When going through Dad’s things I found this award nomination that my Mum wrote, no doubt with some input from Dad. It’s an absolute gem of a piece of writing as it clearly outlines what he produced, when, and the reception it received. I couldn’t resist sharing it. I’ve left it pretty much as written, with only a few changes to formatting here and there, and I’ve added some photos from the time to bring it to life. I’m splitting it into 3 parts so come back again soon for part 2!.
“Wilf Mitford has been writing songs for the last thirty years. Influenced by the songwriting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney he wrote his first ‘pop’ song in 1963 when he was fourteen.
In the late 1960’s he started writing contemporary folk songs which he performed in local clubs in the North East area.
But it was in October 1986 that his ‘Geordie’ songwriting on themes of people, places and events in the North East of England commenced. It was around the 15th anniversary of the Jarrow Crusade when I asked him to write a song about the event for a project at the school at which I then taught (I am a Primary School teacher in Newcastle). After reading an article about the event in that morning’s Sunday Sun newspaper, he came up with the song ‘The Jarrow Marchers‘ within an hour. He then began writing songs about other local events such as ‘Tall Ships On The Tyne‘ about the 1986 Tall Ships Race, and ‘The Great North Run‘.
In April 1987 he formed The Mitford Family folk group with our daughters, Pamela and Julia, for the Northumbrian Gathering at Morpeth that year. Their repertoire comprised of the new original Geordie songs written by Wilf mixed with traditional Geordie songs. The group continued to perform this act in community centres and schools. They made their TV debut in July 1987 on BBC North East’s Look North programme previewing Cramlington’s Day of Folk, at which they also performed.
To meet the demand of Wilf’s new songs of people places and events in the North East of England, they recorded eight of them, together with traditional Geordie songs, in October 1987 for their first album on cassett, ‘That’s Northumbria‘, which was released in November 1987.
In 1988 the group continued performing at folk clubs, competing in Folk Festivals, and taking their brand of ‘Geordie’ folk music into the community by performing Wilf’s songs at Senior Citizens clubs, hospitals, schools, community centres, the Gateshead Garden Festival, and village fairs. They were also the subject of an extensive interview by Ian McCrae on Radio Newcastle.
At the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering in April 1989, The Mitford Family, performing a mixture of Wilf’s new ‘Geordie’ songs and traditional ‘Geordie’ songs, won the Folk Group competition. Wilf also won one singing competition and came runner up in another, performing his own songs ‘North Blyth‘ and ‘Grab a Granny Neet‘ respectively.
The latter song became the title track of the group’s second album which they recorded in August 1989. Like their first album, it included eight of Wilf’s original compositions on North East themes together with a selection of traditional ‘Geordie’ songs.
Over the next few years Wilf continued to steer the group through many wins in competitions at Folk Festivals in Kielder, Hexham, Newcastleton, Alnwick, Rothbury and Morpeth, where on many occasions the song or instrumental in the winning set was one of Wilf’s original compositions.
Their third album ‘The Gateshead Garden Festival‘, which included nine of Wilf’s compositions including the title track, was released in May 1990 to coincide with the opening of The National Garden Festival at Gateshead that year. The group played there in August and September 1990, performing Wilf’s new ‘Geordie’ songs to an even wider audience than the usual North Easterners.
Tyne Tees Television recorded them at the National Garden Festival performing Wilf’s song ‘The Great North Run‘ for a television documentary celebrating ten years of the Great North Run.
After releasing an instrumental album featuring Pamela and Julia (which included some instrumental composed by Wilf) and a solo album by Wilf Mitford (comprising entirely his own songs), The Mitford Family recorded their ‘Back to Northumbria’ album in May 1991. That album featured another nine of Wilf’s compositions including ‘Gazza the Geordie from Gateshead‘ which received airplay on Radio Newcastle.
In October 1991, only a month after the Tyneside riots, they played a gig in Benwell, Newcastle, in the heart of the areas involved in the riots, where Wilf previewed his composition ‘The Bonny Banks of Benwell‘. In November 1991, they released the ‘Geordie and Northumbria‘ album on cassette which included twelve of Wilf’s compositions.”