Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Miracle at Midnight


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 when they were both serving in the RAMC. They became close friends and my sisters and I called him Uncle Karl. Because he always came to stay in December, this large man with his deep voice and Nordic accent was Father Christmas, though now I realise he looked more like Karl Marx.
Uncle Karl always arrived with a large bottle of Cherry Heering, a Danish liqueur, and gifts for us children. I remember the nine-inch-high 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 was a surgeon at Copenhagen’s Bispebjerg hospital. After operating on a wounded member of the Resistance, medical students asked him to help hide 40 Jews while their escape by boat to Sweden was organised. But how to get them into the hospital? Karl Henrik organised a ‘funeral’ with dark cars, black clothes and flowers. 140 turned up and all of them had to be hidden.
He then arranged for ambulances to take them to the coast. In all, he and his hospital saved 2,000 Jews. Then their luck ran out. 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.
His wife Doris was at home. The Gestapo imprisoned her.
My father lost contact with him when he retired from The Lancet. The last he knew of Karl was when he heard from a mutual friend that he had, as my father put it, ‘taken up with his secretary’. He had no idea what happened to poor Doris.
Karl committed suicide in the 1980s and didn’t live to see the 1998 Disney film made about his life, Miracle at Midnight. Directed by Ken Cameron, it starred Sam Waterson as Karl and Mia Farrow as 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.’
What with Uncle Karl and the Hungarians, 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.

'Left Field' is a memoir packed full of music and politics. You are invited to a party to celebrate the book with both. It will be on sale at half price with £5 per book donated to MOMENTUM . Live music with Brazilian guitarist Deicola Neves and other guests.
Tuesday 6 December 2016, 7pm, 
Whittington Park Community Centre Yerbury Rd N19 4RS 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

"a thoughtful & gentle memoir"




Brian Eno: This is an excellent and inspiring book. David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who, despite the best efforts of an education designed to equip him for obedient anonymity, somehow did something truly useful with his life. His 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.
 
Haifa Zangana: a memoir where the personal is entwined with activism and woven into a poetic multi-coloured tapestry.

" Left Field is a thoughtful and gentle memoir. David’s obvious good nature and ability to connect with people is demonstrated over and over, from the influential individuals whose support he enlisted in the early days of War Child to the character sketches that he draws regularly throughout the book… I enjoyed his relaxed writing style and the chapters that veered from the chronology to reflect or add narrative detail... His is an enjoyable memoir, reflecting on a compassionate and varied life, and an important reminder of how destructive war is both on individuals and communities, and the important role we can all play in fighting for a better world. Socialist Review (July/August 2016)

 


                                                   

Top read for Morning Star





"SOMETIMES funny, often moving and occasionally tragic, Left Field is always lively and always interesting ... one of my top recent reads"

Morning Star reviews 'Left Field"

Perhaps not surprising that it is the Left who have reviewed 'Left Field'. Here is earlier one from Socialist Review

Friday, 21 October 2016

The puncstorta jelly roll was frosty



This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, a working class revolt against a 'communist' state. Workers and students declared a general strike and workers' councils sprung up across the country. In cities they armed themselves and fraternised with the troops, but were eventually crushed by Soviet tanks. Hungary '56 was an example, last seen 20 years before at the time of the Spanish Civil War, of the working class reaching for power, and taking place in one of the 'workers' states'. It showed an alternative to capitalism and Soviet communism and galvanised many, including myself, towards revolutionary politics. Here is my account of that year from 'Left Field'.

In October 1956 demonstrations broke out across Hungary, demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The government fell and Imre Nagy became Prime Minister in the middle of a revolution. Workers and students set up militias; troops tore off their insignia and joined them on the barricades. Police were killed at street corners, as well as some Russian soldiers. It seemed that the few remaining Soviet troops would withdraw. But on 4th November they returned in large numbers. The workers and students only had small arms and Molotov cocktails. Thousands were slaughtered. Lucky ones fled. My father and mother found homes for two of them, a young couple, Lorencz and Ester. They arrived just before Christmas. Lorencz stayed with us and Ester went to the Schields’s, my parents’ bridge partners. My father told Mr Schield that, as refugees from Hitler, they had a duty to return the favour. I was fascinated by Lorencz’s stories of how he and his fellow fighters had climbed onto the Soviet T-34 tanks and hurled petrol bombs inside. How they had lost many comrades and how grateful they were to have a new home, thanks to my parents. When Ester came to visit her boyfriend, they would cook goulash, which made a change from my mother’s steak and kidney pie. They were always cheerful, but it was only a front. I remember waking at night to hear Lorencz sobbing in his room. After leaving us, they went on to qualify as dentists, marry and settle down in Kent. Every Christmas they would send us a card. Ten years after they’d arrived in this country, they rang my parents and said they wanted to visit. They turned up in a Rolls- Royce. My father watched as they turned in to our drive. ‘Betty, you answer the door.’ He pointed at the car. ‘Look at that.’ ‘It’s a Rolls-Royce, Ian,’ my mother said. ‘They have done well.’ He slammed his study door shut. My mother welcomed them. ‘Ian’s been very busy this week. He’ll join us soon.’ She left Ester and Lorencz with my sisters and me. I could hear her whispering loudly outside his door, ‘Ian, come out now. We have guests. Ian, do you hear me?’ While I gobbled up the delicious puncstorta jelly roll they’d brought, the conversation was as frosty as the cake’s pink icing. My father was disappointed at their success. I suppose he expected them to be revolutionary dentists in Sevenoaks.”


Monday, 17 October 2016

Mom's roast potatoes


Thank you Melanie Friesen for this detailed analysis and appreciation of 'Left Field'
Melanie Friesen has worked as a literary agent for filmmakers in the UK, as Creative Director in the UK for MGM/UA, the same position at Cineplex Odeon in Los Angeles and as VP for Martin Scorsese’s company in New York.

I enjoyed the read and suffered the total despair of your myriad attempts to get the show on the road with War Child in spite of so many battles, including egos. What a triumph all the same.
The childhood in an autobiography/biography interests me the most because it’s watching how the seedling grew and seeing what might have influenced it. I also like to connect to childhood events that the writer mentions, as it brings me closer to the book.
Also how many books have notes at the back that are just as interesting as the text?
Some examples with your book:
Your description and recipe of your mom’s roast potatoes: My mom wasn’t interested in cooking, nor in any household activity, so she got several jobs which interested her very much in order to pay for a housekeeper. I adore food and the description of these potatoes had me gnawing on the spine of the book. Luckily I was on the Air Canada flight back to Vancouver while reading it and the meal on board was so disgusting that no one found it unusual that I was trying to eat my reading material (JUST KIDDING!)
The horror and fascination of you staring at your dad’s concentration camp photos: Cripes I remember that so well. I think I mentioned that mom’s whole family except her parents and brother – i.e., her grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts – were all gassed at Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. Just the words ARBEIT MACHT FREI give me the worst chills. So I was with you on that page.
Thomas Dormandy: My mom was born in Slovakia of Hungarian parents and immigrated to Chile in 1939. Her mother tongue was Hungarian. In 1956, she worked in Vancouver at the docks and the airports translating for Hungarian immigrants and got many of them homes and jobs. As a result, I love Thomas as much as your dad did.
I also got a good grade in history. I couldn’t stand the present so I concentrated on the past.” Utterly, David, utterly, hence me enlisting in Whitechapel guided tours at night about Jack the Ripper. Fuck the shard, bring on St. Paul’s through the mist.
Your Argentinean experiences are exactly that, but I found many of them very Chilean, since I have been there to see family 4 or 5 times. Love that you arrived in Rosario where Che was born. Ever since my Nov. 2015 trip to Cuba, I hold him in even higher esteem than ever.
Re: Yoruba having the highest rate of twin in the world – Wilmette, Illinois has the highest rate of multiple births in the US – that's where my identical twin nephews were born. Love it – Yoruba and Wilmette.
The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb – Never having heard of it, but thinking it a great idea, I read about it on the internet. I think it must be very comforting for those who are sad about a break-up to go there and be comforted by many others who have done same.
Best line in the book (re: Ivo): “When he played his accordion, he looked as though he was telling himself a joke.”
You mention Bob Hoskins – I was an extra in PENNIES FROM HEAVEN since I knew the producer, Ken Trodd, and I was broke at the time.
You mention Rebecca West: In 1976 I did some secretarial work for her in her Kensington flat. She showed me a tea set that Queen Mary had admired and said, “When royalty said they liked something, one was supposed to gift them with it. But I didn’t.” She left me my pay on the mantelpiece but I didn’t take it because I felt sorry for her, thinking she was old and lonely. What a drip I was, I’m sure she could afford to pay me and I was so broke.
I love the quotations that open some of the chapters, my favourite being the one by Milan Kundera: “… for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs as heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.” The quotation from ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is also as powerful as it gets. That was the book/film that turned my mom into a pacifist.
Enid was a wrestling fan and had a friend with whom she went to matches at Wembley …”: It’s quite a leap and not at all relevant to your book, but when I worked for Scorsese, he was going to produce a film directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Sean Penn based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates called YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS. It’s about a girl, Enid, who falls into immature love with her Uncle Felix, a boxer:
To see you refer to an Enid and wrestling brought the book straight to my mind and the meeting I had with the 3 men mentioned above. The film never happened, too bad – it was the right team for the story.
Very small points – if, by chance, the book is reprinted, there are some spelling mistakes with a few foreign words: The Donna Reid show is spelled Donna Reed. À tout a l’heure also has an accent on the second “a” as well - À tout à l'heure. Schatzi is spelled Schatzie
Well, the next Margarita is on me, thank you so very much for giving me your book.

'Left Field' is on sale at Watersones, on Amazon and for US and non-UK readers at Book Depository

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Maajid Nawaz lays a trap


I was at Sussex University today (15 October 2016 ) at the Migration Awareness Day and about to talk about NGO's and refugees, about my experiences at War Child and about my book, 'Left Field', which deals with these issues. The phone rang. It was LBC asking me if I was prepared to be interviewed by Maajid Nawaz. I told them that I was co-founder of War Child, author of 'Left Field' and guest at this conference and could speak in those capacities. They asked me it was it true that I had been Press Officer at STW and I said I had not worked for Stop the War for years. I asked them to call back at 2.30 after my talk and assumed that the call was a result of the conference taking place at that moment. As you can tell from this excerpt the invitation had nothing to do with the migration awareness day and all to do with ensnaring me in Maajid's venomous trap. Pity they stopped this recording just before I screamed my anger at him and shut him down. For those interested in uncanny happenings. I think I have been called twice in the years since I left STW. And this call, five minutes before my talk, seemed to me obviously connected to my talk. Obviously not. Watch the interview here.


Sunday, 11 September 2016

'We are Many' director and 'Left Field'

 Amir Amirani, director of "We are Many' talks about 'Left Field': "This book is a testament to a life well lived, a life about ideals and principles. This memoir of a very colourful life in activism is both entertaining and illuminating, the pages filled with a great variety of characters from the worlds of music, politics and the arts, and in many places very emotional. It shows that a person with a passionate belief can create great change and inspire others to share a vision for a better society. It's a personal, often humorous account, of personal tragedies, losses as well as triumphs such as co-founding the charity War Child and directing the Pavarotti Music Centre. Highly recommended." See interview with Amir at Waterstones's book launch with others here and buy the book here  

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Left Field - 'Really Impressive'




Left Field quotes

 
  

ABC TALES: Through his involvement in the charity he began, War Child, he met movers and world shakers such as Luciano Pavarotti and included a walk-on cameo of meeting Nelson Mandela. The latter asking for his advice and support. You don’t get much bigger than Pavarotti, but Mandela dwarves him. This is an autobiography worth reading not for any of these reasons, but for its humanity. (Full review here: https://www.abctales.com/blog/celticman/david-wilson-2016-left-field )
MUNDHER ADHAMI: A brilliant achievement. The cover, the quotes, the dedication, the arrangement and titles of chapters. The language of novels. Really impressive.
AMIR AMIRANI, Director of We are Many: This book is a testament to a life well lived, a life about ideals and principles. This memoir of a very colourful life in activism is both entertaining and illuminating, the pages filled with a great variety of characters from the worlds of music, politics and the arts, and in many places very emotional. It shows that a person with a passionate belief can create great change and inspire others to share a vision for a better society. It's a personal, often humorous account, of personal tragedies, losses as well as triumphs such as co-founding the charity War Child and directing the Pavarotti Music Centre. Highly recommended.
ANON on AMAZON:
1) Best to start this book when you have a clear day, as you probably won't want to put it down. A touching and inspiring life story with a narrative that restores faith in humanity while simultaneously being utterly destroyed by it. A very enjoyable read with the additional bonus of some very funny moments as well.
2) This is a wonderful memoir, wide ranging, dramatic, amusing, and a must read for anyone who cares about the state of the world and wants to be involved at any level in action that makes a difference. Most of all, it is a very personal account of an amazing life, and an insider perspective on the big political issues of the modern era. Enjoyed it very much indeed.
3) A really compelling read ... I could not put it down ... David Wilson is a superb story teller.
4) This is a beautifully written and constructed book. I am actually reviewing when only half way through, but am fully confident that my words will hold true right the way through. The author has great descriptive powers and I have certainly been moved both to laughter and to tears. His life is certainly one worth writing about and he is more than able to do so. I highly recommend this book to almost anyone it is so easy to read even when the subject is tough.
SEBASTIAN BALFOUR: A vivid account of a life fought for justice, full of indignation and tenderness.
MANUELA BESTE: 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.
BECCA BLAND: I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. It tells the story of the life of a man who seems so dedicated to helping others who are less well off than those in the west. This guy has a no bulls*** approach to life and has the strength to live by his beliefs! It's really tender too - a nice account of cross cultural romance and relationships. The writing is great and the anecdotes made me giggle more than once. If you're into political activism, I would read this book!
NORMAN BOYER: You write very sensitively and lovingly about your parents. It must have been very hard for you and your Dad to cope with your mother’s accident. And secondly to cope with his slow death for your father and for you with - pardon the cliché - the long goodbye.
SUE BROCK: There are parts of these unique memoirs that are akin to opening the door to episodes and aspects of history that society chooses to forget. The book is a must read and 'unputable' down.
DOROTHY BYRNE, Head of Channel 4 News and Documentaries: What a life this man has led.
CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL: From heavy drinking to launching a charity, David Wilson’s life story is an absorbing read. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/personal-battles-of-the-man-behind-war-child
KIERAN CONLON: This is a wonderful memoir, wide ranging, dramatic, amusing, and a must read for anyone who cares about the state of the world and wants to be involved at any level in action that makes a difference. Most of all, it is a very personal account of an amazing life, and an insider perspective on the big political issues of the modern era. Enjoyed it very much indeed. 
EILEEN DAVIES: Wilson's exhilarating memoir takes us on adventures through the decades and across borders. We share his sadnessess and happinesses, successes and disillusionments....all expressed with an admirable directness and honesty.
STEVE DAY: Whatever your political currency or preferred methodology toward life, we can all agree on the absolute necessity for honesty, humanity and love, wherever possible, and on all fronts. Wilson's lively and challenging memoir keeps the reader in the grip of this, his frontline message. You weave through the rough and tumble of a life being shaped by events, then of a man intent on reshaping events, and helping rebuild the lives of others - particularly children - who were less fortunate. He held his line even when his own much beloved charity War Child was found to contain corrupt elements - whistleblowing on those he knew were threatening what had been built, and suffering the isolation that comes with this sort of honesty. History, celebrity, scandal, war and humour - Left Field is a personal report worth reading.
TIFFANY DRAKE, music therapist: David's courage and passion enabled those moments of reconciliation through music which was incredibly powerful to be a part of and a very real privilege for us to witness ... David's book can show us what can be hopeful and healing.
HATTIE EDMONDS, author: Finished your book on a train back from Dorset. Utterly inspiring and so well written. Yours is most definitely a life (thus far) well lived. The book really made me feel that anything is possible - with passion and drive and a bit of anarchy.
BRIAN ENO: This is an excellent and inspiring book. David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who, despite the best efforts of an education designed to equip him for obedient anonymity, somehow did something truly useful with his life. His 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.
IMOGEN EVANS: Moving and at times hilarious, this account is well written and utterly compelling. Highly recommended.
ALAISTAIR FRASER: A fascinating life journey account - warts and all - of an amazing person who has enriched all our lives with his dedication and commitment. Easy reading with a pleasant, humble, and often self-deprecating style. The author has a fine sense of humour as well as the ability to handle tragedy with a positive outlook. I really enjoyed the chapters describing how he founded the Pavaroti Music Centre and the ways it helped war-damaged children. Strongly recommended reading that conveys encouragement to us all to contribute in whatever ways we can to create a better world.
MELANIE FRIESEN. former VP for Martin Scorsese. I enjoyed the read and suffered the total despair of your myriad attempts to get the show on the road with War Child in spite of so many battles ... The childhood in an autobiographyinterests me the most because it’s watching how the seedling grew and seeing what might have influenced it … The horror and fascination of you staring at your dad’s concentration camp photos. … Love that you arrived in Rosario where Che was born … Yoruba having the highest rate of twin in the world – Wilmette, Illinois has the highest rate of multiple births in the US – that's where my identical twin nephews were born. Love it – Yoruba and Wilmette. The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb … I think it must be very comforting for those who are sad about a break-up to go there and be comforted by many others who have done same. Best line in the book (re: Ivo): “When he played his accordion, he looked as though he was telling himself a joke … I love the quotations that open some of the chapters … Also how many books have notes at the back that are just as interesting as the text?
GOOD READS (Jack O'Donnell): David Wilson has done a very great thing. He has given daily bread to the Bosniacs, fed tens of thousands in Mostar, bread to the poor, the cut off and the suffering. He has given the children music. Left Field it may be, but with the right heart he has made the world a better place. (Full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1737867724?utm_campaign=reviews&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=google )
HARRY HARRIS: I am the man who sat next to you on the tube at Old Street a couple of weeks ago and asked you what you were reading. I couldn’t help myself from asking as I was only on for a couple of stops and couldn’t see the cover. I was engrossed in Cafe Slavia, “We are surrounded by fakes.” You told me you were the author and gave me your card. We had a brief chat about Corbyn. (Like you I joined the Labour party because of Corbyn. He is our only hope.) Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I love the book. Thank you. You are an inspiring man.
ALAISTAIR HATCHETT: I enjoyed Left Field very much. It tells a wonderful story of one person's engagement with so many aspects of the movements of the 1960s through to today. Wilson's formative years are important for a whole generation of anti-racists who were against apartheid in South Africa, witnessed the civil rights movement in the USA and were part of the student movement in 1968. David Wilson is obviously a lifelong incorrigible optimist.
DAVID HENCKE, former Guardian Westminster correspondent: This is the work of a determined guy who is prepared to expose fraud and injustice wherever he finds it.
RICHARD HORTON, Editor of The Lancet: You write absolutely beautifully. Thank you for your wonderful book.
KIRKUS REVIEW: "His shared heartwrenching observations are clearly a highlight of this richly textured, moving work … Raw and compelling; a story well told of a vital and varied life in a war-torn region.” https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/david-wilson/left-field/
MANDLA LANGA, author of The Lost Colours of the Chameleon and winner of the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize: David Wilson is a national treasure.
MAUREEN LARKIN: Interlaced with humour, anecdotes and with a sense of irony, even in the most destructive of situations, the book is intelligently and engagingly written and gives a vivid and honest, blow by blow account of an exceptional life at both a personal and a political level. (Full review here: http://www.davidwilson.org.uk/2016/06/wired-from-earl-age.html
SHADE MAKEKODUNMI: Have finally started reading THE book. It's fantastic. Love it. The early childhood stories remind me so much of my own childhood. Despite the fact that I was brought up in Lagos. Shows you the reach and influence of the British Empire. My parents also gave sherry parties!! And of course I too became an activist, perhaps not as young as you but by age 18, at uni, I had joined a Maoist type group and was marching against the Vietnam war.
ORHAN MASLO (OHA): One of the key people of my life has finished his book. 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.
RUSSELL MILLS: You’ve done so much, achieved so much, that is for the good, the right, the just, that to be asked to undertake the cover design for you, which may be considered a minor thing in the great scheme of things, is for me a bloody major thing.
MORNING STAR: Sometimes funny, often moving and occasionally tragic, Left Field is always lively and always interesting ... one of my top recent reads. (Full review here: https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-c56a-Engaging-tales-of-life,-art-and-politics-from-left-field-veteran#.WA4J_yMrK8U )
CRAIG MURRAY, ex-Ambassador and whistleblower, David's entire life has been dedicated to trying to make the world a better place ... He was at War Child where he did a tremendous job and then he had the soul-destroying experience of finding the institution he had started being perverted and having to become himself a whistleblower and tell the truth ... As is always the case the whistleblower ends up being the person suffering damage. It is very much to David's credit he was willing to take that on.
ELVEDIN NEZIROVIC, Director Pavarotti Music Centre: I have to say I'm impressed by your book. I'm still reading it, but after I finished the chapter associated with Mostar and Pavarotti Center, I feel deeply touched. I don't know why. I don't know if it is because of hard times of war I passed through or it is because of the local significance of your humanitarian engagement in my city or it is maybe because of sincerity of the book. Thank you for everything you've done for my city and for my generation of people here.
GRAINNE PALMER: A fascinating and authentic account of political activism from someone who has walked the talk. This book is a 'must read' for anyone concerned with fighting injustice and violence in our world. It's an illuminating window into the social history of political activism over the last few decades. I couldn't put it down. It's also a page-turner peppered with passion, wit and human interest. Elegantly written too.
HEKATE PAPADAKI: They say life is stranger than fiction and when it comes to David Wilson's life, that's definitely the case. Left Field is an inspiring account of a man who never gave up on his principles and refused to settle, even when turning a blind eye would've saved him much hardship. I picked up the book for its insight into the Bosnian war, in which I was very emotionally involved in as a Greek sixteen year old, influenced by my country's biased coverage of events. The book exposes both the realities of war and the often unpleasant truth in the dealings of international NGOs operating at a time of humanitarian disasters. It is full of incredible anecdotes about the lives of bigger-than-life personalities such as Pavarotti and Mandela and it is in equal terms insightful, philosophical and funny. Left Field, however, is more than the political account of a lifelong activist; it is also a deeply moving and personal account of a man's struggles, loves and losses. Highly recommended.
DEBBI READ: I write this as I sit in the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar. It's obvious that David's tireless work before, during and after his time as Director of War Child still sits deep within those whose hearts have been touched by him in Bosnia Herzegovina. My time here confirms all that Left Field records, and only increases my admiration for the writer, his courage, wit, determination and politics. This memoir is a compelling read: the history of one man, lost battles and one war. If this doesn't inspire you nothing will.
REALTA FILMS: War Child was the biggest music charity since Live Aid. It raised millions of pounds to support children and families in conflict zones across the world. David Wilson, the co-founder has just published his memoir Left Field in conjunction with Unbound Publishing and Penguin Books. This is a wonderful account of the life of a man who has dedicated himself to the causes of peace and social justice, and been very active in using the power of art and music to restore societies after warfare. A very inspiring read.
EUGENE SKEEF: I am so elated to have read Left Field. I feel like a child at the fountain of narratives. David Wilson is truly one of the greatest storytellers I have ever met or read. For me he is right up there with Alice Walker, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Mandla Langa and Ariel Dorfman (Writing The Deep South) in his ability to enchant the reader while telling about harrowing and politically charged life experiences. Well done, my main man!
SOCIALIST REVIEW: Left Field is a thoughtful and gentle memoir. David’s obvious good nature and ability to connect with people is demonstrated over and over, from the influential individuals whose support he enlisted in the early days of War Child to the character sketches that he draws regularly throughout the book… I enjoyed his relaxed writing style and the chapters that veered from the chronology to reflect or add narrative detail... His is an enjoyable memoir, reflecting on a compassionate and varied life, and an important reminder of how destructive war is both on individuals and communities, and the important role we can all play in fighting for a better world. (Full review here: http://socialistreview.org.uk/415/left-field )
SIR TOM STOPPARD: David Wilson has lived a life and a half. I was proud to play a minor role in War Child, an organisation in which David was inspirational. The broken world needed people like David then; it still does and it always will.   
CLAIRE THOMAS: Thank you David Wilson. My mum has almost finished the book and she said it's amazing! I'm having it next and looking forward to it.
KATIE TRENT: I really found David's book engaging, amusing and tragic at times. Definitely worth a read
TABITHA TROUGHTON: I loved Left Field! What a book - I could have put it down, I suppose, but I didn't want to. Fascinating, heart-breaking, inspirational and memorably warm and kind. Thank you.
UNBOUND'S FIRST READER of Left Field: There’s a fascinating range of subject matter in this writing sample. As the author confronts the prospect of his elderly father’s immanent death, he reflects on his father’s successful career as editor of The Lancet and how that influenced his own career choices and life. This blend of childhood anecdote and adult memory makes powerful reading – not least because of the author’s ability to distil character and dramatise moments from his own past. In addition to this, he also gives us clear explanations of social, political, psychological and neurological theories that directly inform the anecdotes he tells. These two elements combine to create a personal and philosophical study of humanity – taking both the microcosm of family relationships and the bigger picture of wars between nations.  
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.
MICHAEL WALLING, Artistic Director, Border Crossings: Left Field is fantastic. So much I don’t know about someone I know well and so much vivid colour around the bits I did know well. The Mostar sections are incredible - and salutary.This is a born raconteur's account of a remarkable life. And it's not over yet… you can only speculate what David Wilson will get up to in old age. The most substantial and extraordinary section of the book deals with David's time in Mostar as the first director of the Pavarotti Centre. It's incredibly moving to read about the way in which music was able to bring solace and healing into the physical and spiritual devastation of a war-torn city. There's also an hilarious, picaresque section about his time as a gaucho and his journey home on a meat ship. Can all this be the same person?
ALEXANDER WATT: David Wilson's memoirs are out of the ordinary, to say the least. As a passionate political activist and co-founder of War Child - to name but a few - his endeavours are at once inspiring and fantastic whilst all together seeming almost impossible to have been achieved, or endured, by just one person! Having been put in the unfortunate position of having to whistleblow on HIS very charity War Child, this dreadful situation exemplifies the absolute integrity and fundamental 'decentness' of this remarkable man. Furthermore - it's a WONDERFUL read!!
PETER WILSON (no relation!) An excellent read. It is well written and entertaining as well as inspiring. Highly recommended.
HAIFA ZANGANA: Left Field is a memoir where the personal is entwined with activism and woven into a poetic multi-coloured tapestry.







Friday, 9 September 2016

Left Field on Film

                                                                                     
further films to follow shortly (with Amir Amirani and music from Eugene Skeef, Deicola Neves, Vanessa Lucas-Smith, Peter Wilson)

To buy Left Field - The memoir of a lifelong Activist, by David Wilson go to Waterstones, Amazon, WH Smith, Penguin Books and most good retailers. Best offer to date is from Public Reading Rooms at £13 including p&p

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Two 'Left Field' talks: Migration & art and war


Here are upcoming 'Left Field' talks for London and Brighton


I will be talking on 'The Arts and War' on Saturday 5 November at Theatre Bay Acklam Village Market, Portobello, London.

This is a part of the three-week run (21 Oct-6 Nov) of Ashtar Theatre Palestine & Border Crossings 'Plays of Love and War'.

I will be talking on the role of NGOs in the refugee crisis on Saturday 15 October, as a part of 'Migration Awareness Day' at Sussex University.

More 'Left Field' talks to follow in 2017.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Left Field: The Musical

Left Field: The music. I was in love with the girl in the record shop. She persuaded me to buy Johnny Tillotson's 'Poetry in Motion'. Being in CND in South London, meant live Blues artists at the Bromley Court Hotel. These three got my mojo working. Howlin Wolf's 'Smoketsack Ligtnin' ', John Lee Hooker's 'Jack of Diamonds' & Muddy Waters, 'Got my Mojo Working'. Jimmy Kennedy was getting ready to go to Bosnia to run the War Child Mostar bakery. I remember his endless cups of tea, his smokes and his obsession with Van Morrison's 'Queen of the Slipstream'. Brian Eno invited me to his studio to listen to an early recording of 'Miss Sarajevo'. Bono composed it and Brian was producing it. He needed to double check how to pronounce Miljacka. In 1995 the Help album was released with contributions from more than 20 artists, It was recorded on Monday, September 4th, 1995, in studios across Europe and released, on target, five days later. It raised more than £1.5 million for aid to Bosnia Herzegovina. I was in charge of deciding where the money went. Here are two tracks from the album: Sinéad O'Connor's 'Ode to Billy Joe' had arrived too late for inclusion in the album, but Brian Eno and his team were so impressed with her haunting rendition that they felt they had to include the song. 'Fade Away' was recorded by Oasis with contributions from Kate Moss and Johnny Depp. 'Pavarotto and Friends' for War Child in Modena raised millions for the charity. The music Centre in Mostar was the result. Of course Pavarotti, Bono and Eno sang 'Miss Sarajevo' and Liza Minnelli joined Pavarotti for 'New York, New York'. Bruce Cockburn's 'Somebody Touched Me' is for Anne Aylor whose touch saved my life. watch & listen to Left Field: The Musical

Then check out Left Field, published by Unbound & distributed by Penguin Books



Sunday, 21 August 2016

Friday, 19 August 2016

Miners - lost and found

One of the great results of writing a memoir is that you are contacted by long lost friends. Notes and photos on the 1984 miners strike had disappeared during my bitter divorce. Addresses too. Yesterday I had a call from Pat Davies who I had not seen for 32 years! I had tried to locate her, husband Selwyn and her family when writing the book, but had failed - until now. Here is an excerpt from my account of the strike in South Wales ... "I was teaching at Kilburn Polytechnic and my union branch set up a food support group for the Blaenant miners in the Neath Valley, south Wales ... I was one of those who drove groceries down to their families: tinned and fresh fruit and vegetables, cartons of long-life milk, pasta, cheese, biscuits, soft drinks and toiletries. Our supplies were dropped off at the miners’ social centres and distributed by the miners’ wives support group who had precise information on every family’s needs. Proof that a co-operative society can develop under the most extreme conditions. I stayed with Pat and Selwyn Davies in Pen-y-Cae and, over the weeks and months of the strike, we became friends. One weekend I travelled there with the North London Gay Liberation Front. They staged a benefit for the strikers and their families in the miners’ club at the Onllwyn Miners’ Welfare Hall in the Dulais Valley. It ended with a mass hug-in: miners and their wives and children embracing their visitors. That evening has been accurately represented in the 2014 film Pride." Pat and Selly are going to send me photos she has of me and my family and I am sending them a copy of 'Left Field' And I have promised to visit them soon in Pen-y-Cae.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Ships at Sea

 I spent a lot of time at WOMAD with Amir Amirani, director of 'We are Many'. A great man who has devoted years to getting this film made. It can now be bought on DVD and soon on Netflix and has been bought by Universal Pictures. All this on his own and without any support from the 'media'. I doubt you are going to see this film on your TV screens. Why? I think it's because he is an outsider – he's not working inside the box, inside the acceptable paradigm. It's the same with Jeremy Corbyn. 10,000 can fill the streets of Liverpool but he remains 'unelectable'. What is meant by this is that he remains 'unacceptable'. He is not playing by their rules. I wrote about this in 'Left Field'. “A police inspector turned up at our house. He wanted to question me about a march I was helping to co-ordinate as secretary of South London Youth CND. ‘Are you the organiser?’ he asked. ‘I’m one of them.’ ‘What is your role?’ I was being introduced to page one of the police training manual: locate the leader. I said nothing, but my mother tapped him on the arm. ‘He’ll get over this,’ she said. ‘He’s still growing up.’ As the front door closed, she pleaded with me. ‘David, why can’t you be normal?’ ‘What is normal, Mum?’ ‘Why don’t you go into politics?’ ‘I am into politics.’ ‘Banning the bomb isn’t politics. Why don’t you join a party? You could end up in Parliament.’ Ambrose Bierce, the American wit, said that politics is ‘a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.’ Politics that you ‘go into’, 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 barrack and 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 them are sailing together, a lone ship on the horizon is viewed as one which occupies an extreme position. However, from the point of view of the lone ship, you have to be a damn good sailor.” Amir is a damn good sailor and so is Jeremy Corbyn. They are our only hope, and in my case, now aged over 70, my last one!.www.davidwilson.org.uk

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Ivo's Boat to Noam Chomsky

Some readers of 'Left Field' have asked me what gave me the idea for this memoir. I started writing it while watching men fishing from a harbour wall on a Croatian island. This eventually became the chapter 'Ivos' Boat'. They reminded me of my father-in-law who had learned to fish, not as a summer hobby, but from necessity. A cafe musician, he lived most of his life in poverty and fish you catch yourself are free. Ivo had been a Partisan and communist. Born in the Austro-Hungarian empire, living most of his life in 'communist' Yugoslavia and dying in independent and right-wing Croatia. His country was confusing for him and central to me. My connection to the region is reflected in the heart of the book. But my biological family in this country have exerted a similar strong influence on me. My father was one of the first Allied medics into Bergen-Belsen and took me on my first CND march. My Welsh mother led me to a love of Dylan Thomas and all three of them have found their way into this book. Closely pursued by Pavarotti, Brian Eno and my connections to the music world and whistleblowed charity! Political activism has been a central thread in my life - I must be one of the oldest members of Momentum, but so long as Chomksy lives I feel young. www.davidwilson.org.uk

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Unkillable Human


Last night I cooked shepherd's pie for Jane Glitre. Word of warning. If I ever invite you for dinner make sure I am NOT cooking shepherd's pie. I have known Jane for over 20 years and first met her at the time of the Bosnian war. She and a group of brave women calling themselves 'Through Heart to Peace' walked across Mount Igman into besieged Sarajevo. She tells me how they entered the city through the famous tunnel, with the older members of their group at the front. As they emerged at the far end there was a line of open-mouthed Bosnian soldiers waiting their turn to go the other way. 'Don't worry' said one of the first women to emerge, 'the younger ones are at the back.' On one trip there they took in Frederick Franck's sculpture, 'Unkillable Human'. After the war Jane ran the Spitz music venue in Spitalfields market and I used to volunteer there. A wonderful place killed off by the developers who turned it into another expensive restaurant for expense-account bankers. Here is Eric Bibb who I saw there as well as Bert Jansch, Beth Orton, Tom Paxton, Honeyboy Edwards, Martha Wainwright and many others. Today she runs the Spitz Charitable Trust, bringing music to older people. Check her work out.  A great evening, reminiscing the years. And next time it will be a curry. Oh, and you can read more about Jane in Left Field.