Littlehampton sea shanty singers see surge in popularity during TikTok trend

A group of sea shanty singers have experienced a surge in popularity after their ‘obscure hobby’ became a global sensation.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 10:31 am

The Littlehampton-based Duck Pond Sailors have been singing shanties together since 2017, performing in pubs and festivals along the south coast.

But the genre has become the latest online craze, off the back of a Scottish postman’s performances on the video platform TikTok.

One of the group’s founding members, Jonny Mott, said it was strange to see the world joining in with his ‘obscure hobby’.

Duck Pond Sailors: Graham Holden (& children Toby and Eva), Jonny Mott, Dave Burrows, Chris Hare, Steve Darken. Pic: Laura Mott Photography SUS-210125-101235001

“People are discovering what we have known for years,” he said.

“These songs can really make you feel good and really give you a sense of satisfaction and catharsis.”

Sea shanties were typically sung to accompany rhythmical labour on ships, such as rowing, and to keep up morale at sea.

Their two albums on Spotify have surged from ‘a couple of thousand’ listens to over 26,000 within weeks.

Duck Pond Sailors. Pic: Laura mott Photography SUS-210125-101045001

Jonny said he believes their resurgence is no coincidence in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are a lot of parallels between what the sailors were experiencing and what we are now,” he said.

“They would be out at sea in the same place for months on end, with nowhere to go. It was hard work and they needed something to lift their spirits.”

The group’s renditions are reserved mostly for pubs, in organised gigs or impromptu performances gathered round the bar.

Regular visitors to The Boathouse in Littlehampton, and the New Amsterdam in Worthing, may be familiar with their work.

Jonny is joined in the Duck Pond Sailors by Steve Darken, Graham Holden, Dave Burrows and Chris Hare.

Chris’ son, Oliver, was also a member but tragically took his own life a few years ago.

Jonny said the shanties had been a real ‘therapy’ for Chris and formed the basis of a number of fundraising events for a charity set up in Oliver’s memory, Olly’s Future.

The Great Connection Festival, an online festival taking place on January 31, will raise money for the charity, which aims to prevent and raise awareness of suicide.

You can buy tickets to the festival here or donate do Olly’s Future here.

More information on the Duck Pond Sailors, and videos of their performances, can be found here.