Alison Cotton Presents: Engelchen

Grace Bailey

Sound and Music news
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2:00 pm
3:30 pm
The Bedford
Ticket price
Suitable for under 18s?
Alison Cotton Presents: Engelchen
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Musician Alison Cotton will present a multimedia production on Saturday 22 June (2pm) in the beautiful music room of The Bedford, Balham as part of Wandsworth Arts Fringe. The production is inspired by the lives of local residents and opera fans, Ida and Louise Cook, who used their love of music to help 29 Jews escape Nazi Germany.


 “Heartrending storytelling by deeply poetic folk spirit” – Uncut

“Alison Cotton’s moving rendition of the Cook sisters’ story serves as a timely reminder of the radical, even life-saving potential of the profound social bonds forged through a shared love of music.” – The Quietus “

“Spellbinding” – Shindig!

 Alison Cotton has announced details of an event encompassing performance, talk, poetry and music devoted to, and inspired by the lives of Ida and Louise Cook, two sisters who used their love of music to assist 29 Jews to escape Nazi-occupied Germany. The sisters, who were born in Sunderland, lived for 60 years in the Borough of Wandsworth, and the event is presented in association with Wandsworth Arts Fringe.

Engelchen (“Little Angels”) was the term used to address the sisters in letters from people requesting their help. Alison Cotton’s music (from her recently released album Engelchen on Rocket Recordings) portrays their dangerous journeys, the lives of those they saved, those they failed to save, as well as the voices of refugees of today – given the times we live in, this story which highlights the plight of refugees feels particularly relevant and poignant.

 Alison Cotton has curated an event that will include a performance of Engelchen (with Chloe Herington). Alongside the performance, refugees (currently living in Wandsworth and members of CARAS – Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), will read letters that they’ve written to loved ones back home. Professor Angela Smith (University of Sunderland), who has researched Ida and Louise, will give a short talk about the Cook sisters’ life and work, and poets Hilaire and Joolz Sparkes will perform a reading of local poet Hilaire’s poem ‘The Cook Sisters Contemplate a Final Visit to Nazi Germany’, a poem from their joint poetry project ‘London Undercurrents’.

The sisters themselves were opera fanatics. Their obsession, which saw them travelling the world to attend performances and meet and befriend their favourite female opera stars, led directly to their rescue work. They held gramophone record listening parties at home when they weren’t travelling, and to bring those parties back to life, audiences arriving and departing the event 22 June will be able to enjoy a gramophone playing the music of Ida and Louise’s favourite opera singers. There will be also be a display of artefacts relevant to the time from Wandsworth Council’s Heritage Collection, plus photographs and letters from refugees who Ida and Louise saved. Inspired by the sisters’ incredible acts of kindness, there will be stamped envelopes around the venue where the audience will be invited to write a letter or note to themselves or to someone else, with their own promise.

Alison Cotton explains, “I hope to create a moving experience though my event by performing music inspired by the lives of Ida and Louise Cook, a story of such bravery and kindness which is so relevant to the times we live in today. As the event premiered in Sunderland, where they spent their early years, it means a lot to me that this should be followed by a production in the area they lived in for over 60 years of their lives.”

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