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The journey of the show

Rice Harvest – the musical is a story of refugees – many of them children – in a small boat, rescued at sea. 

When I met the Vietnamese ‘boat children’ in 1978 I had no idea they would inspire a musical. They had just been saved from certain death in the South China Sea by the British ship Wellpark and brought to London.

At the time I was a young musician making my second album in Basing Street Studios. The refugees had been given temporary accommodation close by at Kensington Barracks. Amongst them was a school choir and their teacher who had escaped from the war zone and we invited them to the studio to sing. Together we made ‘Rice Harvest’, which was released as a single on Arista Records in 1979. The original recording features here.

Now we face a global refugee crisis of epic proportions and more children than ever are adrift at sea. I met some of the lucky ones and feel their story should be told. It is an incredible story of survival against the odds and for me opened a window to another scarcely believable world.

In 2012 I was commissioned by Julie Stanning, Head of Bexley Music, to re-arrange ‘Rice Harvest’ for a performance at Fairfield Halls by a 300-piece children’s choir and orchestra. This led to meeting Vietnamese artist Hong Dam, herself a boat person, and Alan Dibb, who had worked as a diver off the coast of Vietnam in the late 1970s and was instrumental in saving hundreds of lives in the South China Sea. Further inspired by their stories, I began to envisage a musical and enlisted the help of William Dashwood to develop a script. 

In 2016 the potential of Rice Harvest – the musical was recognised by Karen Dwyer-Burchill, head teacher at Italia Conti Theatre School, and together with director Matthew McDowall and students we performed a version of Act 1 at various schools, and at Rich Mix in London.

In 2017 Act 2 was workshopped at the Guildford School of Acting, and we were invited to perform the songs in concert at the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden. 

In October 2019 the first full production was staged for two nights at The Mick Jagger Centre in Dartford. Three songs from that show can be heard on the ‘Songs’ page of this website.  

In 2022 and 2023 two more songs were performed by a massed children’s choir and orchestra at Fairfield Halls, directed by Julie Stanning for the Bexley Festival of Music.

We have enjoyed working with the Vietnamese families who have made Rice Harvest – the musical possible and look forward to sharing their story of triumph over adversity with new audiences through musical theatre and song. 

We hope you will enjoy the show. 

Keith Hale

Rice Harvest – the musical is produced by Parasol Music Productions, established with the aim of working with schools and professional musicians and actors to produce and perform modern musical theatre, and to foster an appreciation of music and the performing arts, especially among young people.