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Passin' the Folks Alang the Road! George Ridley & the Blaydon Races

PassinCraig Conway
Geoff Wonfor
Graeme Danby
DVD - £15.99 (MWMDVD92)   

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A new film by Geoff Wonfor starring Craig Conway as Geordie Ridley featuring performances of his songs.

Plus a film showing the Blaydon Races centenarycelebrations in 1962 and a performance of the updated2012 version of the famous song by internationally famous Geordie opera star, Graeme Danby.



Although 'Blaydon Races' is extremely well known, the same can't be said for it's composer, George Ridley. Born into poverty near the banks of the Tyne in Gateshead in 1835, young George was working underground in the pits by the time he was eight years old. In the late 1850s, while working on the Shipcote Colliery wagon ways, Ridley was severely crushed and was no longer able to continue regular work so he turned to entertaining as a means of earning a living. He gained a reputation around the Music Halls of Tyneside as an engaging singer with a repertoire of local, topical and humorous songs. He died at only 29 and never lived to see his most famous song gradually rise in popularity to become the song that Tynesiders the world over continue to sing as a celebration of their roots and culture.

This drama-documentary by award winning director Geoff Wonfor turns history into reality and gives us a closer look at the life of George Ridley. 'Geordie' is played by Tyneside born Craig Conway. Craig's first major TV appearance was in 'Our Friends in the North' and more recently has been seen in feature films 'The Descent', 'Doomsday' and 'Vera Drake'. Filmed on location around the region and including performances of a number of Ridley's songs, Craig tells the fascinating tale, scripted by Roger Burgess. The project is inspired by Dave Harker's book 'Gannin' to Blaydon Races - The Life and Times of George Ridley' published by Tyne Bridge Publishing.

Extras on this DVD include the Newcastle & District Amateur Cinematographers' Association colour film made in 1962 for the centenary celebrations of the Blaydon Races and a performance by opera star Graeme Danby of the new, updated version of Blaydon Races compiled by Pete Scott from lyrics written by BBC Radio Newcastle listeners to celebrate the 150th anniversary.

This DVD has been made in association with the Northumbria Anthology, a Not For Profit Company.
www.northumbriaanthology.com


Review

Pete Wood - English Dance & Song - 22/02/2013
There can be no doubt that if you asked any member of the public, here or abroad, to name a Geordie song, 'Blaydon Races' would be the first and 'Cushie Butterfield' the second, both written by George Ridley. Not a bad legacy, particularly because, if you asked the same question of any other provincial English city, you'd be lucky to get one. No wonder then the Geordie anthem's 150th was celebrated on Tyneside, and certainly by the musical fraternity. Here we have a book, a CD and a DVD, co-ordinated by Northumbria Anthology, an outfit set up by Brian and Helen Mawson with the aim of promoting north-east traditional music and song.

The DVD has a dramatic re-enactmant of Ridley's performances of his own songs, as he might have done them at the time, together with him relating his life history in the same environment. It is directed by Geoff Wonfor with Craig Conway playing Ridley as performer and narrator with great panache. It is well supported by contemporary illustration, but the most potent being film of the Blaydon 100 in 1962. Compared with 2012, this was spectacular indeed, a sevenday celebration involving physical re-enactment with a coach and four, stopping at all the key places on the route, a vintage car rally and an interview with the Blaydon Races' Beauty Queen, still going strong. There's something about that song, a large crowd on the Scotswood Road, and the brass band which just brings it all home. Ridley was one of a number of nineteenth-century Tyneside songwriters, such as Ned Corvan, J.P. Robson and Joe Wilson. Maybe Ridley didn't hand us down as many as Wilson. But what a brace, and what a fitting celebration this package is.
Pete Wood - English Dance & Song - 22/02/2013