A PLAY ABOUT THE LIFE AND WORK OF WWII POET KEITH DOUGLAS. WRITTEN BY OWEN SHEERS, DIRECTED BY JOHN RETALLACK, PRODUCED BY THE STORY OF BOOKS. PREMIERED IN HAY-ON-WYE IN MAY 2018, WITH DAN KRIKLER AS KEITH DOUGLAS. 'WONDERFUL PERFORMANCE' – MARGARET ATWOOD 'LUMINOUS PERFORMANCE' – THE GUARDIAN **** REVIEW. 2019: NORMANDY, EDINBURGH FRINGE (SUMMERHALL) & BRISTOL OLD VIC. 1 DECEMBER 2019: ONE-OFF SHOW AT HAY FESTIVAL.
REPORT from the Blind Bookworms Jazz Band ~ a project supported by Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation
The Blind Bookworms Jazz Band played before UNICORNS, ALMOST on both weekends, the guest night, and at two special performances one for elderly visitors and another for a local high school.
Blind Bookworms Jazz Band:
A long list of appreciation by Ellie Wait
It feels like so long ago that the idea for this project raised its head and I believe I can speak for the other members of the band when I say it was a wonderful experience.
Being able to play live in order to set the scene, create some atmosphere and support UNICORNS, ALMOST was far more rewarding than I expected. I had been comfortable and happy in the idea of being ‘mingle music’ or ‘background noise’ but we weren’t.
The audience were continually supportive and responsive with our little performances with each song usually ending with an applause. My inner theatre kid took to this engagement from the audience like a duck to water. With each performance our confidence grew which allowed the free spirited nature of Jazz to shine through.
Myself, Sam and Rachel have many thank yous to make so please bear with what is inevitably going to become long list of appreciation. I will try not to get to soppy but I can’t make too many promises!
Our first and foremost thank you is to the cast and crew of UNICORNS, ALMOST. I found it so exciting to be surrounded by such hardworking people during the shows and not to mention being in the centre of the Hay-on-Wye during the bustling festival. Obviously, the Blind Bookworms Jazz Band was not the main attraction of the event but to be involved and part of people’s experience was quite remarkable!
The Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford were supportive of our project right from the beginning: after all; each member of the band is an former student. The lovely Cara Tivey aided us greatly through rehearsals and was there for us on our opening night. This was a great comfort to me so thank you Cara and the RNC.
Our biggest thank you should most definitely go to Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. I have had quite a lot of performance experience before but never to such a wide range of ages. One day we performing to residents of an elderly people’s home and the next we were playing to over one hundred school children. What I noted is that the reactions were mostly the same despite the age differences. People enjoyed the live music. Thanks to Ronnie Scott’s I got a chance to reinforce what I already knew. That I adore jazz, the accessibility of it and the opportunity’s for enjoyment it gives the audience and performers alike.
Vocalist, writer and general nice guy Sam Obigbesan said: ‘Thank you to Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation for giving me the opportunity to sing the jazz. As well as, fully immerse myself in that period and experience.’
Finally, the wonderful pianist Rachel Starritt said: ‘Thank you for letting me experience the opportunity to practise my Jazz skills in a professional environment, I appreciated this so much. Also experiencing and researching the history of 1930s and 1940s jazz was absolutely fascinating, and I would do it again!’
All in all, we couldn’t be more grateful to those who supported the Blind Bookworms Jazz Band and with continued support, we have hope for the future to have new opportunities, experiences and chances to engage other people in the wonderful world of jazz.’
‘Thank you to Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation for letting me have experience and the opportunity to practise my jazz skills in a professional environment, I appreciated this so much. Also experiencing and researching the history of 1930s and 1940s jazz was absolutely fascinating, and I would do it again!’
Rachel Starritt, pianist
‘Thank you to Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation for giving me the opportunity to sing the jazz. As well as, fully immerse myself in that period and experience.’
Sam Obigbesan, vocalist
For each performance Sam travelled from/to Hereford via bus and Rachel’s mum, Andrea, drove Rachel and Ellie from/to Bridgend and Pontypool. Thanks to the UNICORNS, ALMOST youth team for accompanying Sam to the bus stop and for Sam for keeping them company, chatting about books and music.
Watch this space for the next performances and developments from the Blind Bookworms Jazz Band. Updates, music clips, podcasts and book reviews will be posted on www.blindbookworms.org