Crass Co-Founder Penny Rimbaud to Perform at Firstsite

On Friday 13th January 2017, Penny Rimbaud will be at Firstsite to perform The Pity of War, a work based on the war poems of Wilfred Owen. Rimbaud’s recitation will be accompanied by leading musicians Kate Shortt on cello and Liam Noble on piano, whose improvisational playing will invite audiences to a new interpretation of the celebrated poet’s verse. Artist Gee Vaucher – currently the subject of a major exhibition at Firstsite – will provide visuals.

This special performance is of particular significance to Rimbaud, whose father served in the Second World War. Of this experience, he writes:

“I was a war baby who, like many, didn’t meet their father until they were three or four, which too often was too late. My father brought the war home with him. He never much spoke of it, rather he was imbued with it; it seeped from his every pore. He was distant, absent and cold, and he made me feel fearful. Then how was I to know what horrors had so muted him, horrors which in his imaginings and his dreams would forever be present? He would speak of “the real world” and how he’d fought for my freedom, but as I grew older I became increasingly cautious of the conditional nature of that freedom. I’d seen pictures of the death camps, knew about atom bombs and was aware of the carnage, but, beyond a sense of uninformed sorrow, I grew to feel loathing and contempt for what seemed be the utter senselessness of it all. My father’s war and his real world had to me become synonymous.”

Speaking about his admiration for Wilfred Owen’s verse, he says:

“In my late teens I was introduced to the poetry of Wilfred Owen and from one line in his “Strange Meeting” I was awoken to an entirely new way of being – “I am the enemy you killed, my friend” – no malice, no terrible vengeance, only love; a true expression of human possibility beyond the bitter brutality of jingoistic cant. In Owen’s selfless tenderness I had at last found something that made sense within the madness of the warring material world; we are no more, no less than the other, divided only by the fall from grace. It was from this illumination that I became an active pacifist committed to the promotion of peace and love. It is, then, only natural that I chose to commit myself to present Owen’s poems throughout the centenary years of the euphemistic ‘Great War’. In doing so I am able to honour the great gift that he gave through his life, his works and his untimely death.”

Rimbaud will be accompanied by Kate Shortt on the cello and Liam Noble on piano, with the artist Gee Vaucher – currently the subject of a major exhibition at Firstsite – providing the visuals.

Booking information: Penny Rimbaud – The Pity of War
13th January, 7pm :www.firstsite.uk/whats-on/

About Penny Rimbaud:
Penny Rimbaud is a writer, poet, philosopher, painter, musician and activist. He was a former member of the performance art groups EXIT and Ceres Confusion. He co-founded the seminal anarchist punk band Crass in 1977, which disbanded in 1984. Rimbaud performs poetry alongside live music.

About Gee Vaucher:
Born in 1945 in Dagenham, east London, Gee Vaucher attended the South East Essex School Of Art & Design (1961 – 1966). Her work has been exhibited widely, including shows at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York, and Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco. For nearly fifty years she has lived and worked at Dial House, a 17th century cottage that she and her lifelong creative partner Penny Rimbaud turned into an open house for living and artistic experimentation in 1967. In 2016 she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Essex.

About Kate Shortt:
Kate Shortt is a pianist, cello player and songwriter. She won Performer of the Year award at the London Palladium.

About Liam Noble:
Liam Noble is Lecturer in Jazz at Birmingham Conservatoire and Trinity College of Music. He has published 4 volumes of transcriptions of the Bill Evans Trio, and a book of original compositions, Jazz Piano: An In Depth Look at the Styles of the Masters.