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  • Writer's pictureVivienne Boucherat


I have been involved with two pieces of creative expression this March that have a direct attachment to the alarming and ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Firstly, a music student, Vladyslava Sambora, is currently interning with the USA based Rocks Management company. She is Ukrainian and still living in Ukraine and put together a really moving video using the ‘Know Your Crazy Choir’ version of ‘Hold Your Head Up Woman’ as a soundtrack. It makes me cry whenever I watch it. All of our hearts hurt for the people of Ukraine and we cannot fail to be reminded of all the other truly awful conflicts that continue around the world.

You can see Vlada’s video here:

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Secondly, I have been asked to arrange backing vocals for a song called ‘Together we are Stronger’ written specifically about the Ukrainian situation written by Francie Conway. It seems that many songwriters have put pen to paper in response to this conflict.

Creative expression directly influenced by war and unrest is apparent throughout the ages. Perhaps conflict reminds us that our lives are fragile and spurs us on to create something meaningful. Or creativity is used to realise and communicate our fears, to protest, to warn or to commemorate.

Examples of creative expression connected to war and strife spring to mind easily, with hundreds of fictional and non-fictional references to choose from in film, newsreels, theatre, musicals, the visual arts, music and literature – ranging from world wars right down to personal family feuds.

Here are just a few examples of the arts in response to conflict:

1880 Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture (Battle of Borodino, Napoleonic Wars).

1941 Shostakovich ‘Leningrad’ Symphony No. 7 (Hitler’s attack on Russia).

1976 Gorecki Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (2nd movement inspired by words scratched into cell wall of Gestapo prison by an 18-year-old girl).

More recently, songs include:

Elvis Costello ‘Oliver’s Army’ (inspired by Northern Irish ‘troubles’),

The Clash ‘Spanish Bombs’ (Spanish Civil War),

The Doors ‘The Unknown Soldier’ and Pink Floyd ‘Us And Them’ (Vietnam War),

Green Day ‘Holiday’ and Patti Smith ‘Radio Baghdad’ (Iraq War),

Radiohead ‘Harry Patch (in memory of)’ and, of course, The Zombies ‘Butchers Tale’ (WW1)

In paint we can see:

Francisco Goya ‘The Third of May 1808’ (Spanish Resistance to Napoleon, Peninsular War) John Singer Sargent ‘Gassed’ (1918 – WW1)

Pablo PicassoGuernica’ (response to the bombing of Guernica by Nazi Germany 1937)

There are innumerable films and TV series: Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, The Year of Living Dangerously, Full Metal Jacket, Eye in the Sky, Apocalypse Now, Band of Brothers, M.A.S.H. …

The more I think about it - the more creative endeavours come to mind. I am sure you can think of dozens of examples without too much trouble!

War is commemorated and glorified all around us in public places with statues and lists of our ‘glorious dead’, public services and parades. Wars are documented and photographed – famous examples of the latter being Nick Ut’s Napalm Girl (1972) and Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima (1945).

Much as we treasure peace, perhaps humankind is destined to continue to be tribal, aggressive and destructive. It seems ironic that immediate danger also speeds up creativity regarding invention, science, engineering and community organisation. But it doesn’t feel like it is progress.

We can only hope in this dark shadow, that humans will also continue to create and to find love and light in the world despite the violence and fear around us.

Thank you Vlada for continuing to create.

Be safe.

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