Frank Turner finds himself in No Man’s Land as York Barbican bow beckons

Frank Turner: bringing history and song-writing together at York Barbican next March

FRANK Turner will turn York Barbican into No Man’s Land on March 8 on the Hampshire folk-punk singer-songwriter’s 2020 tour.

Tickets will go on sale at 10am tomorrow morning on 0203 356 5441, at or in person from the Barbican box office.

Turner, 37, released his latest album, No Man’s Land, in August, touted as his most original to date with its parade of fascinating characters, such as the woman who invented rock’n’roll, a serial killer from the Deep South, who plucked her victims from lonely hearts pages, and a Wild West vaudeville star shot by a small-town outlaw. 

“It’s bringing together my two main interests in life, which have always been separate from each other: history and song writing,” says Turner, who can be found seeking out long-forgotten historical sites on self-guided psycho-geographical strolls when not touring.

No Man’s Land is dedicated to the women “whose incredible lives have all too often been overlooked by dint of their gender”. “These stories should have been told already,” says Turner of the album and its accompanying podcast series. “And I suspect if they were men, they would be better known.” 

A couple of names here will be familiar, in the form of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Sister Rosetta and the mysterious Mata Hari in Eye Of The Day, but other women who feature have long been ignored by the mainstream.

Turner was inundated with crowdsourcing suggestions when seeking more names. “I know a lot of very smart people who sent me these huge lists of historically interesting women,” he says, after he ended up researching hundreds, seriously expanding the size of his home library in the process. “It felt a bit like going back to school, but it was so much fun.”

The women featured on the album’s 13 tracks come from across wide geographical and historical lines, whether Byzantine princess Kassiani in The Hymn Of Kassiani; Egyptian feminist activist Huda Sha’arawi in The Lioness, or Resusci Anne, an apocryphal drowned virgin whose face was used as the model for the medicinal CPR mannequin across the world. 

“You can’t resist writing a song about a woman who died never having been kissed and then became the most kissed face in history,” reasons Turner. 

No Man’s Land boast perhaps the most revelatory song of Turner’s career. Written in tribute to his mother, Rosemary Jane honours her grit and determination through the harder parts of his childhood. “It’s quite a raw song,” he admits, adding that he felt compelled to ask permission from his mother and sisters to include the track. “But it’s nice about her. It’s not necessarily nice about my dad.”

Turner, by the way, will be making his York Barbican debut at next March’s gig.

Charles Hutchinson