Author Archive

Letters from the 5th Estate

In May 1789, Louis XVI summoned to Versailles a full meeting of the ‘Estate General’. The First Estate consisted of three hundred clergy. The Second Estate, three hundred nobles. The Third Estate, six hundred commoners. Some years later, after the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, said, ‘Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.’

In a conversation about the power and influence of the media and the reference to the Fourth Estate, I made a casual comment saying, ‘Well, maybe, the arts are the Fifth Estate”.

Now I said this not at all knowing that there ARE various Fifth Estates in use already.

Anyway, this concept wouldn’t go away and as the material for the album began to come together I began to think of the songs as letters – not just melodies with a set of lyrics, but something much more personal and confronting than that.

Hence, ‘Letters from the 5th Estate‘.

Over these months, this title and idea has become more deeply embedded into my mind and spirit and I DO absolutely believe that especially today, the arts, and especially music, have a unique capacity to not only inform and entertain, but a responsibility to bring to light moral and humanitarian issues, to advocate on behalf of the voiceless and the invisible and to challenge to action.

This is what the 5th Estate is to me.

“DO YOU”….the song’s journey so far.

When I played this new song to Sal Begbie in our apartment in mid April, neither of us could have imagined what the following weeks would bring.

When the directors of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) rang DJ and arranged to meet him at Crossroads to see first hand what is being done here to raise awareness for the plight of refugees, DJ was able to bring them down to this same apartment, where I was able to sing them “Do You”, in spite of a flu and bronchitis which I had battled for several days.

The directors asked permission to use this song in their national campaign for refugees which will run across Hong Kong the week of June 20th.

As I was flying to Sydney the following week, DJ made the strategic phone call to Warren Barnett,a precious friend to both me and Crossroads, to discuss what the chances were of recording the song.

Warren replied, “Give me 48 hours!”

Since then, the journey has amazed us all and we are in awe of what is happening.

Damien, Glenn, Woodsey, Guy, Brom and the Green Valley Youth Choir have all given their time and their extraordinary passion and skills freely.

The violin arrangement has been written in London and sent to Steve Woods to record, an extraordinary gift to this song.

Richard has given his time and expertise to design the jacket as his gift to this project.

Guy has once again given his brilliance to the recording and mixing of “Do You”.

And Warren is the heart that has drawn all these people together and he is the one who will master this song and send it to us here in Hong Kong so it can be given to the UNHCR, have visuals put to the lyrics and be ready for television broadcast in June.

All this in just over a month!

Our fervent desire is that this song will continue to journey far beyond anywhere we can imagine.

Thank you everyone – and to Crossroads International, whose joy in this project has known no bounds!

“NEVER LEAVE”… the paper-bag-making song

This is a song I could never have written before coming to Crossroads. It has been inspired by one of the most frequently played experiential games in our Life X-Perience Program – the Basti Life game.

‘Basti” means slum and this game simulates the typical life of a slum dweller in places such as Bangladesh and Nepal.

Making bags out of any paper that can be found and selling as many in a day to the shopkeepers, who pay them according to their mood or whim, is the life of countless millions in this world.

Thousands in Hong Kong have already experienced the pressures, and discovered the lessons in Basti Life, and this new song was written in an attempt to capture a glimpse of a life that I certainly cannot begin to really comprehend.

As someone has expressed, the poverty of those living in a slum is both cyclical and exponential. Children are born to slum dwellers and they in turn grow up without opportunity for education or change, eventually marrying within the slum and then having children of their own. And so the cycle is never broken and there is an ever-increasing population who continues to live on less than one US dollar a day.

Not that there is a complete absence of hope or joy in these circumstances. People still get married, celebrations are still had….but the reality for most is that they will never leave the slum, and that making paper bags will be what they and their children and grandchildren will continue to do, just to survive another day.

This song is usually sung following the simulation, either by myself or Bethan Davies and is performed in the actual slum area that Crossroads has built on site.

It is a common question to hear one of us asking DJ or Helen Tozer, “Are we singing in the slums today?’

And whether it is to school groups or university students and their lecturers, to Disney corporates or senior management in business, it is always a privilege.