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Thursday, 6 March 2014

How Walter Pardon taught Damien Barber an important life skill involving crisps

Last Saturday I went home to Norfolk - for I am a Norfolk broad - because a friend had pointed out that there was an interesting looking event in North Walsham, celebrating the centenary of the birth of a man called Walter Pardon (below). He knew a lot of old songs (some of which you can preview on iTunes if you'd like to hear his voice), he died in 1996, Martin Carthy would be there...

That's not Martin Carthy. This is.

Anyway, it turned out that Martin Carthy was there plus there was a bonus in the form of Damien Barber (below), who is from North Walsham and who played and sang a few songs for the sell-out afternoon audience in the cafe before the more formal Tim Laycock and Martin Carthy gig in the evening.

There were about 200 in The Atrium to hear Damien's vivid explanation of what he remembered about the old boy, who he sometimes credits in his own biography.

"Yes, it's true," said Barber, standing in the middle of the room, looking very relaxed. "When I was five years old I used to sit at the foot of Walter Pardon in the Orchard Gardens pub up the road here for their folk club evenings. Well, I'd sit and then sometimes I'd go and lie under one of the benches.

"Walter, though, used to stand with his hands behind his back, which was his version of the proper stance for a floor singer. I do that twice a week now myself because I do Tae Kwon Do and that's how you stand to attention: so I know it makes me a little tight across the chest. I'm not sure whether it also made Walter tight across the chest - he wasn't the kind of man you could ask a question like that. But it has sometimes made me wonder whether as well as being a master folk singer, he was also a master martial artist? I shall leave that one to the biographers...

"Now, folk clubs in the 1970s weren't like the happy-go-lucky places they are now. They were hard core."

Someone near me turned to their neighbour and made a barely audible shushing noise, as a reminder.

"So a packet of crisps in the hand of a five-year-old was a dreadful thing."

There was a little tittering and no small amount of head-tilting, presumably in order to imagine Damien as a five-year-old lying under a bench with a giant, deadly packet of crisps.

"So at an early age I learned how to suck a packet of crisps. I could make a packet of crisps last for an hour," he remembered, perhaps a little mistily.

Transferable skills, you see: that's where it's at. Here's Damien singing with Mike Wilson.

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