To Bard or not to Bard

Why did Shakespeare always use a pen ?

Because he couldn’t decide which pencil to use – “2B or not 2B, that is the question.”

That appalling pun is because –  as part of the BBC’s Shakespeare celebrations Radio Cumbria are running Bards Aloud in Barrow – two free writing workshops (Sept 3 & 17) to produce 5 minute sketches that imagine Shakespeare characters into modern day Barrow. Romeo & Juliet, The Nurse, Lady Macbeth, Hermione and other feisty sorts from A Winters Tale will be knocking about the Shipyard, Aldi, the Town Hall… wherever anyone cares to imagine them and the scenarios that might unfold.  It should be a lot of fun.


The best 6 will be premiered in Barrow Library on Nov 10 with an opportunity for the finest work to be broadcast on BBC Radio Cumbria too.  Leading the sessions we have Ulverston playwright Zosia Wand (who’s had lots on Radio 4 & The Dukes) and Barrow poet Kate Davis (expert in verse inducing honking laughter and tissue-soaking sobs). It’s a great opportunity to work with two brilliant writers to develop & polish a script. Both are very supportive and encouraging writing mentors.

If you fancy it, just give the library a call to book, 01229 407373. It’s all free and there’ll be half-time Tudor-themed refreshments too!

To whet your appetite here’s a version of Hamlet, originally written in Scottish by Adam McNaughton, translated into English by Martin Carthy

There was this king sitted in his garden all alone
When his brother in his ear poured a little bit o’ henbane,
Stole his brother’s crown and his money and his widow;
But the dead king walked and got his son and said, “Hey listen, kiddo,
I’ve been killed and it’s your duty to take revenge on Claudius.
You kill him quick an’ clean an’ tell the nation what a fraud he is.”
The kid said, “Right, I’ll do it, but I’ll have to play it crafty,
So that no-one will suspect me, I’ll kid on that I’m a dafty.”

So with all except Horatio—and he counts him as a friend—
Hamlet, that’s the kid, he kids on, he’s round the bend,
And because he isn’t ready for obligatory killing
He tries to make the king think that he’s tuppence of the shillin’.
Takes a rise out of Polonius, treats poor Ophelia vile,
Tells Rosencrantz an’ Guildenstern Denmark’s a bleedin’ gaol.
Then a group of travelling actors, like 7:84,
Arrived to do a special one-night gig in Elsinore.

Hamlet! Hamlet! Actin’ barmy!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Loves his mammy!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Hesitating,
Wonders if the ghost’s a cheat
And that is why he’s waiting.

So Hamlet wrote a scene for the players to enact
So Horatio and him could watch to see if Claudius cracked.
Now the play was called “The Mousetrap”—not the one that’s running now—
And sure enough, the king walks out before the final bow.
So Hamlet’s got the proof that Claudius gave his dad the dose,
The only problem being now that Claudius knows he knows.
So while Hamlet tells his mother her new husband’s not a fit one,
Uncle Claude puts out a contract with the English king as hit-man.

So when Hamlet killed Polonius, the concealed corpus delicti
Was the king’s excuse to send him for an English hempen necktie,
With Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to make quite sure he got there,
But Hamlet jumped the boat and put the finger straight on that pair.
When Laertes heard his dad had been stabbed through the arras.
He came runnin’ back to Elsinore tout suite hot-foot from Paris,
And Ophelia with her dad killed by the man she was to marry—
After saying it with flowers she committed hari-kari.

Hamlet! Hamlet! No messin’!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Learned his lesson!
Hamlet! Hamlet! Yorick’s crust
Convinced him that men, good or bad,
At last must come to dust.

Then Laertes lost his place and was demanding retribution,
The king says, “Keep your head and I’ll provide you a solution.”
So he arranged a swordfight for the interested parties,
With a blunted sword for Hamlet and a sharp sword for Laertes.
To make double sure—the old belt’n’braces line—
He fixed a poisoned sword-tip and a poisoned cup of wine.
Well the poisoned sword got Hamlet but Laertes went an’ muffed it
‘Cause he got stabbed himself and he confessed before he snuffed it.

Then Hamlet’s mammy drank the wine and as her face turned blue,
Hamlet said, “I believe the king’s a baddie through and through.”
“Incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,” he said, to be precise
And made up for hesitating once by killing Claudius twice.
‘Cause he stabbed him with the knife and forced the wine between his lips,
He said, “ The rest is silence!”—that was, Hamlet had his chips.
They fired a volley over him that shook the topmost rafters,
Then Fortinbras, knee-deep in Danes, lived happy ever after.

Hamlet! Hamlet! All that gory!
Hamlet! Hamlet! End of story!
Hamlet! Hamlet! I’m on my way!
If you thought that was boring
You should read the bloody play.

Morris dancers and blind footballers in mass brawl | Suffolk Gazette


By Hugh Dunnett
Crime Reporter

Police were called after a mass brawl broke out in a pub car park between a group of morris dancers and a blind football team.

The footballers were enjoying a match on the village green at Rattlesden, near Stowmarket, using a ball with a bell in it so they could keep up with play.

But all hell broke out when the morris dancers began performing at a nearby pub.

A player kicked the ball off the pitch towards the Brewers Arms, and then mistook the morris dancers’ uniform bells for the one in the ball.

He promptly kicked one of the dancers in the shin, sending him flying over a table and crashing into a flower pot. A hanging basket then fell on his head.

More blind footballers then joined the melee, kicking out at the bells and then being surprised when they were punched by furious morris men.

The brawl was only stopped when the referee caught up and blew his whistle loudly.


Three morris men suffered severely bruised legs, while one of the footballers had a cut caused by being hit on the head with a morris dancer’s stick.

With everyone blaming each other, the police were called to sort out the mess.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “It was certainly an unsual call from one of the locals in the pub. By the time we got there it had all calmed down, and both sides realised how the mistake had been made.

“In fact they had made up and were all enjoying a drink together, although a couple were still being patched up by the landlord’s wife.

“We took no further action, but recommended that the morris men did not use bells on their uniforms when the blind footballers were playing nearby.”

Source: Morris dancers and blind footballers in mass brawl | Suffolk Gazette

The Difference Between Bluegrass, Old Time and Celtic Bands

The Music
Old Time and Celtic songs are about whiskey, food and struggle. Bluegrass songs are about God, mother and the girl who did me wrong. If the girl isn’t dead by the third verse, it ain’t Bluegrass. If everyone dies, it’s Celtic.

Old Time and Celtic bands have nonsense names like “Flogging Molly’, “Fruit Jar Drinkers’ and “Skillet Lickers” while Bluegrass bands have serious gender-specific name like “Bluegrass Boys,’ “Clinch Mountain Boys’ and ”Backwoods Babes.”

The most common Old Time keys are major and minor with only 5 notes (modal). Bluegrass uses these, plus Mixolydian and Dorian modes, and a Celtic band adds Lydian and Phrygian modes.

A Bluegrass band has between 1 and 3 singers who are all singing about an octave above their natural vocal range. Some Old Time and Celtic bands have no singers at all. If a Celtic band has a singer, it is usually either a bewhiskered ex-sailor, or a petite soprano. A Bluegrass band has a vocal arranger who arranges three-part harmonies. In an Old Time band, anyone who feels like it can sing or make comments during the performance.

In a Celtic band, anyone who speaks during a performance gets “the look’, and songs are preceded by a call for silence and a detailed explanation of their cultural significance. Bluegrass tunes & songs last 3 minutes. Old Time and Celtic tunes & songs can be any length, and sometimes last all night.

The Instruments
A Celtic banjo is small and quiet. An Old Time banjo is open-backed, with an old towel (probably never washed) stuffed in the back to dampen sound. A Bluegrass banjo has bell bronze mastertone tone ring and a resonator to make it louder.

A Celtic banjo weighs 4 pounds, an Old Time banjo weighs 5 pounds, towel included and a Bluegrass banjo weighs 40 pounds. A Celtic banjo has only 4 strings. A Bluegrass banjo has five strings and needs 24 frets. An Old Time banjo needs no more than 5 frets, and some don’t need any. A Bluegrass banjo player has had spinal fusion surgery on all his vertebrae, and therefore stands very straight. If an Old Time banjo player stands, he slouches. A Celtic banjo player has a brace to relieve his carpal tunnel syndrome and remains seated to maintain stability while cross-picking as fast as possible after several pints. An Old Time banjo player can lose 3 right-hand fingers and 2 left-hand fingers in an industrial accident without affecting his performance. A Celtic banjo player flat picks everything. A Bluegrass banjo player puts jewelry on his fingertips to play. An Old Time banjo player puts super glue on his fingernails to strengthen them. Never shake hands with an Old Time banjo player while he’s fussing with his nails.

The Bluegrass fiddler paid $10,000 for his fiddle at the Violin Shop in Nashville. The Celtic fiddler inherited his fiddle from his mothers 2nd cousin in County Clare. The Old Time fiddler got theirs for $15 at a yard sale. Celtic and Bluegrass fiddles are tuned GDAE. An Old Time fiddle can be in a hundred different tunings. Old Time fiddlers seldom use more than two fingers of their left hand, and use tunings that maximize the number of open strings played. Celtic and Bluegrass fiddlers study 7th position fingering patterns with Isaac Stern, and take pride in never playing an open string. An Old Time fiddle player can make dogs howl & incapacitate people suffering from sciatic nerve damage. An Old Time fiddle player only uses 1/8 of his bow. The rest is just there for show.

An Old Time guitarist knows the major chords in G and C, and owns a capo for A and D. A Bluegrass guitarist can play in E-flat without a capo. The fanciest chord an Old Time guitarist needs is an A to insert between the G and the D7 chord. A Bluegrass or Celtic guitarist needs to know C#aug+7-4. A Celtic guitarist keeps his picks in his pocket. Old Time guitarists stash extra picks under a rubber band around the top of the peg head. Bluegrass guitarists would never cover any part of the peg head that might obscure the gilded label of their $3,000 guitar.

It’s possible to have an Old Time or Celtic band without a mandolin. However, it is impossible to have a true Bluegrass band without one. Mandolin players spend half their time tuning their mandolin and the other half of their time playing their mandolin out of tune. Old Time and Celtic mandolin players use ”A’ model instruments (pear-shaped) by obscure makers. Bluegrass mandolin players use “F’ model Gibsons that cost $100 per decibel.

A Celtic band never has a bass, while a Bluegrass band always has a bass. An old, Old Time band doesn’t have a bass, but new time Old Time bands seem to need one for reasons that are unclear. A Bluegrass bass starts playing with the band on the first note. An Old Time bass, if present, starts sometime after the rest of the band has run through the tune once depending on the player’s blood alcohol content. A Bluegrass bass is polished and shiny. An Old Time bass is often used as yard furniture.

Other Instruments
It is not possible to have a Celtic band without a tin whistle or Bodhran(hand drum) if not several, usually too many of each. Old Time and Bluegrass bands never have either. A Bluegrass band might have a Dobro. An Old Time band might have anything that makes noise including: a tambourine, jaw harp, didgeridoo, harmonica, conga, wash tub bass, miscellaneous rattles &shakers, a 1-gallon jug (empty), or a lap (mountain) dulcimer or a hammered dulcimer. In a Celtic band, it’s the musicians that are hammered.

Except for the guitar, all the instruments in a Celtic band play the melody all the time. In an Old Time band, anyone can play either melody or accompaniment at any time. In Bluegrass bands, one instrument at a time solos, and every else plays accompaniment. Bluegrass bands have carefully mapped-out choreography due to the need for solo breaks. If Old Time and Celtic band members move around, they tend to run into each other. Because of this problem (and whiskey) Old Time and Celtic often sit down when performing, while a Bluegrass band always stands. Because they’re sitting, Old Time and Celtic bands have the stamina to play the same tune for 20 minutes for a square or contra dance. The audience claps after each Bluegrass solo break. If anyone talks or claps near an Old Time or Celtic band, it confuses them, even after the tune is over.

Personalities and Stage Presence
Bluegrass band members wear uniforms, such as blue polyester suits with gray Stetson hats. Old Time bands wear jeans, sandals, work shirts and caps from seed companies. Celtic bands wear tour tee-shirts with plaid touring caps. All this head wear covers bald spots. Women in Bluegrass bands have big hair and Kevlar undergarments. Women in Old Time bands jiggle nicely under their overalls. There are no Women in Celtic bands, only Lassies with long skirts and lacy, high collars and Wenches in apple-dumplings-on-a-shelf bodices and leather mini-skirts. A Bluegrass band tells terrible jokes while tuning. An Old Time band tells terrible jokes without bothering to tune. Bluegrass band members never smile. Old Time band members will smile if you give them a drink. A Celtic band is too busy drinking to smile, tune or tell jokes. Celtic musicians eat fish and chips, Bluegrass musicians eat barbecue ribs, and Old Time musicians eat tofu and miso soup. Bluegrass musicians have mild high frequency hearing loss from standing near the banjo player. Old Time musicians have moderate high frequency hearing loss from sitting near the fiddler. Celtic musicians have advanced hearing loss from playing in small pubs with all those fiddles, banjos, tin whistles and bodhrans.

Festivals and Transportation
A Celtic band travels in an actual Greyhound bus with marginal air conditioning and then catches a ride from the bus stop to the festival any way they can. A Bluegrass band travels in an old converted Greyhound bus that idles in the parking lot all weekend with the air conditioner running full blast, fumigating the county with diesel exhaust. An Old Time band travels in a rusted-out 1965 VW microbus that blows an engine in North Nowhere, Nebraska. They don’t have an Easy-Up, and it’s pretty evident that their vehicles don’t have air conditioning. Bluegrass players stay on the bus and Celtic musicians stay at the nearest Motel 6, while Old Time musicians camp in the parking lot. The Celtic Band has their name on their instrument cases and a banner for their Easy- Up. The bluegrass band’s name and Inspirational Statement are painted on both the side and front of the bus in script lettering. Bluegrass bumper stickers are in red, white and blue and have stars and/or stripes on them. Celtic bumper stickers display fancy knotwork borders, banners, and slogans from the old country. Old Time bumper stickers don’t make any sense (e.g. “Gid is My Co-Pilot’ )

Thanks to Bluegrass Nation for this one.

Another Fine Fest






Despite its name this is the first festival in celebration of Ulverston and Stan Laurel who was born in the town. On this Saturday 14th June there will be street theatre, art, music, comedy and busking around the town centre. All events are free except for the headline event which features Paul Merton and friends in the Roxy Cinema on Saturday night.

There are 9 different venues, all within a few minutes’ walk of each other, plus several pop-up shops. It starts at 10.00 am and goes on until late. Furness Tradition will be leading a folk music session in the Hope and Anchor from 1.00 pm.

Ulverston is the place to be this weekend. For more information check out the website.