Author Gavin Knight on Sea Shanties & Cornwall: Part Two

By Day Lilico

Today at the North Cornwall Book FestivalGavin Knight, author of Hood Ratwill be giving us a reading from his latest book: The Swordfish and the Star : Life on Cornwall’s Most Treacherous Stretch of Coast. To find out more about this talented writer and journalist, I was lucky enough to get an interview with him. Here’s Part Two: 

So this weekend you’ll be giving a reading of excerpts from The Swordfish and the Star, how did you choose which parts to read when you’ve got such a fantastic range of stories?

I’m choosing a piece that I really like about Martin Ellis on his boat when he’s overladen with pilchards; he goes out one night, catches so many pilchards and something goes wrong because there’s so many silver fish on the deck, they’re heavy and he starts taking water in. He ended up sinking the boat. People who’ve read the book comment on it, it’s a very evocative story and I’m looking forwards to reading that passage. And I’m looking forwards to reading with Stamp and Go, an extraordinary shanty band.

Have you worked with Stamp and Go before?

No, never worked with them. But I think the combo will be brilliant. I’m doing four readings and they’ll do seven or eight shanties, so it’ll be a really action packed hour. I’ve only done the readings without the combination, I don’t normally get that. Anyone who turns up will be in for a real treat, and I think that they’ll complement each other really well. I love those old songs, when they sing ‘Cornwall My Home’, that’s very emotional. They’ve sung in harmony for a long time, I’m really looking forwards to it, can’t wait.

Will they be performing any of the songs published in your book?

I don’t think they are, but all their songs relate to Cornwall, to life, to fishing. It’ll be really good and very powerful, definitely worth coming along for.

Are you working with them just on this one off event or are you going to do further events with them?

Well, who knows? If it’s packed to the rafters, standing room only, then we’ll go on a tour.

How did you meet them?

The idea was Patrick Gale’s, a very successful novelist. He is the driving force behind the North Cornwall Book Festival. He read my book and reviewed it, very kindly, and he decided to put it together. I think it’s a brilliant idea and a much more effective statement than a talk. So it’s all down to him really.

What’s the next project you have planned?

At the moment I’m writing an article for a paper about Cornwall, and I’m also writing a TV script for Hood Rat and I’m very excited about that.


Gavin Knight & Stamp and Go will be performing at 6pm this evening in the St. Endellion church, tickets available on our website.

The Swordfish and the Star : Life on Cornwall’s Most Treacherous Stretch of Coast is published by Chatto & Windus.