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Hearing Our Heritage

Hearing Our Heritage
Dear Friend
You don't stumble upon your heritage. It's there, just waiting to be explored and shared - Robbie Robertson
I’ve found myself tracking back through time recently -  making a piece for Harefield Hospital’s Centenary Anzac Day Tea Party, preparing for Croydon Heritage Festival and sharing reminiscence sessions about VE Day with one of my elders singing groups - all of which has emphasised the value of listening to the songs and stories of the days gone by.

Detecting the empty spaces
History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies. - Alexis De Tocqueville
My inner detective loves following the trail of old stories and finding out what happened next in the unknown spaces of the past.  The word Heritage takes its roots from words meaning “empty, left behind.”  The past is actually full to bursting with the lives that inhabited it, it is only our perspective, that would suggest something is missing or unseen - as we are those who are left behind to puzzle on it.  The inevitable emptiness in our attempts to reflect on the past is ultimately a creative space in which we make connections that can inform our contribution in the present.

If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree.  - Michael Crichton
Reading about Croydon’s musical history has definitely enriched and surprised me.  I now walk the streets with more awareness  - I can see the punks spitting in the concrete corners and hear the strain of orchestras playing the works of composers who passed there before me.  Hearing the stories of elders in my singing groups brings me into empathic connection with them - suddenly I am a child with them, watching a Nazi fall from the sky - as they draw me into the stories of their lives.  Story weaves us together, helping us understand how we all came to be as we are in the present and how we are all inextricably connected.

Patterns & Codebreakers
That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. -  Aldous Huxley
I recently read Louis de Bernieres extraordinary novel Birds Without Wings, set in Anatolia preceding and during World War I.  It tells the story of the series of sequential waves of war, genocide and destruction that swept through what was to emerge as Turkey.  History is made personal through the eyes of its survivors, characters living in the midst of top-down decisions that ravaged communities.  The futile war of identity - ‘I am this, you are that, I must kill you because you are wrong/different’ - continues its bloody, vengeful march through many parts of the world today.  So many patterns are repeated and very little appears to be learned, yet there have been significant code-breakers - those who like Ghandi and Martin Luther King had the courage to stand up and break through the relentless rumbling of history, acting as inspiration for us to do the same on a personal and social level.

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. - Marge Pierce
A wise man I know keeps reminding me that the world is different because we are in it. That is not to swell our egos, we are still only the size of a very small ant in the vast landscape of past, present and future, but nonetheless, without each of us the world would not be the same.  Connecting with the past prompts reflection on what are we creating in the present - what am I going to do with my small dot in space while I am still alive to occupy it and what will my legacy be? - what songs and stories will I leave in the empty space between past, present and future….?
Wishing you a magical June