THE extraordinary story of an ordinary man has provided a voice from the past to illuminate our today.

Award winning folk group the Young 'Uns, have created The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff which is the story of his adventure from begging on the streets in the north of England to fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, taking in the Hunger Marches and the Battle of Cable Street.

The Teeside trio have written 16 songs which intermingle with a theatrical production which keeps alive the story which Johnny tells in his own words (he recorded his story for the Imperial War Museum) and show how one man stood up for what he saw as injustice in the world.

The Young 'Uns who are three time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners, comprise of Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes.

The story for the Ballad of Johnny Longstaff first came to Sean's attention while at a gig in Clevedon.

A man approached the group and handed them two pieces of paper.

One was an old picture and the second a list of social and political events of the first half of the 20th century.

The man's name was Duncan and his dad was Johnny Longstaff.

From this meeting and after listening to Johnny's oral testimony on the website of the Imperial War Museum, Sean was in his own words 'enthralled'.

He said: "It was a pure joy to be involved in the story as it is one of passion and heroism.

"When Johnny set out on this journey he was a teenager. When he went to Spain he said he couldn't even find it on a map.

"When he got his first meal in the country he said he could not eat it as it fish eyes in it. It was only later he discovered it was paella.

"Writing the songs was labour of love and it took a lot of time.

"I started writing them in 2015 and did four songs. I let them breathe before going back to them and then wrote another 12 songs over a ten month period.

"Johnny's tale is so human and alive and although he came from the North East of England, his is a voice which is accessible to people across the UK.

"The fact his story is human and alive is the reason we are folk singers which is to be storytellers.

"We want to share our stories with other people.

"The songs we have written before are contemporary and about inspirational people in today's world. These songs about Johnny are all part of telling them his story.

"It is an historic narrative and I am pleased the audience get to hear Johnny's voice and see images from his life." Speaking about what he hopes people get from the show, Sean said: "I hope people come along and see the show and find out about someone who did extraordinary things on his journey.

"I wanted to write the songs so they would stand alone. A great number do but some would need greater explanation.

"But these songs are about a real person who is alive is the memories of his family."

You can see The Balled of Johnny Longstaff on February 7, at the Octagon in Yeovil.

Tickets: £18 and concessions: £17.

Buy online at or call the box office on 01935 422884.