Subtitled 'the musings of a Black Country ex-pat now domiciled on the Welsh border' Tales From The Barn started life in 2016 as an ad hoc contribution to Talking Books www.beaconvision.org that GF has supported in one way or another over many years. The general theme is the narrator's observations on aspects of his former homeland from the perspective of his present one and often features some element of direct contrast or comparison between the two.
TFTB has since become a popular regular feature and is now distributed widely. It is presented here as an archive of free-to-access resources that will be of interest to education establishments, historical societies, researchers or anyone with an interest in what defines the Black Country and helps make its people so distinctive.
Each broadcast is independently produced by GF and is typically around 8 - 9 minutes duration.
The 'Barn' referred to, by the way, is not a figment of poetic licence but does actually exist and lies in the lee of the Black Mountains, with the stream behind the trees to the right denoting the Herefordshire - Powys border. It's delightful and we love it.
And the flag on the background to the SoundCloud? Well, that's the official flag of the Black Country. It owes its design to a quote by American Consul Elihu Burritt who, in the opening line of his Walks In The Black Country, first published in 1868, describes the area as ‘black by day and red by night’, a reference to the smoke and flames constantly belched out by numerous furnaces. The flag is thus both red and black, with chains showing a typical industry of the area (the chain for RMS Titanic was made at Netherton) whilst the central white cone represents the region’s glassmaking heritage that has been a staple for over 400 years. It was designed in 2012 as a result of a competition held by the Black Country Living Museum in response to a campaign by the Parliamentary Flags and Heraldry Committee encouraging local communities to design their own to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The flag’s cultural context is discussed further in episode 10 What’s in a name?
With commemorations for the centenary of Armistice Day on 11.11.18, and TFTB (25) offering the author's perspective on this unique occasion, it was felt an appropriate juncture to conclude episodes 1 - 25 in the form of an illustrated book. This will be officially launched at the International Festival of Glass to be held in Stourbridge over August Bank Holiday weekend 2019.
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Bearing little relation to Tales From The Barn other than harking back to my musings from a different age - and many years prior to our arrival at The Barn - I am rather delighted that More Ripping Yarns is included here by popular request. This merits an explanation ...
Around the early part of the new millennium I was Review & Special Features correspondent for the sadly now-defunct Canal & Riverboat magazine. During this period my freelance status allowed me to contribute elsewhere but I was particularly fond of C&R which, in addition to publishing my work, also gave me my first front cover image. It's actually the one shown here, captured early one morning at Gas Street Basin in Birmingham, when reflections on the glass-fronted Hyatt Regency created the illusion of the whole building being transparent. Yep, I am grateful to C&R for being a cornerstone for my output of the time, but back to my tale.
After laying out his features, the magazine Editor often had a page left over at the end. Familiar with my mordant wit he commissioned me to write a series of idiosyncratic waterways-themed 'fillers'. In a fit of inspiration he entitled the section Arts, Research & Science, which, being at the back, he mischievously abbreviated to ARSend. Though this was a family magazine, we never received one complaint about its cheekiness and the Publisher himself - a rather serious and upright man - never even commented. So, we got away with it for several editions, during which time I was given a free hand to let my imagination run riot. Happy - and daft - times and naughty but nice, in the true spirit of harmless British double-entendre.
Now fast-forward to the formation of the British Glass Foundation (see Links) and my role as creator and Editor of its email bulletin GlassCuts.
Every edition I am obliged to include a Disclaimer with the small print containing the usual caveats. One day, in a fit of wondering what all this stuff-and-nonsense was about - I mean, just what precisely is a philathropic non-profit glass charity having to disclaim itself against? - I decided to put it to the test and wrote something spontaneously ludicrous that made sense only to anyone who was ever so slightly insane. The result? No-one, but no-one, took a shred of notice. Except, that is, for one or two aficionados who recognised pure silliness when they saw it.
These non-Disclaimers became more adventurous commensurate with them becoming increasingly lunatic. Don't just take my word for it; check for yourself; GlassCuts are all archived on the BGF website. Years down the line, and with editions of GlassCuts now numbering well into three figures and circulation somewhere in the high thousands, the privileged ranks of the Disclaimer's Spotter's Club - small as their number may be they are a dedicated lot - still rank only in the handfuls. It has become a cult and I have created a monster. And it's great fun!
Lo, thanks an evident crossover between my current readership and that of yesteryear, I have been asked to dig into the archives.
Et voila ... More Ripping Yarns, exactly as submitted in their raw-text form to C&R magaizine between around 2002-05. Careful with them, now. Gosh, I can see my reputation disappearing in front of my very eyes ...