War touches us all. The proximity of the refugee camps in Calais, and the regular news of migrants desperately fleeing war to find a safer life, is a constant reminder of its seemingly pointless destructive power.
Ideas, feelings and responses to the experience of wars past and present are the fiery focal point of a new night that I’m putting on next week: Those Who – Songs of Love and War.
But first, you should probably have some background. As a composer and teacher, I’ve long wanted to start an organisation in Kentish Town that produces and curates contemporary music and arts events linking with social issues in the community. Our venue is the architecturally acclaimed atrium of Kentish Town Health Centre, which will be transformed into a concert venue for the evening.
Under the umbrella of our newly formed collective, Lawford Arts, I’m working with my fellow curator, actor Nicola Sanderson, young musicians Joseph Davies (cello) and Iain Gibbs (violin), and singers Abigail Gorton and Jocelyn Coates. Fortunately we’ve been ably assisted by the Kentish Town Improvement Fund, too.
Those Who – Songs of Love and War is a full evening’s programme of words and music that takes place on November 18th, a date that in turn marks the 100th anniversary of the last day of the Battle of the Somme – whose horrors arked the turning point in attitudes towards the war.What can you expect if you turn up? Well, the chance to hear imaginative, expressive, critical, sometimes hopeful, writings – poetry and prose, as well as live musical performances given by an ensemble of professional and amateur writers and musicians, most of whom live and work locally.
Opening with a French protest song from World War One, the musical centrepiece of the evening is a performance of the 1418 Now choral commission commemorating the Battle of the Somme, Memorial Ground, by award-winning composer David Lang.There’s also poet Robert Vas Dias reading his own work, and local writer Christopher Douglas, known to many as the creator of Radio 4’s Ed Reardon’s Week, with his account of a cricket match he organised with Afghan cricketers in the recently disbanded Jungle camp in Calais. And there’ll be extracts from the letters from the trenches of acclaimed twentieth century science fiction writer and conscientious objector, Olaf Stapledon, read by his great grandchildren.
So while this is our first Kentish Town arts venture, I hope it’s not the last. And most importantly, the evening is a fund-raiser for Safe Passage UK and Doctors of the World.