I’ve just had the great pleasure of listening to Kevin Adams’ Mary Anning album – it’s a remarkable achievement. The folk music idiom serves the narrative as no other musical form could. It combines simplicity and clarity with melodic beauty and the instrumental variety is very pleasing.
The lyrics are poetry – they set the scene, tell the story, create the character and place her life in the context of history, science, gender politics, religion and, above all, in the location of Lyme Regis. They resonate with the great preoccupations of philosophy (time, space and the nature of our little planet within the universe); there’s a proper relish for the sounds of the words; some nice sardonic humour in the Bishop Ussher piece; a lovely humanity in the conceit of Mary’s father being present at her deathbed and coming alive again in her memories; and Kevin captures the rawness of the actual practice of collecting fossils in all weathers, alongside the keen excitement of discovery. I think the album has great artistic and educational value.
Roy Nevitt is a documentary playwright, theatre director, co-founder of the Living Archive Milton Keynes, teacher and creator of community theatre.
Mary Anning of Lyme is available to stream or download from Bandcamp
Mary Anning of Lyme is my new musical excursion. Eight tracks, half an hour of music.
It can be streamed or downloaded from my Bandcamp pages… and here’s a trailer.
It is 1847. Mary is not long for this world. Drifting in a laudanum haze she holds an imaginary conversation with her father Richard and relives her life and her achievements. And what achievements!
Richard was a carpenter-joiner. Like many other families in Lyme and along the Dorset coast, he and his children Mary and Joseph would seek out fossils and shells to sell to supplement the family income. Richard passed on his ample knowledge to Mary and she pursued the subject of palaeontology with a passion. Despite a lack of any serious education, Mary made and recorded many discoveries and became an authority, being recognised as such by other leading figures in the field- though not to the extent of being admitted to the Geological Society of London. Of course not! She was poor. She was self taught. She was a woman.
Mary Anning will be familiar to those of you who have read Tracy Chevalier’s novel Remarkable Creatures, and if you’ve read John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman you’ll have a way into the world I was painting in these eight tracks.
It may seem as though I’m stepping onto a bandwagon. Mary Anning is all over the place at the moment due to the upcoming release of the film Ammonite. Actually, the idea of doing this was given to me two years ago after I finished A Crossword War, by my friend (and South West of England correspondent) Colin White. He pointed me at the Mary Anning Rocks project and this fired my interest.
I was helped in making Mary Anning of Lyme by: My sister Terry Brown, who sang with me on a couple of songs, just before the lockdown, I should add. Sheena Masson, who played all the whistle, flute and recorder parts- the only real instruments on the whole thing. Recorded in Haringay and sent up here by magic- ‘the magic flute’, if you will. My wife Ruth Adams, who, out of lockdown necessity, took on the Mary speaking parts and did a great job.
As for the Ammonite film, well… what I’ve read about it annoys me extremely. They’ve felt the need to make the life of this remarkable woman ‘more interesting’ by inventing a lesbian affair for which there is no hint of evidence. OK, I haven’t seen it yet, so I should reserve judgement, but I suspect that ‘lesbian romance’ is the way it’s going to be hyped in the media.
Ah well. Love makes the world go round, as my mother would say when my sister and I asked why all the films we saw on telly were full of people kissing.
Anyway, hope you like it. My new album, that is. Oh, ok, and the film.
At a quarter past midnight on June 6th 1944, men from D Company, 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed in Normandy by glider, spear-heading the invasion Allied invasion of Europe.
Robert Frost’s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening always features strongly in favourite poem lists. My journey from knowing of it and vaguelyknowing it, to being smitten by it, came about by courtesy of the Scottish singer-songwriter Jackie Leven. I found his beautiful setting of the poem on the album Creatures of Light and Darkness (2001), and recorded it for my own Waiting For the Word CD.
Journalist Martin Hesp picks up on Colin White’s blog post about the Y-Stations of the South-West. Thank you to Martin, and to Colin for all his hard work, and here’s hoping that orders come flooding in for copies of ‘A Crossword War’.