Interview with Tom Wells
16 May 2016
Playwright Tom Wells tells us more about the music and stories behind his latest play, Folk.
Where did the inspiration come from to start writing Folk? Has it been a fun script to write?
When I was a teenager, I played in a folk band with my Dad and his friend Paul from church, my sister, Ruth, and our friends Mary and Catherine. If we were doing a ceilidh, my Mum would call the dances with a radio mic, like Britney Spears. We all practised together on a Friday night in the church social centre on Bannister Street in Withernsea, and Father Egan, who was the parish priest at the time, would come along about halfway through, share out the Guinness, listen to the tunes and tell stories. That is the world I wanted to write about. The characters are different and their stories are made up, but those Friday nights on Bannister Street are where I started from.
What makes folk music special to you?
What I love about folk music is that it is a welcoming kind of music. A lot of people who play folk music are really, really gifted musicians - when Paul, who was in our band, plays a slow air on the whistle, or a reel, it is properly stunning. But I was never very good, and there was still a place for me. The music we played was bittersweet and beautiful or full of beans and joy and the point was never to get it perfect, it was just to do your best. People would join in, clapping or singing or dancing, and nobody would mind if you messed up a bit, because it was more important that you were having a go. I think probably that is what I think about writing too.
What do you hope audiences will take away from watching Folk?
When you listen to a lot of folk songs, you see that the stories they tell are full of struggle and resilience, full of characters who feel strong and brave and a bit broken. I wanted to have a go at writing a play that felt a bit like a folk song, fill it with music, and see what happened. So I hope people will enjoy it like they might enjoy a good folk song. Fingers crossed, anyway.
Take a listen to music from the show composed by James Frewer.
Folk is open at Watford Palace Theatre from Wednesday 18 - Saturday 28 May