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Life & Times

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GRAEME MEEK   BSc(Hons), Cert. Ed.


Ø  Voice

Ø  Hopf Acoustic Guitar

Ø  Epiphone Acoustic Guitar

Ø  Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass

Ø  Wilson Rapier Bass

Ø  Fylde Bouzouki


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Graeme’s traditional idiom songs form the mainstay of a Life & Times performance. One of his songs has been performed by John Kirkpatrick and another has been recorded by Carolyn Robson. A third has been used in a film submitted to the Cannes Film Festival and a fourth was used by BBC Schools Radio’s Singing Together. Other songs have been used as publicity for a Shropshire theatre company and as part of a Berkshire Education history package and his music has become part of several living traditions. He is a contact for BBC Radio 2’s Sold on Song songwriting clubs. A member of E-Ceilidh band Time Of Your Life. Former presenter of BBC Radio Bedfordshire’s 3 Counties’ Folk. (1985-1991).





Graeme is a member of the E.F.D.S.S.






Ø  Voice

Ø  Saltarelle Connemara Melodeon

Ø  Castagnari Tommy Melodeon

Ø  Excelsior Melodeon

Ø  Lachenal English Concertina




With over 30 years in folk behind him, he has been described as a Folk Polymath. Besides Life & Times he calls and plays for the E-Ceilidh band Time of Your Life. Has also called with other bands including Random, Grand Union, Mawkin, Stomp, Fendragon, The Woodpecker Band, Moondance, Triality and Laughing Gravy. Has called at Sidmouth, Towersey, Wimborne and Rhythms of the World Festivals. Has danced with Ampthill’s Redbornstoke Morris since 1977 and has been a musician for The Outside Capering Crew, Rockhopper Morris and Bedfordshire Lace. For many years he has been MC and caller for The Hertfordshire Folk Association's annual Summer Dance Festival for children at Hatfield House. Serves on the Festival's organising committee and also runs Folk Dance Workshops for teachers and children. Is involved in the New Roots young musicians’ competition. Has been an MC at Sidmouth, Towersey, Chippenham, Cheltenham and Shepley Festivals. Performs his tune ‘Four Up’ on the CD Grandson of Morris On. He is a contact for BBC Radio 2’s Sold on Song songwriting clubs.





Barry is a member of the E.F.D.S.S., Folk Arts England and FolkWISE


Formerly a trio, Greg Lindsay (flute) left in the late 1980s and was replaced, briefly, by Sara Fox (who became Sara Hack and a member of Time of Your Life) Before Graeme and Barry decided to continue as a duo. Life & Times has also occasionally featured Debbie Chalmers (who now works regularly with Bella Hardy and Suntrap) on fiddle in performance. Life & Times celebrated their Silver Jubilee in 2008.




Life & Times won the FATEA Tradition 09 Award which…


“…is presented to the act that have traditional folk at the root of their sound and use it to inspire new songs, tunes and arrangements.”


Previous winners have included Jackie Oates.



Prestigious Mentions

Life & Times feature in the Guinness Who’s Who in Folk and in The Official Music Maker Folk Music of the British Isles catalogue.



Highly Regarded Folk Performers Who Have Used Our Music



        (founder of STEELEYE SPAN)


        (former member of STEELEYE SPAN)


        (former EFDSS Education Officer)


Both John Kirkpatrick and Carolyn Robson have performed Life & Times’ songs. John played The Bridge of Iron at The Ironbridge Gorge Museum (he would have played more if there had been time!). Carolyn sings the song The Ghost of Lady de Grey (which appears on Life & Times’ CD Charivari) and she has also recorded it on her own CD: Dawn Chorus (Reiver Records RVCD03). You can hear the song at her website. Ashley Hutchings et al’s CD: The Grandson of Morris On concludes with Barry and the band performing his own tune Four Up.



Radio and Life & Times

Life & Times’ music has been featured on national radio and local radio stations around Britain and beyond. Their radio documentary of Shropshire Iron was broadcast – appropriately – in Shropshire as well as in many other regions and one of their songs Brickmaking from their LP Strawplait & Bonelace (Fellside Recordings

) was used by BBC Schools programme Singing Together in the 1990s and by BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours in 2008. Live radio performances have included several with Simon Groom of BBC Radio Bedfordshire (now 3 Counties Radio) and with Great Western Radio. Their traditional idiom music clearly has wide appeal beyond the immediate folk world with plays on Radio 2’s Album Time and Round Midnight (remember those?) as well as on a programme hosted by Adrian Love whom Life & Times met whilst performing as entertainers in the Victorian streets of The Ironbridge Gorge Museum in the 1980s. In April 2006, Graeme & Barry became contacts for BBC Radio 2’s Sold on Song songwriting scheme.



Other Users of Our Music

The song Brickmaking has been included in a Berkshire Education history package, music from Shropshire Iron has been used for a promotional video by a Shropshire Theatre Company and Barry’s tune Plaiter’s Polka appeared on TV’s The Canterville Ghost. In October 2006, Life & Times were approached about the use of their song The Bedfordshire Clanger in a short film by Dunstable-based Five Feet Films, which it is hoped will be shown on Channel 4 TV at some time in the future. Around the same time it was proposed to include the song The Markyate Highwayman in a history project in Ferrars Junior School, Luton (named after the Wicked Lady: she of the film and of the story in the song). At Hogmanay 2007, Graeme’s song The Stonehaven Fireballs was reproduced in the brochure that accompanied the age-old ceremony at Stonehaven, Grampian and in January 2009, Barry’s song Follow The Straw Bear was printed in the programme for the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival.



Who Writes The Music?

Although Graeme has been the main songwriter for the duo, Barry has also contributed songs and tunes; a growing number since 2006. Graeme has occasionally taken on commissions to write songs. In 1986 he wrote a few songs to assist in a bid to open a museum in a Bedfordshire town. One of those songs A Working Boatie Man appears on their CD Charivari (recorded in April 2001) and on the CD Where The Working Boats Went (recorded in January 2009). In 2003 he wrote a song for the opening of a restored bridge in a Bedfordshire village and The Bridge Down The Meadow together with Barry’s tune Over The Bridge have proved to be very popular well beyond the village for which they were written. 2009 saw a commission to write songs for the Greensand Trust’s Sands Of Time project which resulted in the CD of the same name (see Recordings). Graeme and Barry both contributed songs to this project. Graeme celebrated his 25th year of writing Bedfordshire songs in 2006.



Can Anyone Find Our Music Printed Anywhere?

Luton Museum & Art Gallery published the song book of Strawplait & Bonelace in 1984 and much of Life & Times’ material has been reproduced in Bedfordshire County Life Magazine since 1999. The Beds., Herts., Bucks., & Cambs., folk magazine Unicorn has also printed many of Graeme’s songs over the years. His songs have also appeared in several other folk publications including the NWFFC Newsletter and Joe Smith’s Midlands Folk Diary: the only song ever printed in that publication. Barry’s songs have also appeared in Unicorn magazine.




Barry’s Award

As a regular contributor to EFDSS events, promoter of folk in education and host of the children’s dance festival every summer at Hatfield House, in 2006, Barry won Hertfordshire’s Bill Ranscombe Award for services to folk in the county.



Recordings (see our Life & Times main website for more details)

Ø  Where The Working Boats Went    Wixamtree WIX 052

Ø  Charivari                                      Wixamtree WIX 051

Ø  Sands of Time                               Wixamtree WIXD 104

Ø  Shropshire Iron                            Fellside FE071

Ø  Strawplait & Bonelace                   Fellside FE043

Ø  A Select Few                                (dance music)

Ø  Marston Vale                                Community Project


Some other recordings that include our music:

Ø  Grandson of Morris On (Ashley Hutchings et al.)

Ø  Dawn Chorus (Carolyn Robson) Reiver Records RVCD03

Ø  Keep Dancing    EFDSS Recordings EDCD07    (dance music)



What Else Can We Say?

Ø  Life & Times were part of the EFDSS Full English project, in 2014. At a Milton Keynes school we taught dance and a local (adapted) May song. We also did some song writing workshops and created May garlands and a hobby horse which the children took to Birmingham Town Hall in June as the culmination of the whole country-wide project.

Ø  Life & Times appear regularly at Hitchin Folk Club, Radio 2’s 2005 Folk Awards Best Folk Club, where they are resident artists.

Ø  Life & Times have represented Bedfordshire at The EFDSS National Gathering in Cecil Sharp House, London.

Ø  Several of Life & Times songs and tunes are now incorporated into traditions, mainly, but not exclusively, local to Bedfordshire. See Traditions below for more details.

Ø  Life & Times’ first recording Strawplait & Bonelace was sponsored by The Eastern Arts Association.

Ø  Many Life & Times songs and tunes can be seen displayed in pubs, libraries and museums in Bedfordshire and beyond.

Ø  Life & Times have appeared the length of the country from Hartlepool to Wadebridge.

Ø  Life & Times are founder members and form two fifths of the E-ceilidh/barn dance band Time of Your Life  who have been performing since 1984.

Ø  Life and Times formed half of the band for the March 2008 youth theatre production of Lark Rise at Hitchin’s Queen Mother Theatre. Barry was the Musical Director.



Oddest Performance Venue

A live BBC Radio Bedfordshire broadcast from Bedford Sewage Works!






Many of Life & Times’ songs and tunes chronicle the history, legends, customs and folklore of the area in which Graeme & Barry live, and particularly the county of Bedfordshire. A flavour of this can be had from the following descriptions of some of the duo’s songs.


Charles Wells and Josephine Grimbley concerns the story of Chief Officer, Charles Wells, who gave up a promising sea career to return home and marry his sweetheart, Josephine Grimbley, and to establish the Bedford Brewery that still bears his name. (Known as Wells & Youngs from October 2006).


The Ghost of Lady de Grey. Lady Elizabeth de Grey was the daughter of the owner of Wrest House, a country mansion in Silsoe, Bedfordshire. Her father took a dim view of his daughter’s elopement with a humble coachman from The George Inn. In a hasty escape, she fell from a carriage and drowned in a lake. Her ghost returned to The George where her happiest times had been. There are still stories of ghostly appearances at the hotel which still stands in the village. This song is also sung by Carolyn Robson and is recorded on her CD Dawn Chorus, Reiver Records RVRCD03. (Recorded on the CD: Charivari). You can hear the song on her website.


Plough Monday Song tells of an ancient tradition which took place on the Monday after Twelfth Night, the first working day for agricultural workers after Christmas. Ploughboys with blackened faces paraded a plough around local pubs, singing and begging for money; and were often accompanied by dancers. The tradition was continued by ploughboys of Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, into the 20th century and, it has been revived around the Ampthill area by local Morris teams Bedfordshire Lace and Redbornstoke Morris, accompanied by the Brafront Guizers who perform their Plough Play. (Recorded on the CD: Charivari)


The Life and Times of Henry Claydon, Highwayman. Henry Claydon was a highwayman who plied his trade on the Watling Street, but lived in the Bedfordshire village of Flitwick. He made quite a success of his “trade” until one of his companions turned “King’s Evidence” and betrayed him, leading to his eventual execution at the end of the 17th century (or was it a rope…?). The song is told from his own point of view. (Recorded on the CD: Charivari)


Dunstable Downs Midsummer’s Day Song is based on a custom which used to take place on the downs until the early or mid 19th century. At dusk on midsummer’s day, huge bonfires were lit to celebrate the solstice. They were seen for miles around and burned late into the night. Similar customs apparently still exist in some other parts of the country. (Recorded on the CD: Charivari)


All In The Wintertime is a song which effectively explains the story behind the Mummers Play performed by Bedfordshire’s Brafront Guizers. It was written when it became obvious that after several years of performing the play, audiences were amused but still mystified by its content! (Recorded on the CD: Charivari)


The Witch of Conger Hill tells of an old custom in the village of Toddington, Bedfordshire. It is said if you venture up onto Conger Hill, an old castle mound, on Shrove Tuesday and put your ear to the ground, you will hear an old woman or witch frying her pancakes. The custom persisted into at least the 1970s when school children were taken up onto the hill to listen. The practice ceased with the introduction of The National Curriculum! A framed copy of this song can be seen in Toddington Library and also next door, on the wall at The Oddfellows Arms which is on the corner of Conger Lane. The tune of this song is used for a dance by The Outside Capering Crew who appear on the CD: Grandson of Morris On. (Recorded on the CD: Charivari)


More details on the stories behind Life & Times’ songs can be found at Graeme Meek’s Bedfordshire Songs website.




To hear some of Life & Times’ music go to these websites:



Violin accompaniments on these recordings are provided by Debbie Chalmers, schooled by Joe Broughton. Recordings made at SRT, St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, April 2001 and Unit Studios, Letchworth, Herts January 2009


Debbie is a member of our dance band TIME OF YOUR LIFE



Once on the website, click on The Film and then Music


To hear some of Time of Your Life’s music go to these websites:



All the tracks on the Time of Your Life websites above are taken from the CD Keep Dancing, a recording by Hertfordshire District EFDSS of dance music for use in schools, which is now available.


You can also hear us on the Wareham Court Leet website at:



where we are singing Graeme’s song Wareham Court Leet over an embedded YouTube slideshow of the Court Leet’s activities over the years. You can also go directly to the YouTube page by clicking here.




There are a number of living traditions that now include Life & Times’ music.


Ampthill, Bedfordshire’s Redbornstoke Morris has adopted the song Toddington Tour as an integral part of their dance tour of the village in July each year and print the words in their booklet that is available to spectators and visitors. Other Morris sides now expect the song at the end of the proceedings and are ready to join in the chorus.


Barry’s song All in the Wintertime is regularly sung at performances by Ampthill’s Mummers Players, The Brafront Guizers.


Plough Monday Song is usually sung at the Plough Monday gatherings of Redbornstoke Morris and Bedfordshire Lace at The Cross Keys, Pulloxhill, Bedfordshire on Plough Monday each year.


On May Day morning every year at Katherine’s Cross in Ampthill Park, following the dancing by Redbornstoke Morris, Bedfordshire Lace and other invited Morris sides, Barry’s song Ampthill Sunrise is always sung.


Graeme’s tune One Man’s Morris together with Barry’s dance of the same name is now performed by Redbornstoke Morris as well as by Sarum Morris of Wiltshire.


The dance display team, Outside Capering Crew, use the tune of Witch of Conger Hill for one of their dances.


Graeme’s song Wareham Court Leet was used for the outing of the Court Leet around the town of Wareham in November 2008. Hopefully this will become part of their tradition in future years.


A school dance group in Little Paxton, Cambridgeshire, have used Graeme’s tune Seven Chimneys.


Barry’s tune Four Up is performed by many Morris sides around the country.




·         The GRANDSON OF MORRIS ON band (formed by Ashley Hutchings, founder of Steeleye Span) perform Barry’s tune Four Up

·         JOHN KIRKPATRICK (one-time member of Steeleye Span) has performed Graeme’s song The Bridge of Iron

·         CAROLYN ROBSON (former education officer of the EFDSS) has performed and recorded Graeme’s song The Ghost of Lady de Grey

·         HAMISH CURRIE has performed Graeme’s songs Sand and Dobbing