Hi there.

As the Windrush scandal shows, migration remains a faultline through this nation’s psyche. So it’s timely that Human Cargo hits the road next week.

Why not join me and Jeff Warner as we take our story&song show round the country. Check the route – maybe you have friends along the way who’d be interested to hear about it?

MAY 11 ST ALBANS Maltings; 12 BLACKBURN Mellor Brook CC; 13 SETTLE Victoria Hall; 16 CARDIGAN Mwldan; 17 BRISTOL St George’s; 23 TORRINGTON Plough Arts; JUNE 2 NEWCASTLE Gosforth Civic Theatre; 3 BEVERLEY East Riding Theatre; 5 LIVERPOOL Phil; 7 SHOREHAM Ropetackle; 12 EXETER Phoenix; 13 DORCHESTER Shire Hall; 14 HALESWORTH The Cut; 15 LONDON Kings Place; 16 MATLOCK Florence Nightingale Hall; 17 BEDFORD The Place.

Tickets for London are selling fast – and we advise you to book soon elsewhere. Lots more about the show here.

BBC R4’s Front Row came to record us working on Human Cargo. Here’s Jeff, just hours off a flight from Boston, doing some mighty fretwork.

After months of collaborating long distance, it was great to put the show together, in the same room.

This is an ambitious production. After all I’ve learnt on The Transports, and other shows, I’m keen to weave words and music in new ways … so Jeff and I work intuitively, telling stories together.

Plus, believe it or not, there’ll be jokes. In a show about slavery and forced migration, we’ll include music hall, spoons, bones and other japery … and there’s religion too. We’ve got some old gospel songs of journey and redemption, so come prepared to sing along.

New Human Cargo video

I went to Bristol to make a short two-minute film about Human Cargo. Do take a look – and thanks to Kat Macaulay for filming it.


Amazing venues for the tour

This is the actual courtroom in Dorchester, where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were unjustly tried in 1834. And on 13 June it’s the setting for Human Cargo – an ideal venue for Jeff and I to perform stories of transportation, slavery and emigration. They’ve just turned the Shire Hall into a venue/museum after a fab refurb. We can’t wait to play there.

We’re playing other amazing places too. St George’s, Bristol on 17 May has one of Britain’s finest acoustics – and was a church attended by many wealthy slavers. On 13 May we play the lovely Victoria Music Hall in Settle and on 5 June we’re at the Liverpool Phil.

I’m back to my old stamping ground in deep Suffolk at The Cut, Halesworth on 14 June (round the corner from where the story of The Transports started). We play lovely community centres like Blackburn and Matlock, local arts centres like Cardigan Mwldan, Beverley East Riding Theatre, Torrington Plough Arts, Bedford The Place and Gosforth Civic Theatre in Newcastle, plus I’ll be revisiting where we took The Transports to Exeter Phoenix and Shoreham Ropetackle. Next Friday 11 May we start the tour at The Maltings in St Albans – handy for Londoners who can’t make King’s Place.

If you know anyone in these places who’d like the show, do let them know. Thanks!

Parallel Lives – bigger than ever

25 different refugee support groups partner us on the Human Cargo tour – one or two in each town – as part of the Parallel Lives project. They’ll be there in the foyer at gigs, so you can learn about the amazing voluntary activity across Britain … collecting clothes for camps overseas … supporting Syrian families as they settle … or giving legal advice to asylum seekers.

At the snazzy new Parallel Lives website you can meet the groups – and see local migration stories I’ve gathered town by town across the country.

Plus, the tour builds up to Refugee Week (18-24 June). This annual celebration of all that migration brings to Britain has become a remarkable array of events around the country. We’re delighted to contribute to it.

In other news…

A Ford salesperson was recently checking over my car as a trade-in for something newer. She was a lot of fun. When we got to the boot, she asked if I had a body in there. The boot opened to reveal a single square box. ‘No, just a head,’ I said. She laughed, then noticed the box had Human Cargo written on it. She nearly jumped out of her skin…

Living by the Sea

Are you going to Sidmouth FolkWeek in August? This seaside festival is always a joy … pasties & beer, swimming in the sea, sessions everywhere, a bit of fishing, and lots of good music. But it will be a bit busier for me this year, for I’m co-creating a show called Living By The Sea, which we’ll perform over two days at the Manor Pavilion. This involves Paul Sartin and Faustus, and a scratch choir, and me telling tales – like a Radio Ballads – with stories and songs all about coastal communities.

That’s it for this monthly dose of news. Do check out my new Facebook page – or keep in touch with Twitter

May and June is such a lovely time in Britain. Enjoy it – and maybe I’ll see you out on the road somewhere.

Best wishes, Matthew

Trust me, cooking’s even more enjoyable when you’re serenaded by Jeff Warner on banjo.


I’d not recommend you open up your airwaves to any guest for 90 minutes, least of all a man with a banjolele in his hand, a flood of tales about sweet-making, refugees and music hall, AND a new tour and album to sell. But that’s exactly what the mighty Dan Carrier did last Friday with his 5pm Friday slot on Boogaloo Radio. It got serious. It got silly. It went other places too. And you can hear it here (I emerge after 26 minutes).

Dan’s a brilliant man: a journalist on the world’s best local paper – the Camden New Journal – a DJ with the Dig It Sound System, and a font of good stories about the world. He’s a massive fan of reggae, with some treats you’ll enjoy throughout this show. Plus some songs from the Transports which I got him to play.

Boogaloo Radio beams out of a pub garden in North London, 24 hours a day. There’s a comfy shed, housing all you need to broadcast chat and toons. People in the pub can listen while they drink (and sometimes you can hear them back during the show). It was a very pleasant place to spend an early Friday evening.

We chatted about my book The Trebor Story, then The Transports, Human Cargo and music hall. I sang bits of some songs, including The Press Gang, Riley-O, New York Gals and, later, a full version of Your Baby Has Gone Down the Plughole. Dan’s folks used to perform with The Lissenden Players, where I got my first break in Music Hall, so he shared a few choruses from distant memory. Then, before it all got a bit too nostalgic, Dan rushed off to perform at a gig, and I trudged back through the streets of Highgate, banjolele in my hand and a faint fear of ‘Did I really say that?’ Ah, live radio. Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, playing a musical instrument, guitar, beard and indoor

All that’s missing from this lovely recent article on my book Human Cargo by RnR Magazine – thanks Ian Croft – is the headline STOCKING FILLER. Yes folks, this Christmas give them the gift of human suffering. Well, why not? Human Cargo makes an excellent present for the folkie/politico in your life. Plus, it’s a cunning device for infiltrating those of a Brexit/anti-immigration persuasion – for it’s about history, and everyone’s partial to an old story. It’s £9.99 and best to buy via Amazon (sorry, it’s hard for small publishers to supply bookshops) or message me direct if you’d like signed copies. And you can read lots more about it at humancargo.co.uk

Here’s a short video of me telling stories of Parallel Lives to the huge crowd who came to see The Transports at Shrewsbury Folk Festival. (And a glimpse of the great song Dark Water by The Young’uns).The Parallel Lives project gathers true stories, town by town across Britain, of people who’ve been forced to leave that place in past centuries and people who’ve come to live there in recent decades. People go, people come – migration is part of life. That’s the message. Parallel Lives always goes down well at performances of The Transports, for audiences love local tales – and it’s a fresh, human way to talk about the centrality of migration to human life. Plus, in each town we link with a local refugee or migrant support group. I’m now starting to gather stories for our next tour of The Transports in January, where we’ll be reaching places like Cheltenham, Yeovil, Manchester, Preston, Bromsgrove, Bury St Edmunds, Southampton, Guildford, Chesterfield, Leeds, Durham, Berwick and Norwich. Then I’ll share more stories when I tour Human Cargo next Spring with the great Jeff Warner We’ll soon be giving Parallel Lives a smart, new website. But, for now, you can read the tales I’ve gathered at http://www.thetransportsproduction.co.uk/ Do get in touch if you’ve got any stories or ideas. And thanks as ever to the wonderful Refugee Council for their help.

Thank you Shrewsbury Folk Festival. My first visit, and I can see why people rave about it. Must admit, I was rather scared, appearing in The Transports before such a massive crowd, and I’m new to the acoustics of huge tents. But it helps to share a stage with people so skilled as The Young’uns, Faustus, Nancy Kerr, Rachael McShane and Greg Russell. Plus the genius of Andy Bell on sound and Emma Thompson on lighting. And thanks to Keith Bache for the show pics. Now to learn some fresh Parallel Lives scripting for the BBC tomorrow…

First off, a remarkable video of the instant standing ovation from 4,000 people.

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