The Young’uns present: The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

Wed 21st March, 2018
8:00 pm - 10:30 pm (Doors: 7:30pm)
The Young’uns present: The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff

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Tagged in: Folk

The Young’uns have been nominated for two BBC Folk Awards!

1. Nomination for Best Album for ‘Strangers

The Best Album Nomination also goes to a public vote, see here…

2. Nomination for Best Song for ‘Be The Man’

Nomination News…

Twice BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners the Young’uns present a timely tale of a boy who walked out of poverty, a teenager who stood up to racism, a soldier who fought fascism and an old man who inspired a new generation.

“In 2015 a man arrived at one of our concerts with a picture of his late father and a story. His father’s name was Johnny Longstaff and what a story he had to tell. As a teenager Johnny walked 230 miles from our home town of Stockton On Tees to London in search of work and from then on bore witness to some of the most defining moments of the tumultuous 1930s including the Battle of Cable Street and the Spanish Civil War. Exploring Johnny’s story through his own spoken words with the recordings he made for the Imperial War Museum and having access to his never before published memoirs and his personal book and photo archive has been a labour of love for us. Three years later we have created a 90 minute show in which 16 original songs interweave with Johnny’s own voice against a backdrop of startling visuals to tell an incredible story. It’s not a story that glorifies conflict or imposes political views – it’s a story that oozes humanity, humour and fellowship.”

In the summer of 1939 as war clouds loomed over Europe, a 19 year old lad from Teesside went to the House of Commons to meet his local MP. He had just returned from fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War (to do so was illegal because of Britain’s policy of non intervention). Hearing footsteps coming down the corridor he turned to see the figure of Winston Churchill approaching. The lad’s MP took the opportunity of introducing him. Churchill looked the teenage soldier up and down, took his cigar out of his mouth, and said ‘Would young men like you be prepared to fight against Hitler?’ The lad took a deep breath before he answered. ‘Mr Churchill,’ he said, ‘I’ve been fighting Hitler all of my life.’ His name was Johnny Longstaff.

This is the story of his life from the day it began in abject poverty in Stockton On Tees in 1919 to that chance meeting with Churchill in 1939. 16 original songs will interweave with the late Johnny’s own recorded voice to tell a remarkable story of one man’s impulse to react to injustice wherever and whenever he saw it. It’s a story of great humanity but also great humour as a teenager stumbles his way innocently through the tumultuous landscapes of the 1930s – from Teesside to London then onto Paris and eventually across the Pyrenees even though he didn’t even know where Spain was.

“The harmonies are glorious, the wit is waspish. The songs are powerful, the banter is relentless and the audience is happy. What’s not to like?” ★★★★★ The Guardian

“Exceptional songwriting – an album to match their formidable live reputation” ★★★★ MOJO

“Joyous folk music sung with stirring urgency – and when the humour crackles these songs skyrocket” ★★★★ The Guardian

“This Teesside trio have captured hearts- and awards – with a magic combination of lusty singing, memorable tunes and heart-on-sleeve songwriting. They are modern day troubadours of working people – it’s a role they play with absolute commitment and huge skill” ★★★★ Songlines

“This collection surely marks Sean Cooney’s arrival as one of the very best songwriters of the modern day – you can’t imagine a Best Original Song award list that doesn’t include Be The Man or Dark Water” – fRoots

“Hugely captivating – a brilliant folk act” – Stuart Maconie BBC 6 Music

“They are truly beloved on the folk scene. The whole album is moving and topical” – Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radios 2 & 6