LOCAL FILMMAKERS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR MUSICIANS AT BLUES FESTIVAL
(L to R) Craig Kimberley, Terry “Harmonica” Bean and Ted Reed in Pontotoc, Mississippi
When Gloucester filmmaking team Ted Reed and Craig Kimberley set off by car this past May to explore Mississippi’s Blues Trail, they knew they would be meeting up with some legendary blues musicians. What they didn’t expect to find was that there was a way to help blues musicians who had fallen on hard times. That’s why they will be running an information table at the 7th Annual Gloucester Blues Festival this Saturday, August 11, at Stage Fort Park.
“I had made a film in my college student days with the idea to go find as many of the old Delta Blues musicians that were still living, and put them on film before they were gone. This was only a few years after some of the ugliest battles in the civil rights movement had been fought there, and it was a different south then, certainly a different Mississippi. I found some of the blues most iconic performers—Furry Lewis, Son House, Sleepy John Estes—living in grinding poverty, receiving almost nothing from their recordings. Furry Lewis told me, ‘You don’t play the blues to get rich.’
“This year, I happened to watch my early film for the first time in decades, and realized I had what is now some great archival footage. Wouldn’t it be interesting to return to Mississippi and see what had changed?”
Over the course of exploring and documenting milestones along the Blues Trail, founded by the state of Mississippi in 2006 to mark historic places in the evolution of the blues, Reed and Kimberley were made aware of the Mississippi Blues Foundation, an arm of the Mississippi Blues Commission. The Foundation, through its Benevolence Committee, has a mission to “raise and expend grant funds to provide assistance to any blues musician in need.”
“There was nothing like this when I traveled down there before. The blues was a cultural treasure the state government had swept under the rug. Now, they’ve realized that music fans from all over the world want to visit where the blues was born, and they had better do something to preserve it.”
It was when Kimberley and Reed had the opportunity to interview the chairman of the Mississippi Blues Foundation Benevolent Committee that they saw Mississippians had recognized the need to support blues artists, and they decided to do their part at this year’s blues celebration in their home city.
“We’re going to be handing out information about how people who care about the blues can keep the music alive by helping the musicians who need their support,” Reed says.“
“Getting a chance to help out some of the remaining unsung blues musicians, as well as raise overall blues awareness in our home town is pretty special,” Craig Kimberley says.” “Once we dug into the blues trail, met some living legends, and visited some of the oldest juke-joints in the south, we knew we had to increase our involvement.”
In addition to informing festival attendees about the Mississippi Blues Foundation, and the Mississippi Blues Trail, they will also be raising contributions for the national Blues Foundation, based in Memphis Tennessee. That organization’s Handy Artists Relief Fund (as in W.C. Handy, widely regarded the Father of the Blues) also provides relief to blues musicians who are in need of help with their medical care as well as funeral expenses. Both funds channel 100% of their donations to the musicians.
The filmmakers hope to see as many of Gloucester’s music fans at the festival this weekend. “Festival organizer Paul Benjamin offered us his support right from the start,” Reed adds. “He’s a regular contributor to the Blues Foundation and really believes in what the foundation is doing.”
“Being able to support National Blues Foundation, the Mississippi Blues Foundation, as well as the fantastic blues movement right here in the northeast, is truly positive and exciting. Come join us in Gloucester this weekend!” says Kimberley.
Kimberley and Reed are planning to return to Mississippi in the fall to shoot additional scenes and interviews, and hope to release the film sometime in 2019.
For more information, please contact Ted Reed, 978-578-2834 or at email@example.com