Rok Skool’s Hereward Kaye raises funds for wild memoir about Moby Dick musical

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Rok Skool owner and Mid Sussex musician Hereward Kaye is raising funds to publish his ‘lockdown memoir’ about Moby Dick: The Musical.

Unleashed upon the West End in 1992 at the Piccadilly Theatre this show famously received a wave of negative reviews before closing only four months later.

However, before the end of its run Moby Dick actually found an enthusiastic audience and got nightly standing ovations.

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“It kind of barnstormed out of the West End as if it was one of the greatest hits of all time,” said Hereward, 68, who now lives in Lindfield with his wife Pat.

Hereward Kaye at Rok Skool, Haywards Heath. Photo: Steve Robards, SR2109062.Hereward Kaye at Rok Skool, Haywards Heath. Photo: Steve Robards, SR2109062.
Hereward Kaye at Rok Skool, Haywards Heath. Photo: Steve Robards, SR2109062.

“It was a Cameron Mackintosh musical so it opened to a massive fanfare but the critics absolutely harpooned it,” he said.

Hereward thinks that Moby Dick was possibly the Cameron Mackintosh show that the critics had been waiting for.

“It was the first chance they had to get their knives into Cameron,” he said. “I mean you know what it’s like with critics.”

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Hereward said that Moby Dick was also not ‘a typical Cameron Mackintosh musical’.

The West End opening of Moby Dick in 1992. Picture: Hereward Kaye.The West End opening of Moby Dick in 1992. Picture: Hereward Kaye.
The West End opening of Moby Dick in 1992. Picture: Hereward Kaye.

Compared with the producer’s other shows – Miss Saigon, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera – it had an almost punk feel to it.

“He loved it because it wasn’t like his other shows and he was very brave to put it on,” said Hereward.

The book, titled The Ship Hits the Fans: A Whale of a Tale, aims to bring the musical’s fascinating inside story to life.

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It will contain more than 20 pictures and Hereward is set to employ Lapwing Publishing to edit, design and produce the hardback.

The poster for Moby Dick in 1992.The poster for Moby Dick in 1992.
The poster for Moby Dick in 1992.

So far his Indiegogo crowdfunding page has made about a third of its £4,000 target.

The book will not just look at the early ’90s either, said Hereward, because Sir Cameron had helped revive the show in the early 2000s to give it a chance in America.

“Suddenly he gave me his apartment on Central Park and he gave me a cast, a recording studio and workshop performances,” said Hereward.

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“It was incredible and suddenly I had the chance to do the whole thing again,” he said, adding that the show had to change a lot and be ‘translated into American’.

“It still gets productions in America to this day.”

Hereward went on to say that he re-wrote the show once more in 2016 for London fringe performances celebrating the 25th anniversary of its original West End run.

He also pointed out that in July that year Graham Norton had asked Cameron Mackintosh when the show was coming back after the broadcaster received so many letters about it.

“I’ve been working on that show, off and on, for 40 years now,” said Hereward, adding that the idea for it dates back to 1983 when creator Robert Longden wrote the book and asked Hereward for songs.

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“It’s a musical that’s threaded its story through my life really.”

But it’s not the only story in the new book, said Hereward, who has had ‘quite a different career’ full of unique experiences.

Pop fans will know that he sang in The Flying Pickets for 13 years and that he was Rick Wakeman’s lead vocalist on the album Cost of Living.

Since the musical’s inception in the early ’80s, Hereward has also raised a family, formed a band with Tom Robinson, worked with Ray Davies and the Kinks and has been signed to EMI.

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He ‘briefly cohabited’ with the Beatles’ first manager and also hung out with Elvis Costello without realising who he was.

So The Ship Hits The Fans is full of amusing rock ’n’ roll anecdotes and Hereward said it is ‘absolutely glittered’ with great moments.

“I’ve had some amazing responses from the people who have read it so far,” he said.

Hereward said the ‘lockdown memoir’ began in March 2020 and just ‘fell out’ of him until he finished it in spring 2021.

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“I like to see it as a self-help book on how to fail well because you have your successes in life – and I’ve had my successes along the way – and you have your failures as well,” he said.

“It’s so important to keep the faith and keep your creative juices going,” he added, saying that people should just keep soldiering on.

“My secret to a happy life is to be in the middle of a project that you truly believe in and that you want to get out there.”

Hereward said he adores writing, as well as making music, and has recently written his first novel, Tartarus, which he hopes to get published at a later date.

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In the meantime, the publication process for The Ship Hits the Fans will start once the crowdfunding has finished.

The book should be ready for editing early next year with a scheduled publication date of autumn 2022, he said.

In addition to his writing project Hereward continues to run his Rok Skool, which returned to Haywards Heath in summer after months of Covid restrictions.

“We’ve got a new term starting and I’ve got lots of new initiatives that we’re starting in January 2022,” he said.

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“For the first time we’re teaching DJing and beats, we’ve got a specialist coming in and we’ve got specialist workshops happening.”

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To contribute to the Indiegogo campaign for The Ship Hits the Fans click here.