Clatters goes to Tolpuddle 

Raise a tankard with the former dock worker, teacher… and chorister.

Reading time: 4 min

Unite is inviting you to raise a tankard with lifelong trade union member Nigel Clatworthy when he makes his Tolpuddle debut at the Unite Marquee at this year’s festival.

Nigel plays under the name “FMI Clatters” and is a regular sight in the pubs and festivals across the south west – but what many people don’t know is that Nigel has a history of trade union membership.

Recently retired Nigel has a lot of jobs ranging from chorister to cleaner, but his  main jobs have been working as a Fitter and Turner in Devonport Dockyard and then working as a Design and Technology teacher for thirty years. 

Nigel said: “In the docks, I was the union rep for the gang of Fitters I worked with.  This involved sorting out overtime and shift hours and more importantly providing the health and safety link for the gang. This included arranging checks in tanks for obnoxious gases and oxygen levels before we went in there to work.”

It’s fair to say that Nigel has had a stop start relationship with performing music. He says he first sang professionally aged 8 as a chorister and was involved with the Royal School of Church Music.

Nigel takes up the story, “When I got to 12, I foolishly decided that I had had enough.  After a forty year break, I picked up a guitar at a friend’s barbeque, which led to my first booking!”

“That was ten years ago now.”

Since then he has adopted the stage name “FMI Clatters!”, following a comment from a friend at a gig, and to avoid pupils he taught at school finding him on social media, and began playing open mic sessions around Plymouth – encouraged by friends in the DIY music scene such as Skeg and Davey Malone. 

Regarding playing Unite Marquee on the Saturday at this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival, Nigel said,  “I am really excited to be playing the festival.  I have been a card carrying union member since I was sixteen, so to be asked to play was a really exciting thing for me.”

I am also looking forward to the learning experience from the various talks and workshops and hearing fabulous music, from world class artists.

Musically “FMI Clatters!” can best be described as a “sort of mix of folky punky acoustic nonsense.”

“I try to keep the subject matter of my music on the lighter side. However, I have always had a political leaning and this can be seen in some of the covers that I have played over the years.”

“I have been working on a song about the Cornish clay mine strikes, which I really need to get finished.  I don’t think my music will directly change anything but if it can spark a thought for somebody, then that has to be a good thing.”

When asked what the audience can expect from a Clatters show Nigel paused for a while before saying, “ A typical gig, I hope would be a fun experience with plenty of crowd participation and interaction between myself and the audience.”

“I’m just super excited to have been asked to play and can’t wait to sing you songs about tankards and pasties!”

You can catch Clatters at 5 pm on Saturday 20th July at the Unite Marquee.

By Keith Hatch

Photo by Amber Jade Smith