Time and Tides in Morcambe Bay

Here’s a hotel tip. Never settle for the first room that you are offered. Never be impolite at hotels. Simply look at your room and then go back to reception and ask if it is possible that you can see another room.  You’ll be surprised about what you learn. I have an aversion to the hotel room that faces either another hotel room or a wall. I need light. Hotels are giant cash machines and you are the cash. Though I don’t pay for my hotel rooms I’ll be damned if I’ll be squeezed into a shoebox room so small that when I open the mini bar I fall out  the window.

imageI’m working in Morecambe with a dynamic music producer called

Pete Moser. His father like him, is a composer which is nice.   Moser is a Composer. Pete and Catherine and assortment of children live facing the Morecambe Bay – apparently it was once a volcano crater.  It is the largest naturally formed bay in England and famous for it’s cockles which sell all over the world.

Pete has a music production company called More Music Morecambe who won he Arts Council 06 award this year.  The cocklers tend to work at night on the bay, as the tides are out.  They are escorted on beach buggies, torches in hand;  thirty or so will scour the bay for the cockles by night.   It became so lucrative that teams of people are  shipped in from Liverpool of a night to work through to morning light.  Chinese cocklers.  Good immigrants doing the hard work hat many English people don’t want to do.

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 “What you’re supposed to do” said the bar man at the hotel – he’s worked there for 28 years -  “ is turn the beach buggy round so the lights are facing the way you came so’s if the tide won’t disorientate”.  Last year 21 cocklers, mainly Chinese, were caught. The tide came in too quickly. Disorientated. “thing is, as the tide came in and went behind them it cut them off, buggy and all. Problem was the buggy lights was facing to the wrong side of the bay about two miles away. They thought this was the way back. They could see the lights on the other shoreline and thought that they were running home, from the tide”. Unfortunately they weren’t running home they were running  into quicksand. “saddest bloody thing. They couldn’t swim”.

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He woke that night to a swarm  helicopters. FWAPA FWAPA FWAPA.  High powered beams scorched the night and criss crossed  the bay with pathways of light. Never has the bay been like this. Pete Moser’s lovely home stands on the shoreline Ribbons of blue light splashed rhythmically from a fleet of  police cars that  lined the shore.  FWAPA FWAPA FWAPA.  Maybe Pete’s father had composed music that would describe the scene better than I.  Peter and his family stood by their window and he then rushed out to the bay as the sun crawled over the horizons to shed true light on the horrific harvest of mourning.  Not cockles but people.  The sea, old man that he is, delivered  these poor immigrants, gently pushing them to the beach of Morcambe bay – to Pete’s doorstep.  ather than the Chinese picking cockles, the police were left with the task of finding and picking bodies.

The television crews arrived and the hotels were booked up fully, for the first time since the nineteen seventies when morcambe was one of the most popular  holiday destinations of England.  Before, that is, the cheap holiday abroad became available to all.  Pete and Catherine and their family internalized the Shock , like any other Morcambe resident.  veryone knew about the Chinese cocklers but no one knew the Chinese cocklers. What was their story? How had this happened? What shall we learn from this? How shall we remember them? Peter has embarked on the most crucial of projects through his production company.  Their story, the story of the immigrants, of their journey is a portal to all our stories. And it is this portal which asks us about our stories and our journeys. In this clear light we are building a show, which will tour Britain and parts of China.

I am writing poems and songs by commission and have worked this past two days with incredible musicians. I am also looking at and working through poems and songs written by Morcambe residents and as the months pass by the project grows…. the project is very very big and very very emotional. From my hotel room I can see, the sea.  Whenever I go to work with Pete we go for a walk away from the office or rehearsal rooms. We go up up up into the hills that surround the bay. This picture is of the rock by the bay. Inlaid into this rock are the graves of Vikings.  They faced the sea and are hewn into the solid rock. They remind me of the churches of Lallibella in Ethiopia which are also  hewn from solid pieces of rock. The Vikings were immigrants too – we are all immigrants.

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