Tomorrow, the Southsea Skiffle Orchestra is involved in an event in the Portsmouth Festivities programme (11.30 at the City Library).

In it, we’ll be looking back at the days when skiffle was big BIG BIG in this country and where it’s come to now. In the UK it started in the early 1950s but the first major year was 1956 when in January, Lonnie Donegan’s “Rock Island Line” first entered the charts. It was however, the following year, 1957 when skiffle became ‘mainstream’ with the launch of BBC TV’s Six Five Special (February), the Light Programme’s Saturday Skiffle Club (June) and chart hits for “Freight Train”, Johnny Duncan, the Vipers etc (and more Lonnie of course).

We seem to have come a long way musically over those sixty years but from an entirely different context a thought struck me last night. 1957 (March) was also the year in which a number of European countries (not the UK) signed the Treat of Rome. And by a somewhat complicated route that brings us directly to the European Union, and Thursday’s Referendum which I think is probably the most significant political event in the lifetimes of all of us from/in the UK who were born since the end of the Second World War.

I happen to be something of a political animal. I’m not by any measure an ‘activist’, but I do belong to a political party and I’ve known for a long time which way I will vote on Thursday. I think the result will be momentous, whichever way it goes. but I suspect too that it will be so close that the aftermath might be thoroughly unpleasant.

This is not in any sense a political Blog so you’ll get nothing to me about what or why I think and believe or how I will vote on Thursday. You can guess if you like but I’m not telling. But I do have one view of the whole process – and I held it even before last Thursday’s terrible tragedy – which sums up how I feel about it and why I think that maybe since the days of skiffle this country has become in some respects a less pleasant place. The words are not mine, they come from novelist Robert Harris (born almost exactly as the first Treaty was being signed) but they put it very well:

“How foul this referendum is. The most depressing, divisive, duplicitous political event of my lifetime. May there never be another.”


Author: pompeypop

University lecturer, longtime local musician and recently historian of popular music - especially in and around Portsmouth. My blog is entirely about that topic

10 thoughts on “Skifflin’

  1. Here’s a bit more – from the former French goalkeeper Albert Camus: Democracy is “the system that relies on the wisdom of people who know that they don’t know everything”

  2. No need to worry Dave!
    Ladbrokes odds-Remain 2/5
    Leave. 15/8
    So we are staying
    The bookies don’t get it wrong!

  3. I must have strayed onto the wrong website !! I was under the impression that this was a POP blog and not a political forum. I really think that we’ve had enough referendum debate ( and lies) in the mainstream media without it straying onto the more lighthearted avenues.

  4. I’ve never claimed any part of Pompey Pop was “lighthearted”. It might have lighthearted moments but it’s about living culture – the culture formed and shaped by ordinary people in a context that is almost entirely economic and therefore political. I don’t mean by that merely party politics either which I have always avoided on here. The Blog is merely one part of the whole Pompey Pop project but I haven’t devoted thousands of pounds and enormous swathes of my time over the past seven years to the Blog, Website, Publications, Lectures, the Skiffle Orchestra etc merely to be “lighthearted”. If that was never clear, my apologies.

  5. I probably chose the wrong word in ‘lighthearted’ but feel that the references to politics should be in the context of events in the past, ie. the way popular culture has been affected, and has affected, by political attitudes decisions. Talk of the forthcoming referendum is about trying to forecast the future. Maybe after Thursday it will have more relevance!!
    I do apologise if I offended you and I certainly appreciate all the hard work that you’ve put into the various projects.

  6. Cheers Oscar – no worries. Maybe there’s too much noise in my head right now. I guess what I’d say – and should have said perhaps – is this. Skiffle was one manifestation of a whole network of cross-cultural developments in popular (of the people) culture post war in the UK. You and I revelled in another example mid-60s. I’m interested that the European Union at least began alongside that at the same time as a way of connecting and enriching different cultures.

    Now whether it has worked, whether it is good or bad is a complex question and as you suggest, not for this Blog which is why I said nothing and will say nothing about my views or how I will vote. But the thing I regret and fear more than anything else is that all this cultural sharing has somehow led us to a state where we seem driven more and more towards fear, hatred, lies, vilification, accusation etc. And in case anyone’s in doubt here I’m not picking on any one side. It’s about how we choose to connect – or not – with other people. In the end I’m nothing but an old hippie – Love is all you need, but you do have to work at it. So peace and love mate!

  7. As a fellow old hippie I must have one last rant ! The council intend to close the art lodge in Victoria Park. They want to turn it into a ‘facility for the elderly’ . I take exception to the assumption that when one gets to a certain age one can’t enjoy and appreciate the arts.
    I attended the Square Roots gig at the Square Tower last night. As usual, it was fantastic and the point is that the majority of the audience could officially be classed as ‘elderly’ – in age, not mind ! When I go to the Pallant House Gallery most of the other visitors are ‘of a certain age’ !!

  8. Rant on mate! Sad story. Am I surprised to hear it?

  9. Sorry for any lightheartedness ,this from the opening paragraph of a leader in Sun Times.
    Every few years in a general election,Britain gets the chance to throw the rascals out. On Thursday it will get the chance to throw itself out, whilst leaving the rascals in.
    PS. When you think that the followers of this blog are ,or have been exactly what Britains best part time band is all about,it’s surprising that it’s not cropped up before.What an example it has set. No prizes , no dodgy Simon Cowell contracts, just the sheer joy of making music.

  10. from the little book of ‘what we did next’ from 1966…………………No politics involved I believe…(except perhaps where we would stop for refreshments) Soul Society at Thorngate……..New Spot……………..11th
    Leigh Park community centre……….12th
    H M S Dryad……………………………….16th
    Parlour ?…………………………………….17th
    Steering Wheel Weymouth…………..18th
    ” ” Dorchester…………..19th
    Broomfield y/c …………………………..24th
    Indigo Vat……………………………………25th
    Phew , ‘what we did when we was young’ more like it !!!!!!! This was followed on the 28th,by a day of college exams………..I bet I didn’t enjoy that as much as the gigs…….more chance of political awareness on exam day methinks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s