Thursday 30 April 2015

Boom Boom

I have blogged before about my love for the Blues singers I watched perform over 50 years ago. I saw John Lee Hooker sing 'Boom Boom' in London in 1960, the year this was recorded. He was at the forefront of the electric guitar adaption of the Delta Blues. But I have an admission to make. I bought Johnny Tillotson's 'Poetry in Motion' in the same year. My excuse was that I had fallen in love with Jenny, the salesgirl in the local record shop. She had brush curls, a pink hairband and wore pleated, fluffed-out dresses you may remember from early Elvis Presley movies. All tight belts and lots of buttons. She loved Pat Boone. She tried to get me to buy 'April Love', but 'Poetry in Motion' was as far as I would go with this music. Boone was, like Tillotson, from Jacksonville, Florida. But it's Clarksdale Mississippi for me. Hooker for ever. Here are two more 1960's recording for you. Enjoy. There's a lot more about music in Left Field

Wednesday 29 April 2015

The War Child 'Help' album

It's 20 years since the War Child Help album – the brainchild of Andy Macdonald and Tony Crean of Go! Discs, the then record label for Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, the Housemartins and The Beautiful South. The idea was to raise funds for War Child's work in war-torn Bosnia by recording an album in studios across Europe on Monday 4 September 1995 and have it on sale in shops by Saturday, 9 September - less than a week from start to finish. On that Monday more than 20 artists performed in multiple studios across Europe. Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, Orbital, Massive Attack, the Stone Roses, Neneh Cherry, Sinéad O’Connor, Paul Weller, Paul McCartney and Portishead were some of the contributors. Weller recorded 'Come Together' at Abbey Road with Paul McCartney. Read about this experience here. Brian Eno produced the album and was responsible for making sure the recordings were ready for pressing in time for the Saturday release. Racing against the clock, he said of the experience, ‘Enjoyable panic, but I went into Hitler mode in the last few minutes.’ Help sold over 70,000 copies on the first day, becoming the fastest-selling album in British music history and raising more than £1.5 million. I was responsible for deciding what to do with the money, working from the principle that the Help money should not be solely for those parts of Bosnia Hercegovina where War Child was represented but for those in need across the whole country. So we funded school meals in central Bosnia, support for a mobile medical clinic in Bihać, the supply of premature baby units to Banja Luka, food and clothing to orphanages in Zenica, artificial limbs for wounded children, the purchase of a refrigerated truck to supply insulin, as well as baby milk, contraceptives and even funding for mine clearance programmes. Linda McCartney supplied twenty-two tonnes of her veggie burgers which we delivered to three Bosnian cities. Help monies were also used towards the running of the War Child bakery and to expand the charity’s music programmes to include towns in Republika Srpska such as Trebinje. Here is Radiohead's 'Lucky' being recorded with film from BiH. Watch this and then read more about Help at Left Field

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Viva Anne Aylor & La Quince Brigada

Without Anne Aylor I would never have written Left Field'. Author of two books, No Angel Hotel and The Double Happiness Company, she is now working on her third novel set in the Spanish Civil War. Much of her research has involved finding out about the US Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteers. 'The House of Wild Beasts', a chapter from this forthcoming publication, won the 2014 Historical Novel Society Award. Every June she runs a week-long creative writing course – in Spain! This year, after her writing retreat, we are staying on to celebrate my 70th birthday - “Ten years before I saw the light of morning a comradeship of heroes was laid.” My own birth year was one more than Christy Moore's in Viva La Quince Brigada, which honours those who fought against fascism in Spain. Check out his amazing Glasgow gig. A free copy of 'Left Field' to the first person who correctly names where this photo of Anne was taken. Reply to messages at my FB.

Christy Moore Viva La Quince Brigada

Monday 27 April 2015

Mostar Blues & Rock Festival

This July the Pavarotti Music Centre  (PMC) is hosting the 13th Mostar Blues & Rock Festival. In that time they have presented names such as Ten Years After, Ana Popović, Vlatko Stefanovski, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Sugar Blue, Snowy White, Dr. Feelgood, Tito & Tarantula, Deborah Coleman, Danny Shephard, as well as regional artists: Majke, Partibrejkersi, Dado Topić & Telephone Blues Band, Zdenka Kovačiček,Yu Grupa and others. 13 years of dedication and hard work from Mili Tiro, Oharn Maslo (Oha) and others at the Centre. Today the PMC is very much alive ... and kicking arse. Get to Mostar this year if you can. Check this out:  InnesSibun and Coco Montoya, 2014

Lots more about Mostar & the PMC here:

Sunday 26 April 2015

Tom Morello for Stop the War in London

Here is a clip from another Stop the War gig I helped organise, June 2007 Tom Morello at the Scala in London.On the bill with him were Ed Harcourt, Frank Turner and MC Mark Steel.It was a great evening but not as exciting as 7 years earlier when Morello and Rage Against the Machine caused the doors of the NY Stock Exchange to be closed when they played outside  They and their fans stormed the building and it had to lock its doors during the middle of the trading day. Morello was quoted: "Our protest stopped trading at the stock exchange for the last two hours of the day. I guess we stopped downsizing for at least a couple of hours." Who says music can't change anything. And here's a Monday morning treat – Tom performing solo in Cuba 

Rachid Taha with Brian Eno (guest Mick Jones from the Clash)

27 November 2005 at the Astoria in London (now buried beneath Cross Rail's new station at Tottenham Court Road). I helped organise this gig for the Stop the War Coalition with Rachid's UK manager, Rikki Stein. What a night! And what a great surprise when Mick Jones turned up to join them for 'Rock the Casbah'. And we raised some serious money for the anti-war movement.  Music has been an important part of my life: the Pavarotti and Friends concerts, the daily events that took place at the Pavarotti Music Centre, music workshops in Sarajevo and Mostar, smuggling Island Records Bob Marley exhibition into war-torn Mostar, organising gigs for Stop the War. And I have seen music change the lives of others around me. Greetings to all the great musicians you will come across in Left Field - Oha, Teo, Eugene, Senad Suta, Atilla Aksoj, Dubioza Kolektiv, Siktar, Mostar Sevdah Reunion, Deicola Neves,  EM, Paul Belben and so many others. Enjoy 'Rock the Casbah'

Friday 24 April 2015

Miss Sarajevo

This blog is in memory of all the unnecessary dead

"Is there a time for keeping your distance, A time to turn your eyes away"

I sat two rows behind Diana and it would have been rude to lean across, tap her on the shoulder and tell her I am a citizen and not a subject. By 1995, she might have agreed with me! 

Read my answer to the question from the song at LEFT FIELD  

Thursday 23 April 2015

800 People Drowned

“Assume a virtue if you have it not” - Shakespeare.
April 2015: UK response to more than 800 drownings in Mediterranean … Royal Navy 'flagship' to join search-and-rescue operations. Two smaller cutters or patrol vessels will be sent as well as three Merlin helicopters. (France has committed a plane for a fortnight in September and a patrol boat for the month of November). March 2011: UK 'contribution' to NATO regime change in Libya which was major cause of the chaos in area … More than 26,000 air sorties, almost 10,000 of them involving missile strikes of some kind. More than 3,000 vessels were boarded to enforce the arms embargo. Once the operation was up and running, it was in government's words, 'relatively easy to sustain'. (My source: The Guardian)

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Prisoner of my past

At Victoria Station, alongside platform announcements for Chatham and Orpington, there used to be the international routes. In the 60s, I’d board the train for Dover, ferry to Belgium and on to Cologne, Munich, Salzburg, Ljubljana and Zagreb.
At Ostend, I always hoped to be the only passenger in my 3rd class couchette—not because I wanted to be alone—but because it meant that the train would fill up in Germany with Turkish gastarbeiters, setting out on their annual holidays.
They would always have two suitcases, one for clothes and the other filled with food and drink which they generously shared with strangers. There were kebabis, spinach and cheese borek, hummus, pitta bread, dates and honeyed cakes. We would drink raki through the night.
After a short sleep, I would wake up as the train travelled through the Karamanka Alps into Yugoslavia. The Austrian customs officers in their smart, blue uniforms were replaced by the Yugoslavs in their drab brown when they came on board at Jesenice; the only other colour, the red stars on their caps. 
30 hours after leaving Victoria Station the train arrived in Zagreb. All cities have their unique characteristics; defined by their architecture, climate and their people. What is rarely referred to are their smells. Zagreb’s was the coal burned in the steam engines: lignite from Breza in Bosnia, a soft brown fuel somewhere between coal and peat. This smell characterised the Croatian capital until steam engines were replaced with electric and diesel.
I would take the No 4 tram. The blue cars clanked and screeched their way over the bumpy rails, the driver hunched over a lever which was both accelerator and brake. Pedestrians ran when they heard the tram’s bell, a double dang-dang. It was like being on the set of The Third Man.
Today I return to London from Barcelona and because of my brain op it's not a two hour EasyJet flight, but eight on TGV via Paris. Plenty of time to read a book. It will be Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Prisoner of Heaven - set in this city. I struggled with his The Shadow of the Wind but my writer-wife Anne tells me this one is much better. I will let her know if I agree when I see her again – she is returning on Easyjet tomorrow.

Read more about train journeys at 'Left Field'

Tuesday 21 April 2015

My Mostar 'sons'

Oha’s enthusiasm for people was marked by equal enthusiasm for music. When he heard a performance he liked, his face would break into a smile as he grabbed the nearest person to him to hug. I have even watched while he embraced a loudspeaker. (Oha is Orhan Maslo)

Teo wanted nothing more than to return to pre-war days when no one took any notice of religious or ethnic differences. He was one of the first to take his guitar into the communities of his former enemies.  (Teo is Teo Krilic)

Read more about them here:

Eduardo Galeano

Uruguayan writer and socialist Eduardo Galeano, died last week. He described himself as a writer "obsessed with remembering" and  advised close attention to walls since "walls are the publishers of the poor." RIP

Monday 20 April 2015

St Pau Hospital, Barcelona

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~ (Mahatma Gandhi ) Yesterday in Barcelona was a slow day for me, but perhaps the most important one since arriving here. I was rushing to get out, fell in the shower and cut my head close to where I'd had the subdural haematoma op. In a panic and thinking I'd set off another internal bleed, everyone else was fortunately calmer. I spent 8 hours at St Pau hospital and was given a CT scan – all was OK. I had plenty of time to watch the people around me, patients and health staff. The equal of our UK NHS here. Sorry – perhaps better. Just had to show my EU health card for treatment. Today I think I'll just walk around the streets and visit my grandson – slowly. 

Sunday 19 April 2015

children and war

 “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King Jnr.

Here are two pics from children in war (Spain in the 1930s and Bosnia Hercegovina 60 years later) - separated by time and place, but united in their suffering.

I hope "Left Field" breaks a lot of silences.

Drowning refugees

Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing, Foreign Office ministers have quietly announced.” Guardian 27 Oct 2014 ... Six months later ... Up to 700 people are feared to have drowned when a fishing boat capsized off Libya, in what could prove to be the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe across the Mediterranean.” Guardian 19 April 2015. Our response can only be beyond any (polite) words

Saturday 18 April 2015

Bridge of Bosnian Blues

If you watch 'The Bridge of Bosnian Blues", you will understand why Mostar has been so important in my life. Then take it further by reading “Left Field”.

“Music is that little bottle in which you put all your emotions” … “They were unable to kill our songs” … “The war profiteers know what they fought for. I fought with the violin and songs. They were my machine gun and pistol” … “I'm lucky to be in a mixed marriage so we celebrate everything. We do Eid, Christmas, Easter.” ... “Pah, I'm fed up with all the holy days – I'd rather skip them all.” … “This bag of shrapnel is from my shelled flat. They are the reasons why I left. I have to know the reasons why I left. Probably they (on the other side) have the same things”

Dedicated to Mostar Sevdah Reunion: Ilijaz Delić, Mustafa Šantić, Sandi Durakovic, Miso Petrovic, Neđo Kovačević, Sead Avdić, Liljana Buttler, Dragi Šestić and Snail Records. And in addition Oharn Maslo (Oha) + Masa & Teo Krilic + Sanja

Friday 17 April 2015

Rolling Fork to Bromley

When Blues musicians arrived in London in the early 60s, their first booking was often at the Bromley Court Hotel, Catford; a short bus ride from my home. This gig was a 'warm-up' for their appearance at the Marquee Club in Oxford Street. Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley appeared at the Court with British stars such as John Mayall, Alexis Corner and Spencer Davis. With his pencil moustache, Telecaster, sharp suits and from Rolling Fork, Mississippi - Muddy Waters “Got my Mojo Working”.  Read more about all this at 'Left Field.' 

Thursday 16 April 2015

Reading in Barcelona

The Guardian published an article recommending the 10 best books set in Barcelona. Of these ten I have read five of them. I am not a prolific reader so 50% is high for me and says something about this city. And I've read 'Homage to Catalonia' at least five times. Am staying within site of Sagrada Familia and Orwell was right about the building - the Republic should have removed it! But I am not here to read 'Homage to Catalonia' a 6th time, but to work on "Left Field" and visit my grandson, Rhys.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Mostar Sevdah Reunion

"I never got the chance to thank you for all your support and kindness in the process of the creation of Mostar Sevdah Reunion. Our lives have changed thanks to you, Eugene Skeef and Music Center Pavarotti … without you – no Mostar Sevdah Reunion, no me as a producer, no sevdah on the World Music map … I hope that one day, city of Mostar will officially recognize your priceless contribution to the town itself. In a meantime, I will do it for myself! Thank you for your kindness, humanity, love and vision." Dragi Šestić, music producer ( Listen to Mostar Sevdah Reunion )

Monday 13 April 2015

Oha, Eugene Skeef & Tiffany Hughes

Brian Eno: "This is an excellent and inspiring book. David's stubborn and yet self-effacing commitment to his ideals carried him through many daunting situations, and his sense of humour kept him able to see the funny side."

Dorothy Byrne, Head of Channel 4 TV News and Documentaries: "What a life this man has led!"

Sir Tom Stoppard: "David Wilson has lived a life and a half … the broken world needed people like David then; it still does and always will."

David Hencke, former Guardian Westminster correspondent and part of Exaro team, presently exposing paedophilia in high places: "This is the work of a determined guy who is prepared to expose fraud and injustice wherever he finds it."

Eugene Skeef, percussionist and collaborator with Steve Biko in SA Black Consciousness Movement: "A must-read by my comrade and brother David Wilson. Please spread the word and encourage your friends to buy and read David's memoir.”

Orhan Maslo (Oha): "One of the key people of my life has finished his book and it will soon be out. There is a chapter that describes the times we spent together. What good times we had while giving spirit to the Pavarotti Music Centre. This was after my orphanage times and steered me to who I am and what I do today. Thank you David"

Manuela Beste, the first person to read draft of book: “This is surely going to be your core readership - the 1960's generation who grew up with you, agitated like you, still hold true to these struggles like you and today's new generation of angry, frustrated, hopeful young people who are organising for a better and fairer world ...I found the book interesting, moving, thought-provoking, instructive. It thoroughly held my attention .. I wish I could think in visual metaphors like you."

Gianni Scotto, Assoc Professor, University of Florence: “I was so surprised to hear the most insightful and radical political analysis of the conflict speaking with you.”

Sebastian Balfour, Emeritus Professor, LSE: “A vivid account of a life fought for justice, full of indignation and tenderness.

Mandla Langa, author of The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, and winner of 2009 Commonwealth Prize: "David Wilson is a national treasure."

Ed Victor literary agency: “Your relationship with your elderly father is described in such beautiful style that it would not be out of place from a literary novel by an established and seasoned author. The same goes for your childhood years at boarding school ... The 'Balkan years', including the bits where you fall in love with a Croat and the adventures of the mobile bakery could be from a historical thriller. The whole 'War Child' section could be an expose about the problems and hidden lives of charities, especially when they become powerful.”

(photo: Oha & Eugene with Tiffany Hughes, Mostar 1998)

Buy your copy of Left Field here

Sunday 12 April 2015

Luciano Pavarotti and the Pavarotti Music Centre

"It is no exaggeration to say that visiting Mostar that day was truly one of the most beautiful moments of my life. For two years, we had been raising funds through concerts and albums to build the Music Centre and to eventually see its completion, and to witness some of the beautiful and talented children of Mostar performing for us on their inaugural day, was simply a joy. The children that day were so very patient. We were delayed on our journey by something beyond our control, the weather! But, when we eventually arrived in the beautiful city that was overwhelming, and the people of Mostar certainly proved that they have something very special that is their future. Those children are an example to us all and a tribute to Mostar. If music is central to a person’s life, it can be something very special and life-affirming. The Music Centre was built for the children - I can only hope that making music helps in the healing process and that it will bring joy to the children of Mostar for many, many years to come." Pavarotti describes the opening of his centre in Mostar, 1997  Read more about his visit to Mostar at Left Field

Photo: Pavarotti, Bono & child. Yes that is Paddy Moloney from The Chieftains behind Bonos's head!

Rock the Casbah

I helped organise this gig for Stop the War. Rachid Taha Band with Brian Eno + Nitin Sawhney, Imogen Heap and Mick Jones from The Clash. Won't ever forget 'Rock the Casbah'  Read more about the gig at  LEFT FIELD

It was one of the last gigs at London's Astoria which today has disappeared beneath Crossrail's new station at Tottenham Court Road

Saturday 11 April 2015

Anne Aylor

Left Field contains this dedication to writer Anne Aylor, the instigator and editor of my memoir:

"Without whom I might not be alive and
if alive, I would be dead. Alive or dead,
without her, I would not have been able
to write this book."

Thursday 9 April 2015

Grandson Rhys

My grandson, Rhys (named after my Welsh grandfather) hasn't yet ordered his copy of Left Field - despite the fact that I wrote the memoir with him in mind. I am visiting him next week in Barcelona so will have the opportunity to let him know that it is now in the publication planning stage. So neither he nor you have long to wait.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Uncle Karl

A regular guest at our house was Karl Henrik Køster, a Danish neurosurgeon who wrote for The Lancet and who’d met my father in Bergen-Belsen.They became friends and my sisters and I called him Uncle Karl. 
He always arrived with a large bottle of Cherry Heering, a Danish liqueur, and gifts for us children. I remember the brightly-painted wooden soldier with its red tunic and blue trousers. It had moveable arms and a detachable lance which was quickly lost.
Karl Henrik had been in the Resistance. One day, when leaving his apartment he passed the Gestapo on the stairs. They asked him where Dr Køster could be found. As he left the building he passed the body of a medical student shot in the back. He then followed the same route as those he had helped save and escaped by boat to Sweden. He made his way to the UK and joined the British army. 
Karl committed suicide in the 1980s and didn’t live long enough to see the 1998 Disney film made about his life, Miracle at Midnight, directed by Ken Cameron which starring Sam Waterson as Karl and Mia Farrow as his wife, Doris.
I recently came across words of his explaining why he acted as he did. “It was the natural thing to do. I would have helped any group of Danes being persecuted. The Germans' picking on the Jews made as much sense to me as picking on redheads.”
I had contact at a young age with people who’d led dangerous political lives. Karl Henrik’s booming voice and wry humour has stayed with me. It has always been important to be able to see the funny side of the grimmest experiences. There is always a Springtime for Hitler.  Read more about Uncle Karl in Left Field.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Ships at Sea

Ambrose Bierce said that politics is ‘a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.’ This 'Politics' takes place in a box with shared rules of engagement. If, like me, you believe there is nothing ‘shared’ about our world, the only place for politics is on the streets, not in a debating chamber full of Right Honourables who ridicule each other, then go off to have cosy lunches together. For my mother, my extra-parliamentary activities made me an extremist. But it’s like ships at sea. If a fleet of ships are sailing together, a lone ship on the horizon is viewed as occupying an extreme position. However, from the point of view of the lone ship, you have to be a damn good sailor.  Read more on my political life at Left Field

'Blah Blah photo courtesy of Left Unity

Juba - our Mostar cat

Had to have a reference to our feral cat, Juba, at the Pavarotti Music Centre. Here she is in 1998. She learned to use the toilet and she disappeared back into the streets when Anne left Mostar. Read more about her at  Left Field

Monday 6 April 2015

Zagreb trams 50 years ago

"The blue cars clanked and screeched their way over the bumpy rails, the driver hunched over a lever which was both accelerator and brake. Pedestrians ran when they heard the tram’s bell, a double dang-dang. It was like being on the set of The Third Man."
Zagreb trams in the early 1960s as described in 

Sunday 5 April 2015

The gauchos of South America

In the early 60s gauchos no longer looked like this ...

They looked like this ...

Read more about my time as a gaucho on the Pampas fifty years ago at Left Field