The power of music sheds light on matters of injustice

27/08/2018 Posted by admin

Special: Grace Turner will perform at the Songs of Justice show at The Lock Up. Picture: Hannah Rose Robinson
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A curated evening of music, Songs of Justice,on May 6 will build onthe narratives of The Lock Up’s dynamic exhibition justiceINjustice. Theevent will feature songwriters and musicians Grace Turner and Tonchi McIntosh and include ballads written by lawyer Ray Watterson.

The groundbreaking exhibition was borne from collaborative project between three lawyers and seven artists. The result is a profound visual translation of extreme human experience within the Australian justice system. Similarly, Songs for Justice has resulted from a longstanding collaborative process between Ray Watterson and musicians totell stories of injustice.

Watterson hasbeen writing lyrics about the cases he has worked on for several years. The first case he wrote about was the wrongful death and mishandled investigation of young Aboriginal footballer Eddie Murray in Wee Waa.

“We were representing Eddie’s mother and father, Leila and Arthur … We needed more evidence to stop Eddie’s death being written off as just another unfortunate black death in custody. The only way was to exhume Eddie’s body from his grave. The first word of the song came to me as Eddie’s body was being exhumed.”

Wattersonworked with Broome-based songwriter Tonchi McIntosh and Australian music legend Shane Howard (remember Solid Rock by Goanna)to create the music and melody for the song Too Much Wrong.

Watterson says the process of writing lyrics has added much to his professional life as a lawyer. He has also written about the unlawful incarceration of Cornelia Rau in Baxter Detention Centre and the fatal police shooting of French photographer, Roni Levi, on Bondi Beach in 1997.

“Songwriting has helped me to see threads in the cases that go unseen when you only look at the cold hard facts of the cases that the law wants you to see,” he says. “The law is numb to feeling, but songs are feelings. The songs are also a cry for all the people who care to hear them, to be moved, to stand up and to do something about injustice.

“Writing the lyrics for these songs has helped me to see better the damage done by injustice. These songs tell some of the story of that damage … I hope that writing these songs has also helped me to get better at helping people.”

The Lock UpdirectorJessi England saysthe cross-disciplinary and collaborative approach has been fundamental to the success of the project.

“Over the years Ray has found another language to use to express those things that he has experience in a professional context and have affected him personally very deeply,” she says.

“I think it’s rare, in terms of how lawyers operate, for them to have the opportunity to share their personal perspectives as well as their professional perspectives.”

Songs of Justice, 7pm, Sunday, May 6, at The Lock Up, 90 Hunter St, Newcastle East.$40 ($15 donated to Soul Cafe). Tickets: thelockup.org.au.

Newcastlesongwriter Grace Turner has been commissioned to write a song using Watterson’s prose Bondi Blue about the Levi case, which is represented in the exhibition by artist Rob Cleworth. Turnersays the ability to connect directly to the people involved, such as Watterson and Melinda Dundas, Levi’s widow, has been fundamental to her writing process.

Turner says Songs for Justice highlights a parallel between the way artists and musicians alike are able to speak to people in way that reaches beyond the refined facts presented in the media. The connection to the human element within each case vital to keeping the important issues they speak to alive within the public consciousness.

“It shows how valuable art is, whether it music, visual art or drama, in being a commentator and reaching people in a way that no other form of communication can,” she says.

The evening will feature songs Too Much Wrong and Bondi Blue as well as original music by Tonchi McIntosh and Grace Turner.

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