Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Left Field: CHAPTER 28 - Tie a Knot

When I left Mostar, I was concerned that the Centre and its work was in trouble, starved of funds and neglected by the charity which had set it up. 
Although I had resigned as Director of the PMC and been sacked from War Child, I was not yet ready to abandon the project. Ringing in my ears were the words of the director of a street children’s project in Soweto, telling me that he never gave up hope. ‘When you get to the end of a rope,’ he said, ‘tie a knot and hold on.’ 

In addition to Anne, my knots were Eugene Skeef, Jane Glitre and Hiroshi Kato. I had found out during my visit to South Africa in 1996 that Eugene was widely respected amongst political and cultural activists. When he arrived in Mostar, he quickly replicated this reputation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Eugene came to London in 1980 as a political refugee from South Africa. Since that time, he’d been working at the Oval House Music School as composer, instrument maker and workshop leader. He brought these skills with him to the PMC where he was central to my dream of an international network of music centres that would seek to bring reconciliation to divided communities.

Like me, Eugene retained his connections with Mostar after he left Bosnia. He returned there with his Umoya organisation which he set up in 2003. Working with Oha, they started a production of Udu clay drums. Eugene hoped to have production stretching from Nigeria, where they originate, to Bosnia.

Today, Eugene is part of an international peace-building initiative called Quartet of Peace. He recently composed ‘Uxolo’, specially commissioned for two violins, viola and cello. The title means forgiveness in Zulu and honours South Africa’s four Nobel laureates: Nelson Mandela, Dr Albert Luthuli, F. W. de Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

 When we were both working in Mostar, I introduced Eugene to Jane Glitre whom I had got to know after her visits to Sarajevo in the war. She had made a number of journeys into besieged Sarajevo with a group of women who called themselves Through Heart to Peace. On one trip she walked over Mount Igman, through Serbian lines, helping to pull one of Frederick Franck’s steel sculptures called ‘Unkillable Human’. Today, it stands at the opening to the tunnel through which people escaped the city or arrived, as Jane did, in acts of solidarity.1

Jane had helped out at the opening of the PMC and was going to be an active collaborator of mine. From 1996 until its closure eleven years later, she ran the Spitz, a music venue at the heart of London’s Old Spitalfields Market which hosted concerts featuring the best in cutting-edge music. It also had a gallery. I had brought artist Dragan Andjelic from Sarajevo there in 1999 to exhibit his ‘Angels’ series of paintings.2 

She and Eugene organised an extraordinary gig there in 2003 featuring Oha and Atilla Aksoj from the PMC, performing with the multi-instrumentalist Tunde Jegede and musicians from Ghana, Jamaica and Nigeria. Eugene then took Oha and Atilla to the Purcell Music School where they ran workshops for their students and for primary school children. 

After returning to London from Mostar, I worked as a volunteer at the Spitz and helped Jane organise jazz evenings when she moved to Kings Place.

The Spitz was killed off by another betrayal. One of the most remarkable live-music venues in London replaced by yet another expensive restaurant to fill the bellies of those ever- hungry City bankers. 

An early supporter of War Child and its work was the Japanese musician and entrepreneur Hiroshi Kato. When I first met him, Hiroshi was running the European office of the audio speaker company Fujitsu Ten. He had been living in London for over 30 years. He said that he’d arrived in the UK as a Japanese hippy, taking the trail from east to west and that he’d passed western hippies in Afghanistan as they went the other way.

After I’d been sacked from War Child, Hiroshi offered me a job with Fujitsu Ten. While I was working for him, we set up a new charity, Future Trust, to try and continue the work I’d been doing at War Child and at the PMC.

Hiroshi managed to get Japanese funding for ‘In. Site’, a concert we organised at the Centre in October 2000. Performers included Brian Eno, Horace Andy of Massive Attack, Nigel Clarke from Dodgy and artists from Japan, the USA, India and numerous performers from across ex-Yugoslavia.

Now a trustee of Future Trust, Jane was there to help, along with Hideto Watanabe from Hiroshi’s London office and Johnny Carmichael who’d been helping run War Child in Italy. The gig was broadcast on Bosnian TV and webcast in Japan. Not only was this an extraordinary event, but it raised enough money to help re-equip the Centre’s studio.

Brian Eno said of the concert:
It worked seamlessly. It was really wonderful – everybody had a great time and it must be the beginning of a new era for the Centre ... This is exactly the kind of thing the Centre was set up for – I felt that this was a new bridge built in Mostar, probably more important than any of the other bridges being made there.’

The following year, in August 2001, and now working with Matt Black of Coldcut, Hiroshi and I organised the ‘CanDU PirateTV’ tour with gigs in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. At its heart was an interactive, multimedia circus incorporating the audio and visual talents of Ninja Tune, the pioneers who created and influenced a new generation of DJs. They had developed one of the first programmes to allow the manipulation of visual images as if they were musical instruments.

Arriving in town a day or two before each public performance, the visitors worked with young people who were then invited to take part in the gigs. The workshops were filmed and appeared within hours on six stage screens and ‘timed’ to the music. Meanwhile, Coldcut’s and Ninja Tune’s ‘Solid Steel’ show was syndicated to radio stations en route.

Oha was recruited as the tour manager and dealt with the complex movement of over 20 musicians and crew members across much of the Balkans, working from one mobile phone.

The PMC never collapsed. It just took to the road for a while and, thanks to Oha and his team, today it has returned home.


Tie a Knot1 Frederick Francj: ‘After I saw a human in Hiroshima, burned into a concrete wall, a human shadow the moment the Bomb struck, I was haunted by it. Returned home I took a steel plate, and with a blowtorch cut out the contour of this volatilised fellow human. When the outline was complete the human form dropped out, leaving a gaping hole surrounded by frames of steel. I placed both components so that, through the empty negative, the human image can be seen rising, like a phoenix from its ashes.’ http://www.

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