International Festival of Maritiem Music Workum, a phenomenal music history

The International Shanty Festival Workum has been a leading phenomenon for years. Guests and public stumble over each other just to be part of it. For more than 20 years in October Workum was pulsating with the singing of chorus songs in which the sea played a major role and the ship yard “The Hope” in Workum has been the centre of creative maritime performances.

By Betsie Verberk, 2002
In the late seventies there were lots of little village festivals around Frisian folk music. It was new to sing in your mother tongue and in a short time it became very popular. However these little festivals were badly organised and it became clear that it could not go on like this. From that idea “Tsoch” started. A festival that offered a well-organized stage for folk musicians.”Tsoch” joined other events and in 1979 the idea was to combine “Tsoch” 3 with the annual “Strontrace “ (dung race)in Workum.


Read more: Liereliet


About the origin and use of shanties.

“A good shanty man is worth four hands on the rope”

By: Stephan Kraan
Did you know that you sang your first Dutch shanty song at school? Indeed, sailors were singing the shanty: “Daar was Laatst een meisje loos” when they walked around the capstan. And another shanty you might have sung in the bus on a school trip is : “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”. Easy songs with an attractive refrain that makes it easy to sing along. Nowadays thousands of people, most men, love to sing shanties. Although there is often no sign of any sea in the surroundings, many villages have their own shanty choir to the horror of many a true sailor. A shanty is just a tool to do the hard labour on a ship in the harbour or at sea. When seafaring people sing the shanties just for the fun of it; it would bring on bad luck.


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Nanne Kalma

Nanne Kalma’s roots

“During the chorus songs I’ve got goose bumps everywhere”

By Stephan Kraan
If you ever will or already have visited the shanty festival in Workum you cannot miss him: Nanne Kalma. As the always charming presenter of the concerts, where he introduces the artists to the public in an enthusiastic and amusing way. As the writer, the director, actor and singer during the mostly annual music theatre performances in the ship yard “The Hope”. As the musician in “Liereliet” and “Kat yn’t Seil”. The festival could not exist without the many volunteers, but certainly not without Nanne Kalma. Time and time again he manages to surprise the many admirers and lovers of his music. Small wonder he got the provincial culture prize “The Frisian Carnation “in the year 2000.
Nanne Kalma about his fascination for folk music, song cycles and a Capella singing.
“Because of the Beatle song “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in 1964 I wanted to start my guitar lessons when I was fourteen. I heard that song in “Time for Teenagers” and immediately went to the record shop to see the sleeve. Everything changed. I submerged myself into music . A year later I started the band “Pugh’s Place “ with friends. We played English-language pop music. And we had lots of success; so much that our first LP and single were produced by Boudewijn de Groot. Because several members of the band were studying at the time, we had to stop in 1971. My next band was “Farmers Union” which played English Folk. Folk music was much more relaxed and softer music than pop music. I found out that I loved ballads most. I discovered the folk group “Rum”. These boys sang their lovely songs in Flemish.
“Rum” made me aware of how beautiful and powerful it can be to make music in your own language. I then realised that my next step would be to sing in Frisian. In 1973 “Farmers Union” stopped. I took stock of the situation and fiddled around for a year. I looked for Frisian songs but could not find any. I decided to write them myself.”


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Johnny & Jim

The following story was published in a special edition of “Spiegel der Zeilvaart” on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the festival in 2002. It has been slightly adjusted for this website.

John and Jim in Workum for 25 years

"Every year I enjoy your performance.”

By Larissa van Duuren

Johnny Collins (1938 – 2009) and Jim Macgeean (1948 - ) have been the regular performers since the beginning of the International Shanty Festival. Many a festival visitor is fond of the two leading singers because of their strong voices and their compelling way of singing.
Johnny and Jim about themselves, their inspiration, passion for music and the special bond they have with the shanty festival in Workum.
Johnny and Jim met on Midsummer’s Day 1975 in a field near Reading , Berkshire England. They knew about each other as solo singers. Jim: “I used to work in the North of England and Johnny in the South. I had just moved to London and it turned out that I lived only 10 kilometres from Johnny. So we decided to meet at our homes and to sing together just for the fun of it.”
They both worked as solo singers until a London club owner asked them to sing together in his club. Since then they have been singing at the same time as soloists and after that as a duo they were more than welcome on festivals from Norway to Canada. In 1980 they sang at the first Liereliet Singaroud in Workum. In 1983 they won the Intervision Song Contest in Rostock (DDR) with their shanty repertoire.
After he retired Johnny worked full time on his musical career. Besides singing shanties he sang other types of folk music. Jim was an engineering-technology teacher. He sings solo but he also sings in a band “The Keelers”. They sing shanties but also other traditional folk music from the North-East of England. Many of these songs are from other “singing” professions like fishermen, farmers and miners.


Read more: Johnny & Jim