FEATURE: Steve Pledger – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ahead of his show at Claypath Deli on Sunday 29th April, we caught up with Durham resident and earnest, heartfelt singer-songwriter Steve Pledger to find out a bit more about the the inspiration behind his music. Over to you Steve…

Toward the end of 2016 I released, what is currently, my latest album: ‘Somewhere Between’. The title refers to a theme that runs though many of the songs on the record, that of transience; the ever-changing nature of pretty much everything. Somewhere Between also resonated with me on a personal level as at some stage during the process of making the album, it became clear that my family and I would soon be relocating from our home in the South West of England to… we had no idea where.

(But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

There is a track on that record called ‘The Louisa Miner’. The song means much to me for several reasons, not least because within the lyrics there lay a significant clue as to where we were to eventually end up living. Although at the time of writing and subsequently recording it, I hadn’t given the slightest thought toward such an eventuality. The subject matter and reason for writing the song were cause enough alone for me to connect strongly with  it… as one hopes to do with every song, of course. Nevertheless, ‘The Louisa Miner’ is special to me because of its origin and also the lamentable truths it conveys.

(But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Both making and listening to music have brought me into contact with many wonderful people over the years. Most people who have an affinity for music will say something similar. Many of my most treasured friendships have formed as a result of a shared love and appreciation of this most remarkable form of human expression. Two people with whom I share such a bond live in the North East. And thanks to technology, we got to know one another before we actually met. We did eventually meet when I was on tour in 2015 and I played a small gig not far from where they live in North Shields. Since then, we’ve all become the firmest of friends, and they now also promote some phenomenal gigs in North Shields under the legend Live In The North East. (In fact, I’ll be playing there myself on 26th July!)

The night after the gig, Andy, Jo and myself got together and at some stage during proceedings, Jo shared with me what little she knew of the story of her Grandfather. He had moved to County Durham from Cornwall in the dying days of the 19th century.  The tin and copper mines there were failing and closing down but the coal industry was, of course, still very much alive in the North East. He worked at several collieries, lastly down the Louisa pit in Stanley. As a result – and as was true for countless others – it was to cut short his life. He died aged just 47 from various respiratory conditions, none of which – according to the coroner’s remarks on his death certificate – were a result of his work below ground. Consequently, having lovingly discouraged his two sons from following him down the pit, his grieving family had to leave their colliery house. That family consisted of Jo’s Grandmother; her Uncle Redvers (‘Red’), and the young man destined to become her father. This story, though distressing to hear for the first time, I now know to be by far from unique, as many of you will already be aware. But that disregard for people; the arrogance that visited such cruelty upon so many; and perhaps even more so, that spirit which enabled many of the living to keep going in spite of all that was heaped upon them ought to be the substance of song. As it has been, of course. Past lives commemorated… injustices condemned… warnings sounded. All of this, along with some of the personal circumstances of that poor family, fed into what went on to become ‘The Louisa Miner’. My humble intent was – and my hope remains – that it might pay a small tribute to those so mistreated; pour scorn upon the attitudes of those who deemed others disposable, and quietly declare the fact that such foul thinking is far from absent in present day. Thanks to various measures brought in during the intervening years, a good number of things have improved for the ‘poorer classes’ but we are continually reminded that there is still much to be done… we remain, as ever, somewhere between. Within the confines of what can currently be gotten away with, people are taken advantage of still. I have a sneaking suspicion that if the changes that were fought for and won over the decades by many had not come about, then in regard to working conditions; workers ‘rights and the like, little would have changed since the days of the pit owners.

Today, very little remains as a reminder of the way things were for those who worked the long-silenced pits, save what legacy ordinary men and women have fought to establish and preserve. I have the feeling that much of the Establishment would sooner we forgot about such things altogether. After all, the more you risk the audience working out how you performed your last trick, the less likely you are to fool them with your next one. For all of these reasons, I wanted to write this particular song.

And as for us relocating, we began to strongly consider moving North… perhaps to County Durham. As I mentioned, I’d been up here a couple of times and I’d really loved the area, and met some great people. We considered a number of houses in a number of places over the course of several visits. Without a thought for ‘The Louisa Miner’; the story behind it or the area in which it was set, we eventually found the house. Just down the road from Stanley. Naturally, I told Andy and Jo about it. Jo knows the area well and grew up around here.

August 2017, we moved from Somerset into our new home. Down the road from where the Louisa Colliery once stood… and right next to the very school Jo’s father and Uncle ‘Red’ went on to attend after the family moved up from the South West.

The next stage of our somewhere between had begun.

Steve Pledger plays Claypath Deli on Sunday 29th April.

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