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Folk music legend sings songs of Wellington wars

Published: 1 November 2007

In a break with tradition, folk legend Martin Carthy is set to give this year's prestigious Wellington Lecture at the University of Southampton. It is the first time that the lecture has taken the form of a musical presentation.

The outstanding and highly influential singer and guitarist was at the centre of the 1960s British folk revival and the emergence of electric folk at the end of that decade. Today, Martin Carthy is an acknowledged inspiration for up and coming young folk talent, including his daughter and co-performer Eliza Carthy.

His musical presentation Songs of Wellington Wars for the 19th Wellington Lecture on Wednesday 28 November is a major departure for the lecture series. Martin Carthy will be performing traditional and popular songs from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, linked by an informative narrative setting them in their historical context.

The French Wars between 1793 and 1815 had a profound effect on British life and culture and produced a rich crop of songs, many relating real or imagined experiences of members of the armed forces. Common themes running through these songs were separation and death, as in songs such as The Plains of Waterloo or The Banks of the Nile.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a frequent subject of songs, the majority of which were less than complimentary about him, for example Little Boney which celebrated Wellington's victory at Waterloo. In the eighteenth century there was a strong tradition of patriotic songs and there is evidence that songs were used as a significant propaganda medium during this period.

Q Magazine has described Martin Carthy as: 'Arguably the greatest English folk song performer, writer, collector and editor of them all'. His partner both on and off stage is Norma Waterson, while his other best-known partnership is with fiddler Dave Swarbrick, although during his innovative career the full list of musicians he has played with constitutes an aristocracy of English folk. He was awarded the MBE for services to English music in 2005.

The Wellington Lecture was established in 1989 and is funded through an endowment from His Excellency Manuel de Prado, Ambassador of Spain. The annual public lecture focuses on aspects of the life and times of the first Duke of Wellington and has attracted a host of distinguished speakers, including Lord Hurd, Professor Andrew Lambert, and General Sir David Fraser.

The Wellington lecture takes place on Wednesday 28 November at 6.00pm in the Turner Sims Concert Hall on the University's Highfield campus. Refreshments are available from 5.30pm. Tickets for the lecture are free but must be booked in advance and early application is advised as places are limited. Contact the Special Events Office on 023 8059 6827.

There are strong links between the University and the Dukes of Wellington. The fourth Duke led the campaign for a university for Wessex in the 1920s and the seventh Duke was the first Chancellor of the University of Southampton. The papers of the first Duke are among the archives held in the Special Collections Division of the University Library.

The following evening, Thursday 29 November, Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson and Mike Waterson are performing at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton.

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. It is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. The University has around 20,000 students and over 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £310 million.

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