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Sea Sagas with Jules Pretty


Saturday 22 June 2019
21:00 – 21:30

Sunday 23 June 2019
02.45 – 03.15
07:30 – 08:30

Interstellar Ideas on the Green

These sea sagas weave long-eon tales of North Sea and North Atlantic, stories of the rise and fall of cities, of people and the fish, the ebb and flow of mariners of England and the Shetlands, Iceland and the Faroe, Norway and Denmark. Sea roads linked these places, fish grounds were common meeting places. Crossings are dangerous, the seas mighty, the fearful monsters dark below. The scald sees from near and far, speaks of days gone by and eras still to come.

Pull up a chair, come listen to those distant voices, fading in and out of crackling wireless, winnowed by the wind – listen to these sagas…

Saturday 21.00 – 21.30

Drowning – in which Doggerland is slow-drowned, surrounded soon becomes an isle. It is a shock, the sun rises from the sea, sets too in waves. The hunter mesoliths retreat, to west and east, do not know if flood will ever stop.

Leavings – in which the sun-drenched empire of the Norse begins. Longships clinker-built square-sail away across the gannet’s bath. Some beach on empty Iceland with the help of ravens, others raid undefended monastery on northern isle of England.

Crossing – in which a young girl crosses Icelandic mountains to the Althing, casts a spell on her mother’s killer, and brings her skills to the great gathering on the basalt plain, flags snapping in the winds.


Sunday 02.45 – 03.15 

Grit – In which a young boy joins wounded father in the village on the Grit, down below the Lowestoft cliffs, the village built on salvage and the saving, becomes a mate then skipper of the herring smacks.

Plough -In which the joskins men of Suffolk clay-fields finish harvest, sing and step dance at the Plough and Sail, then walk the autumn lanes to join the herring fishers.

Deckie -In which a boy on 15th birthday signs on deep-water trawler, steams for Iceland for the cod, learns from cook of wrecks and drownings, joins the mate ashore to sit in wooden church to offer thanks for life.


Sunday 07.30 – 08.00

Roads – in which a coasting barge moves trade up and down the sea roads, the final days of sail, the crew of only skipper and his mate; a storm drives them at the lowland Holland shore, off London river they race a fellow barge at dawn across the shallow sandbanks, in creeks they lie on straw stack, gaze at cloudless sky and listen to the larks.

Strandings – in which the trawler Dhoon is stranded on the rocks of western Iceland, the farm men and women rappel down the half-kilometre cliff for rescue; they return a year late to make a film, and are called again, in blizzard saving some crew of Sargon, the others freezing on the deck.

Labyrinth – in which the rust-bucket Epine is wrecked on shore of basalt pebbles by cone volcano, the skipper drunk and mate asleep. Iceland farmers rescue crew again, wading in the Arctic Sea; at home the women tear their hair as empty coffins are carried at the funerals.


From Sea Sagas of the North by Jules Pretty winner of the East Anglian Book Awards 2018 for East Country and winner of the New Angle Prize for Literature for This Luminous Coast.