At a time of deep uncertainty across the country, organisers of Battle Festival are proving a determined force for uniting communities in 1066 Country.
Although Battle based, the inclusive nature of the festival’s approach sees adults and children from across the region come together to celebrate tolerance and togetherness in their topical new opera PUSH.
The opera, in collaboration with Glyndebourne, takes inspiration from historic events but, crucially, explores some of today’s significant issues such as identity, freedom, peace and tolerance.
Based on the story of Simon Gronowski, pushed by his mother from a train bound for Auschwitz, how poignant now are Mr Gronowski’s words on hearing the opera score for the first time: “This project is wonderful, marvellous for the opera- and music-lovers, and helpful for the young generations, against the barbarity and for a better world of peace, democracy, tolerance and friendship between men.”
At rehearsals in advance of the world premier on October 1, last week saw school children from across Hastings, Battle, Bexhill and Rye on stage at the White Rock Theatre under the expert direction of Glyndebourne’s Simon Iorio and international composer Howard Moody.
This week, students at Rye Studio School began designing the costumes and set for PUSH under the tutelage of PUSH’s award-winning designer Ele Slade.
Battle Festival’s chairman David Furness said: “At a time of great social change in Europe and elsewhere, PUSH is a timely reminder of the very best and worst of human nature.
“PUSH reflects on conflict, however it emphasises that, even in the most challenging of times, we can be a strong force of healing, forgiveness, unity and optimism.
“It is important now more than ever that communities work together in harmony and this is a major element of Battle Festival’s philosophy.”
Battle Festival is collaborating with Hastings-based charity Education Futures Trust, where project coordinator Virginia Sheldrake approached several schools to take part, including Christ Church, Guestling Bradshaw, Robsack Wood and The Baird Primary Academy.
PUSH composer Howard Moody said: “PUSH is a story of our times, full of themes of hope and togetherness as well as separation and fear.
He added: “It is a privilege to hear my music sung with such dynamic energy, commitment and imagination, especially by such a large and diverse group.”
Tickets for PUSH are on sale from the De La Warr Pavilion box office via www.DLWP.com and 01424 229 111.
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