The Motley Crew

Singing shanties and songs of the sea out of Brightlingsea, Essex

Long, long ago, a group of like minded chaps hit on the idea of singing sea shanties for fun. Despite it being a late night at the yacht club, most of us remembered the idea the day after and thus The Motley Crew was born.

From there we’ve gone on to sing at fetes, smack and barge matches, regattas, dinners, weddings, parties, shop openings and numerous other events. Highlights include performing at the London Marathon, the Cutty Sark, the Harwich International Shanty Festival and the Colchester Oyster Feast. We get together at Christmas to sing traditional wassail carols, too.

We've supported lots of charities over the years, but our main charity is the RNLI (as most of us sail, we figure it's a good investment) and we've raised thousands of pounds for this worthy cause. 

We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Audiences appreciate our robust, light-hearted style and so long as we all enjoy ourselves and the RNLI gets a few more well-deserved pennies out of our efforts, that’s all that matters.
If you'd like us to sing at your event, please drop us a line.


Meet the crew

Otherwise known as the tenors, the screechers claim to reach impossibly high notes without artificial aids.
The tunes sing the bits everybody knows and think everyone else in the crew is just showing off.
David D
Pencil Bob
The bass section labours down in the engine room, occasionally rattling windows and scaring dogs. 
David B

Come and see us

We'll be performing at the following events:

Old Leigh Shanty Festival
Old Leigh, Essex

A new festival for us - venues/times TBC

RNLI Garden Party
Tendring Hall

Helping fund raise for Clacton RNLI.

Blessing of the Waters
Brightlingsea Hard

The Motleys will be leading the singing again at this traditional event. A highlight of the Brightlingsea calendar.

Heybridge Regatta
Heybridge Basin

A return visit to this lovely event - here's hoping the weather is as good as last year!

Mersea RNLI Fish & Chip Supper
MICA Centre, West Mersea

A return visit to the MICA centre in West Mersea for an RNLI fundraiser

Pirate Night at the Railway Tavern
Railway Tavern, Brightlingsea

Aaar! It's time to walk the plank again with some rollicking shanties at the Railway. Eye patches obligatory! From 19:00 until the rum runs out!

Essex Wildlife Trust - Nextdoor Nature
Martello Tower, Jaywick

Singing at the launch event for an exhibition showing off EWT projects that have benefited the area. Time TBC

Weeley WI
Weeley Village Hall

A return visit to our friends in Weeley. Private event.

Wivenhoe Shanty Evening
St Mary's Church, Wivenhoe

Our third visit to Wivenhoe for an evening of shanties, shared with the Hoolies from Wivenhoe and the FelixStowaways from Felixstowe.

Borley Church Concert
Borley, Essex

Next door to Britain's most haunted location (allegedly) Borley Rectory - spooky!

Brancaster Staithe Shanty Festival
Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk

Our first visit to the wilds of Norfolk for this great little festival

Brancaster Staithe Shanty Festival
Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk
Brancaster Staithe Shanty Festival
Brancaster Staithe, Norfolk
Voices for Hospice Concert
St James Church, Brightlingsea

We’ll be joining other local acts fundraising for St Helena Hospice.

Harwich International Shanty Festival

Venues to be announced

Harwich International Shanty Festival

Venues to be announced

Harwich International Shanty Festival

Venues to be announced

RNLI Fish & Chip Supper
YMCA Brightlingsea

Our annual fundraiser for the local RNLI branch

Lavenham Church
Lavenham Church

Our first gig for events company OEM Live. A matinee, time & tickets tbc.

Clacton WI
St Paul's Church, Clacton

A festive visit for a Christmas sing-along

Get that Jab & Go

When the NHS approached the The Motley Crew in March 2021 to come up with a sea shanty to promote Covid-19 vaccinations, we put our thinking caps on and came up with Just Get That Jab and Go

Sung to the tune of the Wellerman, with arrangement by our own Chris Bloor and lyrics by Motley SWAG (shanty wives and girlfriends) Melanie Bridle, it was recorded and mastered by Ray Hayden of Opaz Multimedia.

Our tune, set to a video recorded in various locations around North Essex and Suffolk – including our home town of Brightlingsea – gained nationwide press, radio and TV coverage, including two live breakfast tv appearances on the same morning. A video of our appearance on BBC Breakfast below) is below.

01 June 2021

Press Release

NHS’s first-ever sea shanty created to encourage COVID-19 vaccination

What’s believed to be the first-ever sea shanty in the world written to encourage people to take up the offer of a COVID-19 vaccination has been created by the well-known East Anglian group The Motley Crew.

Just Get That Jab And Go is written and performed by the 13-strong Brightlingsea-based shanty crew and was done in partnership with the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System (ICS), which is responsible for the highly-successful local vaccination programme.

The launch of the song comes as the national programme has opened up vaccination appointments to people aged 30 and over.

With the refrain “Keep the community safe from harm, just get that jab and go”, the shanty is sung to the tune of Wellerman, the shanty that achieved TikTok fame and went to No 1 in the charts earlier this year. It even manages to integrate the local vaccine website address into one verse.

David Bridle, the Motley Crew’s Bosun, said: “We’ve all had the jab and were delighted to lend our voices to such an important campaign.

“After a year when we’ve mostly met on Zoom, we’re looking forward to adding it to our live shows when we’re able to perform again soon.”

Brightlingsea-based record producer Ray Hayden, of Opaz Multimedia mastered the recording and also gave his time for free. “Ray did an amazing job for us,” said David, “Having a professional involved was fantastic – we’d never have sounded so good without him.”

Simon Morgan, ICS head of communications, and who had the original idea for this unusual project, said: “Over the last couple of years the sea shanty has enjoyed a much-deserved boost in popularity, which got us thinking that having our own sea shanty composition to boost vaccination uptake, especially among younger audiences, would be a great idea.

“Our system is extremely grateful to members of the Motley Crew who have done an incredible job to reinforce the message of getting a vaccination when invited to do so.”

The group created the song in partnership with the ICS who accepted no payment for the work.

Dr Ed Garratt, Executive Lead for the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System, said: “Our teams of staff and volunteers are doing a great job of inviting people back for their second doses, which are really important to give maximum protection from the virus; more than one third of adults have had both doses.

“So if you receive an invitation, whether for your first or second dose, please do act on it as soon as possible.

“We are proud of our success to-date and thanks to so many people, particularly the incredible efforts of the volunteers and staff who have contributed so much.”

Motleys on the BBC

In Action


  • I was delighted when informed of the consistent fundraising the Motley Crew has done to raise vital funds for the RNLI. Thank you for your loyalty in helping the RNLI to continue to save lives at sea. 

    Jon Knight

    Head of Community Engagement, RNLI
  • Speaking with our staff, they felt that the shanties really brought the ship to life. It goes without saying that you are welcome to come back and perform again in the future

    Aaron Hewett

    General Manager, Cutty Sark
  • I would just like to write to say thank you so much for organising a fundraising event for our Raise the Roof appeal. It is really touching when someone organises an independent event of their own volition, especially one that is so different.

    Lia Smith

    Secretary, Porridge & Pens
  • Just to say thank you to you and the ‘Crew’ for making our WI Centenary Evening such fun. Without exception every one said how much they had enjoyed the evening, such a great atmosphere!

    Jo Barnes

    Weeley WI
  • I’ve just paid good money for a CD of yours , and I want you to know that I’m appalled. I’m appalled that you haven’t yet got a golden disc – it’s absolutely brilliant! I do so love to hear you sing and I applaud your objective

    Mike Fletcher

On Tour

Contact Us

If you'd like us to perform for your event, please drop us a line using the contact form. Be sure to say what the event is, who it's for and give a date, time and location.
We'll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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© The Motley Crew 2023
Website by  Big Red Web Design | Illustrations by Pencil Bob Hollis | Compilation video mastered by Richard Harvey | Hero image by Jon Sturdy.
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