Singing from the
same hymn sheet

Chumbawumba’s Boff Whalley and The Young’uns David Eagle are coming together with a load of commoners to sing, laugh, get angry and find hope

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What do you get when you cross an anarcho-punk songwriter from Burnley with a shanty singing, stand-up comedian from Stockton? The Hope and Anger tour. David Eagle, who was recently Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of the Year, will be joining Boff Whalley’s Commoners Choir for a tour of venues around the UK, punctuating the choir’s performance with his stand-up act which includes such lines as: “Good evening, I’m a blind comedian. Brace yourselves for dark humour!”

Eagle also sings with folk band The Young’uns, so his relationship with Whalley (and other members of Chumbawumba) goes back many years, though this is the first time they’ve collaborated.

Eagle’s adventures in stand-up didn’t start smoothly, despite the fact audiences at Young’uns gigs repeatedly told him he should try it.

“At the end of a gig people would say: ‘That was hilarious. You should do stand-up’. A lot of the time we used to talk more than sing, but it took years to finally do it. I threw myself in at the deep end in 2014 at these gong shows. It was a gladiatorial atmosphere. I managed three minutes out of the five before I was gonged off, and that put me off for years.

“In 2018 I went back to the gong shows and this time they liked me, but the open mic comedy scene was much more friendly, and the good thing about that was I’d already hit the ground running.”

Winning several new comedian prizes means a lot. “It’s quite nice to have those. It validates that you are doing something right.”

The Young’uns started on the folk circuit when the members were just 17, hence the name, and have since carved out a career performing harmonious, unaccompanied songs about the personal and political, reflecting life’s hardships.

“People will sing in the hardest of times. People will now be singing in bomb shelters. Singing together can give power. It’s what we do in protest – we sing songs. It gives us community, it’s harmony, collective noise.”

The Commoners Choir is a strange but inclusive chorus of people who hope to share the community atmosphere of a good, old-fashioned pub singalong on the tour.

“What we wanted to do, when we could finally do something – everybody missed the physicality of gathering, and Zoom doesn’t replace it – was build on that wonderful social thing – people in pubs, singing,” says Whalley. “When I was a kid in Burnley we used to go to a pub called the Mitre with my gran and grandad. At the end of the night my Uncle Harry – he had a good voice, and people would say ‘come on Harry give us a song!’ – would sing something like Bye Bye Blackbird and the whole pub would join in. It was a lovely thing and it’s died out, that spontaneous, lovely thing of people singing together. We thought in Commoners Choir there’s lots of hope and anger to sing about, let’s do it in a pub, with a quiz and a vegan meat raffle and a comedian. David Eagle is incredible.”

Whalley says audience participation is not expected but is welcome and invited. People can join Commoners Choir who don’t have great voices, because it’s about the community of gathering.

An Evening of Hope and Anger by The Commoner’s Choir is touring, including Hebden Bridge, Sheffield, Stockton and Saltaire. On 23 April the choir performs with Huddersfield folk musician Johnny Campbell at Small Seeds, Huddersfield, to mark the 90th anniversary of the Kinder Scout Trespass and perform their collaborative anniversary single Right to Roam. They will join a walk on Kinder Scout the following day (

Photo: David Eagle (Andy Hollingworth)

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