Albert Camus’ philosophical novel, ‘La Peste’, is being read voraciously all over the world at the moment. Written in 1947 it resonates with us today in a way Camus would probably never have imagined. In this podcast we hear excerpts of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1957 in which he describes the role of the writer in a world under constant threat by malign forces. As we make the first tentative steps to come out of lockdown and emerge into a world where we will be living with an ongoing pandemic for the foreseeable future, I asked three academics to look at the lessons we can take from and parallels we can see in plagues from the past, using ‘La Peste’ as a springboard. This is a montage of their reflections which are diverse but complementary and their message, like Camus’, is one of guarded optimism. We hear from Professor Rosemary Lloyd, Fellow Emerita of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, and Professor Emerita in French at Indiana University, Dr. Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury and Mark Bailey, Professor of Late Medieval History at the University of East Anglia and High Master of St. Paul’s School. Professor Bailey delivered the James Ford Lectures at Oxford University in 2019 on his specialist subject of thirty years, the Black Death, ‘The End of Serfdom and The Rise of The West’.
Many people are reinventing themselves under lockdown. So, when an email popped into my inbox 10 days ago inviting me to 15 minutes of smiling, laughing and connecting to boost my immune system and lift my mood for the rest of day, I thought ‘Yes…that’s exactly what we ALL need’ so I made a podcast about it. Flora Wellesley Wesley is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and writer and sits on the council of Equity (choreographers’ seat). She is also a founder member of Nora, a contemporary dance ensemble who make highly original work constantly challenging boundaries. In this podcast we hear pieces of Nora’s work woven through Flora’s laughter workshop and a sung portrait of her made for ’52 portraits’ at Sadler’s Wells.
“When you laugh, you change and when you change the whole world changes around you.” – Dr Madan Kataria, medical doctor and founder of Laughter Yoga
‘Thank you very much…for 16 minutes of « Sérénité , bien-être et joie ».’
‘Absolutely enchanting to listen to….started my day with right (and restorative!) laugh.’
In the last week of February the wind blew me in to The Training Flat in Norwich where an eager group of young people were tucking into pizza, some chatting and laughing, some quiet and shy but all engaged. This was a 3-day Tenancy and Independent Living Skills Plus (TILS+) training course to help set them up on their feet in the outside world. The course is one of many invented and run by the social enterprise, Your Own Place, which was set up by Rebecca White in 2013 with the specific aim of preventing homelessness. They also have a network of mentors in the community who they train to support people leaving home or care and people approaching and after release from prison. The team has suddenly, like every single social enterprise, or other business across the country, had to completely rethink how they operate under lockdown and how to reach all the people who need their support more than ever. In this podcast we hear from CEO Rebecca, talented trainers, Jarrod and Jess, and past TILS+ trainee, Simon, who is now a member of their Youth Advisory Board… and last, but not least, a roomful of bright and lively young people who have all had many challenges in their lives.
Piano: Henrietta Faire ‘Fantasie und Fuge A-moll’ by Johann Sebastian Bach ‘Vals Poético’ by Enrique Granados
These are three interviews with three remarkable people from my previous podcast who I caught up with to find out what their experience of the last few weeks has been as the corona virus has taken hold in the UK and the whole country is under lockdown. The Breathe Music classes were cancelled two weeks ago and Elmi and Noel are in the strictest form of self-isolation and Linda, who has worked as a specialist respiratory nurse for 20 years, is about to join the team of hard-pressed staff working in intensive care. She has volunteered for this post and I spoke to her on Monday evening after a day’s training in how they are managing in daily changing circumstances on the front line. Her description of a set of lungs that were examined post mortem will stay with me for the rest of my life.
In September 2019, when most of us would hardly have been giving a thought to the functioning of our lungs, I went to record a singing session with Breathe Music in Essex. It was a beautiful autumn day. Children were playing in the playground outside the community hall. Nobody had any idea what lay over the horizon. This podcast comes in two parts…Before and After. In the first we hear harpist Mary Anne Barclay who founded Breathe Music five years ago and Linda Leech, a nurse specialist in lung health who prescribes singing for her patients. All the singers you hear here are under the strictest form of self isolation now and Linda is about to join the hard-pressed specialist nurses working in intensive care. I catch up with them in the second part of this podcast. Mary Anne’s harp-playing weaves its way through the piece and I have deliberately left the ending unedited so you can experience the calm felt by the singers at the end of the session. No more coughs…just peace and companionship.
Mary Anne can be contacted at www.breathemusic.org.uk
Darren has the charm of the Devil and Lorraine is the love of his life. As I edited their story, I realised I was editing ‘West Side Story’ cut and pasted into the heart of East London. It is a story of love, deep, abiding love, murder in self-defence and 28 years in prison.
The song ‘You and Me’ was written by Darren for Lorraine after one visit when she was finding life particularly hard. Performed by Darren and members of band, The Pinnacle, as part of the Sounding Out project with The Irene Taylor Trust.
Darren is now working with The Message helping advise and re-settle ex-offenders.
‘ ‘Marvellous, not just for the message but for its elegant simplicity and the clear happiness that came through. V inspiring! Many thanks and real respect.’ (in an email). Gillian Reynolds, Radio Critic, Sunday Times
Photograph: Nigel Henderson (1917-1985) ‘Gillian Alexander at play, Chisenhale Road c.1950’
A stone’s throw from the ruins of St. Botolph’s Priory in Colchester is an extraordinary shop which bustles with happy people and works some sort of magic on all those who enter there. Here I met Sheelagh Ross and her favourite client, Hereward Brown, art historian with an eclectic interest in all things ancient and a great attitude to life. Let the story unfold…
With many thanks to Andrey Vinogradov who has given me permission to use the hurdy-gurdy music from his album ‘Distant Calls’ available from Bandcamp.
Music from ‘The Pinnacle’ in rehearsal and interviews with band members in their dressing-room after a performance at The South Bank in London. Frank speaking about what music means to them on their journey through prison and now on the outside with the Irene Taylor Trust.
‘Since 2012 the Irene Taylor Trust have been running their ‘through the gate’ programme, Sounding Out. The two year traineeship aims to provide longer-term rehabilitative opportunities to previous project participants in order to help bridge the gap between life inside and outside prison. Through a combination of live music performances and paid training placements participants are able to demonstrate on a very public platform the positivity, talent and creativity locked inside our prisons, challenging the often negative perceptions of people who have spent time in prison.’ irenetaylortrust.com Art installation by Nam June Paik (1932-2006) ‘the father of video art’ seen at Tate Modern 2019
This is a soundscape from two weeks’ travelling in Chile just after the start of the 18 October revolution. They are all sounds recorded in the street, in bars, in Santiago, Valparaíso and the Atacama Desert. I have put this out to mark the three month anniversary of the first demonstration. The demonstrations continue with the recent burning down of the carabineros’ church in Santiago. President Piñera has promised constitutional change and a review of the pensions system. Thank you to my friend Manuela for giving us her insight into events. Listen to the howling dogs of the desert at the end…..
‘Love these soundscapes… more haunting than a print piece, more thoughtful than a collage of video clips.’ James Christopher, Associate Director, INK Festival
Street Art photographed in Bellavista, Santiago, Nov.2019