On Liberation Street

Imagine there’s a street in East London called Liberation Street; imagine that living on this street are families from all over the world; imagine they organise a big street party where people can swap stories of what brought them to London; imagine them telling these stories through their own music… Now imagine what music you might hear – Latin-American and Caribbean rhythms, African drumming and township music, traditional Turkish songs, bhangra and the music of India and Bangladesh blending with European harmony, exhilarating jazz and ravishing instrumental textures.

This is the inspiration for On Liberation Street, Tony Haynes’s most ambitious and spectacular large-scale show yet for Grand Union. Originally commissioned by Leeds to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, it dramatises the experience of people caught up in world-changing events across three generations since – post-war immigration in the late 1940s/early 1950s, three very different struggles of the 1970s on three different continents, and of course parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East in this century.

Like all Grand Union shows, the power of the work lies in its authenticity. Many of the writers contributing lyrics – Vladimir Vega (Chile), Manuel Alegre (Portugal), John Matshikiza (South Africa) and Mohammad RafiqUzzaman (Bangladesh) – themselves experienced the events portrayed (the overthrow of democracy in Chile, the struggle for independence that created Bangladesh, and the Portuguese-African colonial wars); and several of the Grand Union musicians, and the families of some of the young musicians taking part, came to Britain as economic migrants, or to escape similar upheavals across the world.

Celebrating life on Liberation Street are musicians from the Grand Union Orchestra:

  • Alison Crookendale (England) – voice
  • Lucy Rahman (Bangladesh) – voice, harmonium
  • Xavier Osmir (Brazil) – voice, Latin percussion
  • Richard Scott (England) – voice, tenor saxophone, flute
  • Paul Jayasinha (Sri Lanka/Scotland) – trumpet, flugelhorn, cello
  • Claude Deppa (South Africa) – trumpet, percussion
  • Chris Biscoe (England) – alto & soprano saxophones, flute, alto clarinet
  • Louise Elliott (Australia) – tenor saxophone, flute
  • Tim Smart (England) – trombone, dijeridu
  • Ros Davies (Wales) – trombone, flute, voice
  • Tony Haynes (England) – trombone, piano
  • Andy Grappy (England) – tuba
  • Yousuf Ali Khan (Bangladesh) – tabla, dholak
  • Gerry Hunt (England) - guitar, soprano and baritone saxes, violin
  • Andres Lafone (Uruguay) – bass guitar
  • Brian Abrahams (South Africa) – drums, voice

and some of East London’s most accomplished young performers:

  • Sir John Cass Secondary School and William Patten School steel bands
  • Surtaal South Asian ensemble (sitars, sarangi, veena, tables, dhols)
  • Redbridge Schools Symphony Orchestra
  • Grand Union Youth Orchestra of East London
  • Sir John Cass Primary School performing arts group
  • East London World Choir and choirs from St Angela’s Ursuline Convent, Clapton Girls Technology College and the Bridge Academy.

Listen to tracks from On Liberation Street:

  • When We Left (ballad section)
  • When We Left (jazz section)
  • Music at Last

See excerpts from the première production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

  • Indian ensemble
  • African drumming
  • Township brass
  • White Cliffs Variations
  • I Ain’t Goin’ Dere No More
Grand Union main image Quote from The Scotsman

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Supported by the European Cultural Foundation
For regular updates of Gathering, Travelling – Grand Union’s ECF-funded project in collaboration with partners in Portugal and France – please click here.
Supported by the Arts Council England
Youth Music