The making of our anti-war song and film “Beautiful Boy” part 1

Quakers say " Let your life speak" but you need a chance to have a life.. and dying at 15 years old  in WW1 cut short John Searle's and many other young men's lives. nurse_dying_soldier_WW1 Photograph by Paul Thompson National Geographic taken 1917 Western Front, Red Cross nurse writing down dying British soldiers last words.   2nd Jan 2014           Blackadder / Gove. Michael Gove as education secretary wrote an article published in the Daily Mail  that said  "Left-wing myths about the First World War peddled by Blackadder belittle Britain and clear Germany of blame."  * Michael Gove wanted to ban the showing of the final Blackadder series in schools. I believe that what the Blackadder Goes Fourth series achieves is that we feel empathy and engagement with the characters as people that you like and look forward to having in your life every week and then in the last episode they 'Go over the top' and die and are gone forever.... we have lost those people we enjoyed having in our lives and this is the undeniable truth of war and is the true impact of any War. People's best friends, sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, daughters, husbands and wives people we love, like being with and care about are destroyed by war...their potential, beauty, strength, talent, intelligence and kindness lost forever. Alfie and I discuss the unimaginable possibility that this government is actually intending to use the centenary of WW1 as a political propaganda opportunity. Frustration leads us to do some research. We find some disturbing evidence that history is in the process of being re-written. The war that destroyed the 20th Century with it's repercussions of revolution..fascism..war upon war..economic ruin.. 100 million fatalities was somehow now being hailed as a British victory. In a history programme / article by Dan Snow for the BBC "myths" about WW1 were "de-bunked"..."not SO many died in WW1...there have been wars with far more casualties", "Trench warfare is actually safe and for many better than life at home." **. This is a flippant, re-writing of History from a Government funded body which made us think.... how exactly IS the £50 million that the Government has pledged to spend on the WW1 commemorations going to be used over the next 4 years? Is it going to become a shop window for the promotion of war ? There is the fact that some people profit from war for example the Arms trade and there are definite links between money and war including the fact that the banking sector is a huge investor in the Arms industry. *** We wanted to do something to counter any re-writing of history or underhand promotion of war so our journey began. 15th May    Packed lecture at Friend's House by historian David Boulton launching his book "Objection Overruled" an enlightening talk which dealt with the conscientious objector movement during WW1. There was a film at the end of the lecture with footage from the war accompanied by smultzy, inappropriate (we thought) music. Afterwards we discussed making a song which we felt would better represent the pain of loss that is always present in war.  A message that objectors were hoping to bring home to those around them. 9th June     We pick up a drum kit in Worthing, Sussex for Louise's 14 year old son Alistair bought on Ebay.   It was a beautiful dusk and we decided to go for a walk on Worthing pier before the sun went down. Alfie had had a tune rolling around his head for days with the chorus "Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Boy" as we walked along the pier he was singing it to himself. Towards the end of the pier there was an exhibition about Worthing and part of the facts about Worthing were about WW1 and specifically Private John Searle who enlisted to fight in WW1 aged just 14 and a half years old, exactly Alistair's age. John Searle was sent to the front line and went missing at the Battle of the Boar’s Head at just 15 years old. We talked together about how it would have felt for his mother to lose her boy...suddenly the song Alfie had been singing to himself made sense. We later looked into the history of John and found an article from the local newspaper in which his missing in action status was announced.  The image below is of the article that was  in the Worthing Gazette  at the time.  John Searle's mother appeals for any information about her missing son.. she realises that there is little hope that he is alive. The song grew out of this very emotionally, difficult situation, seeing war through the eyes of the bereaved mother... her beautiful young son missing in action , all the dying for King and Country, patriotism cannot make up for the fact that your beautiful boy, full of hope, potential and talent has gone forever. But even more painful than the loss is not knowing how he died or even where his body is. Again this anguish found its way into the song.   Private_John_Searle 10th June                      The song 'Beautiful Boy' takes shape on bits of scrap paper..inside the covers of novels Alfie is reading...on the voice messaging app on his phone... 30th June    Start recording "Beautiful Boy" on Alfie's new programme "Cubase 7". Get tuition from producers Paul Sampson and Grieg Morrison. Very tricky at first...keeps getting stuck...frustrating!!! July 1st  Alfie has idea of making a film to go with the song to get it to a larger audience perhaps involving Young Quakers which our two teenagers are involved in. July 6th  Quaker stall Hampstead Fair. Alfie talks to the convenor of the in-reach / out-reach group about the song and Film and they discuss the possibility of some Quaker funding for the project. July 7th Alfie emails the Quaker contacts that the in-reach/ out-reach convener has suggested and there is a really positive response to the idea which is wonderful. July 13th We attend Meeting for Business at Hampstead and Alfie speaks and explains the idea and the first amount of funding for the project is approved which is fantastic and not only that but there are lots of great suggestions of who to approach to get the rest of the amount that we would need to make the quality of film and recording that would be required to make a real impact and get the message of Peace out there. July 1st-30th   Song takes form. Alfie has a monotone melody for voice in the verses...Louise finds this limiting...the search for a vocal melody is on!! July 17th  Alfie would like to hear the chorus sung by a counter tenor...the very lovely (and famous) Jamie Laing says he would love to have a go but that he is very busy at the moment. July-August 2014   We follow the BBC's excellent daily radio broadcast "Road to War" which details the chaotic, almost absent minded lead up to this catastrophic conflagration. July 21st Alfie emails Quaker group suggested in Hampstead business meeting, we get a fantastic response with really good funding ideas from the departing clerk of the group.  Rehearsals for upcoming shows, work, gigs and concerts are now in full swing for us so the time needed to act on all the suggestions is unfortunately becoming extremely limited. July 30th-August 12th   Distractions!!  Society of Imaginary Friends headline the Green Gathering Festival... lovely... but no time for writing. August 13th-29th   Alfie continues to write and record...original tune dumped. Louise does many improvised vocal takes to arrive at a tune they both like. What should the instrumentation be... epic orchestra or simple piano? Alfie starts looking into both. August 14th - 29th More distractions and emergencies, Alfies boat needs urgent attention, gas leak and other difficulties. Notting Hill Carnival workshops and the Carnival, 16th Birthdays and acutely ill relatives. 29th August. Editing previous improvised vocal takes. We decide that simple instrumentation would best suit the subject matter...keep it personal...piano or maybe solo electric guitar...strings? accordian?? 30th August. Defining the vocal melody from improvised takes..... we always know with this song if we are on the right track because we both start crying when playing it back, one of the vocal takes did this but unfortunately there were some recording technical problems that meant we needed to do another take in the middle of the night, which was also good, it means we have the vocal melody in rough demo form, yippee... 31st August, 2.30am finished mixing rough demo of song and sent it to possible director. 12 noon Louise speaks about the progress of the film at Hampstead Quaker meeting and asks at the meeting if anyone has any appropriate props from era. The meeting is very supportive and Louise gets some great advice from members, some of whom are in the film industry and also the offer of authentic props. 8pm Chris Newby said the song was beautiful, we are very happy. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532923/Michael-Gove-blasts-Blackadder-myths-First-World-War-spread-television-sit-coms-left-wing-academics.html#ixzz3C5hjgRsZ ** Dan Snow 10 WW1 Myths debunked  and The Myth of Trench Warfare *** UK Banks funding banned cluster bombs.  and Positive money brief outline of how Wars and banks are related and banks funding banned cluster bombs.           .      

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