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that Name PRUNE! Plum charmer called in to save ailing festival crop.

Byline: MIKE LOCKELY

IT'S a plum job for any musician with hopes of being top of the crops.

And Paul Johnson - Pershore's first 'plum charmer' for four centuries - has permission to jam in any field he chooses.

That's because this year's harvest will stand or fall by Paul's ability to serenade the fruit with his clarinet playing.

The 50-year-old lawyer faces a hectic few weeks, after Pershore's annual month-long Plum Festival kicked off yesterday.

And despite a disastrous start to the season, with heavy rain putting local growers three weeks behind schedule, Paul's confident that his music will help Pershore's plums make up for lost time.

He has been making frequent field trips in a bid to find the musical styles preferred by each variety.

Not surprisingly, quite a few love Deep Purple.

Blues is also popular.

And you can't go wrong with The Stones. There's a degree of method in the musical madness, father-of-two Paul explained yesterday afternoon.

"The theory is that the resonance of the music shakes the water molecules and encourages the plums to ripen," he said.

In recent weeks, Pershore's fields have been shaken by jazz, which the 'yellow egg' variety is particularly partial to.

They've rocked with Beatles classics - the 'Victoria' is a big fan, apparently - and Paul has even dabbled in 16th century period pieces.

"I'm game for a laugh," shrugged the father-of-two. "A lot of people think lawyers are a bit dusty and unapproachable.

Fun "Hopefully, this will change their opinion.

It's a great way of having a bit of fun."

According to record books, farmer Thomas Nevill was Pershore's first charmer.

He swore that plums tasted sweeter after listening to his penny whistle.

Paul decided to revive the tradition after discovering the charmer's cape and hat in the bowels of his business, solicitors Thomson and Bancks. He practiced by playing to the fruit bowl at his home before touring local farms.

"The one good thing about playing to plums," he laughed, "is they don't boo."

And quite a few are tone-deaf. More plum deaf than plum duff.

Never mind. Festival organiser Angela Tidmarsh believes the late harvest may be a blessing because it means the current crop will be at its best for the August Bank Holiday final.

"We've already suffered with our asparagus this year thanks to the unpredictable weather, so we're doing anything and everything we can to guarantee our plum harvest," she added.

"Pershore's Plum Festival is the biggest tourist attraction of the year and critical to the town's success."

The first festival was staged in 1920 and the event was resurrected 16 years ago.

Crowds at yesterday's opening ceremony were treated to plum sausages, plum cheese and even plum beer. Not to mention the charms of Paul's playlist.

mike.lockley@trinitymirror.com TOP OF THE CROPS: PLUM CHARMER'S TOP 101. Plum of a Preacher Man - Dusty Spring-field 2. Here Comes The Plum - George Harrison 3. Roll Away The Stone - Mott The Hoople 4. Keep On Plumming - Spencer Davis Group 5. Stoned Love - The Supremes 6. Under My Plum - The Rolling Stones 7. Plum On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners 8. Distant Plums - Jim Reeves 9. Jammin' - Bob Marley 10. Plum Together - The Beatles

CAPTION(S):

TREE-MENDOUS: Paul works his magic. HARVEST: Pershore's annual month-long festival started yesterday. PLUM JOB: Paul Johnson, Pershore's first plum charmer for centuries.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jul 29, 2012
Words:558
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