From the Bronze Age to the Ballad Age at Fiddler's Hill

A fortunate break in the (very wet ...) weather allowed a long-planned collaboration between archaeologists, artists and musicians to finally come to fruition at the prehistoric burial mound at Fiddler’s Hill on the afternoon of 8 July 2012.

From the Bronze Age to the Ballad Age: Digging the Folk Roots of Norfolk was the brainchild of West Norfolk poet and author Gareth Calway. Gareth had been asked by folk musician Adrian Tebbutt to write a lyric about the legend of Fiddler’s Hill which he could set to music as a ballad. The site's name comes from a local legend which tells how a tunnel once ran from Walsingham to Binham Priory. A brave fiddler named Jimmy Griggs entered with his dog, Trap, while others followed his music above ground. But silence fell as their course drew near to the mound and the fiddler was never seen again. People feared that the ghostly Black Monk had taken Jimmy and his dog, and henceforth the barrow was known as Fiddler’s Hill.

Time passed and the project grew as other people became involved: musicians, poets, an actor, a performance artist and local prehistorian Trevor Ashwin. Their work culminated not only in a live art event on the mound itself but also a public concert at Binham Memorial Hall that same evening. This allowed a longer programme celebrating different aspects of North Norfolk’s history and folklore to be presented. On the mound, under skies that threatened rain, folk music trio The Fried Pirates (Adrian Tebbutt, Roger Partridge, Katy Fullilove) gave the first public performance of The Ballad of Fiddler’s Hill, which features the refrain:

‘I will play my way’, cried the jolly fiddler
To the cheering local crowd,
‘Stamp time and follow my tune above
For I play both brave and loud.’

Trevor Ashwin recounted the Fiddler’s Hill legend and gave a short history of the mound, and Gareth Calway chanted two of his poems - chosen to relate to the site and the occasion - The Ballad of Fiddler’s Hill and the Iceni Chorus from his performance-poem Boudicca. Imogen Ashwin had devised a new site specific performance piece, Bridge, which took place on the burial mound itself, accompanied by Katy Fullilove’s lone fiddle.

That evening, the performers played to a full house of eighty people at Binham Memorial Hall, with sets by The Fried Pirates and by singer/songwriter Mark Fawcett who performed Norfolk-themed historical ballads co-written for the event with Gareth Calway. Trevor Ashwin gave an illustrated talk on the prehistory of Binham and surrounding area and Imogen Ashwin showed a digital projection based on her performance piece Bridge accompanied live by Katy Fullilove’s fiddle. Gareth Calway and actor Dawn Finnerty brought the house down with a vibrant two-person performance of Boudicca - ‘the punk version of what happened in AD 61’!.

All of the participants are very grateful to the Trust for allowing them to use the Fiddler's Hill barrow for the event.