Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Left Field as book, kindle or audio

Amazon Kindle 




Left Field film      
Brian Eno interview

'David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who did something truly useful with his life.' - Brian Eno.   'David Wilson has lived a life and a half.The broken world needed people like David; it still does.' - Sir Tom Stoppard.    'Fantastic and salutary … a born raconteur's account of a remarkable life.' - Michael Walling, Artistic Director, Border Crossings.    'This memoir of a very colourful life is both entertaining and illuminating.' - Amir Amirani, Director “We are Many”.    'What a life this man has led.' - Dorothy Byrne, Head of Channel 4 Documentaries.   'David's entire life has been dedicated to trying to make the world a better place.' - Craig Murray, ex-UK Ambassador.    'Sometimes funny, often moving and occasionally tragic ... one of my top recent reads.' - Morning Star.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Music and War

 Many readers of Left Field have told me that the chapter on music and war resonated strongly with them, so for those who haven't yet read the book, here it is ….
The Bible says, ‘In the beginning was the word.’ Wrong. First there was the rhythm. From the time of the Big Bang, it is the beat that gives the cosmos its pulse. All else may be chaos, but it is there in mathematical time, something primordial.1 In one sense, however, the Bible is right. Man’s first attempt to communicate involved rhythm, movement and dance which represented the first language, the first word. At the time of what Engels called ‘primitive communism’, when Homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers, humans signalled to each other by beating stick on stick, stone on stone. The first vocal syllables were whistles and calls based on rhythmic patterns which allowed human communication to take place. Rhythm was there at the start of everything. It was there at the start of our species and is there at the start of our individual lives.2 Whether or not we evolved from the sea, we all emerged from the waters of our mothers, and water is a perfect transmitter of sound. Place a waterproof watch under the surface at one end of a swimming pool. Get there early in the morning when no one else is around. Have a friend swim underwater at the far end of the pool and ask them what they can hear. Both the heart of the foetus and that of the mother beat to a cycle of dash dash, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. Mother and baby are in syncopated rhythm. Sounds exterior to the womb may also be heard and absorbed by the foetus. Many pregnant women will tell you that they are aware that their babies react to external sounds. So music and rhythm, or rhythm and music to be chronologically correct, are central to our lives. It is a physical and emotional link, both to something in us and beyond us, linking us to the music of the spheres.
Music can move us to extremes of joy or sadness, elation or depression. Perhaps it is a piece we associate with some event in our life: when we first kissed, when we went to our first teenage party, when we first made love. This musical association is strong in all of us. Perhaps it is with Mahler’s ‘Adagietto’, Ali Farka Touré, blues, a song sung by Ella Fitzgerald, an Indian raga, hip-hop or drum and bass. In all types of music we can be emotionally, and even physically, moved.
If you project sound waves at piles of sand, iron filings, water or mercury, you can create varied patterns, from spirals to grids. Given the sound conductivity of water and its high level in the human body, it is hardly surprising that our cells react to sound vibrations, even those at the far end of the spectrum which we are unable to hear. With this knowledge, holistic healers place vibrating forks close to the energy field of the human body and hospitals use high-pitched sound to shatter kidney and gallstones. Conversely, the negative side of the use of sound are experiments undertaken by the US military and other governments, utilising sound waves as instruments of war. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have shown us that music can be a weapon.
Music therapist Olivea Dewhurst-Maddock has argued that the vibrational energies of different notes affect different areas of the body. For instance, C major affects the bones, lower back, legs and feet. D major transmits energy waves to the kidneys and bladder, lymphatic and reproductive systems and skin. A major is related to pain and pain control.3
A few years ago, a friend of mine had major heart surgery. This is what he told me about his recuperation:
My post-operative experience was quite disturbing. I’d brought some of my favourite music to listen to in the hospital. I have always been passionate about classical music. My mother and stepfather were professional musicians and I was brought up, from the embryo onwards, listening to Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn and Schubert. Once I was a bit more than an embryo, I learned to play the piano, cello and guitar. During the week following the operation, I lost touch with a lot of things – my sense of taste, smell, my enjoyment of books, but the worst was being cut off from the meaning of music. Something central to my life seemed to have died inside me. I would listen to a Mozart piano concerto; I could understand the harmony and counterpoint, but found no beauty in it, nor could I appreciate its extraordinary passion and inventiveness. Listening to Mozart was like listening to Salieri. That loss and the frequent moments when I burst into tears, for no apparent reason, convinced me that lengthy and violent operations have a much deeper effect on our inner selves than medical science acknowledges. Only part of me was put to sleep. Many levels of my subconscious and my body were awake when the knife cut me open. They went into a state of shock. They switched off. They needed time to mourn. My enjoyment of music now, three years later, is even more intense than before. I don’t know if that comes with age, or whether it is the result of the operation, but it is now a passion only second to my closest relationships.’
Perhaps it is for this reason that in ancient Egypt, the hieroglyph for music was also that for well-being and joy. But what about music in non-joyful situations, in war? When the lights go out and all that is left is hunger and the threat of death, you will still find music.
In 1993 and 1994 I was in cellars in Sarajevo and Mostar. Shells were exploding, the snipers were at work, but people – particularly young people – gathered together and, if they could not listen to music as there was often no power, they played it. The louder the shelling, the louder their music. It was an expression of defiance, a testament to the survival of the one thing that kept them human in an inhuman situation – the primordial language of rhythm and music which connected them to their essence.
A young soldier in Mostar visited me after his time on the front line, a Kalashnikov on one shoulder and a guitar on the other. He tapped the guitar and told me, ‘A much better weapon.’ This young man faced his former classmates across a narrow street, playing music to them when it was too dark to fight. Cigarettes were thrown into the building where he was crouching as he performed for his enemies.
Just before the war ended in 1995, I helped smuggle a Bob Marley photo exhibition into East Mostar. Sponsored by Island Records, we took in tapes and CDs with the photos. The local war radio station broadcast these non-stop for two days from their cellar studio. The exhibition opened underground on the front line. I will never forget how the town pulsed to Marley’s rhythms in the middle of the thuds from incoming shells.
These are examples of overt and easily recognisable influences of music in extreme situations: music as defiance with an external enemy in mind. But what of the influence of music in relationship to the enemy within? What is its effect on the disturbed and traumatised minds of those who have been too close to the barbarism of war, who have shot and killed, have been shot at and wounded, physically and emotionally? Who have seen friends die, who have lost mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters?
The PMC was constructed in East Mostar, a part of the city that had been devastated by two consecutive wars: first in the war of the whole town against Serb forces, then in the much worse war between the Croats on the west bank of the Neretva River and the Bosniaks on the east: former allies that had once formed an alliance to defeat the Serbs. When the Croats brokered a secret deal with the Serbs, the Croats turned on the Bosniaks. Thousands of families were driven into what became a ghetto on the east side of the Neretva River.
The term is ‘ethnic cleansing’, but a more accurate phrase would be ‘ethnic purging’.4 The Bosniaks were forced to live in cellars for ten months, eating grass soup and emerging into the streets only to collect water and, in the case of the young men, to fight. When the Anne Frank exhibition arrived at the Centre in 1998, I was asked to say something at its opening. There was not much to say, only that the Mostar Ghetto had contained thousands of Anne Franks.5
The Centre allowed the healing power of music to enter this community. The young were particularly affected by the war and, from the day the PMC opened its doors, they flooded in. Some of them used music to escape their darkest memories. They would tell me that only when they played, or heard music, could they escape their nightmares.
Children and young people were brought together to make and listen to music: to sing, to beat drums, to strum guitars, to act and react together through music. These workshops took on a structured form, thanks to the work of Nigel Osborne. This was to quickly develop into our successful schools’ outreach programme.
The first schools’ project was called ‘The Oceans’. First, our teachers started with the Neretva which flows through the centre of Mostar. They went to the schools and took with them music from the banks of that river – Croat, Serb and Bosniak songs. On the next visit, the theme became the Mediterranean because the Neretva flows into that sea: Tunisian love songs, flamenco, French, Italian and Greek music. Next, the Atlantic because that is the ocean into which the Mediterranean flows: everything from Brazilian, to blues, to Celtic and West African music. Then the Indian Ocean and, finally, the Pacific. The children became aware that they did not just live in Mostar, or more specifically in the small ghetto of East Mostar, but that their town and river had links to the world.
At the opening of the Centre, some of these children performed a Hawaiian boat dance for Pavarotti. After his long and hazardous helicopter journey across the Balkan winter skies, the Maestro looked puzzled, not knowing why these children had chosen a dance so foreign to their experience.
The Centre employed more than 30 young musicians who travelled to schools and kindergartens in Mostar and the surrounding villages to bring music into the lives of the children. Centre staff also worked in special needs’ schools, the Sarajevo Blind School and in the Srpska Republika.
The Music Therapy department, staffed by the first resident music therapists in Bosnia-Herzegovina, worked with the most disturbed and distressed children. The results were amazing and a credit to a small, dedicated department who achieved so much in a damaged town with its equally damaged population. This small team were responsible for groundbreaking work. Traumatised children were treated and, on occasion, responded so well that some of them ended up joining the Centre’s more mainstream activities.
For some in Bosnia-Herzegovina, much that happened at the Centre was dangerously political because music was being used to counter cultural exclusiveness – what I call cultural incest when expressed in its most extreme form. Negative and threatening music comes from this tradition: national anthems and military marching songs. To the contrary, the best music, as with the best art, architecture and whatever else expresses human creativity, comes from cultural mixing.6 Göring once said, ‘When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun.’ I would counter that with, ‘When I hear the word gun, I reach for my culture.’
This attempt to universalise music and culture at the Centre was deliberate and methodical. For the first two years of our work, Eugene Skeef was responsible for setting up what became African percussion workshops. On Sunday afternoons, you could find up to 60 children and young people taking part with djembes, maracas, handbells, marimbas and wood blocks.
These workshops were developed, both at the Centre and, as part of the outreach work, at orphanages and hospitals. After the first half hour of drum tuition, I saw very young children express rhythmic talent as if it were latent in their essence and being.
On a recent visit to the USA, I came across an article by Feeny Lipscomb, drummer and writer, who wrote, ‘Recently, medical research has testified that drumming produces an altered state similar to meditation, thereby reducing stress. Drumming is also a right-brain activity which increases intuition, shuts down the ‘rational’ mind, and centers us in our hearts... I have often heard drumming compared to the high produced by endorphins. In fact, many people have taken up drumming because they’ve heard it’s a way to get the same endorphin-produced high without running and/or doing aerobics.’7
For millennia, shamans have argued that drumming is ‘the horse that takes you to the gods’. The state induced is a type of meditation and, in fact, the Centre offered meditation classes after an acupuncturist at the Centre was asked to teach it by her patients. Through Chinese medicine and meditation, the practitioner achieved some extraordinary results: helping the traumatised sleep for the first time in years, curing migraines, helping stroke victims and the wounded.
From the start, the ethos of the PMC had been to make a difference, not just in terms of the type of aid work that was carried out, but also the reasons why it existed. It is time that we question those aid programmes which lead to dependency and ensure the continuation of the outstretched hand. This form of aid becomes an appendage to war and does not address the larger questions of physical, spiritual and psychological reconstruction needed to minimise the possibility of future wars.
Europeans travel to Africa to teach the people how to grow their crops. One of the places they go to is in the Rift Valley, where agriculture was practised before Europe was populated. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they should not be there doing what they do, but they should be aware of the history, economics, culture and politics of the people they have come to help. If to this is added a passion for justice and, dare I say it, an understanding of the need for political change, then their work can be more than a ‘flash in the pan’.8
In the words of Eugene Skeef, ‘The destruction visited upon the planet in the name of advancement is more than sufficient proof that those of us whose basic education and development was fired in the Western mould need to exercise a rare humility before proceeding to administer aid to others. We all know that the so-called First World (strange notion this, if we are to accept Africa as the birthplace of human civilisation) has a great deal to learn from the so-called Third World, if they can just step back, join the circle and let someone else lead the song with a different rhythmic melody.’
It was my hope that the Pavarotti Music Centre could be a resource centre for a worldwide music-based project whose purpose would be to sustain the lives of those traumatised by war and conflict. To join and widen the circle.
Here is what I wrote on the first birthday of the PMC:
One year old, the Pavarotti Music Centre has surpassed all expectations. A schools’ music programme working in more than 20 schools, kindergartens and special schools, the first music therapy department in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a hospital outreach programme, a music school, a busy recording studio, a rock school, percussion workshops, guitar classes, a youth choir, drama workshops, dance and ballet, concerts and exhibitions, even acupuncture and meditation. Above all else, a place where children and young people can find themselves and their friends. In the middle of this damaged country, this wounded town, and working from within that town’s ghetto, we have done what no politician would dream of doing – produced solutions to political problems by ignoring politics altogether. We have let the music play. Of course, none of this was possible without the generosity of the many musicians who performed at the Modena concerts, none of this was possible without Brian Eno and his wife, Anthea. And none of this was possible without Luciano Pavarotti. But with them alone, we would have a building. We needed a ticking heart. That we found in the young people of Mostar who have dedicated themselves to making this place a success. And we have found it in the international workers here who seem, like me, to have fallen in love with the earth upon which the Centre stands.’
[An abridged version of this chapter was published in the European Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1999 and in The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, The University of Kansas, Fall 2000, Vol. XV, No. 8]
1 Western orchestral music would not have been possible without Pythagoras’ visit to a blacksmith. Hearing a hammer strike an anvil he asked if he could weigh the hammers. He found that one was two- thirds the size of the first. He showed that by continually dividing by two-thirds, an infinite spiral of notes emerges. He had hit upon natural harmonics’. He concluded that the cosmos was a harmonic ratio, that we lived in a musical universe and that music obeys the laws of physics.
2 Look at the honeybee to see how this is true for beings other than mammals. In Following The Bloom: Across America with the Migratory Bee Keepers, Beacon Press, Boston 1991, Douglas Whynott says that bees produce ‘sustained wing vibrations and measured sound pulses. Tempo corresponds to distance. [Bees] remain in the hive dancing through the day and into the night, altering the straight run to create a gravity symbol that refers to the sun’s position on the other side of the earth – a position the bee has never seen.’
3 Book of Sound Therapy, Olivea Dewhurst-Maddock, Fireside 1993.
4 The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights acknowledged in their 1993 report that ‘what is taking place in Bosnia-Herzegovina is attempted genocide – the extermination of a people in whole or in part because of their race, religion or ethnicity’, with the international community (the parties to the Geneva Convention and the United Nations) ‘displaying nearly incomprehensible incapacity; having failed to put an end to a war between one of the best equipped armies in Europe and a civilian population, who were neither psychologically or physically and materially prepared for it.’
5 My opening remarks made at the Anne Frank Exhibition, PMC, September 3rd, 1998: The PMC is honoured to host the opening of the exhibition. On a personal note and, as one born right at the end of the Second World War, my politics, in fact my presence here at the PMC, has been shaped by Anne Frank. My father was one of the first British doctors to enter Bergen-Belsen and I still have his photographs of the emaciated survivors imprinted on my brain. He told me that he had been ashamed at how many died after Liberation because British soldiers fed the people too much, too quickly. Anne Frank would recognise Bosnia and Herzegovina. We should not hide from the facts. Nothing was learnt from her experiences and we sit here today in the Mostar Ghetto, a place where thousands of Anne Franks ate grass soup for ten months at the worst time of the war. We also sit inside a European country where events took place which were the equal of those that happened during the time of the last European Holocaust. It is to our shame that the same speeches were made, the same eyes were averted, Munich went transatlantic. And it goes on. The twentieth century has been the century of Anne Franks. From the Armenians at the beginning of the century on to the Nazi terror, the Stalin Gulags, Cambodia, Rwanda and onwards to Iraq. It has been estimated that in the last decade we have had millions of Anne Franks: two million children killed in wars, four million orphaned and some ten million psychologically traumatised. One survivor of Auschwitz, Bruno Bettelheim, said that there is no meaning at all to life but we must behave as though there is. Anne Frank lived that dictum almost to the end of her short life. If she was here now – perhaps she is here now in all of us present – she would understand and enjoy what we are doing here.’
6 Music is the weapon’ declared the Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti (from the 1982 film about Kuti of the same name by S Tchal-Gadjieff and J-J Flori). Aware of that fact, politicians around the world use music and musicians to achieve their goals or try to control musicians who they perceive as a threat to their power; the treatment of Kuti, for example, in Nigeria or Victor Jara in Pinochet’s Chile. Even instruments are sometimes seen as a threat and are banned.
7 Your Child’s Brain’, Newsweek, February 19th, 1996, presented evidence for the brain’s need for rhythm. The article described the stress produced when the brain is deprived of this basic need.
8 For those interested in the aid debate as applied to former Yugoslavia, I would recommend Barbara E. Harrell-Bond’s ‘Refugees and the Challenge of Reconstructing Communities Through Aid’, in War Exile, Everyday Life, published by the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb. For an overall political perspective, see Noam Chomsky, World Orders and other writings on Cold and post-Cold War International Politics.

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Fool is for the Many

Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere. —William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
In theatre the fool or jester is central to truth-telling. He / she is the conduit through which the dramatist can deal with essential and often politically subversive issues.
In Europe this tradition goes back to the Romans with the currae, mimi and histriones.
In 16th century England Shakespeare had his clown in Othello, The fool in King Lear, Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream.
In France there was the jongleur, originally applied to a monk, thrown out of his monastery for 'nun frolics'. In Collins Dictionary he is described as one 'who turns things topsy-turvy and makes a hash of all conventions.'
Beyond Europe, In China there are at least six words to describe this character in dramas. My favourite being changyou, who combines story-telling with music.
For the Navajo and Zuni in southwestern USA the coyote takes the place of the fool; deceiver, perceptive, survivor and trickster. Sometimes the Coyote is so involved in his own trickery that he tricks himself which is why there are so many mistakes in the way things are in the world.
In Germany there was Till Eulenspiegel, a folkloric hero dating back to medieval times and ruling each year over Fashing or carnival time, mocking politicians and public figures of power and authority with political satire.
Of course fools, real or invented for theatre, had humble origins. Claus Hinsse, the 16th century jester to Duke Johann Friedrich of Pomerania, began his working life as a cowherd. My favourite German 'fool' is the shepherd Simplex created by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen in his novel Simplicius Simplicissimus.
After reading a translation of this book I based my first play Simple Writings, later changed to War Child, on Grimmelhausen's Simplex. I was drawn to the wisdom of foolery, not only as a clever means to wisdom, but as a wise and strategic method for truth-telling.
So it was a delight to see a dramatic interpretation of Jaroslav Hašek's novel The Good Soldier Schwejk at Sands Films in Rotherhithe. Written and directed by Christine Edzard and performed in Sands bijou theatre. Strikingly inventive sets, a vibrant cast and wonderful live music. The original story updated with Schwejk quoting from Tony Blair, Alasdair Campbell and George Bush
We joined with Schwejk's bumbling attempts to survive the First World War by becoming a nuisance to all those around him. He uses the 'fool's cunning to deal with army officers, police and judges who are urging him into battle. This is the story of the 'little man' caught in a vast bureaucratic machine hurling the world into war. When he arrives at the gates of heaven he is sent back into life because St Peter makes it clear that the world needs more little men to organise against the powerful.
Schwejk leaves us with these words: 'Shouldn't we start at the end and stop wars before they start?'
Yes, the world needs more fools.
The Sand's production runs for two more performances. Details here
(If you want to learn more about the fool in this world check out this link: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/640914.html )

Read more about my plays in Left Field

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

20th anniversary of the Pavarotti Music Centre

September 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of the setting up of the Pavarotti Music Centre. It will also mark the 10th anniversary of Pavarotti's death. As first director of the PMC, I am hoping that we will mark the date with an affirmation of his words when he said:

' 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.’ 

Watch this space 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Kentish Towner and Left Field

My article about War Child now online at Kentish Towner And the audio version of Left Field is now available as audio version on Amazon, iTunes and Audible

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pavarotti Music Centre, Mostar. 30 years on

Last week was a good one for me with the publication of my Guardian whistleblower article. This week will be good because I am visiting Mostar and the Pavarotti Music Centre to stay with good friends and do research for Julie Etchingham and ITV's 'On Assignment filming there later this year. Going to meet some of the children she interviewed 20 years ago - now in their 30s. And me? Now in my 70s!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Left Field reviews

'Gasholder' review (see pic) will be online soon.  

David is an adventurer and a freethinker, who did something truly useful with his life - Brian Eno
David Wilson has lived a life and a half. The broken world needed people like David; it still does - Sir Tom Stoppard
What a life this man has led - Dorothy Byrne, Head of Channel 4 Documentaries
David's entire life has been dedicated to trying to make the world a better place - Craig Murray, ex-UK Ambassador

'Left Field' reviews

His shared heart wrenching 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 Kirkus Reviews
From heavy drinking to launching a charity, David Wilson’s life story is an absorbing read Camden New Journal
Sometimes funny, often moving and occasionally tragic ... one of my top recent reads -Morning Star
'Left Field' is a thoughtful and gentle memoir. David’s obvious good nature and ability to connect with people is demonstrated over and over Socialist Review 

Watch the Left Field film
News for 2017 - Juliet Etchingham and ITV's 'On Assignment' will be visiting the Pavarotti Music Centre in September to film on the 20th anniversary of its opening

Left Field is published by Unbound, distributed by Penguin Books and available at Waterstones, Foyles, on Amazon and other retail websites

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Whistles need Blowing

Whistles are for blowing ....We know the names Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange. Forced exile, imprisonment and confinement. They are whistleblowers whose lives have suffered from attempting to better the human condition. I personally know a couple more; Ex-SAS trooper, Ben Griffin and former UK Ambassador, Craig Murray. Ben was persecuted for holding information about the UK military's collaboration with US torturers, Craig for wanting Jack Straw and his then Foreign Office employers to acknowledge that some allies in the 'war against terror' boil their prisoners alive. My respect for these people is great because, at a much lower level, I too was a whistleblower. I didn't suffer their fates, but was sacked from the NGO I had co-founded, and never employed again in that world. Even as an OAP, I was shocked to be refused work stuffing envelopes at an NGO whose work in the Middle East I had admired. When I have spoken out on political matters I have been told by that I must make it clear that I have nothing to do with my former charity. So I recommend Ian Cobain's article in the Guardian, (16 Feb 2016) about the Law Commissioners recent report suggesting a new law criminalising, not only those who disclose official information, but anyone “who obtains or gathers information”. If passed into law this will tighten up even further on the 1979 Official Secrets Act which the Liberal MP, Clement Freud said, “gives the attorney general more power than a bad man should have or a good man should need.” Of course this covers only the state sector, but as in my case, this thinking infects the wider world. Sadly in Trump-World we are going to need an army of Snowdens, Mannings, Assanges, Griffins and Murrays. You can read more about my experiences as a whistleblower in 'Left Field'

Friday, 10 February 2017

Personal battles of the man behind War Child

“From heavy drinking to launching a charity, David Wilson’s life story is an absorbing read” Camden New Journal reviews 'Left Field'

Earlier reviews:  Morning Star     Socialist Review     Kirkus Reviews 

Buy 'Left Field' for £13 (includes P&p) from Public Reading Rooms

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Kirkus review of 'Left Field'

review of 'Left Field' has been featured in Kirkus Reviews 12/15 issue. Less than 10% of their reviews are chosen, so am well pleased. "His shared heart wrenching 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."(Kirkus Reviews).
 * Only one month to go to release of audio version of the book 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

ITV's 'On Assignment' in Mostar

Julie Etchingham has confirmed that she will be coming to Mostar in September to make a short film for ITV's 'On Assignment' – about the Pavarotti Music Centre 20 years after its founding. Julie was in Mostar for BBC Newsround when Pavarotti came to open the centre. Here is a film of the opening.
She will meet some of the children, now adults, who attended the Centre twenty years ago and find out what has happened to them in the intervening years and how the PMC affected their lives. People like Adin Omerovic, aged nine at the time, who remembers this:

‘I, together with my classmates, practised a song to perform for the opening of the Pavarotti Music Centre. I had heard of plans for the Centre, but I could not dream that I would be there or near to Pavarotti. At the end of the song, “Big Bam Boo”, I gave Luciano Pavarotti a flower. I still remember that day when we waited for him so long and I cannot forget how strong my heart was beating after his speech. He said, ‘Grazie, grazie,’ I still remember that. I got a toy from him which I still have. I would like to have more memories like this one. Thank you very much, Pavarotti.’

Left Field is available at Waterstones and on Amazon

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Corbyn's wage caps

Jeremy Corbyn has excited the fury of the media with his proposal for wage caps. The Daily Mail denounced his 'sub-Marxist drivel' while The Daily Telegraph fumed at his 'staggering assault on individual ambition and market forces.' 
In fact he probably took the idea, not from Das Kapital but from (Lord) Richard Rogers, who long ago applied a ratio earnings cap in his architectural practice.
 With lurid accounts of how planes out of the UK would be full of investment bankers and football players I wonder how many charity bosses would be on board. 
As the co-founder of the charity War Child * I am shocked at the salary level of charity bosses. We have all heard of the £234,000 salary at Save the Children. In fact executives working for the UK’s top 100 charities have an average remuneration package of just over £167,000.
I suppose that the wage of the present War Child CEO, a mere £95,000, is modest by comparison. 
The justification is always that the voluntary sector has to compete with the corporate world and attract appropriate 'talent”. 
Reprieve founder, Clive Stafford Clark, would disagree. Supporting the rights of prisoners worldwide, the charity employs numerous lawyers who would be paid much more in corporatopia. In a recent Guardian article, Clark wrote that the highest paid cannot be paid more than one-third more than the lowest paid... 'one should want to do good rather than do well. That said, we pay a very reasonable salary, and we attract brilliant people from all walks of life – we just don’t pay them (or me) excessively, and we do it with a degree of equality. … fairness is much more likely to foster happiness than the brutal competition over money advocated by some.'
Here here to that and I would recommend that the charity I founded follow the Reprieve example. 
If wage cap principles cannot be applied in the voluntary sector we will have increased cynicism towards their motives on the part of the public and a diminishment of their potential to bring about change for the better in this 1% world. 
As Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, the secretary-general of Civicus has said: ‘We have become a part of the problem rather than the solution. Our corporatization has steered us towards activism-lite, a version of our work rendered palatable to big business and capitalist states. Not only does this approach threaten no one in power, but it stifles grassroots activism.' 
*I have been asked to state that my views concerning War Child are my own, otherwise “there is a risk that I will be seen to be passing myself off as a current War Child representative.”
You can read about my work as former director at War Child and how it ended in Left Field

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Sunny Side of the Street

Recently I went to Bridgeside Lodge Care Home in Islington to see for myself the work carried out by the Spitz Charitable Trust. It was set up by my old friend Jane Glitre to 'relieve social isolation in local communities through the power of live music.' Bringing professional musicians to perform alongside the residents of places such as Bridgeside, at this gig vocalist Emine Pirhasan was accompanied by Arthur Lea on keyboards performing songs by Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Ben E King, Jonny Nash, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Cliff. Not a white cliff of Dover in sight, which tells us all we need to know about the speed of time! The home overlooks the Regent Canal and when I looked across the water at the Hanover Primary School I could see kids in the gym skimming about the floor to music. There was no skimming here at Bridgeside, but there was movement of mind and body which was at least as impressive. John had been wheeled into the room slumped to one side and apparently asleep. But as 'Stand By Me' opened he started tapping his feet and mouthing the words. In another wheelchair Julia's initial contribution of loud vocal exclamations gave way to hand and arm dancing in perfect rhythm with the musicians. Song sheets were handed out and most joined in with their favourites. One woman who didn't seem to be aware of her surroundings grabbed a rattle and with determination moved it and herself into the rhythm. A lot of the songs referred to sunshine. 'On the sunny side of the street', 'You are the sunshine of my life', 'Sunlight hurts my Eyes' and my favourite for this bright sunny winter morning, Jonny Nash's, 'Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind, It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.'