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Hereward the Wake is brought back to life

Gareth Calway (narration, backing vocals, drum), Andy Wall (guitar, lead vocals), Vanessa Wood-Davies (harp, harmony vocals)
Gareth Calway (narration, backing vocals, drum), Andy Wall (guitar, lead vocals), Vanessa Wood-Davies (harp, harmony vocals)

A poet, a folk musician and a harpist have got together to develop a new folk/storytelling project – The True Story of Hereward the Wake.

The poet and harpist are the Sedgeford harp and verse duo Waywood (Gareth Calway and Vanessa Wood-Davies) and Ely folk musician Andy Wall is adding the acoustic guitar and folk ballads.

Gareth will write the story and narrate; the two musicians will compose the music which all three will perform.

The three will be collectively known as The Penland Phezants.

Their unique combination of folk talents has already been snapped up by a couple of nationally acclaimed folk festivals and are now seeking dates to add to their existing festival, folk club, library, theatre and arts centre engagements.

The working title of the project is As Free As The Waters That Flow Through The Fen - A Very English Resistance: The True Story of Hereward The Wake composed, written and performed by The Penland Phezants.

Some 950 years ago, in 1067, Hereward the Wake returned from outlawry, exile and a gallery of bold and magical adventures in Cornwall, Ireland and Flanders which had established him as a famous warrior and the leading military genius of his age.

But he did not come home to rest on his laurels. He came home to join, and quickly to lead, the growing English Resistance against the Norman Conquest, which then was at a critical stage. Hereward first avenged the Norman murder of his brother and theft of his manor in his home town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, then established himself in the Isle of Ely alongside the Earl of Morcar (the dead King Harold’s brother) and King Sweyn of Denmark, repeatedly outwitting a desperate siege of the Isle personally led by William the Conqueror himself.

So successful was Hereward’;s defence that William, incredibly, was on the point of offering peace terms when Hereward was betrayed by his erstwhile military allies, the fighting Abbot and monks of Ely Abbey.

Thanks to the early warning of one brave monk, the ever-elusive Hereward escaped to further historic triumphs against William’s armies in Fenland, at Burgh (Peterborough) and the Bruneswald and greenwoods of Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

Gareth Calway’s nine- minute narrative will tell the full story, from the folk tales of Hereward’s early career, to the historic defence of Ely and the glittering later rearguard victories against all odds in Fenland and Greenwood.

Based closely on the honest Latin chronicles compiled by 12C monks, this historically-based narrative gives full rein to the Freeborn English humour and derring do of a real life Robin Hood. (The Robin Hood legend borrows much of the spirit and many of Hereward’s real-life adventures.)

The compelling narrative is given a period flavour by harp music composed and performed by Welsh Romany-influenced harpist Vanessa Wood-Davies and a folk perspective by interweaving a sequence of new real life Robin Hood ballads (written by Bread and Blood team Gareth Calway and Andy Wall.) Andy Wall’s classic and authentic folk performance of these is a particular highlight of and perfect fit for this great English folk tale.

A 30-minute alternative showcase version will also be available to tour.

The performance line up is Gareth Calway (narration, backing vocals, drum) Andy Wall (guitar, lead vocals) and Vanessa Wood-Davies (harp, harmony vocals).

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