Richard Hawley tours the UK coast.

He investigates how jobs in seafaring industries have produced a wealth of music - from sea shanties to workers union songs sung by a shipbuilders' choir and communist pop songs. Richard travels from Cornwall to Aberdeen stopping off in Liverpool and north Yorkshire.

In Liverpool he meets shanty singer and ex-frontman with 60s band The Spinners, Hughie Jones, who explains the different types of shanty that relate to jobs on board ship. In Cornwall Richard speaks to local historian Tony Pawlyn about the history of smuggling in Falmouth. Tony also describes how piracy affected the south west coast, particularly the invasions by Algerian corsairs, who captured whole towns and villages in the 18th Century. In the sleepy fishing village Robin Hood's Bay, broadcaster and writer Ian Clayton introduces us to a song about press gangs and the practice of capturing men for forced labour in the British Navy. In Aberdeen Richard visits the maritime museum to find out about the importance of shipbuilding to the local area. We hear recordings of the Hall and Russell shipyard male voice choir, which were recorded in the late 1930s. We also speak to Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt about his song Ship Building, which was written by Elvis Costello and released around the time of the Falklands War. It's an ode to the predicament of the British working class who were becoming expendable both on the battle field and off it, in the ship building industry that expanded to support the war. Finally we meet Richard's old bandmate Jarvis Cocker. Together Jarvis and Richard once recorded a sea shanty, A Drop of Nelson's Blood, and Jarvis explains how it came together.

Richard Hawley tours the seafaring towns in the UK.

Richard Hawley explores the influence of seafaring industries on British popular culture.


Sheffield singer / songwriter Richard Hawley travels the length and breadth of the country on a unique tour of the coast.

Programme one looks at the sea as a great trafficker of people and the songs and stories written about people leaving and visiting the UK. On his tour of the coast from Cornwall to Aberdeen, stopping off in Liverpool, North Yorkshire and Glasgow, Richard speaks to songwriters, folklorists, historians and poets to find out how the tradition of writing about emigration and immigration has developed over time.

With contributions from The Watersons in Robin Hood's Bay near Whitby, Stuart Murdoch in Glasgow, Aberdeen's city council historian, a shanty choir in Devon and poet Simon Armitage, to name a few, this programme will investigate the reasons why people have set sail towards life in a foreign land at various periods in British history.

First broadcast in 2010.

Richard Hawley explores the influence of seafaring industries on British popular culture.