The Pitman Poet of Percy Main
In 2017, Gary was commissioned by Northern Voices Community Projects to write a song for 'The Pitmen Poet of Percy Main', a book celebrating the life and work of Joseph Skipsey, published to mark the 185th anniversary of his birth in the colliery village of Percy Main on 17th March 1832. With historical documents and images, alongside poems, songs, photographs and drawings by local people, it is intended to ensure that the life and work of Joseph Skipsey is not forgotten.
Gary was honoured and delighted to be a part of this wonderful project, contributing his song 'A Dream of Joseph Skipsey'. He also took one of Skipsey's own poems, 'The Collier Lad' and set it to music. Gary performed both songs at three events to launch the book - at St John's Church, Percy Main and The Redhouse, Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 7th September 2017, and at Bentham Grove Community Centre, Gateshead on 26th September 2017.
Link to article in The Journal newspaper - here.
Since the book's launch, Gary has decided to record 'A Dream of Joseph Skipsey' and 'The Collier Lad' for commercial release. Initially planned as a 2-track single, this later evolved into plans to release a 5-track EP, with Gary writing two further Skipsey-themed songs, 'Show Me' and 'Unlocked Gate'. The EP would also include Skipsey's poem 'The Brooklet', recited by Gary to a musical backing, plus maybe one or two other musically-backed Skipsey poems.
The beautiful cover artwork has been designed by Gary's official designer Helen Temperley at Winkin' Bitsy (see opposite). Originally planned as a quick follow-up to 'Mad Martins', the Joseph Skipsey EP, was temporarily postponed in the wake of 'From Coalfield to Battlefield' and The Whisky Priests Reunion, which have taken immediate priority.
It is hoped that at least some of the Joseph Skipsey songs will finally be recorded as part of the 'Northern Grit' project.