Darren Hayman is back, with a second volume of songs resulting from his Thankful Villages project. The third village is Flixborough, North Lincolnshire.
Flixborough has an extra reason to be thankful. It is strangely sited, perched on a hill high above a tired-looking industrial park. There are wind turbines surrounding the village in every direction.
In 1974 a chemical plant on the industrial site exploded, leaving 28 people dead. It was one of britain’s largest ever non-nuclear explosions. Every roof in Flixborough was lifted or set ablaze, yet no villagers were killed. Barely a window remained intact.
On my first visit to Flixborough, I left with only a pocketful of music and pictures. The disaster proved hard to pin down in song.
The people of Flixborough and those that remembered the explosion were reluctant to speak to me. The media descended on the village in 1974 and local press often mark the anniversaries.
I returned a year later to speak to Derek Green and his son Andrew. Derek has been a farmer since before the Nypro disaster.
I arrive early, as I do everywhere, and circle the village, trying to understand the relationship between the slightly broken settlement and its equally crumbling industrial half sibling.
The pub is dead. The building is on offer to the community to make something of it. I find a small gauge railway track with a cat skeleton by its side. The disused line takes me to the industrial site, much of it padlocked and rusted, though some of it still working. Everything is 1980.
I record the rain on a Coke can. I have mud on my shoes and I worry about the first impressions I will give Derek.
We talk of nothing other than thankfulness and gratitude. Their world exploded and they survived by chance.
Thankful Villages Volume 2 will be released on Rivertones on 26 May. Preorder a copy here.
Darren plays a special release day gig at London’s Horse Hospital, with support from Luke Turner, Spaceship Mark, and DJ Frances Castle. Tickets are available here.