My Shanty Scene - Part 2 Holland

I have decided to pick this diary / report up again after my first weekend in Holland. It has been a wonderful experience here at the Lullaby festival in Nijverdal, and the two club shows were a nice experience as well. My first night I attended a concert where I watched a shanty choir (shantykoor Nijverdal) performing with a classical mens choir and the local brass band. At first glance this was an odd array of performers to put together, but strangely it worked. I was no longer in the big city environment and this seemed to be a community event where everybody turned up.

So, my next two nights I was singing with another towns shanty choir called De Flagellentan on Friday and a local Irish band called Celtic Mist. The choir were a group of 20 men who sang shanties and folk songs in Dutch with occasional English shanties thrown in (eg. Essequibo River). Celtic Mist were a local 5 piece group that sang a lot of the well known songs from the Irish repertoire. This was great and I asked many questions and learnt a lot about the shanty culture and it's impact in Holland. Over the next few days I would find out more about the various shanty choirs and meet many more singers at the Lullaby festival.

The Lullaby festival was a great event set in an open air theatre in the woods where 450 people from the local community would come to enjoy an afternoon of shanties and folk, however the first thing that struck me was the general age of the audience. The only young people there seemed to be children with their parents. I was told by the young people working at the hotel that shanty music was for the older generations and the youth didn't seem to engage with the 'scene'. This is very similar to my view on the English 'scene' which is a massive shame and I hope it changes.

It was interesting to also hear that singing is the main hobby for many of the eastern towns and villages rather than the larger cities in the west. Every town / village has a group of singers. This was astonishing to hear and further conversations justified that it was the older generations that sang in these groups. One man told me that it was odd for him to sing in a shanty choir because he was so young, he was 44. However the audience were very open to modern versions of shanties and seemed to agree that it is necessary for them to survive, this was good to hear.

It was a great honour being invited to play at the Lullaby festival and it is a festival I would highly recommend to shanty fans.

I must go now because I am travelling up to Germany for a very large festival involving 500 shanty singers and I will pick up this report after these new experiences. See you soon.


Chris Ricketts