I’ve taken a fairly sensible folk song and done terrible things to it! The chorus remains unmolested, but the verses… It’s one of those traditional songs where I like the tune and the chorus, but the verses are usually a bit on the dull and repetitive side. Also disappointingly short of anyone being stuck in a hedge!
The Hopeless, Maine version has an abundance of being stuck in a hedge, and you know that the eyes of the prickle eye bush are very present, and not an extra beat to make the words fit the tune. We had spiky pears all along so it seemed only reasonable to mention them.
It’s a bit of island silliness, and it featured in our 2021 show, where James Weaselgrease tried to get the spiky pears, but found himself trapped in the bush. Then, to assuage his desperate hunger, someone offered him live snails to eat once he got out.
This year, award winning nature sculptor Martin Hayward-Harris made us a dustcat puppet. We’ve used it in a few videos so that you can see it in action.
This first video is a snippet from the show we were doing in 2021. In this story, young scientist James Weaselgrease is shipwrecked on the island and goes round trying to make sense of things. This doesn’t go well for him and the island slowly drives him mad!
In this second video, The Ominous Folk of Hopeless, Maine are singing Fergus Ryan’s Dustcat song. Fergus wrote this for the online festival we did in January 2022, and we were smitten with it. It’s a lovely bit of strange whimsy ideal for bemusing audiences who have never seen a dustcat.
Hergest the dustcat is a large and heavy chap (a hefting chonky boi as the cat people would say) so we won’t always have him with us at events. There are lighter poles in his future though.
Recently, Steven C. Davis put together a podcast of music that, for him, evokes the island of Hopeless Maine. We listened in when the show went out live and were delighted by the eclectic mix of material and the number of bands and songs we already knew and liked. Some of whom had written Hopeless Maine songs. There were also some excellent new-to-us moments.
For further delight and delectation, Keith Errington is also in the mix reading some of his highly entertaining Hopeless Maine material.
It gave us a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.
We’ll be going to Steve’s real-world event in May, which we are decidedly excited about. This is a man who clearly gets the island, and with whom we are clearly going to be able to do some really interesting things.
The first time that three of us went out to sing folk music (Tom, Nimue, James) we offered ourselves up as A Cupful of Tentacles. The MC said ‘testicles’ by accident and while that’s an amusing story, it doesn’t really work for singing out.
We’ve been developing a performance side to Hopeless, Maine for a while now, and have recently added Susie Roberts to the mix. Susie is an excellent harmony singer and rounds out the sound in wonderful ways.
This weekend we took a Hopeless Maine show – stories and songs held together by a script – to Festival At The Edge. We were also busking at The Town That Never Was – a steampunk event. Raising questions of how on earth to present us, what to call us, what works in a program and has the flexibility to cover a multitude of sins.
‘Ominous Folk’ was a description I hit on for the steampunk programme. It works – it gets across the essence of what we’re about. It expands nicely – The Ominous Folk of Hopeless Maine. It also leaves us room for other things and could be wired into titles for other activities. For example, A Murder Mystery with the Ominous Folk of Hopeless Maine – which I’ve been wanting to do for years.
We’ve got a show with songs – traditional, original and borrowed, Maine folklore and Hopeless Maine oddities… Do come and see us!
On the mist shrouded, grave dark sea, a boat shatters its hull against the malice of rocks. Hungry water sucks the living down, until only one remains, kept afloat by a large tea chest and drifting towards dawn and the shore
James Weaselgrease is a young scientist, who washes up on the island. He doesn’t really believe in vampires, selkies or mermaids. the dustcats are confusing and he fears that he is losing his mind…
There are many truly lovely people who have, one way or another, thrown themselves into the tentacled embrace of Hopeless, Maine.
It would be fair to say that we’ve had a tough few months. As many of you know, Tom had a stroke back in December – he’s recovered well but it was scary at the time. Nimue has been ill a lot – nothing so dramatic, but ongoing adventures in pain and weariness. And so it was that some of the wider Hopeless Maine family gathered together and did a lovely thing to cheer us up.
This was apparently the brainchild of Nils Visser – who you will have seen a lot of here on the blog with his glorious Diswelcome series. He pulled a fabulous team together to make this happen. He’s a fine chap, and responsible for inventing Snugglepunk. Or possibly Smugglepunk.
There’s Professor Elemental doing the music, aided and abetted by Tom Carunana. We love the Prof, and the video features some of the art Tom’s done for him over the years.
Bob Fry is a longstanding supporter and spoon fancier, also an essential part of Nimue’s Wherefore project.
Herr Doktor once went so far as to make a spoonwalker. He’s also widely believed to be a deity of the steampunk pantheon.
John Bassett can be held responsible for Steampunk Stroud, and is also part of the Hopeless Maine film team, wearing many different hats for that one. All in one stack, obviously.
Cair Going is a gorgeous person and we were there when she was crowned as Queen.
Bill Jones can teach you how to grow Victorians in your garden. You may have seen his work in Private Eye.
Lou Pulford has written for this blog and performed with us in public places and has the best tentacles.
Susie Roberts sings with A Cup Full of Tentacles – the performance side of Hopeless – when we’re allowed to go out and do unspeakable things in public places.
Deep gratitude to you all, for being in our lives, for being so relentlessly lovely, and for making us cry over this video. You are all splendid and we wish we could hug you all.
I believe it was John Boden of Bellowhead who introduced The Pricklie Bush as a song about a man stuck in a hedge. I came to that story via Genevieve Tudor – who does a most excellent folkshow on Radio Shropshire and which you can (should!) listen to online if you like that sort of music. If you don’t like that sort of music, flee now, this post is not for you.
I wrote a Hopeless Maine version of this song. Normally I try and write more original things, but it’s a song with a great tune and chorus, and I find the original verses a bit dull. Also, getting stuck in a bush seemed like a Hopeless sort of thing, we have a lot of prickly bushes, fruit and inedible plant matter.
James and I recorded this one for the Steampunk Over Ether Festival, held online recently. It’s not the best recording of anything I’ve ever done, there’s a crunchy moment at the start which bothers me, but at the same time, we are all very tired and that wasn’t the first attempt. Hopefully it will amuse you anyway…
Tom was unwell when we did the recording, but he’s far less covered in tentacles now and is expected to make a full recovery.
The fog by night is darker, deeper, shrouding everything. No stars shine through, no moonlight glimmers. All sounds are muted, colours dim, here is no hope here. No hope at all. Only cold and damp malevolence.
On the mist shrouded, grave dark sea, a boat shatters its hull against the malice of rocks. Hungry water sucks the living down, until only one remains, kept afloat by a large tea chest and drifting towards dawn and the shore.
James Weaselgrease shipwrecks on the shores of Hopeless, Maine. A man of science, he is in no way prepared to deal with all the folklore and songs of the supernatural. He’s even less prepared for the island’s ghosts, and other uncanny residents!
We’re shipwrecking at Festival at the Edge this summer, all being well, with a new Hopeless Maine project and an hour long performance. More about the festival here – https://www.festivalattheedge.org/