|This is a selective history of live performances of The Transports.
Aside from the key productions detailed here there have been
dozens of others, including those by folk clubs, singaround performances,
workshops, and school’s productions. There has yet to be
a television staging, and as Peter once remarked, “I am
still waiting to sell the film rights.”
The very first live performance of The Transports, not counting
open rehearsals at Norwich Folk Club, was appropriately at Norwich
Castle. It was the city in which Peter was based, the home of
his key characters and the setting of the first part of the opera.
Peter would have preferred Norwich Gaol itself but that was no
longer available. The performance took place on February 23,
The next performance of the work was less than four months later
at Kempton Park Race Course on June 10. In 1980, with the work
now much better known and firmly established, performances were
staged by Chester Folk Club and the Herga Folk Club in Loughborough.
The following year on July 12, a production of The Transports
was a major element at Bracknell Festival. Four years on from
the album’s original release, the cast for this performance
was Peter and Anthea Bellamy, Shirley Collins, Nic Jones, Tony
Rose, Cathy Le Surf, Jim Mageean, Johnny Collins, Mark Emerson
and Ron Taylor.
1983 saw productions at York University and London’s Queen
Elizabeth Hall. The latter performance was part of The South
Bank Summer Folk Festival, organized by Alistair Anderson and
financed by the GLC. This was a multimedia event, featuring slides,
film (loaned by the National Maritime Museum) and a mime troupe.
Mike and Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy sang the parts they
created on the album and were joined by Tony Rose, Bridget Danby,
Nick Havell, Jim Mageean and Taffy Thomas, who would play a major
part in the staging of future productions. Peter himself played
the part of Abe Carman. The production was directed by Mike Bettison
and the musicians were John Kirkpatrick, Sue Harris, Howard Evans
and Roger Williams.
The Transports returned to Norwich in 1984 when it was staged
by Norwich Folk Club. Norwich School staged their production
the following year, an event of which Peter spoke with considerable
In May 1987, Charivari staged a lavish production as part of
the Portsmouth Festival. Peter again appeared in the role of
Abe Carman, and as one of The Transports with Jenny Bellamy.
Jim Eldon played The Street Singer and the rest of the cast included
Dave and Heather Brady, Pete Morton, Mike Bettison, Tim Laycock
and John O’Hagan. Several of those names would appear on
the cast list again five years later when The Transports was
performed at Whitby Festival as a memorial to Peter.