AWIL 281 - Shirley Thompson Fri, 2018-12-07 11:39

On the Tube between SOAS Radio and Resonance FM, the AWIL team were discussing exactly what it takes to compose a symphony.

The Google results make eye-watering reading, and we were convinced that not even a combined effort between the three of us could produce such a gargantuan feat. Shirley, who is the ONLY woman composer in the whole of Europe to have written & conducted a symphony in the last forty years, is completely matter-of-fact about this achievement, but then she’s equally modest about the entire symphony of great things that she’s created! Operas, ballets, TV & theatre soundtracks, as well as films. She is also a Professor of Music with a PhD and university teaching post. Close to her prolific & innovative heart though is the sharing of stories that simply must be told, placing women – quite rightly – at the forefront, in narratives vividly painted on her vast range of creative canvases.

For her recent production, ‘Women of Windrush’, which packed out Kings Place, Shirley assembled a super-shero cast including soprano Nadine Benjamin, Lovers Rock queen Carroll Thompson, and poet Zena Edwards. Like Shirley, her on-stage interpreters excel in their own fields, plus are inspirational champions of diversity. It takes a remarkably talented & courageous woman to even be noticed in the Reggae or Classical Music worlds, and is still incredible for someone of colour to be accepted at some lofty high tables of non-inclusion.

The irony is that whilst Shirley Thompson celebrates and acknowledges Black British heritage, and has been commissioned to do so, our government is deporting some of its most cherished citizens… If you fully understand the second generation UK migrant experience, I defy you not to feel enormous empathy and the greatest pride in what Shirley does. The University of the West Indies has just recognised her achievements with an honorary doctorate – it’s high time that the British establishment honoured her too.

Find out more about Shirley here: www.shirleythompson.com

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