In conversation. Joanna Hackett talks to TWR about her new book: Fire In The Blood - Norfolk Rebels.
TWR: So, Norfolk Rebels, interesting title for a book from a girl who isn’t from Norfolk, so why Norfolk and why rebels?
JH: Okay, well my family live up in Norfolk, my mum has been there for over twenty five years and she was there for most of her childhood on and off as well which is why she went back there. I do actually have ancestors from East Anglia too. I have spent a lot of time in Norfolk over the last twenty five years. And Steve and I spend a lot of time there too, we are up there pretty much every other weekend. So I have come to know the area very well actually.
What is fascinating about it is that it appears to be very quiet on the surface but once you actually scratch beneath the surface particularly historically. As well as in the present day, you can see that there has been this tremendous upsurge of rebellion through so many years right back to Boudica.
TWR: I am ashamed to say and I regard myself as a historian of sorts the only one I could place when I first thought of Norfolk was Boudica.
JH: Yes, well she is the first sort of obvious one and for somebody to take on the Roman Empire is quite something and she came from the Thetford area and another one who came from that area was Thomas Paine who was very involved with setting up the American Constitution and was a real rebel in many ways. He wasn’t for the monarchy in England, he didn’t like the way the French Revolution was going, and the way they were executing so many people in France although he was for it in principle so at one point he ended up in gaol in France and he didn’t totally get on with the Americans because he wasn’t religious so there were quite a few areas where he was a rebel! But he was very involved with the early stages of setting up the American Constitution.
Then you have got Horatio Nelson, he came from Norfolk and he in many ways was a rebel both in his private and his public life. He had his own ideas on military strategy and he didn’t want to follow anybody else’s ideas. So, you have got a lot of these very famous rebels. It isn’t an obvious place on the surface and that’s what makes it interesting.
TWR: So how did you go about researching it or deciding who to write about?
JH: Well I thought about it in sections really because “rebel” is a very wide term and it can be anything from the saintly Elizabeth Fry through to the most terrifying smugglers and pirates so you are dealing with totally different types of people who are all rebels in different ways. Then you are dealing with people who are one minute in power and the next minute are a rebel because the other lot are in power. So there are many different kinds of rebel and so it was in sections.
Initially I dealt with it historically, so you go in the first chapter from Boudica to the people who rebelled at the time of the Norman Conquest, the Peasants Revolt had its own Norfolk wing and that was a pretty scary one actually because the peasants ended up actually after the battle of Walsham trying to find sanctuary in the local church but the local warlike bishop decided to massacre them all anyway because the church hadn’t yet been consecrated so that was pretty scary.
Then there was a very big rebellion, at least twenty thousand people; Kett’s Rebellion and that was one where for a couple of months they took over Norwich and this was during the time of Edward VI. It was all to do with the land enclosures and there were a lot of problems. Then it sort of kept going with all the non conformists, there were loads of nonconformist people a lot of people came over from the Low Countries, from Holland and France, the Calvinists from France, So there was a big upsurge of that and there were a lot of religious struggles, a lot of people were burnt at the stake among these early proto-protestants and Lollards and there was a terrible thing called the “Lollards Pit” where they would burn witches or so-called witches. A lot of people from that area ended up moving to the States so when you think of the Mayflower and all those early settlers a lot of them came from Norfolk. In fact, Abraham Lincoln’s ancestor, Samuel Lincoln, came from Norfolk.
TWR: So Norfolk has had an awful lot of influence on a lot of British history really.
JH: That’s true.
TWR: It’s obviously an interesting subject but when you are not writing about this, what else do you write about? Are you writing anything else at the moment?
JH: Well, at the moment because Steve and I are very busy because of
the new album about to come out, I have quite a few ideas which I have started
which I will get back to soon.
And with that fascinating prospect, we leave this all too brief chat with Jo about her literary activities. Norfolk Rebels is reviewed elsewhere in this edition. My thanks once again to both Jo and Steve for giving up so much of their time during what is a very hectic period.