This post shows, that sometimes, everything falls into place for dreams to come true. Music has always been a big part of my family’s life, as I mentioned when writing about C2C Fest. Radio 2 was the soundtrack of my childhood. The radio was on far more in our house than the tele. We listened to it in the morning, Mum had it on all day so days off school meant I’d hear it all day time too, and then after watching some TV after school, the radio was put back on whilst we had dinner and more often than not stayed on in the evening too. When I was up in my room, I often had local radio or Radio 1 on instead.
That coupled to listening to various albums in the car and the good old days of downloading tracks off Limewire as a teenager, meant I listened to music a) all the time and b) from quite a lot of genres. Rock music was definitely a big part of my teenage years, but so was folk music. Mum and Dad are big folk fans and therefore the Radio 2 Folk Show was left on in the evening most weeks. Mike Harding’s dulcet tones introduced me to a wide range of artists. I got really into folk music for a few years between around 2008 and 2014 and have kept up with some of my favourites ever since (need to pay more attention now!) and one of my very favourite artists that pulled me in, in 2008 was Seth Lakeman.
From a family of musicians, his Dad Geoff has been a folk musician for decades and both his brothers, Sam and Sean are folk musicians too (both are also married to musicians!), Seth Lakeman has been releasing albums as part of ‘The Lakeman Brothers’ since 1994 and released his first solo album in 2002. It was his release in 2008 that hooked me in, titled ‘Poor Man’s Heaven’ and one of the lead songs from it was ‘Crimson Dawn’.
It was at this point that I started to dream. The video for ‘Crimson Dawn’ is set at The Minack Theatre in Cornwall. I’d never heard of the theatre until this point (I was 16) and I knew from that point onwards that I wanted to see him perform at the spectacular open air theatre on the cliffs of the Cornish coast. A lot of his music is inspired by the coast, Lakeman grew up on Dartmoor, not a million miles from the South Devon Coast, and many traditional songs have come from songs and folklore based on our Island and Naval heritage as a country. It would be the perfect setting for music that always makes me think of our wonderful coastline and countryside.
Somehow, the stars aligned and earlier this year, I saw a post on Facebook advertising the dates that Seth Lakeman had recently announced and there on the list, when we had already planned to be in Cornwall, was a date at the Minack. I couldn’t believe my luck! We booked tickets the day they were released and even when it at one point looked like we may not have been able to go on holiday for the full time, I was making damn sure we’d be there for at least a couple of days. After a dramatic 24 hours previously, as our tent broke in the overnight storms, the stormy weather cleared ready for the concert.
We raided the local outdoor pursuits shop for some gloves thanks to a tip off to take extra layers from a retail worker in Penzance and headed down to the tiny village of Porthcurno to grab some food at the pub there beforehand. Although a bit chilly, the skies were mostly clear and we were treated with the most beautiful sunset over the sea as we took in the most stunning concert setting I’ve ever had.
The stepped seating is cut into the cliff and isn’t dissimilar in it’s appearance to the theatres of ancient Greece and Rome. The theatre has seat pads to hire if you don’t have your own and I highly advise doing so, although most of the stepped seating has a covering of grass, quite a few are bare rock so get chilly! The theatre is open to visit during the day just to and often people who are on holiday will buy tickets to whichever show takes their fancy whilst they’re there, just to experience this incredible setting.
The iconic theatre has hosted all sorts of performances over the years, I’m not massively into Shakespeare, but I would absolutely love to see one of his plays there as the setting would just be magical!
The first act of the night was a local man from Cornwall called Joe Francis. He often performs under the stage name Winter Mountain and is an indie/folk/rock performer. He was fabulous! A really talented man who seemed strangely familiar, but neither my husband or I could think why. We put it down to him looking a bit like a friend of ours and didn’t think much more of it. Turns out, we found out over dinner with my cousins the following evening, he was familiar because we’d seen him before! He’d been an usher at their wedding and had been the person we’d seen performing in the church! I know Cornwall is small but c’mon! Anyway, weird ‘6 degrees of separation’ link aside, he was fantastic and we really liked him. Will definitely look out for more of his dates in the future.
We didn’t realise there were two support acts until this point so it was a lovely surprise to find that the next act was none other than Geoff Lakeman! He had the audience hooked from the word go with his incredibly witty stage presence and cup of tea! It was an absolute treat to see him perform and he just oozed talent. His little stories between songs were brilliantly funny and it was wonderful to hear him talk about all his sons and how proud he was of them of all they have achieved in the folk music world and beyond (Seth Lakeman was recently on tour with none-other than Robert Plant!). You could tell that his home was on the stage as he performed so naturally. It’s also telling that he’s been a performing musician for so long, but only recorded his debut album in 2017. And very good it is too!
It was then time for the main event and I will happily admit I cried with joy on more than one occasion. He played so many of the songs that had been soundtracks to my late teens/early 20s and although this wasn’t the first time I’d seen him, it was just as magical as that very first time (all but a few days from 10 years ago at Buxton Opera House, 17th May 2009) . The setting combined with his incredible multi-instrumental talent and captivating vocals just created an atmosphere that I cannot even put into words. It was definitely worth the 11 years I had waited for this.
He played ‘Crimson Dawn’ which was the reason I was here in the first place and other favorites such as ‘The Hurlers’, ‘Kitty Jay’, ‘The Colliers’, ‘Farewell My Love’ and ‘King and Country’ amongst many others including ‘Bright Smile’ and ‘The Educated Man’ from his most recent album.
There were some really pivotal moments in the performance though which made the show even more memorable. Quite early on in the set Seth Lakeman performed a cover of a particularly noteworthy song. Now, I need to give a bit of context here so bear with me. In 2014, Radio 2 and the Royal Albert Hall put on a performance on the 6th June to commemorate 70 years since the D-Day landing. This was broadcast in cinemas and my Mum and I went to see it. It was an incredible show of both music and speech. Not only did Seth Lakeman, Beverly Knight and Katherine Jenkins perform, Patrick Stewart led a group of actors in a series of narrations in the role of Churchill, with other actors reading letters, diary entries and recordings by soldiers, wives and sweethearts, other politicians etc. It was really moving and a brilliant show but the most moving moment was when a man called Jim Radford took to the stage. He is the youngest known participant in the D-Day landings, having lied about his age and joined the Navy. He was a galley boy on a Deep Sea Tug as part of the operation. Jim had written a song about his experience of D-Day and performed it live for the first time ever in this concert. ‘The Shores of Normandy’ is a beautiful, beautiful song and it’s amazing that it was performed by him. It was a truly magical moment and is the stand. You can see more about the show and the original performance here.
Only a month before the 75th Commemoration events would be taking place, Seth, who had performed King and Country at the show in 2014 (written about his own Grandfather’s wartime experiences) performed ‘The Shores of Normandy’ here and really did it justice. It made for a lovely addition to the show.
Although lots of songs that Seth sings are set in the West Country, one of his most heart-wrenching West Country songs is Solomon Browne. It is also particularly poignant as it is set only a few miles round the coast from the Minack in Mousehole. On 19th December 1981, a distress call from the ship Union Star came into the Penlee Lifeboat Station and the Solomon Browne and her 8 crew were launched to try and aid them. Unfortunately, after managing to rescue 4 of the 8 members of Union Star crew, the storm worsened and all 16 people and both boats were lost. This tragic tale is told beautifully by Lakeman and the song is probably my very favourite of his. It highlights the perils of the sea and is a wonderful tribute to the 16 people who lost their life and to the tireless work of the RNLI on Britian’s waterways.
Another incredible moment of the show was towards the end, when Cape Clear was played. This hauntingly beautiful instrumental was perfect against the backdrop of the sea. By this time, the sun had fully set and you could hear the waves crashing in the dark on the rocks below. I sat there silently weeping at the beauty of it all, it was so moving.
After playing what seemed like every one of his songs, the set finally came to an end. Not without an encore though.
Joe Francis came back to the stage for the first song, but it was the final song that wrapped up the most incredible night wonderfully. Geoff Lakeman also came out again and after having the audience in fits as he made sure his tea was safe and then slowly stripped off his hat, scarf and jacket the three of them performed the brilliant ‘The Last Rider’ with Geoff playing the spoons! He played them very well I might add and the song ended the most wonderful show. I will treasure these memories forever and will never forget what a wonderful time we had.
We headed back up to the car quite tired, a bit chilly but so very, very happy.
Unfortunately, I can’t upload video direct into posts (I don’t pay WordPress enough money!) but I recently posted a little throwback to the day on my Facebook page so you can see more photos and some videos here.