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RIBBON ROAD - No Redemption Songs (CD with separate DVD)

RIBBON ROAD - No Redemption Songs (CD with separate DVD)
Shipyard RRD008

Amongst all the other anniversaries occurring at the moment is one of equal importance to many - the miners’ strike of 1984/85. I lived through the strike as a teacher in a town whose name explicitly tells you that it was a town based on one industry - coal. For a variety of reasons it did not support the strike - the famous Dirty Thirty were from here - but it still tore the local communities apart.

During that time, Keith Pattison spent five months at Easington Colliery armed with his camera. The black and white images which comprise this archive focus not on the likes of Thatcher or Scargill, but on the local community.

To say these images are stark is an understatement. Some of them are used in the booklet accompanying the CD, whilst many more are used on the DVD, where the songs by Ribbon Road provide the soundtrack.

Brenda Heslop has written a dozen songs based around Keith’s photos but not directly about them. I deliberately listened to Ribbon Road’s No Redemption Songs before watching the DVD. The band comprises Jill, Brenda and Geoff (a producer of some of my favourite albums) and their tight harmonies mean that Brenda’s words come through loud and clear, as do all the strong emotions of those troubled times.

The songs cover all the key moments of those times whilst still being relevant to the struggles going on today. Poor Josie focuses on the actions of the police; the closure of the industry forms the basis of Coal In The Sea; and there’s reference to the fear people felt if they did speak out in Running Wide.

The way others rallied round and helped is also there, but the lasting image is of the disappointment as they voted to end the strike – this is the one that brings the biggest lump to my throat. For many, that spelt the end of their working life as either they felt they couldn’t go back, or their pit closed soon after.

There are lots of songs around in the folk world on the subject of the strike but No Redemption Songs is the first which is based firmly in one place but is relevant still today. It would be easy to dismiss this as a local history project, but I feel it needs, sorry deserves, a wider audience. Someone needs to pick this up and promote a tour of communities with the images of Keith Pattison accompanying the songs of Ribbon Road. I know I’d be there.

The CD stands on its own, as does the DVD. Both are worth having.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.