In September 2021, The Midi Music Company was commissioned by London’s Imperial War Museum to create a live performance featuring young people’s responses to Remembrance. A group of students from our AYM programme visited IWM on Lambeth Road accompanied by our tutor team to meet Mike and Kitty, eyewitnesses to conflict who’d both been child evacuees during WWII. Their vivid recollections inspired our young artists, and opportunities to handle artefacts from the IWM’s collection and hear from an IWM curator provided additional food for thought.
Working to an extremely tight turnaround time, the team of five young artists met weekly to create a spoken word performance with an original music soundtrack, assisted by tutors Ahmad Dayes and Shauna O’Briain.
There was a great deal of curatorial support from IWM, who assisted by checking text for clarity of meaning and historical accuracy. The work became even more powerful and persuasive as a result of their input.
‘Breaking the Silence’ was premiered at a public performance in the atrium of IWM at 11:02 on Sunday 14 November. There were two further performances at hourly intervals. It is a work of great power, courageously addressing uncomfortable truths about the disparity of remembrance, such as the low or non-existent acknowledgement of other nations’ contribution to the defeat of Fascism, particularly those from South-east Asia and Africa. There was subsequently a slew of biased and ill-informed press coverage online, most of it quoting a single TripAdvisor review complaining about the textual content.
Art can often be controversial, shocking even, but the lyrics were all checked for veracity and clarity of meaning by the Imperial War Museum’s curators. We are proud of the work and of our courageous and articulate young artists.