Sea Shanty Crew: Social Singing Opportunity in Newhaven

Catherine Lonie who set up the Creative Writing classes that started in April 2024 shares with us about an interesting social opportunity, which takes place at the same venue of the writing classes: 

“I am a PwP living in north Edinburgh. Searching for activities locally that would suit me and do not require 4 bus journeys, I found a ‘Sea shanty crew’ who meet every Wednesday afternoon at 1pm in the Heart of Newhaven Community Hub (4-6 Main Street, Newhaven, Edinburgh EH6 4HY).

The sessions are organised by Jan Brown, an enthusiastic and experienced shanty singer who is very welcoming. Sea shanties are ancient work songs sung aboard boats; I include all seagoing vessels apart from Naval vessels here. On sailing ships, shanties coordinated labour such as several men pulling on a rope in unison to raise a sail or move a windlass lever to manoeuvre a heavy weight. Sea shanties tell human stories and Jan provided brief histories for some of them.

Hanging Johnny’ a popular shanty is not as grisly as its title suggests, it describes how the youngest crew member was sent up the main masts of sailing ships to gather in ropes. That job done, he then leaped off the mast to add his weight to the other sailors hauling the sail up, hence Hanging Johnny.
Health and Safety authorities would not approve. On reflection the shanty trivialises Johnny’s task somewhat, as the poor laddies had to catch the ropes regardless of wind and weather. But it’s a lively shanty with a humorous ending.

Work songs are universal. Hebridean weavers traditionally women, had waulking songs as they worked an ancient method of hand-finishing newly woven tweed to thicken, soften, and make it waterproof.  Work songs operate on call and response principles which David Bowie adopted for his song, ‘Can you hear me?’ which also makes them easier for songsters like me who are less than pitch perfect. Even the frog in my throat hopped away some time ago.

Sea shanties developed as a genre in mid-19th century when shipping companies were trying to deliver more cargo with fewer sailors. Born of hardship, the songs relate human experience of home, love and loss.

Shanties are on trend again thanks to social media, and Jan Brown’s shanty crew provide the same health benefits as singing in regular choirs. As a bonus, your street cred with the younger members of the family will escalate. The venue is very close to a tram stop and the modern Anchor building in the old school playground, is fully accessible.

See you there”.

The image shows a Facebook post in which the venue confirm in May 2024 that the Dreadnought Shanty Crew were looking for new members.

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