Newcastle’s folk maverick Richard Dawson has shared a new music video for The Felon’s Song (our Song of the Day) from his recent project with artist Matt Stokes – This Liberty, a cinematic and audio installation inspired by the oldest purpose-built prison in England, Hexham Old Gaol.
Drawing from traditional border ballads, which were typically sung unaccompanied and used to tell stories, This Liberty is a set of five songs, each telling the story of a different character associated with the gaol.
‘The Felon’s Song’ was filmed in HMP Durham. The project was commissioned for Hexham Old Gaol as part of part of Meeting Point2 led by Arts & Heritage, funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund.
Dawson says of ‘The Felon’s Song’:
“I wrote five songs for Matt Stokes’ film ‘This Liberty’, all of which were based on and around the lives of people who inhabited Hexham Gaol (Britain’s first purpose-built jail) between the 13-1600’s. This song is about a common prisoner (If you had money in those times you could buy yourself a much more comfortable stay, even pay someone else to do your time!). In this case a lad of twelve or thirteen is jailed for stealing some eggs. He has a torrid time in the dungeon. But there are at least some shafts of light shining down on him there. Many people in a similar predicament would have had a much worse time. Think of the squalor, disease, violence, abuse and fear a poor prisoner in those times endured. It must have been awful. The song we present to you now is terrible in parts but ultimately hopeful…… I hope.”
Musically, it’s been a fantastic year for Dawson whose latest album, Peasant, was met with wide critical acclaim. In his review of the album on Folk Radio UK, Thomas Blake declared it “a breathtaking conclusion to a genuinely outstanding and astounding work of art.”
Richard Dawson Live Dates
November 22nd | Whelan’s | Dublin, Ireland
November 23rd | Black Box | Belfast, UK
December 18th | Arts Centre | Norwich, UK
December 19th | Band On The Wall | Manchester, UK
December 20th | Islington Assembly Hall | London, UK