Buffalo History Museum is housed inside a beautiful building. I am due to perform at 2pm in their intimate 150 seat auditorium.
The Quakers are hosting the event and after the performance Rodney Pierce, a Korean War CO, and Nadine Hoover of the Conscience Studio and New York Quakers, join us for the Q and A.
On March 9, I set off with some trepidation and a fair amount of excitement to the USA where I have only ever spent 5 days in all my 60 years – (and those five days were in New York) – travelling there now in order to present the compelling and inspiring stories of Britain’s First World War conscientious objectors – ‘THIS EVIL THING’ – to a number of sympathetic religious institutions, colleges and a few Quaker Meeting Houses too.
This all came about thanks to a chance meeting with an American, who saw the piece when I first presented it in Edinburgh in 2016 – and who said to me, ‘You should bring this to the States.’ To which I replied, ‘I’d love to. But how?’ ‘Let me have a think,’ he said.
10th December 2017
Week 8, and it’s Tuesday 14th November when I rock up to Northampton’s Royal Theatre, to play my one and only ‘main stage’ of the tour – a beautiful 500-seat Victorian theatre that I’ve performed in previously in big cast shows – but in a solo play? Just me and my nine crates? Plus two hessian sacks?
June 12th 2017
So there I am, all set up and ready to go at the Oasis Hub venue, Waterloo, on Friday evening June 9th … a hundred plus folk have turned up to see ‘THIS EVIL THING’ (despite having stayed up half the previous night to watch ‘THIS ELECTION’S HUNG’).
Feb. 19th 2017
In the last few weeks I have had three very different performances of THIS EVIL THING – as well as receiving a nudge about going for a walk – a rather long one…
On January 15th I performed in the very small, very lovely but very hot Kempe Studio, Stratford-upon-Avon – with 50 folk crammed in, sitting on IKEA folding chairs, a few rather more plush dining room chairs, and the odd sofa thrown in for good measure. (But a standard ticket price, whether IKEA folding or comfy sofa.)
Thanks to all who made such a success of Comrades in Conscience at the Conway Hall on May 25th, marking a hundred years since the introduction of compulsory conscription in this country.
Now I’m heads down preparing the solo version This Evil Thing which is appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.
With military conscription still in force in many countries today, and prisoners of conscience still languishing in jails, the questions posed by THIS EVIL THING are as relevant and urgent as they were one hundred years ago.
The show is being directed by Rosamunde Hutt and will be on between 4th and 28th August (apart from Aug 16th and 23rd). It starts at noon, lasts 75 minutes and is at the New Wee Theatre.
More details and the press release can be found below.
This Evil Thing Press Release
Tickets for THIS EVIL THING now on sale here.
Dyce camp, Aberdeen, 1916
And so, tis done…what a very special evening at Conway Hall – COMRADES IN CONSCIENCE – thanks to all who came, some from quite a way away – and all those who tried to but couldn’t make it…
and of course to all the wonderful performers, singers, speakers…
And great to hear laughter ringing out too at times – mainly at Bertrand Russell’s droll witticisms of course…
Those of us who are pacifists will probably never have our pacifism and beliefs put to the test in the way that those young men who were COs in WW1 were tested – the abuse, the punishments, the threat of execution… so all we can do is remember them, pay tribute to them, keep their example alive – and try to keep the freedoms alive, of thought, action, conscience, that they struggled to maintain… and anyway, in other parts of the world today, there is still conscription in many countries, and COs in those countries still face all kinds of punishments…so, still work to be done, then. Joining the Peace Pledge Union and other similar peace movements would be a start…
The photo is of a poster with the ominous news that conscription was now the law of the land for all men, unmarried and married, between the ages of 18 and 41. Conscientious objectors would be compelled to make their case for exemption before local tribunals, who were often prejudiced against them and deeply unsympathetic.
For example, Harold Bing, an 18 year old CO, had his claim turned down –
‘You’re too young to have a conscience!’ he was told.
This is a photo of Walter Roberts – the first conscientious objector to die during the First World War – just 20 years old. In a state of exhaustion, having already endured four months hard labour in prison, he died of pneumonia as he lay in a leaking tent in the pouring rain at Dyce work camp, near Aberdeen.
Fenner Brockway said: ‘To all of us, Walter Roberts’ life and death must be an inspiration.’ It helped close the camp at Dyce but achieved little else. Bert Brocklesby said of him – ‘A true martyr to the cause of peace and brotherhood.’