Bellowhead fiddle player inspired by instrument’s story

Sam Sweeney with Richard's fiddle. Picture by Elly Lucas
Sam Sweeney with Richard's fiddle. Picture by Elly Lucas

Sam Sweeney, fiddle player with Bellowhead, is bringing a multi-media performance to The Hawth, Crawley on Wednesday, September 9 (7.30pm).

Seven years ago Sam bought a violin in Oxford.

It had all the appearance of a new instrument but the label inside gave the date 1915 and the name Richard S. Howard.

Research revealed that the violin had been made – but never finished – by a luthier and some-time music hall performer from Leeds called Richard Spencer Howard. He had been conscripted in 1916 at the age of 35 and two years later was killed during the battle of Messines Ridge.

His violin had been left unfinished in his workshop. The pieces were given to his daughter Rose in a manila envelope, as a memory of her father. She kept them all her life. On her death they were sent to an auction house. The parts were bought and the violin was finally finished by luthier Roger Claridge in 2007.

The fiddle was then placed in the window of an Oxford music shop where it was spotted by Sam.

Discovery of the fiddle’s history inspired Sam to create a multi-media show that tells the instrument’s tale and marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

Collaborating with award-winning story-teller Hugh Lupton, fellow Bellowhead band mate Paul Sartin and concertina player Rob Harbron, as well as Bellowhead lighting designer Emma Thompson, Made in The Great War will bring the reality of World War I into the present day, as Sam performs the show with the actual fiddle made by non-returning World War I soldier Richard Howard.

Tickets cost £15. Call 01293 553636 or visit

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