Mining, Music and Words

Posted on by Anita O'Donovan

We talk to Ali Bullivent about what inspires her music and what the new monthly meets are all about...

"Myself and the rest of the Imba Basi Band have been surrounded by African drums, guitars, percussion and the odd violin and mandolin over the past week as we rehearse our new songs for the first Mining, Music and Words event on Sunday.

We have been really inspired by digging deep into our local heritage as well as looking at mining throughout the world. We have come up with a set or original music and covers which takes us on journeys from Wakefield to the US to South Africa and back again.

My 'The Wandering Miner' song sees a wife telling the story of her 'Mining Man' who has gone travelling 'across the seven seas' to find 'another land with rocks and stones where he can dig, dig and be bringing in the money'. His travels take him to Columbia, Australia, Mongolia, China, and Chile before coming home again."

Mining is of course a notoriously dangerous profession and countless songs have been written about the many disasters over the years. It has long been used as a way to mark these events and it is in the oral folk tradition to use songs as stories to remember what happened.

"My song 'Butterflies' paints a picture of the beauty of the Walton Colliery Nature Reserve and goes on to remind us that beauty was built upon hundreds of years of hardship and toil and marks the disaster in 1959 where 5 men died.

Disaster in the mine
Explosion down below
The price was high for coal'"

Featherstone born vocalist and percussionist Jane Muller has written 'Tropical Paradise' based on a description of a day in the life of a miner provided by Joe Hallam in 1929 who worked at New Monkton Colliery.

"The song was also inspired by reading other books and paper clippings where I was struck by the camaraderie and cheerfulness of miners when doing a very tough job. A phrase I read really stuck with me ..."Cheer up son, this used to be a tropical paradise", and that became the hook for the song.

' It wor a tropical paradise once said 'ee
Digging it up to fuel industry
Mi favva went down and tha son'll folla thee
We were born to this you see'

Jane's song 'Coalbrooke' tells the story of a terrible disaster where hundreds of miners died in South Africa and their bodies were never recovered.

'Sealed forever in the ground, They were sacrificed for coal'


"Musically this song allows us to bring together our particular musical style of Western acoustic and African sounds and it climaxes with a dramatic djembe finale."

"It's a new and exciting sound" says band member Xolani, who himself hails from Durban, South Africa.

"I love how all members of the band just do what they do best and we mix it all up and create something original and meaningful."


We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the 'Mining, Music and Words' events and have some fantastic poets, novelists and musicians joining us for the performance afternoons. It's going to be really eclectic mix of styles.

Jimmy Andrex will be our main featured guest. Jimmy is a well known and respected poet and brings his unique style of live vocal and musical looping to the stage. If you don't know what that is come and experience something new!

I asked Jimmy about his interest in Yorkshire and mining and he said:

"Atta lekkin aht wi us?" As we wandered round Kettlethorpe, nowt to do, our dialect, of which we were completely unaware, rang with words brought to England by hairy, aggressive, beer-swilling lovers of poetry whose rhymes weren't your airy-fairy end rhymes favoured by poncey poets prancing round a field with a butterfly net. Instead, our language bristled with barbed bullets of a poetry based on alliteration and chock full of fighting, drinking, stealing (and worse !). Your average West Riding night out, some might say. So, I try to use some of the traditional Norse and Anglo Saxon verse forms, not to preserve them, but to celebrate and recycle them. Our dialect, faced with our multimedia blandness, is disappearing like the mining industry, so my work is one poet's attempt to keep our cultural richness alive. Mind you, if you ever catch me in a horned helmet, you can make me swallow it."

We are also looking forward to welcoming novelist, playwright and broadcaster Ray Brown who will read from his newly published novel ‘In All Beginnings', Mark Taylor who will be playing accordion and singing some traditional and not so traditional songs, and John Clarke and the Agbrigg Writers who will be reading poems from their published book 'Lofthouse'.

And of course there is the open mic section - what gems might we hear in that? Bring along a song or a poem!

Cannot wait!

"Oh, and will there be cake my friends and colleagues have asked? Oh yes indeed, the cafe sells the biggest squishiest afternoon treats I have seen in a long time!"

Posted in Heritage


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