A List of Reasons to Sing …


#8 To release endorphins

When you are bed bound from pain, you need all the endorphins you can get, so I’m singing plenty.

1. Chronic pain relief for a song 2. Singing through the pain barrier 3. Can singing help me manage chronic pain? 4. Away with pain

Managed a quick walk today, and saw this beautiful willow tree in Grange Gardens, Lewes.

The tune and words for this version of Seeds of Love were collected from Mrs Baker in 1912. Mrs Baker lived in Hammer, Sussex. The version was featured in the New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (2012).

I love this song. EB xx


December Day 11: Sonic Horizons of the Mesolithic

In a continuation of the search for archaeological sounds, the Sonic Horizons of the Mesolithic is an amazing project, and as the Tumblr explains:

The Star Carr: Sonic Horizons of the Mesolithic project aims to explore the sound world of Mesolithic Britain, focussing on the famous Star Carr archaeological dig in North Yorkshire.

Archeologist Ben Elliott and sound artist Jon Hughes are working as part of the Postglacial research project run by Professor Nicky Milner at the University of York.

Their aim is to build up an archive of sounds relating to life at Star Carr, which will be used in different ways.

Worth exploring…

Archaeology/Austerity walk meeting details

Hi All,

Few details for the upcoming walk… Meeting points as per below and on this pdf: Austerity walk meeting points.



There will be a group walking the whole length of the route (@James__Dixon for details) and another following the route on as much public transport as possible (@lornarichardson for details), but you are welcome to travel however you like between the meeting points, meet us along the way or just join in for one stop. Meeting points and times are as follows:

1000 – 1010     Canary Wharf Station – Introduction – Lorna Richardson and James Dixon

Start point_Canary Wharf

1125 – 1140    Whitechapel – Kate Tiernan and James Dixon

Nearest tube stops, Whitechapel and Aldgate East

Stop 1_Altab Ali Park

1200 – 1215     Moorgate – Sam Merrill

Nearest tube stop, Moorgate

 Stop 2_Moorgate

 1220 – 1230     Museum of London – Break

Nearest tube stops, Moorgate, Blackfriars and St Pauls


1240 – 1255     St Paul’s Occupy Camp – Marjolijn Kok and Saini Manninen

Nearest tube stop, St Pauls

Stop 3_St Pauls

 1305 – 1315     Bankside – Chris Constable

Nearest tube stops, Southwark, Borough, London Bridge, St Pauls

Stop 4_Bankside and lunch

1315 – 1400     LUNCH

 1405 – 1415     Liberty of the Mint – Chris Constable

Nearest tube stop, Borough

Stop 5_Liberty of the Mint

 1430 – 1500    Heygate Estate and Elephant and Castle – Emma Dwyer and Owen Hatherley

Nearest tube stop, Elephant and Castle

Stop 7_Heygate Estate

1551              SUNSET

1545 – 1600     Southbank skatepark – Oli Mould

Nearest tube stops, Waterloo and Embankment

Stop 8_Southbank Skaters

 1630 – 1645     Downing Street – Lorna Richardson

Nearest tube stops, Westminster and Charing Cross

Stop 9_Downing Street


Nearest tube stop, St James’s Park


Inside/Outside/In – Post 6: Final Words

I have been posting about my theatre workshops in the refugee centre, the history of the site, along with verbatim interviews. I have found this month to be an exciting creative launchpad and a chance to engage with different people who move within the space. Now, as my month draws to a close, I would like to discuss how my research might feed into either a live performance or an audio performance tour within the space. How might I invite the wider public to engage with the history and current use of the site, using drama?

In my third workshop at the refugee centre, I asked a group member to read aloud some verbatim material recorded during an interview with another refugee (who is not part of the theatre group):

The journey takes hours. I look out of the window and nothing is next to us, just clouds and sky. I still remember my first day in London. I felt like I was in a new country, new place, new people, new weather. Everything was different. In a good way although it was too cold. I miss the sunshine, the food. I miss Bondu, it is a special vegetable dish. My mom was cooking for me every day. Every day I was just eating. I used to study marketing in Congo. In London I feel like it is home. I find new friends and family. When I say family I mean close friends. The culture is different that’s the main thing. The way they are doing. The way they are acting.

While this material was read aloud, the group physically acted out the story together, jointly expressing their culture shock on arrival in the UK.  Again, we were re-enacting the stories that emerge within the space on a daily basis and validating them through our shared activity. The participant’s willingness to engage in this work and their regular attendance at my classes, leads me to think that devising a full performance in the church space for an invited audience would be both a manageable and beneficial experience.

Indeed, the church itself, with its multiple objects and decorations, greatly provokes my imagination. Could we create a character out of the Jean Cocteau fresco in the Lady Chapel? Could the statue of Mary on the balcony, cut in half and smuggled out of France during World War Two, be viewed as a refugee of sorts? These furnishings are already part of another story, brought to life daily through sacraments and a revered liturgy. Would it be appropriate to stage refugee stories in this space? The site owners would understandably wish there to be some focus on the current, sacred nature of the space. Would my theatre group, made up of people of different religious backgrounds be comfortable working in this way?

I could stage my presentation in the balcony, a slightly removed location, which could be more spiritually neutral. Another idea could be to use the front steps of the church, although this could jeopardise my ability to reenact the panorama. Would the refugees be able to fully ‘take the space’ if they had to perform outside it? Would this setting not reinforce their exclusion? This location could, in fact, add another political dimension to the piece by sending a message that refugees continue to be on the outside of society looking in. A liminal locale on the threshold of the building could be the perfect place to stage the crossing of borders. Perhaps, I could incorporate the opening and closing of the picturesque metal gate through a stylised dance sequence? This dark entrance space, however, like the balcony, presents practical hurdles. How would we rehearse if people need to access the church? Would passers-by be invited to watch? Would we engage with the homeless people who sleep in the church during the day? Members of the public only come into a theatre space during the performance and, usually, in exchange for money. In this case, people are almost perpetually here, whether praying or sleeping. Would we ask them to leave or invite them to watch?

A site might provide exciting characters and spatial backdrops, which trigger creativity and provide rich material to mine from. Site-specificity can, however, also greatly affect a writer’s freedom; a site’s non-theatrical functions make it impossible to divorce direction and stage-management from the writing process. Interviewing, excavating, writing and directing may struggle for precedence within a short time frame, resulting in a competition between form and content. Architectural opportunities affect the architecture of the story, which, in turn, depends on the material gained through interviews.

These interlinking dependencies can make it difficult to progress with writing. When working with documentary material, fascinating ideas may come bubbling up, but they need to be placed under a particular denominator, whether the actors, the space or the story; one needs an organising idea upon which to build. It is also best to separate work into manageable stages. When working with a site, it is not always possible to bring one’s vision to life as originally planned. Being clear about the message one is trying to communicate with space-owners, before investing energy, is crucial. When writing a straight text, one has the freedom to build an imagined world that may play out in multiple different spaces. With site-specific work, the site itself becomes a character, which asserts its own authority and is far less malleable. With human sources it is possible to discard interview rushes. With a site, the practical and ethical ramifications of the space cannot usually be cut or edited: the space serves other, non-theatrical purposes, which need to be continually factored in. Moreover, a site-specific piece cannot be lifted and reinserted elsewhere; its identity is wrapped up in the space. It is, therefore, vital to consider the ethical and practical baggage beforehand and be realistic about whether this correlates with one’s vision.

A performance could be staged on the roof of the church, an exciting platform within the cityscape, which could seat a large, private audience and would not automatically prompt a religious message. I believe this liminal roof space, like the steps, could add a deeper spatial-political dimension to my piece. The refugees could still peer into the church through the windows and describe the panorama, highlighting their continued social exclusion.

Alternatively, my research into the panorama might fuel a poetry audio tour of the church, perhaps a more appropriate dramatic form within a sacred space. When writing work specifically tailored to a site, audio poetry walks can also be a way of generating ongoing artistic value in a way that a live project cannot. This walk could incorporate the history of the building, recordings of the refugees singing and explain the religious elements of the space. It could even be a spiritual, archaeological treasure hunt communicated through poetry and prayer.

Meanwhile, performances can continue to take place in the refugee centre which adjoins the church. In fact, my theatre group is now preparing for our end-of-term showcase which will be performed for an internal audience in the refugee centre site. We will perform ‘Kembo’, ‘Shosha Loza’ and our other African songs. I hope this will draw in the wider community of refugees, staff and volunteers at the centre and engage them with our work as we continue to channel our migration experiences through song and dance to animate the stories that unfold daily in the site.

Should you wish to learn more about the work of Notre Dame Refugee Centre, you can visit this website.



What does archaeology sound like?

I couldn’t decide on a project for Public Archaeology 2015, given a multitude of personal mishaps and a year of my interest in grey literature waning, as my interest in writing the future best-selling coffee table book of 2016 (‘Erratica’, a journey through mythic geology and great big bits of rock) grew. So I left the choice of the final project to random chance, well, to Twitter, and did a poll, as it’s all the rage. Doing a poll was interesting, and it was good to hear the comments from people on their specific interests in each of the choices. I shall follow each choice up eventually over 2016 (Erratica will make my millions I bet) but 45% of the voters decided that Archaeology Sounds was the winner.


What does archaeology sound like? What are ‘archaeological’ sounds? What noises does the practise make? (No, not like hot air being released from a balloon, to whoever shouted that at the back). What investigations have taken place before now into the sounds of archaeology either in the past (musical instruments etc) and what can we record today in our daily existence as wind blown archaeologists in the field, or tame ones at a desk?

So my project will be a month long laid back festival of sound, some of which I hope will have public contribution and some of which I will post as links, pictures and general information, hopefully, depending on health and physical location, every other day or so. I will be asking some of you to contribute your own sounds (keep it clean) from your archaeological lives. Right then. 1st of December tomorrow. 31 days of sound.

Inside/Outside/In – Post 5

Interview with a regular parishioner of Notre Dame de France:

  1. When did you first come to the church?

End of August 1964. On my way to London, from Mauritius, I passed through Rome,which was getting ready for the final Session of VATICAN II. I had the rare privilege of visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Gardens, under the guidance of the secretary of my friend Juan Vasquez, who had been appointed as one of the lay auditors of the Council

  1. When did you first come to the refugee centre?

I joined the Notre Dame Refugee Centre, which had opened its doors in December 1997, in March 1999. I had retired from teaching the year before and and was looking for some work which would keep me busy and active. I had also retired from the national executive committee of Great Britain of the International Peace Movement ” PAX CHRISTI “, where I had been active for nearly 30 years. I am still a member : 50 years in 2018 !

  1. What does the building mean for you? 

The building, and the people living within its walls and periphery, means a lot to me, a kind of refuge from the problems I was meeting every now and then on questions of ‘racism’ and matters of ‘ Peace and Justice. Remember the sixties, when there was an influx of Indian refugees from East Africa and people were talking of being overwhelmed by immigrants, i.e. Peter Griffiths in Smethwick and Enoch Powell’s “ River of Blood “ speech.

  1. How were you treated by the French community as a non-white person when you first arrived?

When talking of racism, I avoid using the word community, it is more a question of individuals. I would not know how to qualify the answer to my query from the Rector of Notre Dame, when I asked him about the existence or not  of a  Frech Catholic Action  movement called “ Action Catholique des Milieux Indépendants “. He acknowledged that such groups existed but were not for people like me . What about the answer of that black Mauritian to me when I suggested to him to join the Africa Centre where he would meet a lot of lovely people, that he felt insulted as he was not an African or felt part of these kind of people! So racism came from all sides and from where you least expected them!

But on the whole, the support and acceptance were very positive I felt I could confide in people such as Father Noblet, Father Bozon, Father Raabe and Father Le Crureur and always got the support and comforting words I needed.

If I have to mention or name people who were really close supporting comforting friends, they would be François and Denise Batisse and their children, Françoise Moore and her husband, John and children, Karine and Isabelle, and Chantal, Robert and children, Bernadette Rattigan. These were but a few of the many, many friends I had and they are only friends of the sixties and seventies. I will never forget them!

I also joined groups such as “ Centre de Walsingham “ made up mainly  of French Assistant/es and attended many conferences, concerts, theatre groups’ plays and retreats organised in cooperation with the French Protestant church.

We used to meet after the 10 o’clock mass at what is now the ‘Salle Yolanda Cantu’ and was then known as the ‘Centre Charles Péguy’. There were usually about 10 to 20 parishioners and their friends passing through London in the room. How I miss these ‘rencontres’ nowadays: the whole place have become so functional  due understandably to the growing activities of the church and lack of space. What a pity as so many solid and long-lasting friendships were made there !

The same feeling applies to the crypt, now a theatre but then a warm-hearted meeting place for the whole parish !

       5. How have things changed in terms of the racial diversity of the parish?

Before the departure of the Marists at the end of the eighties, the bulk of parishioners were French, with a very small, rather self-centred group of Mauritians.

When the Marists returned in the early nineties with a team made up of french-speaking English, Irish and American priests and one national from France, a real effort were made to include all francophone or francophile people and therefore the parish became more racially diversified.

It benefitted from this diverse influx both culturally and spiritually and both in richness and diversity. , with a predominance of more African -orientated activities, i.e. prayer groups, pentecostal ones and a fantastic African-dominated choir.

I wish however that there was at least one catholic action movement, based on the: “ SEE, JUDGE and ACT” of Cardinal Cardyjn of the ACTION CATHOLIQUE OUVTIERE.

      6. What is special about this space?

The round shape with the focus on the Altar with its near-centre position, following the Vatican Council emphasis on such a disposition for liturgical reasons and changes.

I also think that it is like the sun and its rays, it represents the church and its missionary attitude,  the church being like the sun and its activities the rays.

      7. If you could redesign one element of the building what would you do?

To have all the seating arrangements more altar orientated, instead of having the rows on the aisles facing bare walls.

A small wish that we get back the crypt from the Leicester Square theatre

Inside/Outside/In – Post 4

During my second practical workshop with the refugees, we began in a circle in the middle of the room and slowly began to raise our voices together and dance. We were familiar with the tunes and had in fact performed them for an internal audience at the refugee centre, earlier in the year during the spring. Let me reflect on that first song and dance session back in April, which was a moment of supreme shock for everyone. Up until then, our sessions had been highly structured and clearly led by me. I was using drama games I had learned during a Teaching Drama course and also my university training. Now, however, I felt the need to take a step back and let participants show me what they could do. ‘Let’s sing’ I said spontaneously. I then opened the floor to them.

I had previously often heard one of the ladies humming in the café and so asked her to kick us off. Her song, ‘Kembo’, seemed to be well- known, as they others were comfortable joining in, while the lady led the song and sung a second voice.  All of them chipped in at junctures to offer their own moves. I myself initiated a conga which was a very unifying moment. We stamped and sang loudly and without apology. A drama session is an ideal opportunity to temporarily break through some of the barriers the refugees may deal with in day-to-day life, particularly as they work through the necessary application processes to receive asylum. Here, they have a space to openly express themselves.

Most of the participants are Congolese. As a South African, this culture is, of course, different from my own, but not entirely alien. The refugees were, therefore, very surprised by my familiarity with African music. On the surface, I seem very English, as I moved to the UK at eleven. At heart, however, African rhythms are still deeply rooted. I taught them Shosha Loza, a Zulu song I had learned as a child. Before we began the theatre sessions, I had already been serving tea and coffee in the café for some months. I knew the clients but the drama group became a way for me to get to know the group more deeply, not through words but through movement and expressions of a shared African identity.

Now, having started the classes again after a long break over the summer and autumn, the singing and dancing is no longer a surprise for most of them but an expected pleasure at the end of each session. When we begin our final sing-song, visitors dropping in for the first time, continue to be surprised. The singing therefore becomes an initiation ceremony as we re-enact out group identity each week and welcome new people into the room. During our last session, a new lady actually arrived in the middle of the song. I consciously moved towards her, opened the door and invited the rest of the group to join me in welcoming her into the space. She was encouraged to take her coat off and join in with us immediately. The joy of this welcome perhaps transmitted the desires of the refugees to be welcomed here, in their new country of domicile. In this way, the song and dance becomes a way to express the needs of the group and a site of healing and unity.

So, how does this link to archaeology? Well, we have sung these songs countless times within the space. They are a means of voicing who we are, where we have come from and our links to our home countries. One Congolese man I interviewed said, he had learned to speak Eritrean here. The centre is a site for cross-cultural storytelling and linguistic exploration. By re-enacting our original song session back in May, over and over again each week, we regularly reinforce our group identity and individual validity within the space. We communicate, through song, the storytelling that is continually taking place. Click here to listen to an audio file from our last session.

We repeated the exercise from the previous week, waking up the space using our voices and bodies. This time, however, we incorporated the Congolese and Zulu songs into the exercise. I encouraged participants to invite the space into the communal activity, engaging with the different elements of the room, this time not by saying ‘hello’ but by singing. I believe this enabled the refugees to more consciously communicate with the room itself and perhaps subconsciously consider its role in framing and housing their experiences.