Last Friday the North East coast of Britain experienced the raw power of nature and felt the effects of the climate emergency. Storm Arwen put rampant consumerism in its place by nabbing the headlines over so-called online shopping bargains on Baa Baa Black Friday.
And there’s another raw power that seemed to unleash itself on Friday night. Many of us have known about it for years but I get the feeling that a certain BBC4 documentary airing as Arwen’s rage and might built up along the coast and screamed through windows and doors, introduced the poetry and world view of a North East legend to new fans of all ages.
The programme in question, Lindisfarne’s Geordie Genius: The Alan Hull Story, was presented by fellow Geordie Sam Fender and featured Lindisfarne band members plus famous Hull fans including Sting, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Nail, Dave Stewart, Peter Gabriel and Elvis Costello.
I was months old when Lindisfarne’s first album, Nicely Out of Tune was released but over the years I got to know and love the songs. I didn’t understand the band’s dynamics but knew there was more than one songwriter in Lindisfarne. That said, I appreciated the work of Alan Hull.
Living away from my native North East I’d get soppy sentimental about Lindisfarne’s Run for Home and Fog on the Tyne but since returning home in 2009, I reckon I love Lady Eleanor and Winter Song the most.
Both songs were integral to last Friday’s documentary and as I lay in bed afterwards trying not to be scared of Storm Arwen rampaging down my street, I sang Winter Song to myself “When winter comes howling in…”
The next morning I ventured out to collect my Saturday newspaper and take a look at the storm damage around me and realised that Lady Eleanor and Winter Song acted as earworm comforters to me as I tried to process what had happened to my street. Storm Arwen had damaged neighbours’ property and vehicles. I was surveying what I’d heard through the night.
Hours later in a half-deserted local pub, my friend asked me if I’d ever met Alan Hull. “Yes,” I replied and shared the details.
It was in a recording studio in Carliol Square, at the bottom of central Newcastle’s Worswick Bus Station in summer 1988. I was one of four young North Easterners featured in a TV series called Out of Our Heads produced by Zenith North for the BBC. Musician Ian McCallum was the subject of one of the other episodes and his career was supported and encouraged by Alan Hull.
Zenith chose to shoot the publicity shots for the series on the roof of that Carliol Square building. I’d forgotten about this photograph until I was digging around in my personal archives last year. Can you see Alan? Can you spot me?
Worswick Street Bus Station was pulled down earlier this year and Alan Hull’s been dead for over quarter of a century. Both bus station and singer songwriter are lodged in thousands of Geordie hearts. I hope last week’s documentary inspires many thousands of music lovers around the world to explore the music of Lindisfarne.