If you ever wondered what an activist is or does, then read Left Field and you could be forgiven for thinking that Wilson was wired from a very early age for adventure and rebellion, from his mothers exacerbated remarks to the cobbler in Bromley, ’I don’t know what he gets up to’ as she handed over his battered Clark’s shoes, to his impulsive decision to set sail for Argentina when he was 16 years old. But along the way, this impulse towards action was leavened and combined into a burning commitment to the underdog across a host of groups and contexts at both a national and international level.
'Left Field' takes us through his rejection of the hypocrisy and elitism of the public school system, to which he was subjected, to his CND involvement, the Vietnam conflict, anti-apartheid protests, the miners strike and importantly the Bosnian war, which was a major and lengthy engagement for him through the role he played as founder and director of both the charity, War Child, and the Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar. Alongside these political engagements, the creative and adventurous side of his life finds expression in his play writing and the sometimes dodgy deals in the art world of the newly emerging eastern European nations. This latter is thriller stuff!
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. The many digressions from the political to the personal, from the moving last days of his fathers life, his home in Bromley, the many domestic challenges he faced and the extraordinary achievements of the Pavarotti Music Centre in a theatre of war, all work to weave together a mosaic of a life lived to the full.
What is refreshing about this book is the absence of ideological preaching. It is just Wilson, sharing his life experience but with a host of rather depressing implications for the reader to draw, significantly, how power elites at all levels, even charities, work to maintain the status quo, how ethnicity is used to divide and rule and the necessity for activists to stay close to the grass roots. It’s an absorbing read.
12 June 2016