Newly formed Fen folk band come together for new storytelling project

PUBLISHED: 17:43 27 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:43 27 November 2017

A folk loving trio from the fens have come together to form a new band, The Penland Phezants. PHOTO: Bhas Allan

A folk loving trio from the fens have come together to form a new band, The Penland Phezants. PHOTO: Bhas Allan


A folk loving trio from the Fens – including musician Andy Wall of Ely -have come together to form The Penland Phezants.

The band also comprises poet Gareth Calway and harpist Vanessa Wood Davies and together they are developing a story telling project – The True Story of Hereward the Wake.

The trio have already been scouted by two major folk festivals in the UK and are now looking for more dates to add to their festival, folk club, theatre and arts engagement list.

Gareth, who will partner Vanessa Wood-Davies to pen the verse, said: “The project’s compelling narrative is given a period flavour by harp music composed and performed by Welsh Romany-influenced harpist Vanessa.

“The show is given a folk perspective by interweaving a sequence of new real life Robin Hood ballads all written by Bread and Blood team Gareth and Andy.

“Andy’s classic and authentic folk performance of the ballads is a particular highlight of and perfect fit for this great English folk tale. A 30 minute alternative showcase version will also be available to tour.”

Gareth said the working title of the project is As Free As The Waters That Flow Through The Fen - A Very English Resistance: The True Story of Hereward the Wake.

The group has put together some of the history of Hereward the Wake who in 1067, returned from exile and adventures in Cornwall, Ireland and Flanders.

He led the English resistance against the Norman Conquest which then was at a critical stage.

Hereward first avenged the Norman murder of his brother and theft of his manor in his home town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, then established himself in the Isle of Ely alongside the Earl of Morcar (the dead King Harold’s brother) and King Sweyn of Denmark, repeatedly outwitting a desperate siege of the Isle personally led by William the Conqueror himself.

So successful was Hereward’s defence that William, incredibly, was on the point of offering peace terms when Hereward was betrayed by his erstwhile military allies, the fighting Abbot and monks of Ely Abbey.

Gareth said that thanks to the early warning of one brave monk, the ever-elusive Hereward escaped to further historic triumphs against William’s armies in Fenland, at Burgh (Peterborough) and the Bruneswald and greenwoods of Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

Gareth’s 90 minute narrative will tell the full story, from the folk tales of Hereward’s early career, to the historic defence of Ely and the glittering later rearguard victories against all odds in fenland and greenwood.

Based on the Latin chronicles compiled by 12C monks, this historically-based narrative gives full rein to the Freeborn English humour and derring do of a real life Robin Hood.

He said the narrative is given a period flavour by harp music composed and performed by Vanessa.

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