Preview: The Ballads of Child Migration

A folk concert heading to Southport sheds light on a dark part of British history

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Forced child migration is a little-known dark part of British history that happened between the 1920s and the 1970s. More than 100,000 children were sent overseas to places including Canada and Australia with the promise of finding a better life. And while some did, many of the children, who were between three and 14 and from deprived backgrounds and receiving charitable care, only found further hardship and abuse.

The Ballads of Child Migration, a multimedia folk concert, is a tribute to those children put together by a collective of respected folk musicians and singers. The show premiered at last year’s Celtic Connection festival in Glasgow and the songs in the concert were recently heard as part of a major BBC Radio 2 dramatisation of Michael Morpurgo’s book Alone on a Wide Wide Sea, which deals with the same subject.

Radio 2 DJ Mark Radcliffe said the songs were “one of the pre-eminent collections of recent times, poignantly re-telling one of the most important stories to have emerged from these islands”.

Now John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick, Boo Hewerdine, O’Hooley & Tidow, Chris While, Julie Matthews, John Doyle, Jez Lowe, Andy Seward and Andy Cutting will present it to audiences across the country in a short tour, running for five days next week and culminating with a performance at Southport’s Floral Hall on Friday (16 Nov).

The concert will be presented as a series of songs, slides, audio, film clips and narration from singer Barbara Dickson. Local children’s choirs will join the professional musicians for each performance, including children from Michael Hall Theatre School in Blackpool for the Floral Hall show.

After each concert there’ll be a Q&A where the audience can ask questions of the performers and experts on child migration.

The Ballads of Child Migration visits Canterbury, London, Cambridge, Nottingham and Southport, 12-16 November. For tickets visit

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