Time to enter the curious world of The Hut People at the Spring in Havant

The Hut People
The Hut People
Southsea Alternative Choir. Picture: Paul Windsor

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Percussionist Gary Hammond has such a large collection of instruments that he had to buy a bigger house to accommodate them all.

And he often has so many of them on stage with him at gigs as one half of The Hut People that it helped inspire the title of their last album, A Cabinet of Curiosities.

‘It’s about 900 instruments now,’ explains Gary. ‘I’ve got so much stuff, but I’ve always been a percussionist, I’m not a drummer, I’ve never had a kit, we come from that world where it’s all hand percussion – banging, whacking and shaking things.

‘That’s why the last album was called Cabinet of Curiosities. When we do two sets at a gig like we’ll do at The Spring or something, I might have 60 or 70 different instruments on stage. Someone came up between the sets and said it looks like a museum and that’s where the idea for the title came from.’

Along with accordionist Sam Pirt, the pair have released three albums of their quirky, roots instrumentals that draw on everything from traditional English folk to tunes and rhythms from Quebec to Spain, Scandinavia and beyond.

But the pair first met by chance at a workshop.

I’ve always been a percusssionist, I’ve never had a proper job, I’ve just gone around banging things

Gary Hammond

‘Both of us do a lot of educational work, independently of each other. We were doing a workshop together with junk percussion, tins and bin lids, that kind of thing, in Goole in Yorkshire. We came together at the end, and like musicians do sometimes, we thought let’s have a jam.

‘I’ve always been a percusssionist, I’ve never had a proper job, I’ve just gone around banging things.

‘All my experience up until then was in the pop world and jazz world, and Sam was steeped in the folk world, he was bringing out all these folk tunes I didn’t know anything about, and I was loving it.

‘It just came out of that. We went out and tried a few gigs, a few open mic nights – sometimes you might like what you’re doing, but you’re not sure if others will. But wherever we played it went down really well, and we’ve been doing it for six-and-a-half years now.’

Gary had been part of The Beautiful South line-up for more than a decade and has also been an in-demand session player for the likes of jazz great Nina Simone.

However, he’s fully embraced the world of folk and roots music: ‘There’s some good folk music, there’s been really interesting things going on in the past couple of years.

‘Obviously you respect the tradition, but there’s a lot of bands that take on board the traditional stuff and they move it forward. It’s a living tradition.

‘People in the folk world are very open to that.’

They’ve also found that European audiences have been receptive to their music – and they’ve even represented the English Folk Song and Dance Society in America.

The Hut People are at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant tonight. Doors 8pm. Tickets £12.50.

Go to thespring.co.uk