Ploughing The Salt Sea with Bev Lee HarlingPloughing The Salt Sea with Bev Lee Harling
Ploughing The Salt Sea with Bev Lee Harling

Hastings born performer digs into her ancestral roots for show

Talented local singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bev Lee Harling returns to The Stables Theatre this week with Ploughing The Salt Sea - a story of the womenfolk, fishing folk, family and deep sea-salt drenched roots of Hastings.

Hastings born-and-bred, Bev was inspired to create the show after spending a lot of time researching and uncovering details about the rich heritage of her Hastings fishing family roots in the town.

The performance is influenced by traditional folk music and the colourful stories she was uncovering.

The narrative, drawn from the suds of the Old Town Wash House, told through the eyes of the overlooked women, seeks to rewrite their stories of boats lost at sea and local life, back into our current consciousness through original and traditional folk song.

While the obvious themes here derive from the local fishing community, there are universal experiences in the show including secrecy, loss and finding your own voice, which are common to women from every background.

Bev Lee Harling never knew her maternal grandparents: her mother, Jan, was adopted at the age of nine. “She was a very secretive person and never spoke about her parents or family,” Bev explains. “After she died, I was left with holes in my understanding of who I am and where I belong.”

Bev began to plug the gaps, recording conversations with her father about her mother’s past, researching her family tree and visiting local museums. In the grip of these stories.

Ploughing The Salt Sea represents a culmination of this research. Bev tells of a great uncle lost at sea; a hard-drinking grandfather falling foul of the law; a great-great grandmother, proprietor of net huts down on Rock-a-Nore; and the decline in her own mother’s health. She shares precious memories, real and imagined.

Bev has toured the show to coastal towns and festivals over the past year, and thanks to Hastings Storytelling Festival, the show has a brand new scene and song, as well as a beautiful exhibit in Hastings Museum and Art Gallery - showing a Bev's family Gansey (what others might call a 'Gurnesey' jumper), knitted especially for the project, by local yarn hero Helen Jones, curated by Alice Roberts-Pratt.

The show is highly recommended. If you are new to the town, it will give you a better understanding of why Hastings is so wonderful - if you've lived here all your life... it may (and has for some) bring a tear to your eye. A blend of folk, electro, percussion, clever set design, lighting and sound brought to you by a cracking creative team.

The show can be seen at The Stables Theatre, in Hastings Old Town from Thursday March 21 – Saturday 23.

You can get tickets here and read more about Bev here