"As a song poet there are few in the world today to match him"
Green Man Review, USA
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. The book is compiled and edited by Keith Armstrong & Peter Dixon. With historical documents and images, alongside poems, songs, photographs and drawings by local people, it is intended to ensure that the life and work of Joseph Skipsey is not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.
Gary performing 'A Dream of Joseph Skipsey' and 'The Collier Lad', live at the book launch event at St John's Church, Percy Main, North Shields, Tyne & Wear, England, on 7th September 2017.
Gary performing 'A Dream of Joseph Skipsey' at Whippet Records HQ, Belle Vue House, Ferryhill Station, County Durham, England, on 10th September 2017.
Since the book 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 has now evolved into a 4-track EP, with Gary writing a further song, 'The Circle of My Life'. The EP will also include Skipsey's poem 'The Brooklet', recited by Gary to a musical backing. The recordings are planned to be produced and engineered by Gary's regular musical collaborator Iain Petrie at Awake Music! The cover artwork will be designed by Gary's official designer Helen Temperley at Winkin' Bitsy. Helen has already carried out preliminary sketches (see opposite). Originally planned as a quick follow-up to 'Mad Martins', the Joseph Skipsey EP, has been temporarily postponed due to the sudden and unexpected onslaught of the 'From Coalfield to Battlefield'project, which has taken immediate priority. In the aftermath of 'From Coalfield to Battlefield', The Joseph Skipsey songs will be recorded.