Free sea shanties workshops launched

Project manager Chris Hare, front, with the sea shanties students
Project manager Chris Hare, front, with the sea shanties students

A NEW generation of singers are learning the shanties and sea songs sung on the Sussex coast 200 years ago.

Students have been learning these rousing anthems as of part of the Secret Shore project run by the South Downs Society, a small charity which aims to conserve the landscape and runs a quarterly walks and events programme.

Free workshops, where people can learn and sing sea shanties, are being offered in Shoreham and Littlehampton, starting this September.

Chris Hare, Secret Shore project manager, said: “It has been really great to sing with a group of young people in their late teens and early 20s.

“These shanties would have been sung by young men who worked the tall masted vessels that plied their trade at Sussex ports and harbours in the 19th century.

“Hearing these old work songs sung with youthful vigour, the way they should be sung, is an exciting experience. We hope that younger people living in Sussex will be keen to join the workshops and feel the power of the songs.”

Chris, a Sussex historian and singer, will lead the workshops with his colleagues, Emily Longhurst and Lisa Fairfield.

Singing with them will be students James Pullen, Henry Marshall, Jamie Campion, Oliver Hare and Otis Kirbey-Dunkley, who have been seen on television singing at East Bank, by Littlehampton Harbour and in Cliffe High Street, Lewes.

The workshops will also include slower songs and ballads, sung traditionally by women and men who lived and worked in the coastal and river valley towns of Sussex.

The project, which received a grant of £52,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is also delving into the history and folklore of the Sussex coast and a team of volunteers is conducting a folklore survey, to document the superstitions, legends and supernatural beliefs that still exist, with findings due to be published next year.

Chris said it is all about celebrating the traditions and customs of the coastal and harbour towns.

“We want to help people understand their culture and their heritage,” he explained.

“Many people are unaware of the traditions of where they live and are looking to reconnect with a sense of place. These workshops aim to make that connection for a younger generation looking for a sense of belonging.”

Workshops will be held at the Shoreham Centre, Pond Lane, Shoreham, starting at 2pm on Saturday, September 5, and at the Manor House, Church Street, Littlehampton, starting at 10am on Saturday, September 19. Each workshop lasts three hours and they will be held once a month until April next year.

Visit to book or for more details.

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