#edbookfest: John Kay & Sam Ruddock with Jackie Kay: “We love the stories that go untold in war.”


jackieLook at You Now, Our Haunted Hero | Our thoughts on the First World War are largely shaped by poems written at the time. A century later, Norwich-based Sam Ruddock set up the Fierce Light project, inviting poets to create new work reflecting on the impact of war. Jackie Kay’s contribution, Private Joseph Kay, is about her grandfather, who handed down songs rather than bullets. They are joined by Jackie’s father John Kay for an hour of songs, poems and reminiscing.

A four generational tale of war and its legacy.
“We loved the stories that go untold in war,” explains Sam on the project, those that do not glorify war nor militarise remembrance. “How to make the world anew through language.” We’re all familiar with war poems, like Wilfred Owen, but they wanted to reflect and try say something new on war 100 years on.

In Jackie’s case, the story was very personal, featuring her own grandfather; a filmmaker pulled out and Sam asked if she knew anyone who made films – it just so happens her son Matthew is a filmmaker. With her father John involved in the film too, it became a four generational tale of war and its legacy.

John thinks the film very much captures the essence of his father, and that he would be really pleased that someone had made a film about him. It’s an hour that, as an audience member notes, was about war and a sombre topic, but was full of so much joy, fun and camaraderie that it was an absolute delight.

Jackie is a wonder at any event she is part of, and it turns out (as no surprise!) her whole family are equally as brilliant. The work Sam is doing is also really nice to dig a little deeper into. We spend an hour delving into their family history, from Joseph Kay, through John and his tales of arrest while protesting Polaris years ago and feeling that Trident is today’s battle in that vein, to a brilliant story on the local Necropolis. We look in to the power of language and storytelling in war, the forgotten or missed moments, like when enemies spent days together after the war instead of immediately going home.

What dealt with real and harsh subject matter became an hour of laughter and reminiscing, with more of their powerful projects shown too. For more information and to watch the  rest of the films, visit 1418now.org.uk.

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