Freedom from Torture - Words and Music

Words and Music

Words and Music from Sheila Hayman on Vimeo.

In December 2012 Freedom from Torture’s events fundraiser organised a series of musical events to raise awareness of the charity. There was a club night, a pop night, a world night - and a modern classical night. Texts from Write to Life were sent to young composers, with an invitation to set them to music.

They rose to the challenge and the evening was a huge success. But two of them had made surprising choices: prose descriptions of the process of undergoing a Medico Legal examination: a painful and difficult process insisted on by the Home Office where torture is being claimed as a ground for asylum. Essentially, it involves going to see a total stranger, taking off all your clothes and reliving, through their questions, the most horrific experiences of your life. And this is an interview on which your chance of living here in safety may depend.

The accounts were written in simple prose,. But the emotion locked in the words caught the imagination of composers Kate Whitley and Thom Andrewes. As Kate said: ‘The text is so simple, it allows me to use music to paint the emotion behind the words.’

This is one of the principles behind Write to Life. The stories we tell, in themselves, are painful and sad, and most people don’t want to hear them. But poetry, film or music can make something beautiful out of these terrible events, that can penetrate prejudice or indifference and reach audiences who’d never read a newspaper article about torture and its effects.

The whole experience was so powerful for everybody involved that we ended up making a film about it. We hope you enjoy it and if you’d like to screen it, please email Sheila Hayman, coordinator of Write to Life, at