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Winterton’s famous folk-singing fisherman to be honoured with festival

PUBLISHED: 17:25 14 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:25 14 May 2015

Sam Larner, former fisherman - and internationally-acclaimed folk singer - from Winterton.

Sam Larner, former fisherman - and internationally-acclaimed folk singer - from Winterton.

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A four-day festival to remember the Great Yarmouth area’s most famous folk-singing fisherman will be held later this year.

The award-winning Singing The Fishing, which featured Sam Larner.The award-winning Singing The Fishing, which featured Sam Larner.

SamFest 2015 will commemorate Sam Larner (1878-1965) of Winterton-on-Sea – 50 years after his death.

And returning to Winterton for the weekend festival will be international folk singer, musician and songwriter Peggy Seeger who recorded Sam at his cottage home in 1958-1960.

Sam, born into the Winterton fishing community, went to sea as a cabin boy at the age of 12 and was a herring fisherman until the age of 55.

He learnt traditional folk songs as a boy from his father, family and other Winterton fishermen and expanded his repertoire to about 70 songs, plus many sea rhymes.

Sam was “discovered” by BBC radio producer Philip Donnellan in 1956 and recordings of him, made by Donnellan, were broadcast from 1957-60, including the four-part series Sweet Lives and Lawless Billows which featured Sam exclusively.

The radio programmes attracted the attention of leading British folk singer Ewan MacColl, his wife Peggy Seeger and BBC producer Charles Parker who had started making their series of ground-breaking documentaries, The Radio Ballads, in 1958.

The subject of the third programme, Singing the Fishing, was to be the English and Scottish herring fleets and Sam was a natural choice for inclusion.

MacColl and Seeger visited, and recorded Sam in Winterton from 1958-60 and Sam’s life story inspired MacColl to write one of his greatest songs – Shoals of Herring.

Records of Sam’s singing were released in 1961 and 1964 and a complete set of Sam’s songs recorded by MacColl and Seeger were released on a 2CD set, Cruising Round Yarmouth, by Musical Traditions, earlier this year. Many had never been released before.

SamFest will run from September 17 to 20 starting with a fundraising folk dance at Winterton Primary School and Nursery.

A main concert with Peggy Seeger, Yorkshire singer Dave Burland and local performers will be held at The Atrium, North Walsham, on September 18.

The rest of the festival, featuring Seeger, Burland, melodeon maestro Tony Hall, community choir Scunsulata, Blakeney’s Old Wild Rovers, Ken and Joan Saul and many other performers will be held in Winterton parish church and other village venues.

As well as concerts and open singarounds there are plans for Peggy Seeger to talk about Sam and the Radio Ballads, film shows of Sam, a gathering at Sam’s graveside led by the rector, the Rev Selwyn Tillett, and a feast of herrings.

A festival website, samfest.co.uk will be up and running later this month. For details contact brian.gaudet@btinternet.com

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