Thursday 24 March 2016


“I have but one passion: to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness.” These are the words of Émile Zola in his attacks on the French state in 1898, when they imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus. We need a new Zola. There is too much suffering on the part of a humanity entitled to happiness. Neither truth nor the security of the people are any more important to our states now than they were when Zola wrote. For the French, the Belgiums, the British, the Germans, all that matters are the bulging pockets of the 1%. If that means bombs at home and wars abroad, so be it. Saudi Arabia sits at the centre of the death cults fomenting Isis, Daesh or whatever name they currenly use. What is the response of our states? For the French it is the Légion d'honneur for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, awarded him just days before the Brussels bombings. For the UK it is £6 billion in arms sales to the Saudis since Cameron came to power. Over 3,000 people have been killed with these weapons in Yemen alone, including many children. For Brussels it means sitting at the centre of a European administration which has set out to close its borders to those fleeing this creeping Armageddon. Bombs at home, wars abroad and doors closed on its victjms while opened ever wider to racism, Islamophobia and fascism. Enough, c'est assez, genug, basta, ¡Basta ya!¡ genoeg

Thursday 17 March 2016

Music in 'the jungle'

When walking round the Calais 'jungle' I kept hearing snatches of music. Of course - “Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.” (Robert Fripp). As soon as I returned to London I contacted Ness of The Calais Sessions - and we met. Their approach, not 'taking' music to the refugees, but checking out what is there – it always is – and letting the music and the people speak. Shockingly, many of the children are unaccompanied, and I know from my time at the Pavarotti Centre in Bosnia how important music is for them. So I will help as much as I can. They have recorded an album and will be returning to Calais to continue their work. I hope that the launch of 'Left Field' will be an opportunity to help.

The Calais 'jungle'

I have just returned from “The Jungle” refugee camp in Calais. Thousands of people who have made it to the Channel coast, fleeing from the abyss of destruction, death and chaos our bombardier politicians have rained down on them. It was a dry day, but there were pools and streams of dirty water. Sand was blowing around and, despite the sunshine, the bitter cold invaded life and health. I went there as a guest of some wonderful homeopathic practitioners and, with their translator Najeeb Khan, the group approached numerous families. Only one didn't have colds, coughs, sore throats and worse. We were welcomed with warmth and too many cups of sweet tea. There was an eagerness to talk about their lives and what had brought them so many thousands of miles from their homes. How had they arrived on the channel coast? On EasyJet? Eurostar? Hired coaches? Many of them had walked across Western Europe. When you next fly or train it to southern Europe, look down at the ground. Walked? There are many volunteers working there – doctors, nurses, musicians, youth workers at the Baloo Youth Centre and at the Jungle Books library. At the large and well organised warehouse mostly young people unload foods, clothing, medicines and sleeping equipments. There is optimism and hope amongst the refugees. Another world that is not only possible, but being brought into being under these terrible conditions. As one of the founders of the UK NGO, War Child, I have a few questions. I am aware that Médecins Sans Frontières is present on a small scale in Calais and Dunkirk. That Save the Children has funded some of the volunteer work in the camps, but where are the larger NGO's 'on the ground'. Why are they not at least advocating for the refugees? Last year Save the Children did say this: “The UK government is very generous in aid and should be proud of rescuing thousands of people from drowning in the Mediterranean this summer. David Cameron deserves real praise.” But if they cannot speak out, where are they? Is it true they cannot get directly involved because neither the French or British government have declared a humanitarian emergency? Doesn't NGO translate as 'NON-Government ? A number of other questions. Does the French government take money from the UN to keep people at the camps, but do little or nothing in return? Is it true that the Calais camp has been partially, but not completely, destroyed so that this situation can continue? Is it true that with the destruction of the camp the French and UK governments might face court action? I am sure I am repeating rumours. Perhaps my questions are naïve. Perhaps. "Left Field' will be published in six weeks. Published by Unbound & distributed by Penguin Books

Sunday 13 March 2016

Mostar Rock School

The London launch of Left Field on 5 May will be followed by another taking place at the Pavarotti Music Centre in Bosnia Herzegovina on 18 June.

I am excited about returning to Mostar for this. There will be live music organised by Oha Maslo who runs the Mostar Rock School and is manager of the studio there. 

Read about Oha in my memoir and join me there. And check out this rock school cover of a Joe Cocker classic 

Friday 4 March 2016

Music not War

The other day I met with Rob Williams the CEO of War Child. He invited me to their office in Kentish Town and I met some of their 30 + staff. With aid projects in six countries (seven soon with Yemen) and an annual budget in excess of £10 million reaching out to over 100,000 children, they are a very different organisation to the one Bill Leeson and I founded. But I am happy to see that music is still central to the charity as a fundraising tool. This year Coldplay, Frank Turner, Florence + The Machine and many others are playing small venues for War Child. As director of the Pavarotti Music Centre I became convinced that music is not only a great fundraiser, but an important part of aid work. Composer Nigel Osborne, who worked with me at the Pavarotti Music Centre said, "We brought bread and music to battered Mostar. We went into a place that craved both something to eat and some kind of expression of life. Politicians always lie but music tells the truth. We were going to feed people, and recover the message of peace and democracy which is inherent in all good music." Simon Glinn, CEO of Buxton Opera House, who worked for us in Mostar and helped organise rock concerts and festivals in Sarajevo has said, "I'm not sure I'd do it like that now, but people of our age then probably would. If one was to paste a philosophy on to that madness, which was brave and lucky, I'd say just that this was about solidarity, multiculturalism and, well, the fundamental principles of good rock'n'roll." Amen to that. Lots more about music and war and music in war in 'Left Field'. Published by Unbound and distributed by Penguin Books - only a few weeks to publication.