The Flying Pickets

This article is about the singing group. For use of the term in relation to labour disputes, see Picketing (protest) § flyingpickets.
The Flying Pickets
Origin Manchester, United Kingdom
Genres a cappella
Years active 1982 (1982)–present
Labels Virgin
Members Martin George
Andy Laycock
Simon John Foster
Michael Henry
Christopher Brooker
Past members Brian Hibbard
Ken Gregson
David Brett
Red Stripe
Rick Lloyd
Gareth Williams
Ron Donachie
Christopher Ryan
Dylan Foster
Hereward Kaye
Gary Howard
Nick Godfrey
Lex Lewis
Ricky Payne
Henrik Wager
Paul Kissaun
Fraser Collins
Andrea Figallo
Damion Scarcella
Gavin Muir

The Flying Pickets are a British a cappella vocal group, who had a Christmas number one hit in 1983 in the UK Singles Chart with their cover of Yazoo's track "Only You".


The name 'Flying Pickets' refers to mobile strikers who travel in order to join a picket. The band of six was founded by Brian Hibbard in 1982 from a group of actors who had been active with him in John McGrath's '7:84 Theatre Group', a fringe theatre organisation who had sung a cappella in their production of the 1981 play One Big Blow. The group chose the name The Flying Pickets as band members had played a part in the UK miners' strikes of 1972 and 1974.[1] The Flying Pickets came up with a novel concept of transferring the art of a cappella to the pop music scene.[2] Joining Hibbard in the Group were Rick Lloyd (who also wrote the music to One Big Blow), Gareth Williams, David Brett, Ken Gregson (real name Kenneth Gregory) and Red Stripe (real name David Gittins). The members of the group were internationally renowned for their flamboyant appearance: Hibbard's huge sideburns, Stripe's thick eye-liner, and four others showing off gaudy suits and large hats. Two of the other original members, Ron Donachie and Christopher Ryan left the band before "Only You".

"Only You", their debut single, was the UK Christmas number one in 1983 spending a total of five weeks at the top, and also doing well around Europe and in Canada, where it hit #17 in the spring of 1984. It emulated the success of the original Yazoo version.

Despite the radical Socialist political views of The Flying Pickets, the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proclaimed to much amusement that it was her favourite record.[3] A second single, a cover of Van McCoy's "(When You're) Young and in Love" (originally written for Ruby and the Romantics) reached number 7 in the UK, but their third, a cover of the Eurythmics' "Who's That Girl" barely charted.

The height of the group's fame coincided with the Miners Strike of 1984, when the National Union of Mineworkers called strike action following the National Coal Board's decision to close 20 pits—a move which would claim some 20,000 jobs.[1] The Flying Pickets were very vocal regarding their support of the miners during the dispute and came to blows with the record label Virgin after they picketed Drax Power Station in Yorkshire.[3] They also performed benefit gigs for the miners. Hibbard himself claimed that their political beliefs probably had a detrimental effect on the group's mainstream image but it was a sacrifice they were willing to make;[3] one well known record store refused to sell the group's albums due to their support of strike action.[3]

In 1986 Hibbard and Stripe left the band and were replaced by Gary Howard and Hereward Kaye.[4] Hibbard and Stripe tried to stay in the music industry, forming their own act called Brian and Stripe but their first and only single featuring a cover of Yazoo's "Mr. Blue" failed to chart, and they returned to their separate acting careers.

The Flying Pickets' line-up has been changing constantly throughout the years, but the band never died; since the Pickets began, there have been about 27 different band members. The last member of the original line-up, David Brett, left the band in 1990.[5] However, in 1994, the original line-up (minus Lloyd) reformed to record one more album.[5]

Although since 1990 none of the founding members is part of the band anymore, The Flying Pickets continue to record albums, and also tour all over Europe and abroad.

Post-Picket activities

Brian Hibbard - Founder and lead singer Hibbard went on to act in Doctor Who, and then briefly in Coronation Street as Dougie Murray. He has since appeared regularly on Welsh television. He also had a brief role as "Bobby-John Downes" on the soap opera Emmerdale in 2003 and then came back for another brief spell in 2006. He appeared in the cult 1997 film Twin Town playing the part of the karaoke king, Dai Rhys. In 2006 Brian won the BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Actor for his role as Tony in the film Little White Lies. He also appeared in Doctors in 2005. He died on 17 June 2012.[6]

David Brett - Has toured with The English Shakespeare Company and appeared as Mad Mike the Mechanic on BBC children's TV programme Marlene Marlowe Investigates.[7] In 2000 Brett played the part of Dedalus Diggle in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.[8]

Gareth Williams - Has toured in a production of South Pacific and also with The English Shakespeare Company; he played Nathan Detroit in a production of Guys & Dolls. He also worked with Jonathan Miller on a TV adaptation of Henry Mayhew's London Labour, London Poor. In 2009, he understudied and went on for Patrick Stewart in the Theatre Royal Haymarket production of Waiting for Godot.[9]

David Gittins (aka Red Stripe) - Delivered bread after leaving the band, then decided to move to Australia where he got a job as a stage mechanist at The Victorian State Theatre. He also co-developed the techno act Poets of the Machine.[9]

Ken Gregson - Emigrated to Australia and has made an appearance on the soap Neighbours.[9]

Rick Lloyd - was a joint winner of a BAFTA TV Award for his work on the 1987 TV series Porterhouse Blue, and was musical director for the 1999 film Julie and the Cadillacs.




Other past members



  1. 1 2 The Flying Pickets’ taste of fame. Accessed 12 July 2009.
  2. Anderson, D. (1991) 'Bums on Seats: Parties, Art, and Politics in London's East End' TDR vol. 35 (1) pp. 43-59.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Anderson, D. (1991) 'Bums on Seats: Parties, Art, and Politics in London's East End TDR vol. 35 (1) p.55.
  4. Kaye, H., (1986) Ba Ba Da Da The Flying Pickets - 1986. Accessed 30 March 2007.
  5. 1 2 The Original Flying Pickets. Accessed 30 March 2007.
  6. "Brian Hibbard obituary". The Guardian. 19 June 2012.
  7. The Original Flying Pickets. (1994) The Original Flying Pickets: Volume 1 (from CD information booklet).
  8. David Brett at CastNet UK. Accessed 17 April 2007.
  9. 1 2 3 The Original Flying Pickets. (1994) (from CD information booklet).
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