Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RIP Brian Hibbard

Whilst the Welsh mourn for one of their own, Brian Hibbard (who was born in Ebbw Vale and died in University Hospital Cardiff yesterday of prostate cancer), there are quite a few in Deptford who will be shedding a tear at the news of his passing – since Brian's earlier career with The Flying Pickets is a part of Deptford's history.

Brian used to live in Evelyn Street in a house known to friends as The Yellow Duck, which he shared with other actors and performers who were involved with The Albany, as it made its transition from its old building on Creek Road to where it is now on Douglas Way. Quite how Brian made his way to Deptford is a story probably best told by those who knew him better – that includes some ladies of a certain age still living in Crossfields, and the bloke who designed the poster above and below, plus all the original members of The Combination Theatre group who founded the new Albany, some of whom still live in Deptford, plus students of Rose Bruford College which was based in the now demolished old school on Creek Road, betwixt Creekside and Church Street.

Connections were formed through Liverpool playwright John McGrath's legendary 7:84 Theatre company, a Scottish left-wing agitprop theatre group (don't hear that phrase agitprop these days) – whose title displayed the ratio of wealth in the UK in the 70s. It may well be less than 7% of the population who now own more than 84% of the nation's wealth in 2012. David Tennant, Douglas Henshall and Bill Patterson are among 7:84's alumni...

Brian is credited with forming the Flying Pickets in 1982 when working with 7:84 on John Burrow's One Big Blow – a musical play about coal miners, brass bands and the tough conditions they worked under – in which the players sing the brass parts acapella – and which was written 15 years before "Brassed Off". Rick Lloyd, who wrote the music for One Big Blow (1982), was among those who joined Hibbard. They took their name from the miners' strikes of '72 and '74, when the phrase 'flying pickets' may have been first coined – flying pickets would travel to join a picket wherever a strike had been called, to support and swell the numbers.

Any younger readers who visited the recent Jeremy Deller show Joy In People at the Hayward Gallery may have found themselves moved by Deller's recreation of the Battle of Orgreave, a filmed re-enactment of the conflict between police and striking miners in 1984, when there was mass picketing. The Flying Pickets had by then topped the charts for five weeks with a UK Christmas number one (1983) with their debut single Only You. With Thatcher's decision to close 20 pits and a loss of 20,000 jobs, record company Virgin was reported as extremely unhappy that the group were making the most of their fame by picketing in Yorkshire and performing benefit gigs for the miners. The Albany itself had a benefit or two, notably with Test Department, as well as The Flying Pickets.

Brian and fellow band member Stripe (also a familiar Deptford face in the early 80s) left The Pickets in 1986 and both moved away from Deptford. Hibbard pursued an acting career that eventually saw him in Doctor Who, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and East Enders, with regular appearances on BBC Wales, notably in Welsh language soap Pobol y Cwm

Deptford remembers Brian and his contribution to our place and memories, and our sympathies go to his wife and children.

If anyone has some memories to share or better photos than the ones we've nabbed off the usual media, please get in touch.

UPDATE: Transpontine has transcribed a piece from Wales Online which tells the Picket's story in more depth.

More acapella and acting up at You Tube.
The Flying Pickets were actually at their best in their ironic interpretations of modern songs of the day. If they could've danced as well, who knows what they could've started....

Thanks to jennyharris.org for poster images.


  1. Very nice piece!

  2. surely you know the name of the bloke that dun the posters...?!

  3. So sad to hear the news, I have so many fond memories of his time in Deptford and drinking in The Duke.


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  8. Unfortunately this post appears to have become a target for spam, hence the number of deleted posts. Genuine comments, however, are still very welcome.

  9. I've had enough Marmoset, this is not what I signed up for. I've deleted more comments than you've fielded. Comments are closed. RIP Brian, sweetheart.