Heritage project celebrates history, folklore and songs of the Sussex coast

Secret Shore singers at Littlehampton Town Hall, recording their songs

Secret Shore singers at Littlehampton Town Hall, recording their songs

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The South Downs Society is celebrating the culmination of a two-year project looking into the history, folklore, and songs of the Sussex and Hampshire coast with the launch of a booklet and CD.

‘South Coast Songs and Shanties’ explores the fascinating musical world of the harbour and port towns of Sussex and Hampshire in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Secret Shore singers in the garden of the Beechwood Hall Hotel, Worthing

Secret Shore singers in the garden of the Beechwood Hall Hotel, Worthing

The booklet contains the lyrics of these songs and also the real historical events that caused them to be written.

Learn about the loss of 11 fisherman off Worthing in 1850, the rumbustious times of Littlehampton’s ‘collier lads,’ and the true story behind the famous folk anthem, ‘Brighton Camp.’

Included with the booklet is a CD of 60 south coast singers all giving harmonious voice to these salty songs of the sea.

The singers were all part of the South Downs Society’s Secret Shore Project which has being celebrating the songs and folklore of the south coast with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

South Coast Songs & Shanties CD cover

South Coast Songs & Shanties CD cover

All the songs on the CD are real songs that would have been sung by everyday people of the past, now brought to life again by south coast singers of the 21st century.

The South Downs Society’s Secret Shore singers are holding a concert at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham next Saturday (October 1) to mark the launch of the new booklet and CD.

The event, which is part of Shoreham Wordfest, starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £8.50.

In 1868, the pioneering folklorist Charlotte Latham collected nearly 200 superstitions and traditions she found ‘lingering’ in rural and coastal Sussex.

Emily Longhurst conducts Secret Shore singers at the recording day at Littlehampton Town Hall on April 23

Emily Longhurst conducts Secret Shore singers at the recording day at Littlehampton Town Hall on April 23

Last year, volunteers from the South Downs Society’s Secret Shore Project interviewed people living in the county to see if any of these beliefs still exist today or whether new superstitions have arisen in place of the old.

Historian and project manager Chris Hare will discuss what the team discovered in a talk on Sussex Folklore on Wednesday, October 5, at the Ropetackle Arts Centre.

The talk starts at 7pm and tickets are £5.

For more information about Shoreham Wordfest, which runs from October 1 to 9, visit www.shorehamwordfest.com

Steve Darken prepares to lead the singers in a rendition of Roll, Alabama Roll

Steve Darken prepares to lead the singers in a rendition of Roll, Alabama Roll

To find out more about the Secret Shore Project, visit www.secretshore.org.uk or find them on Facebook.

• All photos by Steve Speller

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Secret Shore singers in the garden of the Beechwood Hall Hotel, Worthing

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Secret Shore songs teacher Emily Longhurst conducts the singers at Littlehampton Town Hall

Secret Shore songs teacher Emily Longhurst conducts the singers at Littlehampton Town Hall

Secret Shore singers in the garden of the Beechwood Hall Hotel, Worthing

Secret Shore singers in the garden of the Beechwood Hall Hotel, Worthing

Singers practising at Littlehampton Town Hall

Singers practising at Littlehampton Town Hall

Secret Shore sound recordist Adrian Revill oversees the recording of the songs at Littlehampton Town Hall

Secret Shore sound recordist Adrian Revill oversees the recording of the songs at Littlehampton Town Hall

Jonny Mott leads the singers in performing the shanty, Leave her Johnny, Leave her

Jonny Mott leads the singers in performing the shanty, Leave her Johnny, Leave her