Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Swann songs on Devon history

A cross-post relating to an e-mail received via one of my other hats, as site maintainer for the Devon History Society:

inner artwork for How Does Your Land Lie?
The South Devon based songwriter Nicky Swann sent me an e-mail about the award nomination of her song Because of You, inspired  by the life of the Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham. I recognised his name through a general interest in Victoriana and Edwardiana; he designed classic venues including the  Hackney Empire, the London Coliseum, the London Palladium, and the Victoria Palace. I didn't know, however, that he was born in Newton Abbot.

Because of You is just one of the songs on Nicky Swann's second album How Does Your Land Lie? to draw on themes from Devon history, particularly relating to her home town of Newton Abbot.

The Album Lyrics & History page at her site describes the historical inspirations for the songs, which lead in a lot of interesting directions. They include the role of Devon sailors in the Newfoundland cod fishing industry; the life of Frank Matcham, born in 1854 in Newton Abbot; the salvage diver John Lethbridge, born in Newton Abbot in 1675; the tragic story of the suicide Kitty Jay; the rope in the Newton Abbot Museum collection, made in the 1920s from the hair of Maude Albrighten; the work of John William Ley, campaigner for workhouse reform (the lyrics to this song, Union Babies, are adapted from a poem he read as part of a 1905-6 paper The Boarding-Out of Pauper Children); the Luftwaffe attack on Newton Abbot Railway Station on 20th August 1940; the late artist David Stuttard; the story of Thomas Campion and his hanging as alleged ringleader of the Ilsington Bread Riots of 1795; Newton Abbot's horse racing history; and a celebration of the traditional malthouse Tucker's Maltings.

An acoustic singer-songwriter, Nicky Swann won the Best Acoustic Act category of the South West Music Awards 2011. See for more information and track samples. The song Because of You is excellent - you can hear it on SoundCloud) - and has been nominated Best Original Song in the 2013 Spiral Earth Awards: visit here if you'd like to vote for it.

- Ray

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