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Following last year’s highly acclaimed and hugely successful Mr Corvan’s Music Hall, top North East playwright Ed Waugh’s latest show is about Joe Wilson, the brilliant Tyneside-born singer/songwriter.
Like Bob Dylan, Wilson was able to encapsulate an epic story in a song. His subject matter ranged from love, death and moving house to supporting workers on strike. In addition, he wasn’t afraid to tackle the horrors of domestic violence or drunkenness. His prose is a vibrant record of working class life on Victorian Tyneside, which are as relevant today as they were 150 years ago.
Joe is best known today for the classic Keep Your Feet Still, Geordie Hinny, which was one of 360 songs he wrote in his brief life. Born in Stowell Street, Newcastle, on November 29, 1841, Joe was inspired when, as a young teenager, he saw Ned Corvan perform.
Joe made his professional debut at Balmbras, Newcastle, in December 1864, and within a year, aged only 24, was the undisputed North East concert hall superstar. He was given the accolade “The Bard of Tyneside”.
A teetotaller after he managed the Adelaide pub (today next to Manors Metro station) throughout 1872, Joe died of TB in February 1875 (in Railway Street, behind Newcastle Central Station). He was 33 years old. His memorial in Jesmond Old Cemetery, depicts a life cut tragically short.
This must-see funny, tragic and informative play is based on the new book Gallowgate Lad: Joe Wilson’s Life & Songs by Dave Harker, and will feature Joe’s words put to music by internationally renowned singer/songwriter Pete Scott.