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  • An interview with Harry Stephenson

    Sue Roberts regulalry comes to watch The Last Pedestrians. Sue is currently engaged in researching how moving home regulalry as a child impacts on us as adults. Below is a copy of an interview that Sue did with Harry Stephenson from The Last Pedestrians that sheds a light on the genesis of Harry's career as a songwriter. 

    Why did you move around as a child?

    My Dad was in the army in Burma in the 2nd World War. He was based in India which he loved. After the war when he was demobbed, he got a job with Lipton’s Tea, at first in Calcutta, then Madras and finally Bombay- hence the family moves.

    Where were you born?

    I was born in Ripon, Yorkshire in 1948.

    What is your earliest memory and where were you?

    When I was three my Mum and I were travelling by ship from England to rejoin my Dad in India. I remember going through the Suez canal. (Camels!!)

    How many times did you move?

    3 times. From England to Calcutta. Calcutta to Madras. India back to England. ( This last was to attend school.)

    How old were you when your family stopped moving around?


    If you close your eyes to picture your family home, which one comes to mind first?

    I can remember the first place we lived in Calcutta. It was a flat in an apartment block.

    Where did you spend your most memorable Christmas?

    At my mother’s parents in Meanwood Leeds. we were on leave from India. I lost control of my trike and ran down hill and crashed into a lampost. It was outside some shops. I remember the grocer putting some butter (!) on a huge lump on my forehead. I think this was 1954.

    Did you or any other family member ever say they were unhappy about the moves at the time?

    No, I was never unhappy about moving. In fact I loved it, it was always exciting. I think Mum used to grumble at Dad but not very convincingly. She loved being in India, servants and parties!!

    What are the advantages of regularly moving houses and schools ?

    As the above answer. New situations were vivid and exciting.

    What are the disadvantages?

    For me there were no disadvantages. I think Mum missed her family and friends back home. She was always writing letters and receiving them.

    Were you the first generation of your family to be so mobile?

    I think we were. Both sides of the family had always lived in the Leeds- Bradford area.

    Have your work or life choices been influenced in any way by your mobile upbringing?

    Absolutely huge influence on me being the person I am, I think. I was 8 when I left to go to school in Ripon, England, so a lot of my personality was formed by things I saw and did in India. We lived a privileged life, but Dad used to take me on his trips to visit tea plantations in the hills and I saw a lot of the grim realities of life for the poor and dispossessed. I think the exotic lifestyle in a basically impoverished country and all the images that contrasted this for me, helped me use my imagination from quite an early age, so that I could say that I wouldn’t have written any songs if I hadn’t lived in India!

    What did you leave behind?

    My childhood. Because Dad decided I was to be educated in England I returned to boarding school. I didn’t see my Mum, Dad and sister for about 18months. I lived with my Auntie Molly and her family, but it wasn’t the same.

    What advice would you give your young self if you could?

    No advice to my younger self. The future isn’t what it used to be! —————————————————–

    And....if you haven’t come across Harry’s music before; try soulful Rolling Train from the CD Near Life Experience and the subversive Nightingale Square and Holy Grail; Harry’s funny/poignant song about communist leaders from Life Begins on Wednesday