In the early days of the folk revival, he was a member of the Galliards with whom he made numerous radio and TV broadcasts and concert appearances. He started writing songs seriously (and humorously) in the early 1960s and hasn’t stopped yet. His early songs were topical-satirical (some of them were featured on TV’s satire show That Was The Week That Was) but he broadened out from there, absorbing different influences, from Music Hall to French Realist Song, and experimenting with different song forms.
He has performed in every conceivable venue around the country and toured North America, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Australia. He has written songs and scripts for Inter-Action’s Dogg’s Troupe and the Fun Art Bus, songs for a stage production at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and shows for performance with Roy Bailey and Frankie Armstrong, including the anti-nuclear No Cause for Alarm.
His song The World Turned Upside Down has been recorded and popularised by, amongst others, Dick Gaughan and Billy Bragg (who took it into the pop charts in 1985) and has been sung on numerous demonstrations in Britain and the USA. His Ballad of a Spycatcher, ridiculing the ban on Peter Wright’s book, went into the Indie Singles charts in 1987 in a version backed by Billy Bragg and the Oyster Band.
In addition to writing songs for children and giving children’s concerts in both Britain and the USA, he has had 17 children’s books published. His first book, ‘Rosa’s Singing Grandfather’ published by Puffin, was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 1991. The latest books are ‘Pumpkin’s Downfall’, HarperCollins, published in 2000 and ‘Home Is A Place Called Nowhere’, published by Oxford University Press in December 2002. A stage show based on his children’s story ‘The Greatest Drummer In The World’ was premiered at the Drill Hall, London, in December 2002 with Elizabeth Mansfield and Anna Mudeka and toured the country from mid-February to the end of April 2004.
Visit Leon’s blog on Medium.com for provocative musings on songwriting, politics and life’s little ironies.