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Morag's Blog - Collection Points
06 Oct 2023

RNLI Collection 30 Sep 2023 pm Margate

I chose this venue because I wanted to connect with the RNLI which is such a strong part of the Margate community and is on a throughway from Cliftonville to the town and its car park so has a constant feed of people passing.

Thomas Wood and I set up on a bright, warm afternoon. There were a few people passing back and forth on their way to the carpark and generally walking the Viking Trail.  

It’s quite a thing to approach strangers and engage on what could be a controversial subject and ask for people to rack their brains for a song. We decided our strategy, to approach people who did not look purposeful or hassled, the parents of a screaming child, for example. There were lots of folk with dogs. Thomas is a professional and was straight in. The first man is a chef from Sri Lanka and very positive about everything English. He offers us a taste of his cooking later …. A great start. You will never guess what English song he learned as a child!

Other people we approached were intrigued by the project and suggested various folk and other songs. Some people found it hard to think of anything at all whereas others had a few ideas already formulating during the initial discussion. 

We tried to choose men and women representing all communities in Margate -and unknowingly spoke to one woman who was profoundly deaf who had never heard a song in her life….  She knew the words though. 

The discussion around the school curriculum Citizenship language has been fascinating with wildly differing views on people’s perception of ethics and culture in England at the moment. We asked for any other words that could be substituted and this has proved interesting and thoughtful.

The people we spoke to were local and from various ethnic backgrounds and genders. 

Talking after the session , Thomas and I agreed that it was better for people to use the app themselves to note down their demographic information, than for us to ask. The app that Thomas has set up to lead the questions is amazing and has simplified the process extraordinarily using the technology of the 21st century and improving the project hugely.  


International Food Centre  4/10/23   Cliftonville

The International Food centre is a Greek/Turkish community grocer, baker, greengrocer and café. I chose this venue because it attracts people from all communities in Cliftonville to their wonderful good value salads and patisserie. 

Gerry Colvin and I felt a bit apprehensive approaching people who were purposefully meeting friends for a break or lunch. We established ourselves at the entrance. Almost immediately we were passed by people who had heard about the project and were happy to participate.  

Encouraged by this I moved further into the café and spoke to some lovely people who were intrigued by the project and interested to have a discussion. 

I was pleased that people were as interested in the England enigma as myself. Some became quite indignant at the idea that the discussion about living in England had been taken over by the political right wing. Song choices were surprising and impressive.

Gerry stayed at the entrance and talked to passers-by there.

We talked afterwards about the experiences of the conversations we had that session. Gerry had found this a more awkward experience interrupting people whereas I was more confident talking to single diners. 

The customers came from a variety of backgrounds.  


Margate Harbour Arms  4/10/23     Margate

Harbour Arms is on a road that wraps the harbour with boats and forming a nature reserve for birds. I chose this venue as it’s a popular area with locals and visitors because of the situation and the regular live music. 

Gerry Colvin and I arrived at the Harbour Arms at 6 pm and it was clear that some people had already been at the bar for a while. The owners were keen that we spoke to a couple of customers who were interested in music. 

The first customer was a retired sound engineer who had fascinating stories about times  with Fairport Convention and other folk bands, he had worked on the original Cropredy festivals. He had solid ideas about living in England today.

There were  other customers who had moved from other countries and had vivid ideas of what constituted an English song. They had considered ideas about England today.

Other customers were more entrenched in their views and felt less connected with multicultural England of today.

This was the easiest venue for Gerry and I to talk to people an some of them turned up at the concert at Rosslyn Court the following night.

The conversations were diverse and interesting. 


Grain Grocer 5/10/23  Cliftonville

Gerry Colvin and I set up at Grain Grocer which is, as it says, an independent, vegetarian, wholegrain grocer’s shop and café on Northdown Rd in Cliftonville.  I chose his venue for its strong position in the community and its demographic appeal.

We sat at the entrance and almost immediately met people who were willing to talk to us about the project.  All of the people we approached at this venue sat down and talked to us about the project in a considered way. It was interesting as we were concerned that they may be focussing on shopping/eating but in fact they seemed to be pleased to be distracted.

I was pleased to talk to interesting people of different genders and ethnic backgrounds with fascinating insights into the concept of living in England/. 


Dalby Café 6/10/23  Cliftonville

Dalby Café is famous for its enormous breakfast challenge, achieved by the likes of Peter Doherty and a few others. It is a community-based café used by locals. I chose this venue because it is popular, busy and is used by local building workers and others.

Thomas Wood and I spent most of a Friday at this venue. 

I was feeling confident about the Dalby as it has a high turnover and is well respected. The owner was very supportive of our project.

Interestingly, when we arrived, it seemed quite intimidating. There were groups of workers talking animatedly and it seemed rude to interrupt. I went for a coffee and spied a lone diner. I pounced. What a lovely man! I chatted for ages with a lovely man who had strong feelings about wanting the idea of positive ideas of living in England to be as valid as those in Scotland and Wales. He ate his lunch as we talked, I drank coffee and he seemed pleased to be able to share his views.

Another man wanted to eat in peace. Fair enough.

We had a short break to allow to café to be very busy with people snatching a quick lunch and returned to a different clientele. 

Thomas talked to 3 women at a table while I had a long discussion with a lovely carpenter who had very well-developed ideas about the concepts involved in the project. 

I began to realise that I had revised, changed, developed  my introduction to the project as I approached people to ask to share their ideas and was probably more ready now than at the start.

The people who we got to speak to at the Dalby cafe that day were all lovely and really interesting.   

Image representing Morag's Blog - Collection Points from Margate Songbook