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The Transports
The Transports

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Matthew Crampton - the transports

I was invited on board by some people who were putting to together, The show’s producer is a guy called Michael Hughes from the Young’Uns  - in folk terms they’re kind of aristocracy, but not at all like that. The other crucial guy is Paul Sartin, the musical director on the show. They knew me because I hang around the folk world, and I have a show called Human Cargo, based on a book I wrote, telling stories and singing songs. They liekd the format and they were looking for a way to make the transports work in a way it hadn’t worked before.

It comes from this guy called Peter Bellamy - 12 songs telling one story. It’s been around for 40 years, It’s legendary in folk terms, and it’s a great story, but it’s been very seldom performed on stage

Peter - suicide

We realise very much that we must pay tribute to what Peter put together, but on the other hand, I’m not a folky myself, I’m sort of from outside that world, so I’m not afraid to bring in different ideas, which I did. I brought in a spoken narration, a storytelling running through the whole thing.

I was amazed when i came across this story, I thought it was incredible, and the music’s wonderful, but the story didn’t really come across to me, and I wanted to find the way to get it across to audiences.

I’m very interested in narrative structure and story - giving it a proper narrative arc. The main thing is releasing the genius in the songs, and that’s Paul and his incredible arrangements.

There’s 10 people on stage throughout - nine musicians and me.

Faustus is kind of the bedrock of the music in Transports - him and the two others.

The arrangements, i like to say, for people who don’t like folk music, or think they don’t like it, this is a very good entry level drug because they’re seeing English folk music at his best - I can say that because I’m not one of the musicians. You’re seeing technically exceptional musicians, plus you’re hearing what is distinctive about English folk music - harmony singing, robust harmony singing, it’s wonderful.

New Transports line-up?

It feels like it’s a new generation of leading folk musicians. And it’s our take on it.

Working with local immigrant groups?

I found with my show HC, which like this involves story and folk song to explore stories  of slavery, immigration and transportation, from 2-3 centuries ago. I wasn’t interested in doing approaching this subject, purely form a historical perspective, it has to me, to be casting light on the subject today. And today, the issue of migration, the movement of people into this country is one of the key issues of our time. And it’s also quite a toxic debate and quite divisive, I’m interested in trying to broaden the debate and build bridges, and people who are very hostile on either side may look at things differnetly. This is where history comes in - you tell stories from 2, 300 years ago and we were the migrants.

Those people who went on boats to America, they went through conditions which were considerably worse in many ways than people getting on boats in the SE med, if one can understand how migration has been a constant in human history, then maybe one doesn’t necessariyl as either a horror or as something that needs to be ‘solved’ or stopped, it’s always going to happen.
I’ve set up something called the Parallel Lives project, at every show of the Ts I tell a few minutes telling local stories, I gather and research stories about that town - wherever we happen to be, I’ll tell stories from 2-300 years ago, and I’ll counterpoint those with stories of people who arrived in the town of Syrians or Somalis in the last few years, it might be Kinder transport from before the war, or Belgian refugees in 1914 - when the war broke out, 200,000 Belgians arrived in Britain within weeks, almost every town in Britain took them in - can you imagine that happening today?

I also invite a local refugee or migrant support group to attend and they’ll be in the foyer to talk to the audience, providing information - I don’t want to overstate this - we’re not changing the world, it’s a little thing that might help provoke some conversation.

City of Sanctuary

Second tour - first tour last january, sold out everywhere, standing ovations.

We’ve got the album out this tour, we don’t have anything else planned, and it’s quite difficult to coordinate 10 busy musicians, it’s quite tricky.