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  • Verity Standen

    Refrain

    About

    This spring, during the centenary of the First World War, composer Verity Standen created a new immersive, choral experience at three sites of historic significance in the stories of conscientious objection.

    The performance was devised with and performed by local male singers of all ages. Scroll down to find out more about the artist, the places and the histories that unfolded.

    REFRAIN performances

    Refrain was first performed at Richmond Castle, North Yorkshire on Friday 7th, Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th April.

    It was then devised with new groups of singers for George Street in St. Helens, Merseyside on Saturday 20th May and Sunday 21st May, and Newhaven Fort, East Sussex, with performances on Friday 9th, Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June.

    You can see pictures, comments and video from Richmond, St. Helens and Newhaven in the Story section of this website.

     

    Refrain is produced by Situations with Verity Standen Projects, in partnership with English Heritage, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Heart of Glass, St. Helens. It is generously supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, The Space and Heritage Lottery Fund.

    Find out about other arts projects by Situations here.

    Verity Standen

    “Sound rose and fell in waves until it felt as if I was drenched in music that had seeped its way into every organ in my body, and maybe even found my soul.”

    Lyn Gardner on HUG, 2015, The Guardian

    Verity Standen is an award-winning artist, composer and choir leader, whose unique work with voices has surprised and enchanted audiences across the UK and internationally. From intimate concerts to immersive theatrical experiences, Verity’s work seeks to reimagine how audiences experience vocal music.

    veritystanden.com

    Newhaven Fort

    Newhaven fort, East Sussex, is the last of a long series of defences built on the cliffs overlooking Seaford Bay, the ramparts and extensive tunnel network holding 150 years of history.

    During the First World War, the Fort became a part of larger defences, linking with the nearby town of Seaford – the site of a work camp that now lies buried underneath the town. The North Camp at Seaford housed a number of conscientious objectors, firstly before their deportation to Northern France, and subsequently for those who refused to fight and were put to work on the road improvements between Seaford and Newhaven.

    St Helens

    St Helens, Merseyside was the home of school teacher, Ernest Everett who was arrested due to his refusal to undertake combative service in 1916.

    He was court-martialed and sentenced to two years’ hard labour, the first conscientious objector to receive such a sentence. Over the next few years, he was sentenced seven more times.

    In REFRAIN, Everett’s story, symbolic of many more cases of this kind, is given voice once again.

    Richmond Castle

    Just over 100 years ago, sixteen conscientious objectors were detained in the 19th century cell block of Richmond Castle. Before they were sent to France to be court-martialed, the ‘Richmond Sixteen’ covered the cell walls with words and drawings which inspired hundreds of other subsequent marks of resistance in WWI and WWII.

    The Castle which is under the care of English Heritage, and the personal testimonies contained within it, offers a potent context in which to explore current considerations of conscience and sacrifice.

    Find out more about the stories of the Richmond Sixteen and the Castle.

    Get Involved

    In Richmond, St Helens, and now Newhaven, dozens of local men came together to perform Refrain.

    As the performances have now all taken place opportunities to join the project are now closed. You can see images, video and comments from singers in the Story section of this website.

    Thank you to all those who also got involved as Refrain stewards in the three locations.

    All performances of Refrain have now taken place. Tickets are no longer available.

    The Story of Refrain

    For the full story, please scroll down to the bottom of this page and click view more posts.

    • A memorial of a different kind - Listen to the BBC World Service radio feature documentary by Dan Damon on the voices of Verity...

      A memorial of a different kind -

      Listen to the BBC World Service radio feature documentary by Dan Damon on the voices of Verity Standen’s Refrain, recorded in the tunnels of Newhaven Fort, and how this choral piece came about in response to the histories of conscientious objection. (9 mins)

      Listen here

      Photo: Paul Blakemore courtesy Situations 

    • ‘I liked the waves of despair and then resistance, the choral calling, reflecting the COs calling each other from cell to...

      ‘I liked the waves of despair and then resistance, the choral calling, reflecting the COs calling each other from cell to cell…..’

      Refrain Newhaven audience member reflects on her experience.

    • ‘It’s the first time  I’ve been involved in an installation like this – I think everyone in the group bonded brilliantly, thanks...

      ‘It’s the first time  I’ve been involved in an installation like this – I think everyone in the group bonded brilliantly, thanks to Verity’s inspired warm-ups and unfalteringly good-humoured direction. I’d been to Newhaven Fort several times before but didn’t know the Conscientious Objectors’ story – nor did I realise it’s in fact a gigantic musical instrument waiting to be played!’

      - Newhaven Singer Tim Locke on his experience being part of Refrain 

    • The sun beats down on the Newhaven local male singers as they form the final ‘clump’ of the Refrain performances in the parade...

      The sun beats down on the Newhaven local male singers as they form the final ‘clump’ of the Refrain performances in the parade ground of the Fort.

      ‘When they came together in a huddle it was so effective because it seemed they were demonstrating the fact that they were ‘one voice’ in the sense that they shared the same view but they were individuals and all sang their own song.’

      - #Refrain audience member

    • ‘Amazing stillness
just at the right moment’ - #Refrain Newhaven audience member reflects on a moment of stillness whilst...

      ‘Amazing stillness just at the right moment’

      - #Refrain Newhaven audience member reflects on a moment of stillness whilst looking out to Seaford Bay.

    • ‘Just left the
noise of London, this has been a wonderful escape, the tonal sound resonates
just here’  - #Refrain weekend...

      ‘Just left the noise of London, this has been a wonderful escape, the tonal sound resonates just here’

      - #Refrain weekend audience member reflects on his experience 

    • ‘The
power and sound of all those male voices in the rooms and tunnels was
incredible - dizzying, in fact, as it reverberated...

      ‘The power and sound of all those male voices in the rooms and tunnels was incredible - dizzying, in fact, as it reverberated off the walls and into my ears.  Thank you for an amazing evening.’

      - Friday night audience member, #refrain #newhaven.

      Photography by Paul Blakemore

    • Hidden pockets of song. 

Photography by Paul Blakemore

      Hidden pockets of song.

      Photography by Paul Blakemore

    • The start of the final performance of Refrain. Solo male voice greets the audience as they enter the grounds of Newhaven Fort....

      The start of the final performance of Refrain. Solo male voice greets the audience as they enter the grounds of Newhaven Fort.

      Photography by Paul Blakemore.

    • #refrain by Verity Standen @newhavenfort was excellent - remembering conscientious objectors of WWI, using only the male voice...

      #refrain by Verity Standen @newhavenfort was excellent - remembering conscientious objectors of WWI, using only the male voice and resonance of the site. Very powerful and thought-provoking.

      Mark Moif via Instagram. 

    • "Thanks @verity_standen @situationsUK @AttenboroughCtr for #Refrain @NewhavenFort - a powerful place, piece and project"

    • A moment of poignant reflection. 

Photography by Paul Blakemore.

      A moment of poignant reflection.

      Photography by Paul Blakemore.

    • Choral sound reverberates around the underground of the Fort.

      Choral sound reverberates around the underground of the Fort.

    • Both performances of Refrain today (11am and 1.30pm) are SOLD OUT.

      There will be no tickets on the door. 

    • Following the song to a beautiful viewpoint over the coast. A potent place for reflection on the lives of those who refused to...

      Following the song to a beautiful viewpoint over the coast. A potent place for reflection on the lives of those who refused to fight. 

    • "Loved @verity_standen ’s #Refrain at Newhaven Fort last night. Visceral, multisensory and with a gob-smacking opening number. Yay!"

      Richard Hornsey via Twitter

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