Emergency Planet Earth

Our two ‘Emergency Planet Earth’ shows are on March 21st, 2020 at The People’s Theatre in Heaton, Newcastle. All the songs we are singing were chosen to fit with our theme in support of the global issues surrounding the environment and climate change. Here is part 2 of ‘Meet the Songs’…

The Toon Improvement Bill

For those people who didn’t performed this in our ‘Power to the People’ concert, good luck! You may find you’ll be spending a substantial amount of time with this song and its lyrics over the coming weeks. After a quick glimpse of what lies ahead musically on the first rehearsal, we can now revisit the carefully written piece by our special guest blogger…

Introducing our very own Peter Berrie!!!! Peter has a passion for Genealogy (family history to you and I!) He loves studying families and tracing their lineages and history. Peter is behind the Genealogy Cafe bringing together his love of family history and the world. If you want a chat about your family history or don’t know how to go about researching your roots, Peter’s your man! He kindly used his passion and skills in researching one of the more challenging songs we’ve sung so far.

The ‘Toon Improvement Bill’ was a protest song that fitted with our ‘Power to the People’ show but also our latest show theme, ‘Emergency Planet Earth’. The song highlights the effect heavy industry and building has had on our local environment. So here we have Peter’s take on the stories behind the song…

Ned Corvan – The Toon Improvement Bill. 1850s protest song.

Ned was born in Liverpool around 1830 and moved to Newcastle when he was 4 years old. He only lived to the age of 35 when he succumbed to tuberculosis, but during his short life he became very well known for his Tyneside songs. He also opened and ran Corvan’s Music Hall in South Shields for some years. Ned’s songs looked at life from the working man’s point of view.

Ned Corvan and the Forth

The Toon Improvement Bill is a typical example which complains about the council selling recreational space in the city off to become the sites of more buildings. The Forth is mentioned in the chorus but I wonder how many lifelong Geordies know what and where it was?

Well, you may know the road called Forth Banks – a steep road that climbs straight up from the river to the back of Central Station. From medieval times until the 1850s, an enclosure called the Forth stood near the top of Forth Banks. I haven’t found an accurate map but it would have been close to the Centre for Life. The Forth was a 4 acre square garden with a low brick wall and broad gravel paths shaded by two rows of lime trees. Over the centuries, it had many uses. It was used for Tradesmen Assemblies – The Smiths, The Coopers and The Cordwainers met there until the early 1700s. It was used for bowling, for archery, military processions and, yes, for Easter Egg rolling – but above all it was a place of recreation where you might see a family on a Sunday walk, people dancing or children playing.

The end of the Forth…

The demise of the Forth started from 1840, some time before the council sold it off. The trees died one by one, the wooden benches decayed or were torn out for firewood. The grass disappeared and the middle of the Forth became a boggy mess. This all was helped along by the growth of heavy industry nearby that spoiled the original view over the countryside and choked the air.

If you’re interested in delving even deeper than Peter has shared about the historical background on The Forth then you can by clicking here.

Special thanks again to Peter Berrie for the time, care and attention he poured in to his research and writing for us.


Have you got a personal connection to the themes in our songs?

We really want to hear from you so that we can share Our Environmental Stories!

Share Sing United
Follow by Email
Visit Us

Love Sing United? Spread the word.