Marry Waterson

Part of the Waterson family musical dynasty, Marry has thrived on communal music making while developing highly original, distinctly English performance styles of her own.

Her creative process is an intuitive one: words appear, phrased in a way that suggests music, and with melody comes rhythm. Her interior playground is a place where real life is refracted through the myths, legends and proverbs that shape the “folk memory”. Inscriptions on headstones, Aesop’s Fables, Japanese superstitions...all have their part to play.

A three-time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominee, Marry has released four albums on the One Little Indian label, and has worked with many stellar musicians including Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and Portishead's Adrian Utley. She lives in Yorkshire, where she also makes visual art and animation.

"I read Jane Yolen's 'Green Children' poem at our first work session," she says. "From then on I became fascinated with the story and the endless speculation about these two ‘otherly’ children who were said to have suddenly appeared in Woolpit, Suffolk. The children had green-hued skin and spoke an unknown language. Most theories suggest the Green Children were fairies, or aliens. Could they have been the original ‘Babes in the Wood’ poisoned by arsenic (said to account for their green pallor) and left for dead by their uncle? Another account recalls a period of ethnic cleansing by Henry II, persecuting the Flemish who fled to England from famine, flood and overcrowding. Perhaps the children were refugees, separated from their parents, their skin colour reflecting malnutrition? Displacement is tragically very real in our modern world."

Marry's exploration of the Green Children legend inspired two songs, one based on the Jane Yolen poem and the other reframing the story as a refugee tale. She noted that, unlike other fairy stories, this one was written down as historical fact...and if that was so, what might the surviving child's descendants make of their strange ancestor? The story of Herla also caught her attention: an ancient king of the Britons whose time in the fairy realm ends in tragedy. This not only inspired a song, but planted the seeds for an entire folk-rock opera!

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Artist of the Week - Marry Waterson, 11 December 2018