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Whale Poo Matters

At last year’s Shaftesbury Fringe Festival, ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ was an enjoyable music and readings event conceived by Emily and James, hard-working proprietors of the Seasons Café in Shaftesbury. I was invited to MC and contribute some readings of my work. I decided to come up with some new material mostly of a nonsensical variety, but – at the suggestion of my respected partner – one or two that combined an eco-related message

I thought I might also try a couple of direct parodies of the verses that appear in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books. One I chose was the well-known ‘The Lobster Quadrille’. Earlier in 2022 I had attended, at Planet Shaftesbury’s May event at Shaftesbury School, a fascinating talk by locally based marine biologist Jocelyn Elson-Riggins, who is one of a band of ‘Whale Poo Ambassadors’, co-ordinated by the Holland based Rugvin Foundation. She spoke of the role of whales as ‘marine engineers’ and I was particularly fascinated by the cyclic food-chain she described in which the loose cloudy excrement of whales feeds phytoplankton, vital oxygenators of the oceans. The phytoplankton are fed on by krill, who are in turn fed on by other fish – either of which provide food for the whales, completing the cycle. So an opening line: ‘Will you poo a little faster, said the plankton to the whale…’ came into my head, and ‘The Whale Poo Quadrille’ followed on

I sent a copy to Jocelyn, to check that – despite the whimsical nature of the verse – I’d got the basic facts right. However it was clearly a hit with both her and her colleagues at the Rugvin Foundation to whom she sent it on. They requested permission to use the piece in their educational work, which I was happy to give. Not content with this, however, they asked if it might be possible to provide a musical version. No musician myself, I invited Shaftesbury musician Anne-Louise Richards to take on this task. Back at Seasons’ Mad Hatters do, she had sung a version of ‘The Lobster Quadrille’ from a fairly recent film of ‘Alice’, featuring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. For copyright reasons we couldn’t use that music, but Anne-Louise rose to the challenge and set out to concoct a fresh tune for the whale poo version.

Ed at Sylvafield kindly offered to record the song when it was completed, and while we waited for Anne-Louise to do her bit, some new ideas began to develop. The plan now is to record a spoken version at the studio to accompany a video, using filmed footage of whales and probably incorporating animated material as well. I’m looking forward to my part in that and to seeing how the video develops.

But one wait is over. The recording of ‘The Whale Poo Quadrille’ song has been completed and it’s a joy to hear. Strange to think: when I completed the verse sat in my attic I thought: ‘That’s quite nice. It’ll be fun to read at Seasons’. I had no idea what was to follow, and is still continuing now.

Here’s a link to stream the song:

And here’s one if you’d like to know more about that food-chain cycle and the whales’ role in ocean ecology than I’ve been able to summarise here (it can easily be translated into English):

And also a link to the English version of the Rugvin Foundation’s website:

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