semeraro, of Bedford Museum, and The Greensand Trust for asking us to be involved.

 

 

THE ‘EVENT’

 

 

A CD of the three songs is available (see Recordings page of Life & Times main website for details of how to get yours)

 

  • The Engine Boy (5:11) (Barry Goodman)
  • Dobbing (2:36) (Graeme Meek)
  • Sand (4:19) (Graeme Meek)

 

 

THE CD

 

For more information about the

Sands Of Time Project

see the

Greensand Trust’s

Virtual Sand Museum website at:

www.thesandmuseum.org

(where you should be able to hear the songs Dobbing and Sand)

and

www.greensandtrust.org/sandMuseum.html

 

 

VIRTUAL MUSEUM WEBSITES

 

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