South Shields artist creates 'lockdown folk song' made up of lost North East sayings

A new ‘folk song’ using regional sayings that speaks to the area’s experiences of lockdown has been put together by a South Tyneside artist at a borough cultural venue.

‘Hadaway Ga’an Canny’ is one of a trio of songs commissioned by the National Centre for the Written Word in South Shields.

Written and recorded by local artist Jen Stevens, the ditty is inspired by a vast collection of words contributed by the public as part of the Word Bank of Lost Dialects exhibition.

Although rarely heard now, every one of the 2,400 words and phrases which shaped the exhibition would once have been part of everyday language in the shipyards, mines and in street games and social gatherings.

South Shields artist, Jen Stevens

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    ‘Hadaway Ga’an Canny’ brings some of these lost expressions to life, as it looks to give voice to the area’s experiences of lockdown.

    The song has three verses and a chorus that runs:

    “Hadaway, ga’an canny, wuh new life wain’t be lang,

    “Wi gotta stay inside the hoose, family aall amang,

    The song was inspired by old words and phrases collected as part of the National Centre for the Written Word's recent 'Word Bank of Lost Dialects exhibition'

    “Think aboot the gannies, who cannit fight so well,

    “We’ll keep them safe and warm me bairn so dain’t on fear ye dwell

    “We’ll keep them safe and warm me bairn so dain’t on fear ye dwell.”

    Jen, who is currently working on the two other songs which make up the trio, said it had been “a great project to be involved with.

    “The aim was to keep our dialect alive,” she explained, “and to move it forward in a contemporary way.

    “And I think that a song that reflects current life for everyone in lockdown will really resonate with listeners.”

    The songs form part of a wider digital celebration of the North East dialect planned by The Word, sponsored by the Northumbrian Words Project and supported by Arts Council England.

    The plan is to release them in early March during an online celebratory dialect day hosted by The Word.

    Commenting on the initiative, Andy Bogle, from the Northumbrian Words Project, said “it was about capturing a language that is danger of being lost forever.

    “Increasingly we communicate via technology,” he said, “and this will make it harder for written dialect words to survive.

    “But people have recorded events in song for centuries and it is great to be helping continue that tradition.”

    “The North East dialect is such an important part of our heritage, as are the shipbuilding and mining industries where these terms and phrases were once commonplace in everyday conversations,” Cllr Joan Atkinson, Deputy Leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for Culture and Leisure, said.

    “Many of these traditional words are rarely heard anymore and are at risk of disappearing forever. To hear them used in a song about present times really brings them alive again while reigniting an interest among our younger generations.”

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