This coming Thursday 23rd April you can hear a new programme on BBC Radio 4 called Shipping Songs. The programme features award-winning folk music artist Lisa Knapp. On Lisa’s latest album Hidden Seam, a featured album on Folk Radio UK (see our review), one of the most memorable tracks was her Shipping Song which used the arcane shipping forecast as the template for one of the most original and astonishing songs of the sea you could wish for.
On this programme Lisa takes her love takes her love for the Shipping Forecast further with a musical and poetic voyage through the watery regions and examines the appeal it holds for land-bound musicians, poets and writers. It has inspired many through the ages since its first broadcast in the 1920s including author Charlie Connelly who has fond memories listening to it at home – a cosily reassuring experience. There’s no danger of a westerly gale eight, veering southwesterly increasing nine later (visibility poor) gusting through your average suburban living room, blowing the Sunday papers all over the place and startling the cat. Irish poet Seamus Heaney was also inspired and wrote Shipping Forecast which was quite possibly the work that inspired Lisa:
Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea:
Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice,
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal-road, keel-road, whale-road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L’Etoile, Le Guillemot, La Belle Hélène
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, ‘A haven,’
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes.
In the programme Lisa reflects on her own fondness for the forecast for which, in reality, she has no need, but which has ignited her imagination and taken her off to distant mythical lands. She hears from fellow musicians and writers who have been influenced by the Shipping Forecast and finds out how this regular informational broadcast captured their imaginations.
Poet Sean Street, songwriter Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and composer Cecilia McDowall are among those to share their thoughts on the forecast’s appeal.
Thursday 23 April 2015 at 11:30am
BBC Radio 4