In the pre-mechanised days of hop picking, workers arrived in droves from the industrial heartlands of the Black Country and South Wales. The effect on the children must have been startling: the sights, smells, tastes. It is still felt by many former hop pickers, even some 60 years later. It was a whole new world.
We often wonder who were the people in Derek Evans' photographs, what their lives were like, when did they abandon their lives on the road? We felt we would never know and had begun to accept that the figures frozen in time in the photo would forever remain an enigma. But then life has the habit of sneaking up on you and, when you least expect it, you start hearing echoes from the past.
Far from being the outcasts they are so often represented as, gypsies have long lived alongside settled communities quite companionably, providing niche services to isolated rural economies.
If anyone could represent the ‘wise old man’ persona, then surely hop farmer the late Barry Parker must be it. His memorable, delightful, and philosophical phrases are remembered long after his interview has finished.
I’ve been a ‘migrant’ of sorts myself I suppose, picking apples and boysenberries in New Zealand, and filling shampoo bottles in Australia. In the 1970s, my school, a Catholic Secondary, was a microcosm of post-WWII migration, you just had to take a look at the names in the register to get the picture: Irish of course, then the Italians, the Portuguese, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Polish.
We are pleased to be able to offer DVD copies of Herefordshire Life Through a Lens: Stories from the Hop Yards and other titles
Ivor was a sprightly 95-year-old with a firm handshake, and the perfect host; producing a beautiful victoria sponge for our visit!
I wonder, when he was first took over the family’s Dormington farm, if Peter Davies ever thought one day he would be crowned ‘hop king of Europe’? He was frail when we met him, recovering from an operation following a fall, but you couldn’t help notice the steely glint in his eye when talking about the ‘business’. He must have been some operator in his time.
Which brings to mind one of my favourite interviewees, the retired haulier, John Griffiths. I think even John would admit to being a ‘hard nut to crack’ when it comes to interviewing. And, again, I admired that in him: he is a proud man, who has had to work very, very hard
‘It was a tremendous atmosphere. Every public house in the county was abuzz with hop pickers. All of a sudden for one month a year, there was an absolute buzz, it was incredible.’
Sometimes a story captures the public imagination for all the right reasons. ‘Stories from the Hop Yard’, the film from Catcher Media, seems to have done just that, that is if the sell-out audiences are anything to go by.
After the snow severely impacted our sold out premiere event on Saturday 3rd March the weather on 6th March at Malvern Theatres was much more in our favour and packed audience of over 420 people came to watch the film as part of Borderlines Film Festival.
We are delighted to announce a whole new list of dates where you can see the first film from this project and the accompanying exhibition of archive and contemporary images from the Hop Yards.
A hop picker from Ross-on-Wye, now 83, recalls the annual hop pilgrimage with a smile and a far-away look behind his eyes.
We heard the story of one sprightly 93-year-old, whose beloved son was the result of a one night stand with a Canadian airman during the War...
Our film, Stories from the Hop Yards has caught the public’s imagination. It seems everyone, of a certain age, has a memory connected to the hop yards of the county, and most of them want to share their memories.
She vividly recalls the peace of being away from the bombing, and paints a rich portrait of the sights and sounds that made those few weeks hop-picking the country so precious.
John, whose family have been in hops for many generations, talks about the bushellers, tallymen and bookers, and how the hop-pickers were paid in the farmer’s own coinage, which could be spent in the village.
Influential hop farmer Peter Davies talks about the hop picking - by hand - on his farm.
In this short clip Leominster Councillor - Pauline Davies - talks about her experiences hop picking as a child. Pauline was just 4 years old when she first went picking with her mother.
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