Author Matthew Crampton is a storyteller, writer and folk singer, based in London.
Aside from The Trebor Story, Matthew’s books include Human Cargo: songs & stories of emigration, slavery & transportation and Tales from the Angler’s Retreat. Through Muddler Books, he also creates new editions of old texts, such as Animal Farm and Seventy Years a Showman.
As a writer/performer, Matthew is known for shows which explore migration through story and folk song. Human Cargo charts the experiences of people aboard slave ships, emigration boats and transportation vessels. The Transports links a true tale of poor folk transported to Australia in the 1780s. There is a CD of the show which he toured nationally with a company of folk musicians, winning Five Stars from The Guardian.
In a new project, he tells stories alongside classical pianist Olga Jegunova.
Matthew can often be found in folk clubs, performing traditional songs, monologues and music hall classics.
For many children, sweets are their first brush with conscious desire. Sweets shape their sense of longing. And, let’s not forget, sweets deliver.
Unlike a lot of things for a child, sweets provide what they promise. They give the hit. While later, much later, you learn the sluggard cost of that early rush, as a kid this means nothing. All that counts is the hit, the buzz, the fizz, the joy.
No wonder, then, that people revel in remembering their childhood sweets. They relish a rollcall of Fruit Salad, Woppa Chews, Topps and Curly Wurlies. Those old enough will talk of visits to the sweet shop, the wall of large jars, the tough choices thrust onto tiny shoulders, the twist on the paper bags to contain the delights decanted therein, the lovely lumps those bags formed in your school trouser pockets.
Yes, this is nostalgia pure and uncut, but it’s also a rekindling of that flame of desire, the lifeforce which adulthood is dedicated to coralling.
But as a child I had a secret up my sleeve. My uncle ran a sweet factory. In fact he ran several sweet factories – and he was the man who made the Refreshers and the Black Jacks and those huge Sharps Easter Eggs that arrived every Spring. My uncle John was not Willy Wonka, but he might have been. He was John Marks and his grandfather Sydney H Marks was one of the founders of Robertson & Woodcock, which became Trebor. My parents weren’t of that family, my mother’s sister had married into it, but I had a connection.
This doesn’t mean my childhood was flooded with sweets. But I did get to visit the Trebor factory at Woodford in Essex, a glorious day of smells, haircaps and As Many Sweets As I Wanted. I only went there once – even factory visits were rationed – but I always thought I’d go back. And now I have, in a way, as I’ve written a book about it.