Eloquent Protest is a Feelgood Theatre Productions event for peace begun in 2006 by Caroline Clegg and Hazel Roy, hosted by veteran anti-war campaigner Tony Benn.
This powerful piece of theatre fuses music, poetry and drama. It is an artist’s response to the price of war, which honours the fallen and counts the cost of their sacrifice. It was performed annually at Trafalgar Studios, followed by performances at the Duke of York's Theatre until 2009 when it then went to the International Kathmandu Theatre Festival Nepal and has subsequently been performed in Manchester.
For generations artists, writers, poets and singers have raised their voices in eloquent protest against the terrible cost of war.
Owen, Hardy, Pablo Casals, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Joan Baez, Adrian Mitchell and David Harsent to name but a few, along with a whole generation of new Iraqi artists have added their voices to those of innocent civilians like Anne Frank and the children of Terezin who yearned for a peaceful world through their words and music.
"A Soldier's Declaration"
By SIEGFRIED SASSOON
“I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.
I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.”
Siegfried L. Sassoon, July 1917
Eloquent Protest became one of the most important and moving events in London's theatrical calendar.
From small beginnings in 2006 this unique event has grown each year and in 2008, due to popular demand, the event moved into the main stage in Trafalgar Studio 1 to sell-out audiences, sponsored by ATG, Autograph Sound and The Stage Door Foundation.
Co-producer Hazel Roy also took a studio show of Eloquent Protest to the International Kathmandu Theatre Festival, to great acclaim.
Former MP and veteran peace campaigner Tony Benn again hosted the 2009 event, together with acclaimed actress and singer Janie Dee.
The artists and production team gave their time freely for the event and all profits go to the Mark Wright Project.
At THE 2009 event, ex SAS paratrooper Ben Griffin joined us and read Sassoon’s declaration. The subject of a global injunction, he is denied the right to speak of his own experiences as a serving soldier in Iraq, so instead he read these words, which he says could have been his own thoughts.
Although it was an honour to have Ben with us to read this timely and moving piece, in Tony Benn's words:
"It is lamentable that nearly 100 years after they were written, our experiences and attitudes have seemingly changed little."
We were also joined by Robert Powell, Samuel West, Jason Isaacs (who read late rifleman Cyrus Thatcher’s letters home from Afghanistan), Clive Rowe, Actress Jane Milligan (daughter of Spike Milligan), West End star Maggie Preece, ex soldier, writer and presenter Adnan Sarwar, Ben Griffin and Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster, Reem Kelani.
Eloquent Protest 2008
Tony Benn & Roy Bailey
An ever-growing cast of outstanding and award winning artists have been involved in Eloquent Protest.
Cast & Participants, in Alphabetical Order:
Rosemary Ashe, Roy Bailey, Tony Benn, Jeff Borradale, Sally Burgess, Caroline Clegg, Robin Colyer, Janie Dee, Philip Desmeules, Neil Ditt, Charlie Dore, Stella Duffy, Sam Ellis, Johnnie Fiori, Leslie Forbes, Charlotte Forrest, Ben Goddard, Ben Griffin, John Guerrasio, Matthew Hardy, Jeffrey Harmer, David Harsent, Oliver Hawes, Jim Holmes, Jason Isaacs, Mia Jaye-Quayle, Reem Kelani, Jill Kemp, Noreen Kershaw, Julian Littman, Loveday Littman, Fiona MacDonald, Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus, Ben Mellor, Jane Milligan, Ellie Moran, Mende Nazer, Julie Nicholson, Wendy Parkin, Nasrin Parvaz, Ellie Paskell, Robert Powell, Maggie Preece, Annette Reis-Dunne, Clive Rowe, Hazel Roy, Adnan Sarwar, Christopher Sheridan, Shirley & Shirley (Joanna Carolan & Pascale Wilson), Marlene Sidaway, Lemn Sissay, Peter Straker, Will Strange, The Most Effective Drum, Neal Thornton, Two’s Company, Julia Watson, Samuel West, Matilda Wickham, Rupert Wickham, Dan Willis, Warren Wills.
Eloquent Protest - Reviews & Audience Comments
ELOQUENT PROTEST III: Remembrance Sunday 9th November 2008 - Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, London
“...The Trafalgar Studios’ stage is scaled down by plain black curtains, and the black floor simply decorated with scarlet paper poppy leaves, giving the studio an intimate feel of a small fringe production, rather than of its West End glitz… Eloquent Protest III is the third annual event of a large group of diverse artists protesting against war with poetry, performance and music hosted by former MP and veteran campaigner Tony Benn with dignity and brevity. The Trafalgar Studio stage is scaled down by plain black curtains, and the black floor simply decorated with scarlet paper poppy leaves, giving the studio an intimate feel of a small fringe production, rather than of its West End glitz. If anyone had said an event about world wars would be entertaining, and in fact laugh-out-loud funny at times, you might find it hard to believe. But it isnt as serious an event as you might think, with humour - as well as heartbreaking stories of everyday life during the Blitz, including one so sad it doesn’t bear repeating."
Paper Poppies and Real Tears. 5 stars
"This is an event for all those of us, myself included, born in the late 20th century onwards, who might pin a poppy on every November in no more than a polite gesture of good citizenship. The event could so easily have been melodramatic and depressing, but instead was uplifting and positive. It provoked not the easy emotion of show business, but real tears of real loss.”
Aleks Sierz, TheatreVoice, 4 Stars
An artist's response:
I had reservation thinking we would be preaching to the converted, but there on stage at the end I realized how powerful the effect of gathering together in large numbers is in amplifying the energy of our intention way beyond that possible by a group of disparate individuals.
(Composer and musician Neil Thornton, 2008)
What the audience say:
“...as a veteran this is one of the most moving events I have been to and hope it grows each year so that it can be seen at the Albert Hall...”
"As a veteran of the Falklands war I attended the Cenotaph yesterday morning and then stumbled upon the event at the Trafalgar Studios, Eloquent Protest. As a veteran I was given free entry to the theatre, but I have to tell you that I would have quite happily paid the price of a West End show for this event. I cannot thank you enough for restoring my faith in human kind, and for finding such an incredible way through art and words to focus on the need to continually renew and keep up the pressure in whatever way possible to speak of peace. In parts the show was quite funny and then I shed tears throughout some things, especially the reading of Siegfried Sassoons Declaration that he made in 1917, it could have been written by a soldier now.
That such a range of famous actors, singers, writers and musicians gave up their only day off to speak out against war in this way on Remembrance Sunday honoured my fallen friends in a much more personal and moving way than any parade ever has, because it was saying we will never give up and we will never, never forget. "
(Audience member 2008)
"This is an event I would like to see in the Albert Hall to remind people that while we respect the dead, we need to respect those who WILL die even more. As a reflection of this, Wilfred Owen changed the title of his poem from Anthem to Dead Youth to Anthem for Doomed Youth. My grandson died in Iraq; he was 19. Please dont stop this event, you have sown a wonderful seed of hope. "
Mrs Dale, Blackburn (Audience member 2007)