Southsea: remembering the Lindisfarne classics

Lindisfarne memories
Lindisfarne memories

The classic music and moments of The Lindisfarne Story come to life when Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell visit Southsea’s Kings Theatre on October 22.

The show is devised, written and performed by founder member Ray Laidlaw, the original drummer and Billy Mitchell, front man for the final eight years, is a celebration of Tyneside’s best-loved band for more than 30 years. Ray and Billy perform acoustic versions of Lindisfarne’s classic songs and tell the inside story of the group’s rise to fame, from Whitley Bay to San Francisco Bay, from Rothbury to Glastonbury. They describe the group’s early days on Tyneside in the1960s hustling for gigs and their rise to fame in the early 70s. The show is illustrated with personal archive photographs.

As Ray says, the band ceased to function as a full-time entity in 2003: “Unless you are creating new material, you are not a band, you are just a revival, and that’s what happened: we went our separate ways in 2003.

“But Billy and I live close together and we have been friends for a long time. We have worked together on a lot of solo projects. He had a couple of solo albums that I played on. We also worked on projects together for things like the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, and inevitably we were getting bands together to play for shows. And inevitably people were wanting us to do Lindisfarne songs. Even Mr Weller wanted to do Meet me on the Corner!

“And so people were saying ‘Is the band getting back together?’ As far as we were concerned, the answer was no.”

But from it emerged a different kind of show, the current show, just the two of them looking back over it all.

“I had seen Ray Davies about 20 years ago do a show which was quite surreal but also partly autobiographical going through talking about all the songs. We thought we would bring our story up to date, using audio-visual stuff and all sorts of material to talk about the songs.”

Fortunately Ray has always been effectively the band’s archivist: “I have got diaries going back to the 60s right through, and so we set about putting the show together. It was strange at first. I wasn’t used to coming to the front and talking to people but it has been great and people seem to like it. The fans are happy because they are getting the stories of the songs and seeing audio-visual stuff that they won’t have seen before,”