An emotional telling of the lifestory of Johnny Longstaff

Young'Uns at St Mary In The Castle
Young'Uns at St Mary In The Castle

It was Ewan MacColl who created the Radio Ballads over half a century ago and The Young’uns evocative Ballad Of Johnny Longstaff continues that fine tradition.

Their close harmony – three male singers with sixteen songs, most of them specially composed – and the visual impact of historic photographs, would be enough to enthral in itself. However, this event goes one step further. Thanks to the strength of the oral history movement we have six hours of Johnny Longstaff himself, telling his own story. The Young’uns draw on this, winding their songs throughout the events and giving us a precise emotional encounter with historical events – and what events they are! Losing his job as a boy because of an industrial accident, he joined the hunger marches to London, slept rough by the Thames, joined the English Battalion in the Spanish Civil War and eventually fought in WWII.

He was just one brave man among thousands, but his story is emblematic of the fight for workers’ rights and for the victory of democracy over fascism.

It was deeply moving and politically apt at the present time. The three singers are well balanced but also bring individual skills. Sean Cooney wrote most of the songs as well as leading the trio, Michael Hughes plays piano and guitar, David Eagle adds piano and accordion. A one-night-stand was not really enough to take in the wealth of a life lived so fully, and it would be good to think we might see The Young’uns again soon. By Brian Hick.