Cream Tees Around the Maypole
Press Release, 7 June 2013
On Monday, 6th May the village of Ovington turned out for its famous maypole celebration. This joyous event was accompanied with live music from youth folk band Cream Tees who were invited along to play for the dancers by a local resident whose son, Ross Dick, is a fiddler in the band. He said, “I was quite proud to play in front of a home crowd but to begin with I was a bit embarrassed and very nervous.”
This event also marked a special milestone for Cream Tees because it was the band’s first chance to wear their new T-shirts which they had printed with the help of textile designer Catherine Howard – and the performance was only their second public appearance. Moreover, another of the band’s fiddle players, Milly Diment, had never performed outside before; she remarked, “It’s very different playing outside because the acoustics sound very different and the sun was in my eyes—I wish I’d thought to bring a pair of sunglasses! But it was really good fun too and great to experience playing in different conditions.”
Cream Tees were formed as part of the Music at the Heart of Teesdale (M@HoT) project. With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this local initiative is working with young musicians aged 11–18 from the area to revive Teesdale’s folk music traditions. Coordinated by Neil Diment, they run a fun series of workshops in and around Barnard Castle which focus on developing the musical skills and talents of the children as well as learning about traditional folk music from Teesdale and the surrounding area.
The project is an integral part of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership project, which is encouraging people to rediscover and help conserve the visual, cultural and historical features of this beautiful area. The idea behind M@HoT is to truly connect the folk music with the landscape itself, with the intention of creating a new piece of music inspired by the landscape which can be performed and recorded on a CD, along with other tunes from the area. One way of facilitating this is by going on residential weekends and in June last year the young musicians stayed at Langdon Beck youth hostel to immerse themselves in the Teesdale countryside. It was here that they also came to the important decision of what they were going to call their band. Whilst “Folkal Warriors” and “Rolling in the Sheep” came in a close second, it was Cream Tees that won through as the name for their band.
The group also celebrated their first birthday at The Hub, a new purpose-built eco youth and community centre on the edge of the old market town, just before Christmas with a rousing ceilidh in front of an audience of over a hundred. They were joined on stage by Captain Mike and the BUMS (Bowes Ukulele Minors Section). “Capt Mike” is M@HoT’s own Mike Bettison who is directing the project’s research into the history of Teesdale folk music, with the aim of putting together an archive that can be made available for everyone to access.
The motley band is expertly tutored by fiddler Hinny Pawsey, a graduate of Newcastle University’s Folk and Traditional Music degree along with help from two current 3rd year students from the same course, Alex Cumming and Izzy Burns. Alex is also helping to run workshops on a traditional Yorkshire folk dance known as Longsword dancing, which involves a play and six dancers with swords making intricate patterns. To meet modern health and safety requirements, the children have to dance with wooden swords these days though!
For the future it’s hoped that they will be able to perform at more gigs like this as they gain in confidence. Over time, Neil is hoping that as the young musicians gain in confidence they will also gain a deeper respect for the traditional folk music from this Teesdale area and inspire others to value our cultural heritage as well.