On Saturday evening the lovely people at BBC Introducing in Norfolk put on a rather special event: Remembrance at the city’s Octagon Chapel, always one of my favourite event spaces, as indeed Milly Hirst also observed before her quite spellbinding live score on electric guitar.
To mark the approaching Armistice Day memorials ahead of the one hundredth anniversary commemorating the end of WWI it was fascinating how BBC Introducing in Norfolk marked, respectful but quite different and was most interesting and thoughtful. With a highly effective narration from Franko Fraize we had speakers, visuals, some spoken word, some rap and different forms of live music to archive film. It was thoughtfully, sensitively and cleverly done but very thought-provoking too. With many local angles, stories of the soldiers but also many questions about “the war to end all wars” and yet how wars keep on happening. It was powerful, thought-provoking and inspiring, with pieces by Milly Hirst, Reds, Laurence Owen, Robert Sanderson, Billy Pilgrim and the Heartsease Kid Collective, Piers Harrison-Reid, Professor Lee Marsden from UEA, Helen of Norwich, atmospheric visuals by Liam Roberts, Dom Thorby and a closing performance of experimental and fascinatingly haunting music from the Norfolk and Norwich Sonic Arts Collective, Plink Plonk with visuals supplied by the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA). It all hit home powerfully. Everyone was excellent and I was particularly moved by the segments from Milly Hirst, Reds, all of the Billy Pilgrim and the Heartsease Kid Collective, and Lee Marsden. It made me think and remember and will stay with me for a long time, and that’s probably the idea. Personal stories about how individuals were affected, be they soldiers on the front or loved ones back home. The countless hospitals repairing broken bodies, the average hospital stay being a month, only for many to be sent straight back to the front line. The loss of the sons of villages and towns like Reepham was also movingly touched upon with schoolchildren genuinely interested in the personal and historical connection of their home-town.
Having strong family roots and ties with Picardy in northern France The Picardy Express footage quite choked me up and so too did Milly Hirst‘s perfectly chosen and performed live score version of her song Mary. It always does but in this context it was the most powerfully moving moment of the evening. Also screened during the night’s performance was the video of Bury Me Close to Home.
This was a beautiful thing to do and I am full of admiration and respect for everyone involved. The artists of this city continue to amaze me with their sensitivity and creativity. Remembrance finished a bit after 9pm and I headed back out into the rain to my next gig, my mind racing with images and emotions as I passed countless Halloween revellers done up like ghosts.
“WW1 ended 100 years ago this year. We still mark the occasion every year on armistice day. But what are we remembering – and why did the War To Stop All Wars not succeed. Using archive footage, live visuals and music from BBC Music Introducing in Norfolk performers we hear thoughts on Remembrance and the impact of its Legacy over the last 50 years where battles and conflicts still rage. Includes music and words from Billy Pilgrim and The Heartsease Kid, Reds, the Norfolk and Norwich Sonic Arts Collective, Milly Hirst, Robert Sanderson, Laurence Owen and Helen of Norwich. Narrator Franko Fraize”
A recording of the evening will be broadcast on November 11th as part of BBC Radio Norfolk’s WWI Centenary commemorations.
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