We have a Cantastoria!




On Thursday 28 October, our project reached a significant milestone: as announced in a previous blogpost, our WE-Hope cantastoria had its premier! This was a successful collaboration between WE-Hope, our partner Threshold and Digital Democracies. The performance was a highlight of the 2021 Frequency Festival, a celebration of digital culture that our partners Threshold organise in Lincoln every two years. This was Frequency’s 10th anniversary, with the theme ‘Connections’, and we were delighted to be part of the event. Our two cantastoria artists, composer Juliet Russell and artist Zach Walker of MakeAmplify, together with performers from the choral group Birchwood Sings, gave us something truly wonderful.


In creating the WE-Hope cantastoria, Juliet and Zach were inspired by the testimonies we have collected so far in Milan, Athens, Rome and Manchester, and by the Kent Refugee Action Network all over the south east of England. They produced a powerful tribute to those who whose lives have been shattered by war, in Europe and beyond, and have rebuilt families and communities in Europe. This is an ongoing struggle for so many. It is also a tribute to those who support them and alongside them, advocate for their rights.


WE-Hope’s cantastoria relies very much on wordless, ‘mouth’ music, which does not depend on understanding lyrics in a particular language. There is one part, the WE-Hope chorus, that does have words: it can be sung in various languages, depending on where the performance travels. Zach’s digital artwork evolved on an enormous screen above the singers – floating, writhing shapes eventually resolving themselves into faces – faces that were lined and looked tired, after long sea crossings, perhaps? The full recording of the performance of 28 October can be accessed here. Many thanks to Alessandro Pesaro for filming and editing.


We are so thankful to all our partners and associate partners for getting us to this moment. In fact, it is the strong partnership we have developed that has enabled us to keep going, in spite of the severe challenges of Covid, and to bring the project back on track. Threshold, together with Laura Morelli of Di+, provided artistic guidance and support to Juliet and Zach. Testimonies have so far been collected by Greek Bank of Memories, Lapsus, Memoro, and colleagues at the University of Lincoln. Some of them had the opportunity to chat to Juliet and Zach in the process of creating the cantastoria. We are also so grateful to our friends at the Kent Refugee Action Network (who featured in an earlier blogpost) who have collected a large number of testimonies for WE-Hope.


Over the coming winter months, our cantastoria will undergo further development and will then tour various European venues in the summer of 2022 – Covid permitting. If that proves impossible, we have another plan…..



This article was written by Heather Hughes (University of Lincoln and WE-Hope Project Lead)


Photo credits: A. Pesaro.