Sunderland play celebrates life of working class hero who championed striking shipbuilders

The North East's first professional singer/songwriter who championed the rights of striking shipbuilders will be celebrated in a play being staged at Sunderland Minster.

Saturday, 11th March 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:05 am
Ned Corvan

Playwright Ed Waugh, who recently enjoyed success with Hadaway Harry about rowing superstar Harry Clasper, has turned his creative sights on another forgotten regional superstar, Ned Corvan.

Mr Corvan’s Music Hall is a stageplay containing the music of Ned Corvan (1827 -1865), which will head to the Minster on tour on June 1 and 2.

Ned Corvan

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Ed, a Sunderland polytechnic graduate and former Vaux Breweries worker, explained: “A virtuoso violinist and comedian, Ned was the region’s first music hall superstar.

“He lived in Sunderland on two occasions and topped the bill at a number of Sunderland venues, including the Wear Music Hall in Drury Lane, the Theatre Royal in Bedford Street and the Lyceum Theatre in Lambton Street.

“Sadly working class history is not documented, but you can imagine how great his stage presence must have been when you think the Wear Music Hall had a capacity of 4,000 and it was filled to the rafters. In those days there was no amplification.”

He added: “Ned was an anti-establishment tribune for the people. He wrote songs and performed benefits in favour of striking shipbuilders and sailors. He was hugely popular in the mining communities of Durham and Northumberland, too.

Ed Waugh, front, at the launch of recent success Hadaway Harry

“His first book of songs in 1850 was dedicated to ‘keelmen, colliers and working men in general’. He was a real working class hero.”

He added: “The play with original music by Ned Corvan, has had the tremendous input of Benny Graham (Pitman Poets) and Johnny Handle (folk superstar) and we have brought to life 20 of Ned’s brilliant songs against a backdrop of a dramatic, funny but tragic story.”

The show stars Chris Connel (Pitman Painters, UK and Broadway), Jamie Brown (Hadaway Harry, and Culture 2016 Performing Artist of the Year) and Rachael McShane (ex-violinist of national folk stars Bellowhead).

It will be directed by Gareth Tudor Price (West End credits and Hull Truck).

Ned Corvan

• Mr Corvan’s Music Hall, which tours the region in May/June with support from Arts Council England, will be performed at Sunderland Minster for three shows on Thursday, June 1 (7.30pm) and Friday, June 2 (2.30pm & 7.30pm).

Tickets cost £15 from 0191 424 7788. For regional dates and more information visit:

Ed Waugh, front, at the launch of recent success Hadaway Harry