The Highbridge Podcast

Highbridge Podcast

Celebrating the history, people, and places in the Highbridge, Sedgemoor Area. A podcast from the people for the people

Episode 7 - Larry Bennett (talks about Portishead Radio)
Jul 27 2022
Episode 7 - Larry Bennett (talks about Portishead Radio)
Ident  0:10  You're listening to the Highbridge podcast, celebrating the people, places and history of the Highbridge area in SedgemoreMell  0:18  And welcome along to another edition of the Highbridge podcast celebrating the history people and places in the Highbridge Sedgemore area of Somerset. This season is funded by Seed which is a consortium of community organizations in Sedgemoor comprising of Bridgwater senior citizens forum Bridgwater Town Council, Community Council for Somerset homes in central Somerset film, and young Somerset, which is funded and supported by Arts Council England, creative people in places lottery funding, and the Arts Council. This episode, I'm chatting with Larry Bennett, who is going to tell us all about probably one of the world's most famous radio stations, which was based in Highbridge. Why was it so famous and who listened? Want to find out more then listen in to this fascinating chat with Larry Bennett? To start us off, Larry, tell us a little bit about what the radio station was all about.Larry  1:27  Right? It was probably at its time the world's largest maritime communication station. If you think of today, when you pick up a phone, you can speak anywhere in the world by a satellite anywhere and any aircraft, any ships anywhere in the world, you can do that. Back in the 1920s. When it was formed, the only way to communicate with a ship was via radio. And that's using Morse code of all things. There was no telephony at the time, everything was in Morse code. So if you wanted to get the message to a ship, you sent a message to your local post office, who would then forward it to the radio station at Highbridge. And then they'd relayed by Morse code to a ship over the radio link. And if they wanted the message returned, the ship's radio officer would send a message back via the radio station, and it would then be forwarded to the destination. And that carried on for 30 -40 years from 1920s, 1930s, 1940s. Right up to the 1960s when radio telex came into operation, which made it much easier for shipping companies to send messages direct. There was also rated telephone communication but that didn't come to Highbridge till 1972. Prior to that it was done through a station at Rugby with a receiving station that Brent in Essex and also at Baldock.So basically, the station was going to let everyone communicate with the ships at sea and vice versa. And that was the whole point. At the time, the British merchant navy was huge. One of the largest fleets in the world. And the station was and probably was even when it closed down the biggest maritime communication station in the world.Mell  3:02  In Highbridge?Larry  3:03  In Highbridge yeah,Mell  3:04  The other thing that threw me when I first discovered it was it's called Portishead radio.Larry  3:09  Yep. In maritime communication parlance. The station is named after the transmitting site. The station was formed in 1920. The original transmitters were at Devizes in Wiltshire. That was a site of an old point to point station which was converted to Army use in World War One. And in 1920, the post office took it over but transmitters there and it became Devizes radio station. The problem with that it was nowhere near the sea. It was a high power transmitter that was causing all sorts of problems to the receivers in the same location. So what the post office did was they put a receiving station in Highbridge away from all industry close to the coast. And then transmitters were about Devizes, the receivers were at Highbridge. But then in 1926, they moved the transmitting site to Portishead on Porterhead Down. And that's how the station got its name for so from 1925 It was known as Portishead radio. And that's how it stayed until the bitter end in 2000.Mell  4:09  So when they actually moved into Highbridge they kept the name and that's why it stayed Portishead?Larry  4:15  Exactly yeah the Portishead transmitters closed in the 1970s. But the station was so well known throughout the world. They just kept the name even at the closing down time the transmitters were at Rugby, but the main Portishead radio so so synonymous with shipping, they kept the name all the way through.Mell  4:33  So when did you work there?Larry  4:36  I was there from 1980 until the bitter end in 2000. So, unfortunately, I never got a job at sea, they preferred sea-going radio officers who knew the business backwards, but the turnover in staff was so high in the 1970s. They took people straight from college basically and that's how I managed to get a job. Obviously, there was quite a stiff entrance test you had to take a morse test and you had a year to prove yourself, otherwise, you were just chucked out. So you had to take a 27 words a minute morse test a French test of all things, which I was exempt from, because I had a French O level, and what's called a station and walk around, the station manager took around the station. And you had to tell him what every single part of this station did, from basic communication theory to how to power up the auxiliary power supply in case of failures and so on. Mell  5:26  So that would be just in case of emergencies. And you were the only person in the building?Larry  5:30  Exactly, yeah, the station never closed, it was 24 hours a day, three, six 5.25 days a year, for over 75/80 years.Mell  5:40  So the size of this transmitter, it must have been hugeLarry  5:45  Initially, yeah, at the time when the 1920s, they hadn't investigated shortwave very well. So to increase the range, they thought they had to increase the power. So the Devizor transmitters were sort of 10/15 kilowatt, huge transmitters. But as they develop shortwave communication, which the radio amateurs at the time were quite keen on doing, they found they could cover the world on maybe two or three kilowatts. So back in the day, you'll see pictures on the website, which I'll tell you about later on, have the original transmitters, and they were absolutely immense. And of course, those days, it was all spark transmitters, and so on. Modulation didn't come till later in the 1920s.Mell  6:24  So when the station originally was broadcast, and in its heyday, how many ships and how much traffic was actually going past or communicating with HighbridgeLarry  6:37  Oh immense, probably at its heyday, we take over 2000 telegrams a day, from probably well over 1000 ships, all in Morse code.Mell  6:47  So that that is also time-consuming because you've got to translate it and then put it back and then send it out and then reply, anLarry  6:55  it's not as bad as it sounds. But the good thing about Morse code, it's built up letter by letter. So we can send and receive messages in any language in the world, we used to take loads of messages in Greek. And because the letter by letter, you didn't even have to understand it. So we'd sit their headphones on, message form in the typewriter. And as the guy would send it from ship, we just type type it in, letter by letter on the typewriter. Once that's done, we check it out to count the number of words, make sure there's nothing missing, and then just pass it down the belt to be sent off by telex or telephone.Mell  7:27  It's a completely different world to how it is today with just picking up a mobile phone and contact somebody.Larry  7:33  It was an art form, basically, I think. You know, some of the skills you'd see people there, they'd had the other headphones on drink a cup of tea, sending Morse code, and having a conversation at the same time with the guy behind you. You know, and second nature to some I couldn't do it. But some of the guys they've been doing it for 30-40 years. And they were absolutely immense. Absolutely brilliant to see see them in action, and sometimes busy periods, Christmas and New Year and everything. That'd be 40 morse code positions in the same room. And everyone sat there typing away. The noise was fascinating to hear.Mell  8:05  You retired from this role, but you've sort of taken on the role of becoming a local historian for the station.Larry  8:12  Yeah. BT weren't very good at their heritage side of things. The station closed in 2000. And in the afternoon, or the closing day, the engineers were dismantling it and basically skipping everything, I thought this can't be right. So I managed to purloined a lot of equipment, which I still use. And then there was all the paperwork going back right back to the 1930s. This has just got to be kept. So I rang the BT archives and managed to get as a secondment to them. And for six months, I spent all my time collecting all the historical information I could. Then pass to the archive some stuff they didn't want, which I kept from my own use. And it's such an important part of the local history scene. You know, people don't realise how important the station was, you know, people say thing for the radio station. Oh, I had a great social club, cheap beer, and that was it. But it was, you know, the world's largest maritime communication station.  You know, unless there's nothing left at all to commemorate it. The station was demolished in 2007. a housing estate built on the site. There's nothing there. Absolutely. Not a brick, not a fence. Nothing.Mell  9:24  Absolutely. That's what threw me. I mean, I first came across your project, because you set up a Facebook page. Up until then, I'd kept looking around and suddenly this Facebook page appeared. And I went how have I miss this radio station. And then I started to read more and more and realised that she's this is a huge project. This is so if people want to just join the group if they know somebody or their family members, what's the Facebook page?Larry  9:53  Right? There's two groups. One is one for ex-staff only and families and that contains personal information about people what they're doing or anyone who sadly passed away and so on, and very in the house that at just type in Portishead radio. And that's where you get to the site. The open one, which is for local historians, or anyone with an interest in this station is Portishead Radio, GKA, which is the call sign for the station. That's open to everyone, although I do check profiles just to make sure there's nothing untoward or sinister going on. And there is a website, of course, www.Portisheadradio.co.uk, which is immense, having maybe hundreds of photos of the station, video recordings, audio recordings, a bit of history, and basically, hopefully, everything you want to know about the place.Mell  10:44  Yeah, I can certainly agree that the site is huge, and it's obviously a labor of love. Because there's so much information in there and, and just the historic, I was amazed at the amount of historical video clips that people have done and posted on YouTube, that are now, you're able to, like combine into one place, so you don't have to hunt around for them.Larry  11:04  Exactly as a one stop shop if you like. And so if you want information about the station or see a video, or hear a recording, it's all there. And of course, there's other ancillary pages and book reviews and some of the funny events which went on which can be made public, some obviously can't. But there are some which are quite legendary.Mell  11:23  We'd like to share one that springs to mind.Larry  11:26  There's one, there's a nice one. Some of the guys who worked at this station, were a little bit eccentric, if you great people, wonderful characters. And one day this guy was taking a telegram and then all of a sudden he stood up and still taking a telegram and they were looking at what's going on. And so why are you standing up taking this telegram and he turned around and said, I am receiving a telegram from Her Majesty the Queen. And of course, the most famous one, which is on the website is at Christmas, people used to have to book telephone calls to ships and booked them days in advance because it was so busy ships were limited to maybe a half hour slot, which had to be booked in advance. So one Christmas morning, we received a call from the chairman of Cunard, who would like to book a call to the QE2. And in typical radio officer parlance, we said sorry, you can't have the call, the QE2 is fully booked. To which the corner said Do you know who I am? The usual thing? No, no. Who are you? I am Sir Basil Smallpeice, chairman of Cunard. And their response came I don't care if your Basil Brush, you still can't have the call to the ship. A few days later, we received a letter of complaint from the chairman of Cunard who appreciated that the fact he couldn't have the call. But he wasn't too pleased with being referred to as a furry rodent, I think was a phrase he used. But yeah, there's a few characters in this station. And there were a few interesting episodes, some of which are on the site.Mell  13:00  So you've also written books, you've given talks, and you must have an immense collection. Is it all self-generated? Or is it stuff that you've gathered from other people?Larry  13:11  A bit of both. As I said, when the station closed, I basically tried to salvage everything I could. So I've got boxes of stuff upstairs in the attic and folders and so on. A lot of people knew icollected it, so they were kind enough to let me have stuff. And they sent me videos, I've got CDs of recordings, and so on loads of photographs, the BT archives have been superb and letting me have access to their stuff. Obviously, I did work for them for a time, which helped. And also through Facebook, lots of radio officers around the world. They're happy to send me stuff stories and everything. which culminated a few years ago, and people said, Why didn't you write a book about it? So I did COVID came, we are all locked down. So that was my COVID project. So the book had been prepared for a few years before so I resurrected my documents and archive stuff, finished it off and sent it off, checked it out and in 2000 or 2000 and, yeah, 2020 The book was published, Portishead radio a friendly voice on many a dark night.Mell  14:08  Oh, that's an excellent title.Larry  14:10  That was given to us by our former station manager, a lovely guy called Ernie Crosscall, who some people may remember. And he always referred to it as a friendly voice on many a dark night. I thought that'd be a perfect title for a book. So the history is in there, it's on Amazon, if you want to buy it and also available on the website as well.Mell  14:27  Excellent. Portishead Radio, okay. And if they want to find out more information, as you say, it's all on the website as wellLarry  14:34  As well as a few more information or a few more bits of information in the book all about the station. And that led me on to another book, which is about the smaller stations around the UK, now Portishead was worldwide it communicated all over the world, but not around the UK coast. It was too close. So the post office had a network of stations at Land's End, Niton, North Foreland, Humber all around the coast. And their main job was to communicate with ships up to 250 miles away. And I've combined a history of this their operations in one rather immense book, over 500 pages. And it's called all ships or ships, which was the phrase used when calling ships over the radio, all ships or ships, this is Niton and radio and so on.Mell  15:20  And to remind the listeners, again, that the website to be able to find links to all this sort of stuff isLarry  15:26  It's www.Portisheadradio.co.uk And it's also available on Amazon, but if you want one of the very you're now very rare signed copies thats through the through the website. Absolutely.Mell  15:40  So do you run the whole website yourself? Is it just just you?Larry  15:44  It's just me. Yeah. Wow. Okay, the labor of love. I mean, having retired, there is a bit more time not a lot. But it does need updating a little bit. It's a little bit out of date on some pages, but it's on my list of things to do. Time permitting.Mell  16:01  The website today. Is it something that you always messed around with websites? Or is this another skill you have to learn?Larry  16:06  Not really, it's the original website was set up in about 2005 when it was hosted by BT, and BT stopped hosting websites a few years back. So the site went dormant for a few years and I resurrected it with financial help, but we got it back on the on the internet again. And it's it's thriving, really is thriving, good reviews, and we're we're getting 100-150 hits a day. From all over the worldMell  16:35  And I noticed the Facebook page as well. He's very active. There's lots of comments and people are having conversations just odd stories that have been told.Larry  16:43  Exactly. Yes. It's not only is it read officers or staff members contribute to the site, its local people as well, who remember the station or their father right there or the neighbor right there. And it's bringing it's back to life, which is the whole point. It's been close 22 years now coming up. And, but it's still it still lives on the internet.Mell  17:02  What are the plans for the future? What are you hoping to try and do?Larry  17:06  Right, the most obvious thing we love to do is to get the station and remembered on the site. There is money available. The builders donated, I think a sum of around about 15,000 pounds for something. The original plan was to have an obelisk or memorial on site that changed. But there is a dispute between the developers on the county council. So until the council have full ownership, they can't do anything. I've seen the plans, they want to put some sort of aerial shape climbing frame, which is but what I do want is some sort of plaque there, and also an information board, which gives the history of the station and maybe a few benches with plaques on remembering the staff who work there. But until we get that sorted, we're stuck. And it'd be lovely to have some sort of museum as well. Yes, just to clear my attic if nothing else. But the Americans are big in museums. The Germans have a station that the German station at Nordac converted their old building into a museum that Dutch having museum even Ilfracombe has a museum with an old Ilfracombe radio console. Highbridge has nothing, absolutely nothing. Even the names of the roads on the station site have a very tenuous link with radio we got Marconi drive, which is fair enough and Tesla but Suzeny and Stockley and Maritime walk, it's all very vague. We did suggest that we'd call the station something along the lines or call the development, something along the lines of Telegraph Park, with all the names of the Co-stations  Knightonway in Northorland walk. Portishead Drive things like that, but you can't talk once the developers made the minds up they're not for changingMell  18:49  Which is a shame because if as you say, it stamps the heritage and history on a location as opposed to people just saying it used to be here and there's there's no evidenceLarry  18:59  Exactly. Yeah. It needs something. I know the BBC did an interview years ago back in the 90s. When they went around Highbridge asking people what do you know what the station does? Nobody did even then when it was operating. You know, people thought it was in our something really secretive and GCHQ it was not it's fully public. You can pick up any radio list in the road, and it's all there all the frequencies. Obviously, you weren't supposed to listen to it, but only with special dispensation, but people did.Mell  19:28  So do you remember, Highbridge back to the period that you were there? So during the 80s period, do you do you have fond memories of Highbridge town? Is there anything that stands outLarry  19:39  It was a thriving place you know as live industry, there Woodberry & Haines of course, the railway station I remember sitting in the waiting room down there but the original buildings and it was a nice warm station that was it was more of a community there is more shops, there's more facilities there and it's more of a community. These days it's just flats and houses, there's nothing there. I don't know why that is hopefully things will change in the future but it's become a sprawling suburb of Burnham if you like these days?Mell  20:09  Yeah. People are speak to it becomes very evident that it feels as though it's an appendage of Burnham that people have forgotten. It's got its own history, its own catalogue of events.Larry  20:24  Oh, gosh. Yeah. I mean, certainly the rollway. It was immense and they're sort of early 1900s 1920s. But sadly after Beaching that sort of fell away rather, but you know, some of the industry there and Highbridge Wharf, you know ships, ships and Highbridge. People don't understand that now. But of course, the main thing my interest is, is the radio station, which, you know, formed a massive part of the community, you know, 250-300 people worked there. And it should be commemorated somehow, someway. But sadly, it isn't.Mell  20:59  Well, hopefully, somebody that hears the podcast, may, may think, Oh, I could help with this, or here's something I can do. Yeah,Larry  21:07  I know, we're in touch with the local heritage group and the Local History Society, and they've been brilliant. But it's just getting people with influence on side. You know, I've managed to get our local MP involved in the radio station side of things, and he's asked to be kept informed. But you know, the history group needs a push to gets some location somewhere for some sort of museum or exhibition somewhere to recognize the place otherwise, a lot of people it's a place you go through on the 38. But there's, there's so much more to it so much more.Mell  21:40  Larry, that's a perfect way to finish our conversation. Good. And thank you very much for your time and every success with the book, the website, and hopefully getting some recognition of that the site and where it was.Larry  21:53  Oh, that'd be wonderful. If we could, I can sleep easy then.
Highbridge Podcast Ep5 -John Strickland local historian
Apr 21 2022
Highbridge Podcast Ep5 -John Strickland local historian
Intro Jingle  0:10  You're listening to the Highbridge podcast celebrating the people, places and history of the Highbridge area in Sedgemoor.This season is funded by seed which is a consortium of community organizations in Sedgemoor comprising of Bridgewater senior citizens forum Bridgewater Town Council, Community Council for Somerset homes in central Somerset film and young Somerset, which is funded and supported by Arts Council England, creative people in places lottery funding and the Arts Council.Mell T  0:50  Today I'm speaking to local historian John Strickland. Now, although he focuses on Burnham on Sea history, as we all know, Highbridge and Burnham overlap, and that there is lots of bits of history that that do appear in sort of both areas. And as John John's tried to keep record of these facts amongst his main focus, so welcome along, John. John Strickland  1:11  Hello there.Mell T  1:12  And I want to start off with John what, what are your What are your memories of old Highbridge when when you were younger? What do you remember about Highbridge? John Strickland  1:22  Well, it's yeah, it was a very, very interesting place from my, from the childhood point of view. I was very lucky in so far that my neighbor in Burnham, he worked at the brick and tile works where Apex Park is, is now of a weekend, he often had to go in and do a bit of overtime, what they call pulling tiles that they were on, on that the the drying room, the air drying room, and they had to just pull them forward slightly, apparently, otherwise, the little pips on the end would break off. So when he did that, he knew I was interested in fishing. And he used to take me along to fish in the pits out there. And I did that for quite a long, long time. Weekends wise, it was very interesting, because one, I remember the first time he took me the pit, it was a lot further on than where the apex pits are now. And I think that must have been the apex of brickwork pond. But then in later days, they started actually moving there was a allotment all by the side of where the garage is now, and a little Lane through the side where you could cycle that through. And they started filling in this big pit that was there. And there were all cars everywhere. And we'd go and sit on the roofs of these old cars half-submerged, and do our fishing, it was it was really good times really, really good times.Mell T  2:49  So what sort of decade are we talking about there?John Strickland  2:51  It's probably in the very early 60s, the Brickworks they must have been running down at that stage. But yeah, around about the 60s.Mell T  3:02  What I found interesting is that you sent me through an old newspaper clipping so I'll just summarise it by saying, mammal bones dating back to Neolithic times were discovered when work was being carried out at Apex Park pond in Highbridge. And newspaper clipping from August of 1966 explained that the bones and carbon dating along with pollen samples from the peat around the bones, indicated it dated back to 1200 BC now that that's some history for Highbridge to be able to claimJohn Strickland  3:35  It's fantastic. It really really is. And it was so interesting. And when I left King Alfred school at by then I was actually August that was that was my holiday from the Bridgwater College. But I knew my dad was involved with it. And of course, I went along with spade and it was really, really what we were finding. I mean, it was very fortunate so far that dad knew Tom Cornish who was a manager at the site there. And they agreed they found these bones initially. And they agreed to pump out an awful lot more water so that we can actually dig further down and you'll be digging longer and it was just thick mud. I mean literally, they talk about peat samples in this article, but it was thick mud and very, very heavy. And you saw it go down carefully we use pay and also you hit something hard. And I mean, I've never had the confirmation of anything but we found bones there they reckon it was ox bones and there was reindeer antler and things like that. And of course when you go back in times, a lot of the area rain there it was it was flooded by water. The thought was from some of these people who went and looked at this was probably a huge great freshwater pond or pool and animals used to come drink. And then of course they they were prayed to these other creatures. Really, really interesting.Mell T  5:06  You obviously were a keen fisherman in the younger days. So you also mentioned a bit too Coalhurst and Simmons pond.John Strickland  5:13  Well, that's right. Well, it's known as Apex up there now. But that whole area that the the Apex ponds was that was in fact Coalhurst and Simmons, there were there were two companies there. And a very, very busy I mean, quite large. I think. If you go back in time, there was more than 10% of the local population were actually employed there. Which is of course, in those days it was Burnham and Highbridge combined there was there was there was no split as it were from from the council point of view, the more you look at that area there, of course, the railway came right close to it there. And a lot of the places now you walk along, you connect your walk along the old railway line. And there was actually two because it was so busy in going back in those days. There were actually two sidings from the railway in there, where they could, they could load the trucks and then obviously, it was much easier to transport because before then, it was horse and cart. Of course, Highbridge wharf was very, very busy. And they used to then have to horse and cart it down to Highbridge wharf. And then they load it onto boats to go all the way around. And it's really, really interesting because it although it was it was called the brick works. It was the it was the brick and tileworks. And there was one tile made locally, I'm not sure in all fairness if it was done, but it was made from the the top silt of mud, and it was called a bath brick. And it was used for cleaning. And it's really interesting because if you if you go on searches now on the internet, a lot of these wrecks they're finding now even as far as India and around like that. And the thought is that a lot of the reject stuff that came from the brick works, they used it as ballast, and then a finding bricks, round India and further apart. So with Coalhurst and Simmons or Apex markings on them.Mell T  7:18  Your general interest in history is, as you've always been, there is something that's sort of that you've just grown into, or is it something that you've stumbled upon?John Strickland  7:27  I was born in Burnham, and I've lived in Burnham all my life. And it was my father, really, my father passed. And when we were tidying at my mom's house, in the attic, we were going through all these boxes as people do, you tend to put stuff up in the attic, and you go through it. And I looked at one I thought cor thats quite interesting, ill put that to one side. And it got me interested in and since I've been a man of leisure retired, and I got into it in a really really big way. And it's so so interesting and fascinating as to as to our local history here that it Yeah, it's it's my big project, I must admit and hobby.Mell T  8:06  So what I find fascinating as well is, is the term Highbridge and Burnham on Sea or Burnham and Highbridge and the seems to be, I always find it interesting where exactly one begins and the other one endsJohn Strickland  8:19  Thats a very moot point, actually, I mean, going back to that some people might remember that the mini roundabout that is near the garage there on on Burnham road, the startup of Burnham Road and Highbridge Road. Just passed King Alfred's going down through if you want to turn into into Marine Drive and past Apex that that house there on the corner was called halfway house, simply because that was halfway between Burnham and Highbridge.Mell T  8:51  So we do have some kind of marketing.John Strickland  8:53  Well, that's from a historical point of view. And it's it's really interesting with some of my work now because I hope you don't mind me saying but we've got this website, no capture Burnham and there's also a capture Highbridge, but I don't run that one. But capture Burnham now we've actually started putting things in, we've got this demarcation line of a halfway house if you know the main where it can go into either website. But we've actually I did a talk all about the brick works. And there was some people came there fascinating. And their great great granddad lived in that house and was part of the brickwork. So it's interesting how the stories grow.Mell T  9:33  It must be quite fascinating when you when you go out and give these talks and when people come to you and give you bits more of information that you didn't have.John Strickland  9:41  It's very rarely when I give a talk that there's not something new I don't come away with if you're not I mean it's an it's it's the enthusiasm of people and I think my aim really is to try and get it so that some of the local schools are involved with it as well.Mell T  9:59  Absolutely, its about keeping the history alive, and then the memories of people being passed down?John Strickland  9:59  I actually, several years ago, I gave a talk to the junior school in Highbridge. And I took along some old railway lamps and was talking about things and whatever. And at that stage, the old wharf was actually still there, not being built on them. And I happen to mention that there was some very big ships used to come into the wharf. And a couple of the adults I looked at me as if to say, Where on earth are you talking about? So it just shows there's still an awful lot of gaps and trying to get the youngsters because if, if they've got it in their mind, then it's it's going to carry on, isn't it?It is yeah it is and, you know, I, I've always had a fascination with railways. I grew up in Burnham right next to the railway. So we used to cross the railway line and go into the field, opposite this now, obviously, housing, but that was lovely. And then of course, you'd see the signal drop down, and you run up and I've got a photo of me and a group of my mates. I'm talking to the engine driver. They're on Burnham station, Burnham platform. And it's it's just so interesting. My dad got to know Charlie King, who was one of the engine drivers he lived. He lived there on Highbridge Road, just just the other side of halfway house. And only once did I ever travel on the train as a very young lad, I must have been about nine or so at the time. And we caught a train from Highbridge the old S&D station, all the way to Glastonbury. And it was so fascinating to look out the window and see all these peat workings going on. And it was just open fields and lovely and you know, quiet times and no traffic and things like that. But I was really jealous of my dad because Charlie King happened to be the engine driver. And of course in those days, there was limited health and safety as it were and my dad took the journey on the footplate.And I can remember asking Charlie Kane, oh, can John comes? No, sorry. He's a bit young. He's a bit young for that. And he travelled all the way to Glastonbury on the footplate. And I thought that was really jealous, and it was only later years talking to some of my mates. What didn't he ever give you a ride around when he was turning around in Burnham? No. And so you know, it's it's a fascination, that all that, that that was there and how life is changed. And I have to say, I think has got a lot easier for people. I mean, we had an old back boiler, and it used coke. So I'm talking about, you know, junior school age. And in those days, the the coal trucks used to come into the coal, the coal yard in Burnham, where the car park is there, just off Marine Drive. And I could remember going up with my go kart over Saturday morning, to collect the cat the sack of coke for the backboard. And then after when that started closing, I had to go to where Liddls are now. And that was that was Burnham's gas works. And they had coke for sale there. So yeah, it's fascinating, but I mean, Highbridge itself. I mean, if you go back in time, Highbridge was much much more important than Burnham ever was. And there was a lot more industry there. It was, it was a real hive of industry, I can remember my dad and again going back to my early childhood he used to love pigs trotters so that's the that's the end foot part of the leg, if you know what I mean. Yes. And in those days, there was Highbridge bacon factory there. They had a shop, it was between the line gates in Church Street and and the station road. I've got the name of the station road going down through and he used to go there and buy these things trotters but you have to queue to go and get them. It was so popular.Mell T  14:18  It was almost seen as a delicacy.John Strickland  14:20  Yeah, it was. I mean, I've tried it. And I must admit, it was a lovely flavor.Mell T  14:26  So you mentioned the wharf and that. Can you give us an idea of how big the wharf area is? Or was?John Strickland  14:33  I mean, well, it was all part of me. There's always been some form of wharf. They say back to even sort of like the the very early times. I mean, there's there's there's mention of some of the wood coming in there for Wells cathedral when they were doing some repairs. Oh, yeah, it's it's been a long time in some form. Market Street that was a street I'd forgotten that the name off. And Market Street. I mean, there was one time two wharfs said there was West Wharf. And that's if you go over the bridge now going towards Huntspill that was over on the right where it's all housing on there now, but that was huge. I mean, there's, there's Oh, they used to being wood and also timber in from Scandinavia and Russia. And it was again, it was very good, it was all manual work. And a lot of it early days was set as sailing vessels. So you can imagine coming up through past Burnham and all the way up through the winding Brue there to get into the wharf.Mell T  15:42  So what I also find interesting is that when people talk about the various markets that were known for Highbridge, so you got like sort of the general market, and then you went, the sort of, as you mentioned, about the bacon and that going on there. And then they also have a cheese market that was renowned.John Strickland  15:59  Yeah, at one stage, I think that was the biggest cheese Mark market, certainly in the southwest. And probably even further, most of that most of the farms around used to make cheese. And the amazing thing was, it was exported. I mean, I've got a photo of of the the, the board that shows the price you had to pay if you're importing certain things, or if you're exporting things, and it was really, really surprising just what sort of things were brought in and shipped out. And cheese was amongst them. And of course, when the railway was coming, they have to bring in the the rails from South Wales. And they used to ship out cheese back back to the miners. And you'll never guess but it was Caerphilly cheese.Mell T  16:47  Wow, and we exported from Highbridge to Caerphilly.John Strickland  16:51  Yeah we did. Which is apparently I'm talking I've been talking to people. And it was it was it was the cheese was actually made almost from the whey it was like the poor milk constituent. And course that suited everybody find down here. And because there was so much grass area and good good feeding for the animals. Apparently, it lasted longer and had a much better flavor than that what the what the Welsh people could make.Mell T  17:20  I'm gonna have to come back to you at some later point and have an update on some more of your fantastic bits of memory. And you said to me, you didn't think you knew a lot and I'm already discovering things I'm going well, I didn't know that one. And I didn't know that one. So I think you know more, perhaps than you actually sometimes think that, you know, amongst the memories of growing up and and just generally speaking with people. What, what if anybody wants to find out more information or contact you? Is it a particular website or an email address where people can sort of touch base with you or pass on it bits of information?Oh, yes, please. Yes, please. They can do it via capture Burnham, it's the whole address is capturedburnham.co.uk. But if you actually put in Capture Burnam all one word, or one word in the search engine, it'll come up and there's all sorts there were were, I have to say it's quite a comprehensive website now. And it does cover certain certain parts of Highbridge. But it's also now we've started doing a little bit about Berrow and Brean and Brean down. And again, there's fascinating histories to go on. All the way around here all the way around. I mean, when you when you think about going back, there's very little about Burnham and Highbridge in the Domesday Book, because if you go back further, of course, it was all underwater the sea came in. There's the story of the river Siger and the story of Joseph of Arimathea coming through on the river Siger and then traveling all the wetlands across an ending up at Glastonbury and we've got the Glastonbury Thorn that he allegedly put this is stake in and it grew. So it's yeah, it's really really, really interesting. And, of course, there's paradise in Burnham as well, a whole area that was called Paradise and Berrow Road if you go back in time, Berrow Road was actually called Paradise Road, which is somewhat fascinating. But yeah, capture Burnham and that will that will take you through, but if you want to know more much, much more about Highbridge there's also capturehighbridge.co.uk Which which is exclusively for Highbridge, and it does contain an awful lot more information about Highbridge,Thank you very much for your time, John, and I do wish you every success in gathering even more information as you go go through life and talk to more people.Unknown Speaker  19:46  Okay, thank you. Bye bye.Mell T  19:49  The Highbridge Podcast available on many popular podcast directories distributed as the Highbridge podcast on Apple iTunes, Spotify podcast, Google With Amazon music and TuneIn.com It can also be found at Sedgemoormedia.com And he's hosted and found at Highbridge podcast.transistor.fm also available on your smart speakers just say the wake word to the speaker and say clearly play the Highbridge podcast.
Highbridge Podcast Episode 4-The Highbridge Festival
Mar 7 2022
Highbridge Podcast Episode 4-The Highbridge Festival
Intro Jingle  0:10  You're listening to the Highbridge podcast celebrating the people, places and history of the Highbridge area in such smallMell T  0:18  this season is funded by seed which is a consortium of community organizations in sedgemoor comprising of Bridgewater senior citizens forum Bridgewater Town Council, Community Council for Somerset homes in central Somerset film, and young Somerset, which is funded and supported by Arts Council England, creative people in places lottery funding, and the Arts Council. Once again, welcome along to another edition of the hybrid podcast. We'll be talking to Mary Lawrence, who's one of the secretaries at the Highbridge festival. If you're like me, you hear about the Highbridge festival. And maybe you've always wondered, what's it all about? So we'll be find out more from Mary Lawrence in this edition. Joining me now is Mary Lawrence. Now, Mary Lawrence is one of the group that put together the Highbridge Festival, which I keep hearing about. So I need to find out more and I'm sure the listeners want to know, what is the Highbridge festival?Mary  1:25  Well, the Highbridge festival is not the Glastonbury Festival. They've borrowed the word from us really, because we were here long before the Glastonbury Festival. It's an event where people of all ages, from tiny tots to oh  80 or 90 year old sometimes come to saying recite poems play instruments, act in a play. Do all manner of Performing Arts. Think of it as an equivalent to a Welsh eisteddfod. But with with more aspects, I suppose more areas of expertise. So it includes anything performance related, let's say it is competitive, although the music section is very much less so now. I'll say a bit more about that later on. But there is an adjudicator who comes.When I used to take part as a child, the adjudicator was quite strict, and it was terribly formal. Whereas now, all the adjudicators are very kind, they will say very positive things and they'll give they will give marks, but much more they will praise you say how brave you are for getting on the stage. give you advice about what you did. There are certificates for everybody who takes part. And metals for most people in the Music Section. The dance don't quite get so many medals, because there are more people in the class but lots of medals and we usually give out stickers and sweets and things to the younger people as well. So it's it's really a lot of fun. Now, it used to be, I suppose more educational, more competitive, but now we provide a platform so that people can come and display their wares show off their talents. So you mentioned you used to enter yourself when you were younger. Well, everybody did.It was quite, quite new. And I was young because I'm old now. All the schools used to get involved. I think I was entered first when I was four when I was first at school and I did a little recitation. But loads of us did. It wasn't we weren't anything special. All the schools used to send people to perform. They used to be school choirs. Individuals that music teachers used to send all their pupils. Everything used to happen. And the audiences were huge. They were full to capacity, I suppose friends and relations of the people who took part, but also the locals were all very supportive. And I expect in those days there was probably a little less entertainment generally than there is now so yes, it was always very, very well attended very popular.Mell T  4:26  So why was it chosen to be in Highbridge, because Highbridge was so big and busy? Mary  4:31  Well Highbridge was a real hub. Of course it had the the cattle market, and it was the best cattle market in the west country. People would come from all the counties around to come to Highbridge every Monday it was no good phoning a farmer on a Monday because they wouldn't be there. They would all be at the market. And we had quite a big town hall and the town hall was buzzing during the festival. And there were lots of banks and shopsand places to go and pubs, of course, loads of pubs for the farmers. And yeah, it was a real buzzing town, come up pick up on the actual capital market.Mell T  5:13  What was it like? Did you you used to go?Mary  5:16  oh, I would be there. I can't say every week because a lot of the time I'd be at school, but certainly, during the holidays, I'd come to the cattle cattle market with my dad. Very, very busy. If you would be walking along the A38. Even two or three miles away, you would hear animals baaing and mooing and braying. Because they'd all be in their, in their trailers and their cattle lorries on their way to Highbridge market. As a small child, I would only see lots of people's knees, I suppose. And I'd have to be lifted up and sat on the rails to watch the auctioneer and listen to the auctioneer doing his thing. And the smell I mean, you can imagine it was a real strong farm smell. And all the farmers smoked. Then when I went in later years, none of the farmers smoked. It was quite change reallyMell T  6:13  Taking us back to the festival. So how did it all come about? What was it was it a group of local musicians or artists orMary  6:22  Well, this is slightly before my time, not a huge a lot before my time, I have to say. It started in 1948 as the Highbridge festival. It was held at the town hall, as I mentioned just now. And it was just one afternoon of music. And gradually it developed and grew. were affiliated to a thing called Biff, which is British International Federation of Festivals, the patron of which is Her Majesty the Queen.And that evolved, Biff evolved from an association which emerged in the late 1800s.People like Elgar and Holst, Adrienne bolt, people would have heard of Armstrong, Gibbs the composer, they all got together and decided there should be something where all these budding musicians could, could gather and, and do something in a big way. So that's how it all started. And then Biff developed and gradually got better known throughout the country. I suppose some of our more musical people in Highbridge got to know about it and formed the Highbridge festival. And we have the people that we have to judge, they are all kind of affiliated with this federation of festivals. So we have to have the proper people to do it. You know, we can't just get Joe Bloggs down the road saying well, that was a nice one, wasn't it? We must be one of the longest-running festivals I should think in the country.Because we haven't had a gap at all since 1948, when it started, except last year, which was COVID. And that was really sad. Because there are people in the area who have been involved with it from the very beginning having taken part when they were little and gone on to enter pupils and children and grandchildren of their own. So I think they were terribly sad that we had to miss last year, but there was no way nobody did anything last year. So how did it all run? Mell T  8:40  How did how did people enter? Or is there a sort of a sort of is there a process that they go through?Mary  8:46  Yes, it's quite a complicated process let me try to explain what happens. We're all volunteers, all of us. We have a management committee. So there's a chair and a general secretary. And there's a secretary for each of the disciplines. So I'm the music secretary. We have a dance secretary, we have a drama secretary.And we put together a program what we put together first of all, a syllabus, which we try to get out to everybody, everybody who could do anything. It's open to absolutely everybody. So we send it out to schools. Well, actually we email it out now with for the last few years we've gone online. We send it to music teachers, dance schools, amateur dramatics societies, obviously people that we've had in the past friends of ours who have budding somethings as children, dancers, musicians, whatever. We just send it out to absolutely everybody. And then there's an entry form and it costs something to enter depending on the age group and what you're entering, but it's something like,So like £3 for a little one to enter a solo, going up to about £10 for a group or something. I'm thinking of music now I'm not quite sure about the dance entries, and drama but that's the sort of scheme of things. So it's not huge amounts to enter. Although of course, some people like to enter 2, 3, 4, 5 classes, they can enter in, you know, modern class or a classical or all sorts of different things they can enter and then we, we get all the entries back in. And then we, we set to work and program it, which is sounds very easy, but it's quite a long process. So that's, that's our job as sort of Secretary of each discipline. However, we do have a much wider committee, again, all are volunteers. Sure, there are probably about 50 of us. And we need all those people because they come along, during the two weeks of the festival, there are loads and loads of jobs to do, from ushering people backstage, if you've got a lot of dancers or something, they've got to know the order and where they're supposed to be and what where they're supposed to change and everything.Dealing with backing tracks for them to dance to announcing we need an announcer to tell the audience what's going on. We need people sitting at the door to stop people barging in and out when they shouldn't and showing people where they should be going next. We've got First Aiders. We've got people selling tickets at the door checking wristbands, people making teas providing lovely cakes, we have lovely cakes at the festival, people keeping records of everything that goes on. And it's it's a really very busy two weeks. But actually people see that what they don't see is the very busy year, it never stops. By the end of the two weeks, we're already booking our adjudicator for two years in advance, sometimes three years in advance. Because they're in great demand. They're not only adjudicators they do ABRSM examinations for music and dance and things like that they you know, so they're always very, and the good ones, of course, are always in much more demand, and we want the good ones.So then, after the festival, we have a post festival meeting to assess what went well and what perhaps not so well.And all of that is taken on board, so that we know how to improve next year. So since 1948, hopefully, we've been improving all the way through, I don't know that we have actually but we do try to improve as we go along. So then after the festival, and we've done all the washing up, so to speak, we book the venues for next year, stock up on the medales, track down all the owners of the lost property that's been left behind countless little jobs. And we're trying to think about innovation all the time. So for example,The dance classes a few years ago, introduced things like hip hop, which I know okay is old hat. Now I'm sure they've got new things that I haven't heard about yet. But always the new things are coming along. We want to keep up with what what the teachers are doing and trying to keep the interest of everybody. We're really lucky to have a brilliant general secretary. She keeps her eye on the ball. And she reminds us throughout the year, when there are things to do because they're generally are every couple of months, there are more things to do. We have a brilliant treasurer who doubles up as our tech man and puts us right when we mess up our spreadsheets.It's a lot of work organising some two and a half thousand classes, which is what we what we have in the festival. But it's really very rewarding. And I think if you ask any of our volunteers, they will say, Wow, by the end of it, we're pretty knackered, but should I say that? But it's great fun. They all enjoy watching the performances. You know, you see these tiny little tops on the stage and you think are and then you see grown ups and you think oh, because they're all They're all just as appealing that there's something about every performance that you think oh, wow, look at that.Mell T  14:47  So you mentioned the festival originally was just one day. Mary  14:50  One afternoonMell T  14:51  one afternoon so what is it now? Mary  14:53  It's 13 days,Mell T  14:57  Thats some organisation Mary  14:59  It is. It's not 13 days this year, sadly, because a lot of our participants that we would have had last year have gone off to university or moved away. I mean, each year we're building up, we're losing people, and we're building up new ones. Whereas last year, we lost them. But obviously no opportunity to build up the new ones.One or two of our teachers sadly have moved away. And so we've lost their pupils, some of their pupils, quite a few of the pupils now will be total beginners, or slightly older, like 15, 16 year olds, because we kind of missed out that middle group somehow, by missing out that year of festival. But we'll get back there, we will get back there. Mell T  15:48  So you're talking about them as pupils. So do you look at them as as it's a learning experience?Mary  15:54  Yes, I've got I've got too many hats, I suppose. Because some of the time I'm speaking as a teacher. So I'm thinking of them as my pupils.So yes, I mean, you can enter yourself. I have another friend who comes along and she writes little poems and plays and things like that. And she comes along and performs those. So anybody, absolutely anybody can enter. But yes, it is educational. It's entertaining. There is something for everybody. Can I say something about how the well, how the classes have developed a bit more, because we've had to evolve a lot in the 21st century, things have moved along very rapidly as far as performing arts were concerned.In the old days, I expect year after year after year, there would be a Beethoven sonata class, I know there was because I took part in one or two of them. So you get 20 or 30 participants in a Beethoven sonata class. And then you get a modern in inverted commas, which would be something like Debussy,Which to us is not modern anymore. For music. The I've changed lots of the classes into classes that people want to enter. I asked for teachers, what are you doing? I asked the schools, what are the children doing? And then I put classes in hopefully that will that they will want to enter. So we've had rock groups. We've had brass bands, silver bands. We've had an African style drumming group. We've had orchestras, school orchestras, adult orchestras, orchestras made up from classroom instruments. We've had solos, obviously, lots of singers, lots of pianists, violin players, things like that. But we've had harps, we've had handbells, we've had harmonicas. And this year, we have our first bagpipes.So you know, it's it's all sorts of things that we that we've introduced over the years, which way back then nobody would have thought of even providing a class Oh, no, this is not for us, you know, it would be much more or what if you can't play classical Sonata don't bother coming. But now it's, you know, yes. Come show us what you can do. It's just very exciting. And we were saying about being educational. It is very educational because we not only do we get the hints from the adjudicator, but people learn from each other. For the music, particularly, it's much more a celebration of music, where everybody can come use our stage as a platform for for their talents, show everybody what they can do. And they obviously learn from each other learn from the adjudicator. Learn from people in the audience who say, Well, I like that bit that you did so-on-so and so-and-so. There's, there's a lot of buzz about it now which you used to not have it. It was people sitting like in a doctor surgery listening politely. Whereas now there's, there's none of that. It's all very exciting, and very, very diverse. It's a great experience for all concerned. The children love it. They work really hard to get their pieces up to standard. They like the certificates. They like the stickers. They like the sweets, if I remember to get some, and they obviously like the medals. They like the fact that the adjudicator tells them how great they were.But strangely, perhaps I see the best progress after the festival. And I found that strange at first but thinking about it, maybe, maybe, maybe not so much. I think it's inspiring for them. I think they listened to the others and think, I think I could do that. I think if I worked a bit harder, or Ha, I can do better than that, Oh, I did better than that, you know, there's all this, you know, tooing and froing. If they hear other people, they respond, and they certainly respond to praise. So we can really cash in on this spate of enthusiasm and determination, because they bounce in the lessons after the festival are so exciting. They bounce into their lessons, they talk about it. And they say, I heard so and so play that, can I learn that one? You know, so it is an inspiration.So what about the future? Have you got ideas? Or are they already in preparation, and you're already ahead of the ball? We have to be ahead ahead of the game. Really, we have to think in advance. Although I suppose things come along unexpectedly. I do don't tell anybody. But I always take late entries in the Music Section.Well, even as a teacher myself, I've had new pupils this term, who started like three weeks ago, and I say, Come on, let's do the festival. Well, I'm far too late to enter them. But I pencil them in and they go along and play something and and it's, it's a great start for them. And in the same way, new styles come along. And you think, Ah, I wish I had to put that in the festival this year. Nevermind, make a note for the for next year, we'll put it in next year. And say you're all in all through the year, you're thinking, Oh, perhaps we could do this, perhaps we could do that. Yeah, you have to be you have to be ahead of the game. Really, Mell T  22:02  So if people want to find out more or want to even enter or into their friends or their family. What's the best way to actually make the application?Mary  22:11  There's a website, which is Highbridgefestival.org.uk You can get or you can find out all about us, you can find out about the history as well, because I haven't said much about that. I could I could spout on for quite a long time about how it all developed. But it's all there. If you look it up, it's all there all look up the Biff and you can find out lots in fact, they've got a wonderful timeline going right back to the late 1800s, which they've just brought out. And that's definitely worth looking at.You can't get an application form now I'm afraid because the entries have closed. But you can certainly find out all the results on the website, we put those on. Claire is brilliant. She puts them on every day. So you once you've won a class or something, you can go online and say look, there I am proof I got the gold medal, whatever it is.Mell T  23:04  And what about people that want to come along and see the festival?Mary  23:08  Oh, now they should you see it's, it's £2 for a whole day's entertainment. You can duck in and duck out you don't have to sit there all day, you can pop in and see that bits you want and go out for a walk around the lovely Highbridge. But for £2 for a day's live entertainment. I don't know what people are thinking or if they don't come. It's really fantastic. It's just so worth well, worthwhile coming, I always say is better than the telly because becauseMell T  23:42  it's not very difficult nowadaysMary  23:43  I would rather sit there and watch that than sit there and watch the telly. I'd rather watch that than Strictly Come Dancing. You know, it's just fantastic. I'd like to give a shout out for a few people really no not named people. But for the for the people who take part. First of all, because it takes a lot of courage to get up onto a stage and do something. The children mostly cope with it. Because the teacher says you're going to do that and they say oh, Am I alright then. And they do it. And then they find they love doing it. And then next year they'll say am I going to do the festival this year.However, ask any adult who has learned as an adult and then tries to perform at the festival, it or anywhere even in front of two friends. It is terrifying. And I can't tell you how terrifying. It might be the most confident public speaker or the most brilliant academic or sports person, the most outgoing the most intelligent person but put them on a stage to play a 90 second piece that they've been practicing for six months, and suddenly there are jelly, they will sweat, their palms will sweat, the knees will wobble. And the parents who watch their children play should try it for themselves, one or two of my parents have, and they will be able to tell you how terrifying it is. And if you've heard Ed Balls talk about his experience of learning the piano. He said, it's the most terrifying thing he's ever done to play in public. more terrifying than speaking in front of 2000 people, mountain climbing mountains are all these strange things that he seems to do. Now, he said, that was the most terrifying thing that he's ever done.I'd also like to give a shout out to the brilliant parents who go the extra mile to encourage their children in the arts. It's not the school's fault. It's the government's fault. Schools are not providing nearly enough access, or support for music, dance drama. And these subjects do more for real education than all the academic subjects. All the research proves that music affects the synapses in the brain. And that improves the ability to reason to coordinate, it helps to link up all the various areas of the brain. And without exception, there's an improvement in mental and physical development, and also and academic development. And also in confidence, and sociability and cooperation with others. I think we should all be flying the flag for the Performing Arts. And the festival is a great annual meeting of minds, and a celebration of all the things that all the great things that people have done. And without the backup of the parents, this wouldn't be happening because the schools are becoming there are fewer and fewer schools coming now and a lot more independent groups and individuals that either enter themselves or the parents or the teachers, private teachers. enter. So I mean, good for them is what I say. Mell T  27:19  Thank you very much, Mary, I should look forward to coming along. Do you want to squeeze something on the last thing that you want to mention?Mary  27:25  We've got amazing talent here. And people come from all over the place. We've got people this year from Bristol, Gloucester, Wales, Devon, and even further afield. And so we get the chance to enjoy a huge range of really professional acts. As I said before, when I was small, the audience was full to capacity. And we are trying to improve our audience numbers, but unless people are involved in some way, they don't seem to think that it's something for them. On the contrary, there is something for everyone. Just come along, I mean, fork out the £2, just do it honestly. Just pop in and out during the day for your two pound wristband. You'll come again next year. It really is a fantastic experience. And as I said before, better than the telly.Mell T  28:21  Thank you very much Mary.Mary  28:22  You're very welcome. And it's an honor to be able to talk about it.Jingle  28:27  The Highbridge podcast available on many popular podcast directories distributed as the Hybridge podcast on Apple, iTunes, Spotify, podcast, Google, Amazon music, and tune in.com. He can also be found at sedgemoor media.com and he's hosted and found at Hybridge podcast.transistor.fm. Also available on your smart speakers. Just say the weight words and the speaker and say clearly, play the Highbridge podcastTranscribed by
Highbridge Podcast Ep3 - Our Highbridge
Feb 2 2022
Highbridge Podcast Ep3 - Our Highbridge
Intro  0:10  You're listening to the Highbridge podcast celebrating the people, places and history of the Highbridge area in such smallMell  0:27  This season is funded by Seed which is a consortium of community organizations in Sedgemoor comprising of Bridgewater senior citizens forum Bridgewater Town Council, Community Council for Somerset homes in central Somerset film, and young Somerset, which is funded and supported by Arts Council England, creative people in places lottery funding, and the Arts Council, this edition, I spoke to the people that are behind 'Our Highbridge'. And I had the opportunity to chat with Nadja and Ruth and I started by asking Ruth, how did the project get started?Ruth  1:01  I think I've always seen in Highbridge, lots of things go on. But not necessarily everyone knows about it. Also Highbridge suffers from social deprivation, one of the most deprived places in Somerset, and it just needs more love and care. So a year and a half ago, I message, Jackie and Kyla, the other two members of Our Highybridge and said, that's how we can talk about what we could do, cuz I know they're interested in that kind of thing as well. And we just chatted, and thought, you know, we could do some stuff, we could get some stuff going. And Nadjas my mom. So I know she's interested in that kind of stuff. And I've spoken to her quite enthusiastically about all my ideas and stuff. Last summer, we sort of went, Yeah, let's do it. Because now's the time, it's obviously it was over COVID It was really hard. But now's the time to do it. And we basically want to make Highbridge better. We don't have focus on one particular thing. We're particularly focused on everything about Hioghbridge, we want to make Highbridge a better place to live to make Highbridge a better place to work, and make it look like as loved that people care. And people feel good in Highbridge. We'd like the town to have more of a vibe about it. And just yeah, just feel good in Highbridge and everyone should feel good in the Highbridge.Mell  2:31  So Nadya have you always lived in Highbridge or did you move into the area.Nadja  2:37  I moved into the area originally into Bridgewater a very long time ago in 1976. And we as a family moved over to Highbridge in 1987. So I have been here quite a long time. I feel like a natural part of it. Now I know it takes a while for everyone to accept you. But I think I'm probably a person that lives in Highbridge and belongs to Highbridge now, so I was really enthusiastic about what we were saying.Mell  3:01  So where were you before? Nadja  3:02  Oh, I was in KentMell  3:03  Okay, so coming into Highbridge. What was it like? What did you like what, what stood out for you in Highbridge?Nadja  3:10  Well, I came from Bridgewater to Highbridge and Bridgwater is obviously a bigger town, more things going on. Highbridge was quite quiet. In actual fact, I quite like that about Highbridge. So we thought it was a small town. Little bit overshadowed by Burnham or that's a perception that we tend to have here, I think. So why not? Big it's up a bit. Why not kind of make people notice Highbridge and try to make it into a place where people would want to come to me, for me, I'm involved with Seed Sedgemoor because Seed has concentrated their energy. Bringing together lots of creatives to do things in Highbridge over this last year, it has also drawn my attention to the fact that you know someone needs to kind of bring it together a little bit. You know, there's a lovely community hub over that way over Morlands. There's a community all over this way in Southwell Gardens there is the church. So we've got already got all different sort of points of the compass if you like, and we just thought well, why couldn't it just keep on going on.Ruth  4:14  So perhaps our Highbridge can be part of the interconnectedness of branches that reached out and bring everyone together, you know, so that we can all work together and all promote each other and just live happily ever after the projectMell  4:27  The project of Our Highbridge was that was a conscious decision that it's a Facebook groupRuth  4:34  Currently we only have the Facebook page, but we're building a website as well, which we hope to sort of promote business community groups, not be a Burnham on Sea.com But have that kind of keeping people updated on what's going on not necessarily news but with what's going on around the town. showcase some of people and places and just Just a little area on the web that you can drop into. Obviously, people don't go online. So we're conscious of that. And we want to develop ways of getting messages out that aren't necessarily online. So maybe more noticeboards, leaflet drops, that kind of thing so that people know what's going on and people can get involved in. Highbridge I think there are groups of people that don't get involved perhaps because they don't know what's going on all they feel like they're not the kind of person that gets involved and we want to make everything inclusive. AndMell  5:36  So do you find that people interact with the website? Do you think you're more than just publicise other people?Ruth  5:43  Ours is more more of a  LIKE the page and then see what we post we share? I can't remember what we've shared recently, something to do with new drama boxes.Nadja  5:53  That's right. Yeah.Ruth  5:55  We shared that and a few people perhaps tagged their friends in it, say, Oh, look at this, you get that kind of thing. So at the moment, that's what that is. But that's not just what we do. That's a way of promoting our Highbridge and everything else that's going on. Because we do stuff that we want to do it's so broad you need a place to sort of start and spread outMell  6:22  What I always find interesting is Burnham on Sea and the Highbridge is also where one begins and one ends so there's this vaguaness they are all one but they have different names but it's all in one area. Is this a Highbridge event is this a Burnham on sea event?Nadja  6:41  Absolutely. it would be lovely really if events belonged to both places Exactly. Why yes. But in another way, Highbridge needs its own identity because Burnham does have an identity. As Ruth said, at the very beginning, Burnham has a beach, you know, holidaymakers go there, what just what happened to Highbridge is still a town in its own right. And it was once upon a time when I talked to my friends who lived here all their lives. You know, they say it was actually the most thriving part. Burnham was just a little town where people went to the seaside, whereas Highbridge had the railway and the industry and things going on. Cinema, you know, these sorts of things. Yeah, we want to start projects, which build it back up again, into a place people want to come to, as I said earlier,Mell  7:24  it's also interesting that you mentioned as well, like, you know, people passing through, and it's the fact, as you say, they only pass through because they think they're on the way somewhere else. And they don't realize there's actually something here and exactly, you could stop here instead. Or as well asRuth  7:39  Well. Yeah, yeah. Because Highbridge, like Highbridge, had, obviously originally a strong identity a lot of the houses were built for railway workers and industry. And then we had the cattle market, the Highbridge Sunday market. And they just sort of dissipated when even one of the platforms even went at the railway station originally, there's houses built now but there used to be another platform there. Slowly all those things have gone and Highbridge never developed an identity based on what it became. And it became more of a secondary town to Burnham because we have a joint town Council. A lot of people feel like they're left out, Highbridge whether that's true or not is a different matter. But there's a feeling in Highbridge that Burnham gets the money. Because it's a seaside town, it obviously brings draws in the tourists and visitors was and has perhaps more shops and all that kind of thing. Whereas Highbridge gets a little bit left and gets a little bit tatty and maybe gets dumped on occasionally. And that's a feeling that people have and another reason why 'Our Highbridge' it needs to advocate for the residents as well. So the people that feel that way, then start to feel like there's people on their side, there are people that want to do things for them that want to get them involved and not take over. They want to join, bring them bring everyone in together andNadja  9:13  you want a conversation with the community. You don't want to tell people what to do or what they want. You want to actually have a conversation and our first project which was a Halloween extravaganza. So we thought well, where are we going to start? Okay, Halloween was coming into a Halloween extravaganza. And we had a raffle. We had pumpkin carving competition. We had lots of craft stores and it was really wonderful. It we went off with a bang. We had children doing Trick or Treating. We asked the businesses if they wanted to have sweets and they did and the children went and visited so parents and children visited all the businesses in Highbridge they all felt like they had a really good day. It really made everybody feel good because everyone was sort of involved everyone down Market Street you know was sort of involved. So that's really where I suppose the centre of Highbridge is if it has a centre at all that is, you know where it could be Yes. And where it is really, but it just hasn't been really focused to get things moving.Ruth  10:14  Yeah, we looked at all sorts of projects go in. And obviously, we want to work with the people who live in Highbridge, work in Highbridge, find out what they want. And we want to also work with the relevant authorities to try and instigate some of the bigger things that need doing some of the love and care can go back into the way Highbridge looks the way Highbridge feels and, and creating the place and the buzz around the town.Mell  10:44  It's interesting, you talked about like regarding project because because of things like COVID, it's highlighted, sort of just general mental wellbeing. Absolutely. And everybody has now started to realise gardening is a great way to socialise, exchange ideas and just feel healthy. Just being outdoorsNadja  11:04  Health and well-being is a big thing. So is loneliness, and things where you can actually go to a communal place and do a bit of gardening, you might live in a flat say, Morland estate and not have a garden of your own or be able to garden, you might not be able to garden without a bit of help from somebody else. So that is a really important part of the community garden idea. And there are many of those being set up at this very moment in lots of other places. So it's not an impossible thing to do. There's the will for it. It came up in some of the Seed conversations we had as well.Ruth  11:37  It's come up in lots of conversations across the town, in different groups of stuff. The Baptist church.Nadja  11:43  The Hopee Baptist Church already have dug up part of their garden to provide food for people at their at the food bank, which is amazing. And that's those are the people that I'm sort of liaising with now to see to find the people that can take it forward. Obviously, we can instigate we can think about funding, we can do those kinds of things, and maybe get Seed involved and get other people involved in the housing associations, obviously land is available that belongs to Homes in Sedgemoor housing say for instance, so those things are, you know, important that we make those conversations, but then we want people in the community to be part of that. And then to take it on further so we're like a guiding Spark almost instigating a catalyst.Ruth  12:31  Yeah, we'll be, you know, hopefully, our position is that we would be able to apply for funding that can set things up and move forward in the community. And obviously, you want to make sure that's what the community wants. Yeah, absolutely. And that you're you're then advocating for everybody's needs, aren't you then?Mell  12:51  So Ruth were you born and bred hereRuth  12:53  I was born in Bridgwater. Okay. And so I've been there since I was 10.Okay, so as a 10-year-old what, what can you remember anything that stuck out when you first moved into Highbridge from BridgewaterWe were all amazed by Norman's I dont know if you remember Normans it was a Supermarket across the road, when we first went in there we couldn't find the end of it.It stopped but it actually went around the corner. And yeah, and Apex. I think we will I remember walking to Burnham and obviously being invited to sea for us living in Bridgewater, you obviously had to drive but we just said and walk to the sea. But also growing up. There wasn't very much to do in Highbridge. And that would have been nice when I was young as well, that there was just something going on.Mell  13:46  Again, that's where the website comes in. Yes.Ruth  13:49  You could start stage messages on as well. Yeah. But it'd be just equally as nice to step out your door go think or go for a wander down into town central wherever and, and there is some music going on. We have had this things and we do have you know, Seed did their Gig in the Garden event and in then the Cooper's or outside of the Cooper's things going on. That was really very nice, didn't necessarily walk around anyone but I could hear them as I was doing things. And we've had a few things like a concert over the Rec and stuff like that, that go on. But it'd be nice if things were happening just regularly or you know, a bit more of that kind of thing where people feel like they can step out and things are happening because Highbridge is stuck it doesn't have like I said it doesn't seem to have its identity anymore. Some of this stuff around is traditional. And then you've got some newer flats and stuff like that and it does seem to lack color. Perhaps in the film called ............ my brains gone now.Mell  14:53  Are you thinking of the Wizard of OzRuth  15:00  It's like a lifting-up effect, isn't it? So you start off there just black and white. And it feels all awww like that, well, we walk down Market Street, or even down Church Street. And some of it looks loved some looks unloved. And perhaps injecting a bit more art and creativity into some of the homes or something even in Highbridge as a, you know, a way to make people feel like they're in a place that's cared for and loved,Mell  15:28  From your perceptions. And from the work, you've done so far. Is it a broad mix of ages that are quite sort of proactive in wanting to try things,Ruth  15:38  We sent out a survey on our Facebook page, and the main people who have interacted with that was people over the age of 30, I think there were there were some younger people. But then on the set in the same instance, you've got a lot of children have joined Highbridge youth and arts theater. But yeah, a lot of children, obviously, join those kinds of things. The Halloween event we had was a lot of families. But at the same time, there were some just couples that came in the dark, to our little trail, little treasure, Hunt trail, and stuff like that. So we expected it to be a lot of families. But then there were people I know people from Burnham that came as well. So we want to appeal to everyone, we don't, you don't want to leave anyone feeling like they're not a part of the town.Nadja  16:30  Its also really good for different generations to mix. I mean, you know, there's no reason why older people and younger people shouldn't be interested in the same kinds of thing. It's not just for one set of people it is for everyone in the community. And obviously, we need to listen to the community, too, in order to find out what it is they want. And I think younger people, generally the sort of 15 to 20, fives are the hardest ones to kind of really connect with. Yeah. But hopefully, we're going to be able to do that, we're going to have to think about how we're going to do that maybe through the school as well, and get them involved.Ruth  17:05  Really, it's their future. I mean, some of them might move move away, but some of them might stay here and it their town in the future. So we don't want to be instigated how that feels. to younger people, like it's got nothing for them. So you want you want everyone to feel like I said, We want everyone to feel like it's got something for them. And especially younger people, because they are the ones that may stay here for be here for a longer time, if they don't move away like I didn't, I stayed. And it didn't feel like it had what I wanted from it in, you know, as I was growing up.Nadja  17:40  I mean, also, we're well aware that you know that there is a climate emergency on so we're aware that those kinds of issues are very important to all of us, obviously, but young people are very much the people that are going to take this, you know, take on the baton, about these sorts of things. So we would like it and Highbridge could be a real example of how you can begin to get more sustainable and more green, you know, there are lots of little ways you can do that. You could have a repair, reuse cafe or something like that, you know, get people involved in that sort of thing. get young people involved in what happens to the rubbish and you know, making art out of it. Maybe there's lots of different ideas that we have had and talked about and thought about that could that we would really like to get young people engaged in doing something in the community, the things that they want to do not you know, that we're talking with them, not telling them to do this, do that. But we're going north, what would you mind? Would you like to paint a beam? Would you like to be you know, whatever it is to give them maybe a few ideas? And then they go, Oh, what about this? What about that?Mell  18:48  You just got to find the right group of people to actually go, actually we'd like to do and to set them up. So I can go ahead and doNadja  18:56  Exactly. So in a way we're taking up kind of Seeds idea that you know, you start seeding in a community and then the community starts to take over. So things like what you're doing here is directly from that. So it is inspired to a certain extent by those by that kind of thing. The fact that funding has come into this area.Ruth  19:15  And what you're saying about the climate emergency sort of because Highbridge is a place already in need of regeneration, we could we've got an opportunity to put that money. What us personally but whoever's putting money in the council, yeah, the councils and whoever funding groups and stuff, you've got the opportunity to put that money into something that is more sustainable, rather than replacing all the old bits and pieces, bring in some, you know, something new, and something that will last for the centuries or decades or whatever but but also be sustainable from an environmental point of view. So it's not affecting the planet too much that it is bringing all that new technology in and Yeah, maybe if you're gonna start regenerating, then you need to think about those things.Mell  20:06  When you're trying to connect with the community, you've got Facebook Page, you've talked about posters and everything. Is there any other way that you can reach these people that you'd like them to try and reach back to you?Ruth  20:20  Well, I mean, yeah. So coming up soon COVID, rules permitting, we are organizing a family quiz afternoon, thats the 29th of January, where we have families and or just groups will come and have a quiz. We'll have some coffees, chats going on and stuff like that. So we thought perhaps, we can chat to people there. And give them the opportunity to talk to us about what they like and ask you a few questions as well, whilst we're doing a fun, little fun quiz.It's good to run an event and then use that as a vehicle, exactly. Because it takes the pressure off. Yeah, answer these questions. It's more of a chat,You know, when we have the Halloween event, people would stop and talk to us. And you get a bit of feedback, even though that was very early on, you get a bit of feedback, obviously, like I said, we've sent out the surveys, which don't have a massive uptake, because you've got the right kind of person to sit around and do a survey. And we hope to develop other ways of connecting with people maybe talking with the schools. We had a couple of ideas about creative projects that we could involve some of the younger children and stuff like that designing thing for Highbridge.Nadja  21:44  Also, I think, and this is happening in other places in the UK, maybe it would be really good to have a kind of regular community sort of, I'm going to use the word forum, I don't really like that word very much. But a place where a community or people in the community can come and chat about the ideas that I've got. So we can be a sort of collecting agency as well, if you see what I mean, we can sort of go, let's do this, this this month, we're having a one of our community get-togethers, whatever we would call it, yeah, come along, or we can chat about what you like.Ruth  22:19  Because we are aware that the jubilees come into. And in previous years that people tried to do things, but there's no cohesion between all the groups. And so we thought perhaps we can invite groups alone, talk about what everyone's doing, try and get everyone to promote everyone else and try and have some kind of nice, cohesive, Jubilee weekend, where not everything's happening at this, because that'd be really annoying because we want everyone to go to everything. And then there might be perhaps a timetable where the people that are going to these things know what's going on. And we hope to do those kinds of things, perhaps for the Christmas lights, and all those kinds of things said, there's a nice big event going on where everyone's involved, that wants to be involved. And people can come and see a nice put well put together event going on three peopleMell  23:12  to contact you, they can either do by email to ourhighbridge@gmail.com. And on Facebook, Facebook, if there's one thing I've gathered from this is there is no shortage of ideas from your team.Nadja  23:27  That's only the beginning there are lots more.Mell  23:31  So I wish you every success and I look forward to seeing what else develops from this project. As you heard, they were trying to get people together in and around Highbridge to discuss the Jubilee. Now I know that they had a Zoom meeting towards the end of last month. And then they had a physical meeting, which I snuck along to and is what you can hear in the background. Once again, loads of great ideas, lots of enthusiasm. I'm so looking forward to see what Highbridge actually does over the next 12 months, especially now that we have 'Our Higbhridge' trying to draw everyone together in a cohesive manner. And that just about concludes this edition. I would like to say a very big thank you to Ruth and Nadja for talking to us all about the Our Highbridge community project. But a special thank you to Luke knight who also featured edition two of the Highbridge podcast on his BBC Somerset show earlier in January, and also played sections of the podcast interviews with Corrine Curtis talking about the Nornen project and Scott O'Hara talking about Seed Sedgemoor. If you'd like to suggest someone that you think would be worth chatting to them, please email Highbridgepodcast@gmail.com With your suggestion until the next edition stay safe and look after yourself. The Highbridge podcast available on many popular podcast directories distributed The Highbridge podcast on Apple iTunes, Spotify, podcasts, Google, Amazon music and tune in.com. He can also be found at Sedgemoor media.com and he's hosted and found at Highbridge podcast.transistor.fm. Also available on your smart speakers, just say the weight words to the speaker and say clearly, play the Highbridge podcast
Highbridge Podcast Episode 2 - Nornen Project & Seed Sedgemoor
Dec 30 2021
Highbridge Podcast Episode 2 - Nornen Project & Seed Sedgemoor
Podcast ident  0:10  You're listening to the Highbridge podcast celebrating the people, places, and history of the Highbridge area in SedgemoorMell  0:27  This season is funded by seed which is a consortium of community organizations in Sedgemoor comprising of Bridgewater senior citizens forum Bridgewater Town Council, Community Council for Somerset homes in central Somerset film, and young Somerset, which is funded and supported by Arts Council England. Creative people in places lottery funding, and the Arts Council and a warm welcome for myself melt Herford host of the hybrid podcast in this our second edition we'll be hearing from Karen Curtis, all about the northern project, and we'll be hearing from Scott O'Hara about seeds schedule before we speak to Corinne Curtis about the dawn and project let's try and set the scene is Daniel Hawthorne.Daniel Hawthorne  1:11  It all started during the first days of March 1897. When a howling southwesterly Gale swept up the Bristol Channel, bringing with it high seas driving snow and sleet. Many ships soon found themselves in distress. Among them the Norwegian bark Nornen, which had tried to ride out the storm in the lay of the land the roads, but had found her anchors dragging. She was being driven towards Berrow mudflats. The crew desperately tried to save her, but we're fighting a losing cause. When the mists cleared on the morning of March the third, the cripple ship was spotted just off Gore sands her sails blown to rags by the Gale. Down the ramp to her aid went the Burnham lifeboat, the John Godfrey Morris, which had been on station at the town for the last 10 years, launched down the rails on the jetty. The lifeboat with its crew with 10 oarsmen battled through high seas and winds to the northern. Despite the Gale, the lifeboat managed to get alongside the helpless ship, just as she was being driven onto the sands. The ship's crew of 10, together with their dog, were taken off by the lifeboat and landed safely at Burnham at three o'clock in the afternoon. The rescue is recorded on the honors board of rescues made by the three lifeboats at Burnham during the period from 1867 to 1930, and which today stands in the entrance to the Burnham RNLI Station.Mell  2:39  So that sets the scene for the Nornen project. So I popped along to Apex Park where I met up with Corinne, Curtis, and asked her more about the project.Corinne, Curtis  2:49  The Nornen project is essentially creating a brand new theatrical production based on the story of the Nornen which was wrecked off the coast of Barrow. And that happened in 1897. So next year will be the 125fth anniversary. And we're telling that story. And I'm a professional actor and puppeteer, but I'm developing as a producer to make sure that I can deliver this. So I won't be performing and I'll be producing, which is plenty, and I'll go back to the beginning. So I mentioned I lived away for a little while in London. And because I'm a massive geek, I was still keeping an eye on |Burnham on Sea.com. Because Burnham is my hometown, that's where I've grown up. I love it. And there was an article about a councilor who had proposed potentially using some of the Hinkley Point money to create an outdoor performance space at the apex. And I got very overexcited and thought must show that there's a you know, support for this. And this is how it could be used if they want to put that into funding applications and things and started thinking of it. Well, the shipwreck, I knew that there was a wreck. I didn't know how it happened or anything like that. But I thought big epic kind of story where you could have a mixture of professional performers and community class so you can have lots of community involvement. And I mentioned this to this counselor and I sort of went Oh, it was just an idea. And nothing more happened. And during the pandemic. I had a chat with Nick White at Wassail theatre company they are Somerset Theatre Company. And it's all kind of gone from there really started looking into the story and it's just fantastic. It was a horrendous storm. absolutely awful, awful conditions. It was snowing sleeting gale-force winds. A lot of ships were battered in the area and the Nornen and tried to take shelter in the lay of Lundy, which being a local girl I know the name of Lundy and go I know it's nearby but I'm geographically challenged 40 miles that they were pushed by the storm from Lundy to Berrow, and it is a genuine miracle that they weren't smashed to pieces on rocks and that they landed rough they land They got absolutely wedged. It wasn't until the next morning that they were discovered when the mist cleared. And the lifeboat burn and the John Godfrey Morris was launched and sent out and it took them hours because although the main storm had died down, the winds were still horrendous. But they reached them and all 10 crew and their dog were rescued. And I just loved that there was a dog. I have lots of questions about this dog, and also images of how on earth you've got it from the ship to the lifeboat. But not only were they rescued, they were then brought ashore and given refuge by lots of locals in Berrow, and the crew and the captain was so grateful they've given various artifacts to various families that sheltered them, including the figurehead, which then gave the name to figurehead cottage in Berrow. And the figurehead is still in Berrow village hall. We've also recently discovered through doing this project that someone has the ship's bell that their ancestors were given, which is just incredible, we're starting to get lots of sort of tangible links back to it now, which given it the 125 years ago, almost is just amazing. And that's one of the things that I'm really enjoying, and I wanted to get out of it was was reaching into the community,I want us to have the opportunity to do a really high-quality theater production in our town, we deserve the opportunity to have something really high quality. But I also don't want to just rock up and be like I've made your show be grateful. And because it's such a local story, it's so important to have that local voice in there. Which is why I decided to set it up the way that I have where we held our local history talks with the brilliant John Strickland, which of course you can see, which is fantastic. And then we're having our making theatre workshops. And then as part of the development process in January, we'll have a professional cast and creative team creating the show. But again, community members, whoever wants to come along is invited in come in and take part in that, see what we're making, how we're making it and have your say in how our story has been told. I think that's so important. And then the actual production itself will have a mixed cast. So there'll be the professional cast supported by a community cast. So we can we put that real local link into it. But yeah, as I say that all those connections that are coming out just from the history talks, and just chatting about it to people, you're just people are going oh, actually my great grandfather, or, actually my cousin has, and things like that. And it's just amazing. It's so exciting. And a really nice that say for John Strickland, who runs the local history groups. And he's he's starting to get new information coming in, because people who haven't previously they did like the history. And now seeing this and going oh, I know something to do with that, which is just fantastic. So I feel like whatever happens with the production, there will still be some legacy with capturing more information that pretty soon will be lost. I love history, particularly like ancient history, and not very interested in modern history. In censuses, like the world wars, I did a lot of that at school, but it was always the ancient history that I enjoyed with the people that you're interested in. And if you can highlight who they are, what was important to them and why it was important. But particularly with this story, the lifeboat crew chose to go out into those conditions and put their lives at risk, and for us to care about that. We need to know what those lights were. So that's why I'm really interested in digging around and finding out about that. But also, I'm looking forward in the sense of having to plan a production, which now is going to be in summer 2023. Now I'm starting to think about the potential for other kind of local history stories, but also, like John said, recording those stories that are now and I think that's a more complicated one. Because when it's so close to timelines of what is happening now that will become history soon. Is it just the in this particular moment in time? I'm thinking about that thing. I kind of operate in the two past and kind of futureMell  9:22  Did you always know there was a story there?Corinne, Curtis  9:25  No, No I barely even knew about the wreck. Really. Just while I was living away, actually, I came back for a visit. My dad mentioned about this wreck. And I thought What are you talking about? So he took me out to see it. So I was just sort of vaguely curious about it. And then say when I started thinking about a large-scale production that could you know, facilitate community performance as well as professional performance, something on an epic scale. So what's the story with the wreck? Then? If you go on the local Facebook pages, you'll see lots of people love taking photos of it. They don't know what it's called, and they don't know where it's coming from or why it's there. How long it's been there. So started looking into it. Oh my god, this is a fantastic story. Why have we not heard about it? Why is it not one of those local legends for everyone knows about? I think some people do, particularly those who are sort of Descendants of say, the Anderson family and things like that, you know, they have had some of those stories loosely handed down, but it's just been in passing by the sounds of it. But people seem to be fascinated, and it's such a great story. And people have so many questions, some of which we're not going to be able to answer. And just because the, the records no longer exist or have mysteriously vanished and things like that there are a few mysteries surrounding this, which is quite intriguing.Mell  10:44  Where was the boat from again? have you found any more about itCorinne, Curtis  10:51  Norway, so far, I did contact the Norwegian maritime authority. Last year, when I started looking into it. I didn't didn't have any response. So we know that it was Norwegian owned, it had a couple of owners prior to that it was French built, and it was bought by a company in Norway. We know that the captain was most likely Norwegian, and it was his dog. As the crew, there is no information that we've been able to find so far. And now the writer is starting her process that she's starting to look into that side, because it's the side we know the least about in terms of the crew, we just don't know the records. From three weeks prior to the wreck don't exist. The records of the resulting investigation into the wreck have gone missing. Interestingly, the captain had a subsequent ship which vanished. I don't know if he was really unlucky, completely inept, or a little bit dodgy. So don't know the movements for the I think about three weeks prior to the wreck. But they know that they were around this area, that theoretically, this group could be from anywhere in the world. Because sailors, you know, you wouldn't move from port to port and particularly that kind of journey that you're going to to and from Norway and America, there's lots of chance to pick up sailors from all over the place, which is really nice for us, because it means we can play with who is in that. And we can hear lots of different voices, rather than just assuming everyone's Norwegian therefore I've got to go to Norway, Norwegian actors, we can have anyone from anywhere, which is wonderful. And going back to the past and present thing. It's really lovely to be able to draw parallels between what was happening in the past. And what's happening now what we think might have happened in the past. Because again, it's a little bit of a soapbox moment. I love period dramas on TV, but I'm very sick of them being whitewashed, and I have various conversations with people go, Oh, you can't just put them in when they weren't there. And when you say to them, black people have been in Britain for centuries, they kind of get a bit flustered. And so I don't want to be perpetuating that idea that all of our history is white, white, white. And this is a fantastic opportunity to have all of those voices that would absolutely have been around at the time, and would really have been in the seafaring community because that was a very multinational community. But also tying that in we now we have so many people of all backgrounds, risking their lives to save people at sea, and to save people at sea no matter what their background is, like the RNLI I've been saying a lot in recent months, you know, our mission is to save lives actually doesn't matter what that life is. If it's at risk, we're saving it. And I think that's absolutely right.Mell  13:43  Would you say that your experiences when going to school in Highbridge area and doing what you've done? Are you aware of other people that were in your year that have gone on to do things,Corinne, Curtis  13:56  and a lot of my friends have moved away and gone off and done other things? Yeah, a huge variety. And actually, I think that's something that does need to be celebrated more is what people have gone off to do. And it's, you know, another way of saying, Look, this is a place to be proud of leaving school and having a load of children. Absolutely fine. But that's not your only option. And you know, you have options, you can have aspiration, whereas I think now they are a lot better at those things are thinking outside the box and actually really encouraging people if they don't know the answer, say, Well, let's find someone who does. I think having more stories from more people who have come from this area and come through that school, saying, Look, this is what I've done. This is an option, I think is so valuable. And it's something that I'm trying to get in there and do you generally go away to make things happen? And but I feel like we're on the cusp of hopefully things happening here. So People can come here to do things. And that's something I've been really keen on is bringing people into Somerset. And also, you know, there has been a mass exodus of creatives from the industry, but also from Somerset, particularly, you know, back in 2012. I think it was, was it 2011? thereabouts. Somerset County Council axed 100% of the arts funding. And so the Arts Council follow suit, essentially, it just really reinforced that creators aren't welcome here. That is very different. Now, there is a lot more creatively happening in Somerset kind of as a reaction to that. But it's been very, very difficult. I want to use this as an opportunity to pull some of those creatives back to Somerset, and to show that we can make that work here.Mell  15:50  So with the Nornen Project is there an online blog, and a place people can keep coming back to me revisiting to find pictures of you on Instagram and Facebook.Corinne, Curtis  15:59  Yes. So we have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for my sins. It really is just social media at the moment. as things progress, I will hopefully be developing a website and things like that, up until relatively recently, it has just been me is the northern project. So there is a lot to it. And it's why I'm doing all the marketing. I'm the casting director and the producer, I'm community outreach. And you know, there are a lot that I've created a bit of a monster. But now the writer, the director, designer, community outreach practitioner, they're on board. So those things will start to hand over to them.Mell  16:43  So people go to Facebook, just putting the Nornen project Yeah,Corinne, Curtis  16:46  N O R N E N project. And that does. And it's the same on Twitter. And Instagram is the same @ Nornen projects on all of them. And we also have an email address, which is Nornenproject@gmail.com. So if anyone has any questions, they're more than welcome to get in touch that way.Mell  17:05  Thank you very much, Corrinne Curtis for your time and everyUnknown Speaker  17:08  successful project. My pleasure, thank you very much.Mell  17:13  So running up towards Christmas, I'd popped along to the Cooper's Arms in Highbridge and met up with some other people that have been working on projects funded by seed Sedgemoor. And I wanted to find out more about the actual organisation. So I spoke with Scott O'Hara, the director of Seed Sedgemoor.Unknown Speaker  17:29  HI, my name is Scott O'Hara,Mell  17:31  the evening that we've just finished. What was the title of that? And what was it all about?Scott O'Hara  17:34  Well, it was kind of a meeting of all of our interested people who've been pushing along creative arts activities in Highbridge over the last 12 months. So that's really two types of people. We have our Sowers and Growers, who are the community members who put their hand up to say, yes, I want to help make Highbridge, a more creative place, and have been involved in setting what the priority is going to be for Highbridge arts projects and helping us choose which ones get commissioned. The other group of people are the artists and organisers who've actually been running these activities over the last 12 months. And the whole purpose of the meeting was to bring them together so they will meet each other. Find out about each other's projects. And very importantly, help us work out how we can bring these projects together and create some kind of hub, creative hub for Highbridge that can carry forward into the future Mell  18:37  So your accent you're not from Somerset area. Scott O'Hara  18:39  No, I'm from Australia originally grew up in Tasmania and live most of my life in Sydney. And I've been living in the area here now for three years and working for seed since January 2020.Mell  18:54  So what is Seed what's so special about Seed?Scott O'Hara  18:57  So Seed is a creative people and places project. There are 31 of those projects funded across the country by the Arts Council England. Seed is the only one presently in the Southwest. And our remit is so small, and we exist to try and provide new opportunities for people in Sedgemoor to engage with arts and creativity and heritage, with a particular interest in focusing on people who don't normally engage with those kinds of things. Now that could be as an audience member, but it could also be as a participant. So our whole way of operating is to try and find out why people don't participate and put on activities they might be interested in and try to remove the barriers that prevent them from participating.Mell  19:52  Your pilot originally started in Highbridge, but you're you're moving out and trying to expand across the Sedgman area.Scott O'Hara  19:58  That's right. It's We're not a big enough team, we don't have enough resources to simultaneously operate across Sedgemoor all at once. But we do do some search more wide projects, like our front garden music festival. And a few months ago, we had a project on buses on Sedgemoor buses that went all over the place. So we still do a fair bit of that. The next areas we're moving to in 2022, Axbridge, Cheddar and the Polden villages. Then in 2023, we'll be bringing our attention to Bridgewater,Mell  20:37  They all sound as though they all have very different needs, because they're all different sizes and different locations.Scott O'Hara  20:42  Absolutely. The way that we work is the first thing we do is try to find community members who will talk to us about their place, what it means to them, what its strengths are, what its identity is, and then also about what's missing, and what they would quite like to do but isn't available in their area, or even things that maybe they've traveled to engage with or enjoyed elsewhere. And then we start to set with them priorities for things that could happen in their local community. And then we put out expressions of interest to artists, to see if they are interested in making those things happen. And then you access funds that are available. Well luckily, as I said, we've got quite solid funding from Arts Council England. We leverage that against some other sources of income. So we have at the moment, a generous annual grant from Sedgemoor District Council. We also have been able to get funding from some parish and town councils as well. Burnham On Sea and Highbridge town council have put money into Seed this year, nearly £20,000, most of which we're actually investing in a public art project on the seafront wall at Burnham and we will soon be launching a public voting process where the three best proposals we've received will be put on exhibition. And the public will be voting to see which one they actually want to see commissioned.Mell  22:19  They're making the art because they're going to decide they want to look atScott O'Hara  22:22  That's it essentially it will be commissioned by the community rather than commissioned by Seed. So we've gone through the consultation process and shortlisting process. And we have teams of community representatives, our Sowers and Growers, members of the council and other people like that. Looking at the long list, to bring it down to the three that we're going to present to the community to make the choice.Mell  22:48  I look forward to seeing how many of these projects happen over the next 12 months, and the growth of Seed across Sedgemoor with all the other projects that are about to happen.Scott O'Hara  22:56  Yeah. It's going to be a very exciting couple of years. And hopefully, we'll be well on the way to our goal of making Sedgemoor a more creative place than it is today.Mell  23:06  Thanks very much Scott.Scott O'Hara  23:07  You're welcome. Good to talk to you.Mell  23:09  Recently, I was invited to be a guest on BBC Somerset and was interviewed by Luke Knight. He wanted to find out more about the Highbridge PodcastLuke Knight  23:18  We're on to the world of podcasts here on connected and we're taking a trip to the town of Highbridge Mell Turford is the host of the Highbridge podcast and joins me now to tell us a little bit more evening to you Mell. How are we?Mell  23:30  Good evening, Luke, nice to hear from you.Luke Knightr  23:31  And you, thank you for being here and talking all things podcasting. Now, it's a fascinating subject area in particular, because it's just very popular, isn't it? Everyone's listening to a podcast these days.Mell  23:43  It's the biggest growing thing on the internet apparently at the present momentLuke Knight  23:47  while you're leaping on that bandwagon fully on you with the the Highbridge podcast and at very rightly so because Highbridge needs to be put on the map if it wasn't already. So how did you start it? And what What made you start it in the first place?Mell  24:03  Well it all came about because an organisation called Seed in Somerset Seed Sedgmoor. They they were looking for people to actually come forward with ideas. And I was one of many people that came forward. They were looking for creative ideas. So I came forward and suggested a podcast and other people did theater things. Some people have done painting, history things and lots of different projects. And I just wanted to sort of tap in and sort of capture the atmosphere of of what Highbridge is what it's about and the history of not only what's gone but the history that's currently being created by these projects and by people that currently live in HighbridgeLuke Knight  24:40  yes because I found now no offense to anyone who lives in Burnham but I feel like Burnham steals Highbridges thunder a little bit at times because we've got Burnham and Highbridge weekly news we've got Burnham Highbridge railway station so I mean Highbridge needs to sort of get on the map a little bit more as an independent doesn't it?Mell  24:56  Absolutely. And and that's one of the reasons for doing the podcast. And why the organisation actually wants you to sort of fund lots of projects to promote Highbridge in particularly. So we're very proud to be connected with Burnham on sea, but we've got our own history as well. And this, there's areas where the history actually laps over in both areas. So a lot of people are very keen to sort of promote what Highbridge had to offer and what it still has to offer.Luke Knight  25:20  So talk to me about a typical podcast, then what would you sort of delve into? Or is it a different thing each week? What sort of things do you have?Mell  25:28  I try and try and out for different themes at different times. So I'm, I tend to be led by what what I get as feedback from the people of Highbridge. So if I'm looking for something that may be is to do with the church so that the first one I did was to do with them Blues in the Pews project, which was a music project, fantastic event, once a month. And I just thought, What a great idea blues in the pews. So I thought, well, that's in the Highbridge. And that's the sort of place that you wouldn't expect to have such an event. So that's one episode. Another episode will be about the Nornen project, which is all about the shipwreck that happened down on the Burnham coast. So we do sort of go over to Burnham side, but a lot of the events all connected with with the families that lived in in around that area.Luke Knight  26:12  Excellent. Well, we'll look out for that. Now, you are partnered up with a local group called Seed, Somerset, aren't you tell us about that partnership?Mell  26:20  Yes. See, this is the Southwest creative people in places project for Sedgemoor. And what they're basically about is that everybody has the right and ability to be creative. And they're just there to try and make that happen. So they're looking all the time for people who've got projects that they want to reach out to the community. And they sort of then source somewhere of getting some money to get off the ground, basically, and make it work. So they're looking for sort of their, their the bridges you so to speak, they sort of make it happen. I'm just the podcast side of things. There's lots of other things going on the theater productions. There's, there's lots of art projects, there's history things. There's just a lot going on in Highbridge at the moment and you just need to be like sort of around the area and you'll on the Facebook pages, and you'll see that there's things happening to Highbridge, that has never happened before. It's it's great. It's just great to see it here.Luke Knight  27:10  Yeah, absolutely. But I mean, it's one thing, knowing that there's a lot to go on a lot going on in Highbridge. But it's also another thing, getting people to talk about those things, and you got lots of friendly people to talk to and get involved with the podcast.Mell  27:21  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the people I speak to most people is, as you've probably find on the radio that I've done, nobody really wants to listen to what I've got to say. And it's just like, it's they do, you're a real person, and you have real experience. And my angle is just I don't care whether you've lived there for sort of just a couple of months or a couple of years or whether you've lived there all your life. You've got an experience and a view of what you like about Highbridge. So that's that's what I tried to celebrate.Luke Knight  27:46  That's funny, isn't it? Yeah, we get that a lot here at BBC Radio, Somerset as well, when we call up people and just say, can you talk to us about this? And they say, you don't want to talk about that. Do you? Really? Are you interested in it? Yes. It's a story. It's not obviously it's nothing to them, really, because that's what they're involved in. But to us, it's a really interesting story. So you must get that all the time.Mell  28:04  Yes. I mean, I try and take the angle of, I've got a real passion for genealogy. But my angle is not necessarily about just looking into the past. It's about creating the history of today. So what we what we're doing today is going to be history in the future. So I look on using podcasts as a way of capturing those pieces of history that the future generations can actually listen to these people talking about and not just read about it in a book. That's why I love radio. And broadcasting generally, is is just a great way of reaching people. Sort of spiritually, almost, because it's it's real voices real people. You're not distracted. You're just listening to a voice.Luke Knight  28:41  That's that's what it's all about, isn't it? And how big a following Have you got? Have you got a lot of people listening?Mell  28:47  What at the present moment, I only launched it at the beginning of last month, so I'm not sure we're just about 100 at the moment. Crikey. I'm really quite pleased considering that. Like, it's not like I've got a massive TV campaign behind me or anything. So I'm just thrown if I can build on that each month, I'll I'll be very happy.Luke Knight  29:03  Excellent. Well, it sounds like you're doing a great job Mell. Thank you very much for coming on the program. If people want to explore this podcast, if they want to listen, how many episodes have you done so far? Well, where can people find it?Mell  29:15  Yep, there's one episode up there. At the moment, there'll be another one going up for the next seven days. You can find it at Highbridge podcast.transistor.fm. Or you can go to Sedgemoor media.com. And you'll find the button on there. Or you can just find this on Facebook or Instagram or even YouTube. Just put in the Highbridge podcast and you'll find that I've put the audio up there as well.Luke Knight  29:37  Excellent, simple as that. Mell, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming on the program talking about the Highbridge podcast and actually I don't say this very often. Thank you for having such a crystal clear line. It has been wonderful talking to you. I can tell you deal in broadcasting, radio and podcasts because you've got your own proper microphone and everything has been a glorious experience talking to someone in such crystal clear qualityMell  30:00  Thank you very much, Luke.Luke Knight  30:01  All the best for 2022 and have a lovely Christmas. Mell,