Hundreds of readers donate copies of depression memoir after Caroline Flack’s death | Books | The Guardian

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An independent bookseller has been deluged with thousands of requests after offering to send anyone who feels they need one a copy of Matt Haig’s memoir about depression, Reasons to Stay Alive, in an initiative the author called “such a positive thing on what was a pretty bleak weekend”.

Simon Key, who runs online retailer the Big Green Bookshop, was contacted by a reader, Emma, offering to buy a couple of copies of Haig’s book for people in the wake of TV presenter Caroline Flack’s death. Haig’s book details his own descent into depression, and his climb back out of it.

Key, who already runs a weekly “buy a stranger a book” club, told his Twitter followers about her offer, and said he’d “try to cover any others that are requested”. As thousands of requests poured in, readers were also quick to support him with donations.

“People have been very generous – some have given a pound or two; others more than £100,” Key said. Donations now stand at around £6,000 and are still coming in, with Key having sent out more than 600 books. He is still making his way through the requests he’s received – “I’m posting about one a minute,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday – shortly before he leaves for a half-term holiday.

“I’m getting thousands of DMs from people who need the book, and who are telling me why,” Key said on Monday. “This book has made a difference – lots of people have said it saved their lives. And this is not just about people getting the book, it’s about how they’re getting it. They’ve been brave enough to ask for it, and that’s a step forward.”

Blackwell’s in Oxford has also been giving away copies of the book to those who have asked for it, also funded by readers. Deputy manager Charlie Bush said the shop now had 40 books donated by readers, with the retailer discounting the price for donors and covering the postage costs.

“We really believe that books have the power to be life-changing and we also know that lots of people are going through tough times for all sorts of reasons. So we hope that people can gain some comfort and inspiration from Matt’s book. We tip our hats to Big Green Books for getting the ball rolling and offer huge thanks to customers who are making this possible with donations,” said Bush.

Flack had described Haig’s book as “honest and beautiful” on Twitter in 2015 and in the aftermath of her death, the author said that “when I had a bout of Twitter-fuelled depression just as Reasons to Stay Alive came out, this was the tweet that first lifted my spirits. We need more kindness.”

On Monday, Haig told the Guardian that the giveaways were “amazing … such a positive thing on what was a pretty bleak weekend. The response was phenomenal, and the generosity of so many people who volunteered to give copies to other people – online strangers – was, well, there are no words. It was just very touching and shows that the internet, and life in general, are a lot better when we try to look after each other. I am also pleased that this book, which I wrote over five years ago, is still able to help people in some small way.”

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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Dave Weckl @ All About Jazz

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1979 saw a move to the East coast and the University of Bridgeport. While playing the New York club scene with a band called Nite Sprite, Weckl started receiving accolades from established studio musicians such as Steve Kahn, Michael Brecker, and Peter Erskine. It was Erskine who recommended Weckl for his first ‘big gig’ with a group called French Toast, forerunner to the Michel Camilo band. That band featured iconic electric bass player Anthony Jackson.

From this group, Jackson recommended Weckl for the prestigious 1983 Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour. This got Weckl noticed by a much larger industry audience and lead to many session opportunities, including radio and TV jingles, sound track sessions, and top recording dates with George Benson, Peabo Bryson, Diana Ross, Robert Plant, and many more.

In 1985, Michael Brecker recommended Weckl to Chick Corea for his new Elektric Band. That was the beginning of a seven-year relationship with both the Elektric and Akoustic bands where nine recordings and three videos were produced. The Akoustic Band release earned Weckl a Grammy.

The Elektric Band showcased Weckl’s cutting-edge drumming and innovative use of electronic and acoustic drums, bringing him worldwide recognition. Though the Elektric Band went on a 10-year hiatus in the early ’90s, the band still tours from time-to-time. They released a 17-part conceptual album entitled To The Stars in mid-2004, and have reunited for tours in 2011 and 2016/17.

Weckl’s solo career began in 1990 with the release of Master Plan. Co-written/produced with longtime St. Louis friend/colleague Jay Oliver, the album was a watershed moment in Weckl’s career. Some would say it ushered in a new generation of contemporary drumming.

Master Plan featured a dynamic and diverse collection of tracks featuring top jazz artists of the time. The album created a palette for Weckl’s wide-ranging abilities in jazz, fusion, and Latin-inspired music, solidifying him as an emerging leader in the drumming world.

The album’s title track, written and performed by Chick Corea, featured Weckl and Steve Gadd on drums. Weckl had been seen as a protege to Gadd and their styles meshed perfectly on the track. But in many ways, the tune marked a “passing of the torch” in terms of next-generation artistry on the drums.

Weckl has recorded and produced nine other solo/leader recordings to date. In addition to Master Plan, Heads Up and Hard-Wired earned him great notoriety in the early ’90s.

In 1998, Weckl realized his long-time goal of forming a world-touring band. The Dave Weckl Band released five studio records, including: Rhythm Of The Soul, Synergy, Transition, Perpetual Motion, and Multiplicity. The band also released a hot live album, LIVE (And Very Plugged In) plus a compilation of DWB and instructional videos entitled The Zone.

Instructional videos have always played a big role in Weckl’s career. His original product, entitled Contemporary Drummer + 1, was one of the first play-along products ever published for drums. His Back To Basics and The Next Step releases were best-sellers in the ’90s and also continue to sell today.

Weckl updated his technical approach in the ’90s after studying with Freddie Gruber. He then released a three-part series of videos called A Natural Evolution, which included an appearance by Gruber. These products redefined earlier concepts to help drummers understand how to play in a relaxed, efficient, and musical way. They also helped solidified Weckl’s stature as an articulate and respected teacher. His clinics and master classes continue to attract capacity crowds worldwide.

After many years of sideman work with guitar legend Mike Stern, Chris Minh Doky’s Nomads, Oz Noy, and more, Weckl spent 2013 reuniting with Jay Oliver. They launched a crowd funding campaign that attracted more than 2,000 pre-orders of a project that would eventually be called Convergence.

The album featured 10 tunes, including piano and drum solo pieces and a remake of Stevie Wonder’s legendary tune “Higher Ground.” The video of “Higher Ground” has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and Facebook. Drummer Chris Coleman, bassist Jimmie Johnson, guitarist Dean Brown, singer Chrissi Poland, and several amazing horn players and vocalists took part.

The project also saw collaborations with Canadian singer Emilie-Claire Barlow and Riverdance creator Bill Whelan. Oliver recorded several native Irish instruments at Whelan’s personal studio in Ireland.

Convergence was released with three companion products: a play-along package for drums, a play-along package for all other instruments on the album, and a full-length documentary entitled Flies On The Studio Wall.

In 2015, Weckl formed an acoustic jazz group with longtime friend/collaborator Tom Kennedy (bass), Gary Meek (sax), and Makoto Ozone (piano/B3). The group was called The Dave Weckl Acoustic Band. To date, the band has released a CD entitled Of The Same Mind and a live DVD filmed at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood.

More recently, Weckl has returned to touring with the Elektric Band, Mike Stern, and Oz Noy, while completing sessions in his Los Angeles-area home studio. He has also formed an online school with comprehensive lessons, new play along products, and live footage from current tours.

He says “it is my goal to inspire as many young (and not-so-young) people as possible to want to play music, whether it be on drums or another instrument. With all the negatives in the world today, I feel this is my way of contributing a positive action toward spiritual happiness, which music can be a big part of, if you let it. So parents, if your child has a talent for music, please allow them the opportunity to develop that talent!”

Outside of music, Weckl has a passion for automobiles and racing. He and his Corvette ZO6 regularly post competitive times at race tracks around Southern California. Check out his YouTube racing channel!

Beyond music and four-wheel indulgences, Dave’s biggest passions and sources of inspiration come from his daughter, Claire, and his wife, Clivia.

A future college graduate (psychology), Claire definitely has the music gene. She sang an amazing version of “Cups (You’re Gonna Miss Me)” for the Convergence album. Her talent, passion, and work ethic make her father proud every day.

Dave’s wife, Clivia (also formerly a singer) has a love and passion for music – and an amazing energy for everything life has to offer. She and Dave share time both in Italy and Los Angeles. Show less

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‘There are simply no words’ – Anthony Molloy on the death of Mary Ellen

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The uncle of tragic nurse Mary Ellen Molloy who was killed in a freak accident in Australia has spoken of his family’s heartache and their wish to get her home.

Donegal All-Ireland winning GAA captain Anthony Molloy said there are simply no words to describe how his family are feeling right now.

Mary Ellen was killed when the branch of a tree fell on the taxi in which she was travelling on Friday evening last in Melbourne.

The beautiful 26-year-old had been working there as a nurse having left her native Ardara sixteen months ago.

Anthony, who was also Mary Ellen’s Godfather, said there is just a numbness which has embraced the family and the community since word of Mary Ellen’s tragic death broke on Friday last around 5.30pm.

“It’s so hard to put it into words. It was just such a freaky thing to have happened. We received word from local Gardai around 5.30pm last Friday. We couldn’t believe what they were telling us and it’s still difficult to believe it now,” he said.

Mr Molloy, a Fianna Fail county councillor, described Mary Ellen as a beautiful person “both on the inside and out.”

He said “I think she was always destined to be a nurse, even from a young age. She had that caring nature and loved looking after people, especially older people.

“You can see from her pictures that she was a beautiful-looking girl but her beauty was also inside and anybody in Ardara or who came into contact her in any way will tell you that.”

Mr Molloy said Mary Ellen’s parents Terence and Angela are coping as best they can and are comforting their two other sons John and Karl.

He says Christmas will never be the same again after the tragedy but said the community and people in general have been marvellous.

He paid tribute to Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher for his efforts in helping to repatriate Mary Ellen.

“You cannot describe how the family are feeling. It’s impossible to put it into words because there are simply no words for it. They just want to get her home now and Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, a close personal family friend for many years, is doing trojan work to that end.

“Mary Ellen was the eldest and Terence and Angela were so proud of her and delighted of the young woman she had become.

“It’s impossible to put into words the feeling that is there. This should be a happy time of year for the family at Christmas but all there is is a sense of numbness and sorrow at what has happened,” he added.

Meanwhile plans to repatriate Mary Ellen’s remains back to Ireland to her native Ardara for burial are continuing.

The repatriation is being co-ordinated by Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher who paid tribute to all those working behind the scenes to bring Mary Ellen home.

“This is a very difficult time for everyone especially the Molloy and Gillespie families.

“All that can be done is being done and I would like to pay tribute at this time to the Australian authorities and to the undertaker who are doing tremendous work in helping to bring Mary Ellen home to her family.

“We will know a lot more in the coming days,” added Deputy Gallagher.

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Twitter makes global changes to comply with privacy laws

Twitter Inc is updating its global privacy policy to give users more information about what data advertisers might receive and is launching a site to provide clarity on its data protection efforts, the company said on Monday.

The changes, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, will comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The California law requires large businesses to give consumers more transparency and control over their personal information, such as allowing them to request that their data be deleted and to opt-out of having their data sold to third parties.

ALSO READ: FG to galvanise mining sector with downstream mineral value chain initiative

Social media companies including Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google have come under scrutiny on data privacy issues, fueled by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in which personal data were harvested from millions of users without their consent.

Twitter also announced on Monday that it is moving the accounts of users outside of the United States and European Union which were previously contracted by Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland, to the San Francisco-based Twitter Inc.

The company said this move would allow it the flexibility to test different settings and controls with these users, such as additional opt-in or opt-out privacy preferences, that would likely be restricted by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Europe’s landmark digital privacy law.

“We want to be able to experiment without immediately running afoul of the GDPR provisions,” Twitter’s data protection officer Damien Kieran told Reuters in a phone interview.

“The goal is to learn from those experiments and then to provide those same experiences to people all around the world,” he said.

The company, which said it has upped its communications about data and security-related disclosures over the last two years, emphasized in a Monday blog post that it was working to upgrade systems and build privacy into new products.

In October, Twitter announced it had found that phone numbers and email addresses used for two-factor authentication may inadvertently have been used for advertising purposes.

Twitter’s new privacy site, dubbed the ‘Twitter Privacy Center’ is part of the company’s efforts to showcase its work on data protection and will also give users another route to access and download their data.

Twitter joins other internet companies who have recently staked out their positions ahead of CCPA coming into effect. Last month, Microsoft Corp said it would honor the law throughout the United States and Google told clients that it would let sites and apps using its advertising tools block personalized ads as part of its efforts to comply with CCPA.

Source: Reuters

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Priest tightens security after latest threats at Quinn firm – Independent.ie

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It hardly inspires confidence that the parish priest known for speaking out against this intimidation is forced to take security measures for his own protection.

Fr O’Reilly delivered a searing homily last month calling out the mafia-like “paymaster or paymasters” who funded the savage attack on Mr Lunney. In an interview with the Sunday Independent, he said: “The more you speak, the more you are at risk.”

For now, he plans to step back from the robust public commentary he has become known for, in the hope of fostering peace. “I want to get back to my normal parish work… I find that in the last month, a whole lot of things have happened. I want to take a back seat for a while. But if there is further intimidation, I intend to return to the fray.”

A second death threat to the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) last week – companies founded and lost by the former billionaire Sean Quinn – has finally catapulted the long-standing campaign of intimidation and violence into the lap of Government.

The threat was issued via the Irish News last Monday by a man in a balaclava reading from a statement purporting to be a “last warning” to directors to resign or face a “permanent solution”. The directors “hadn’t learned their lesson” since the attack on Mr Lunney, the man said, chillingly noting that they could have “easily killed” him if they had wanted to.

In the same week, Sinn Fein TD Martin Kenny’s car was set alight outside his home in Leitrim, the Garda station in Emyvale, Co Monaghan was set ablaze and two Monaghan hauliers were named as persons of interest in the investigation into the deaths of 39 Vietnamese people smuggled into the UK.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, have struggled to explain why the years-long intimidation has not been stopped.

The Sunday Independent has learnt that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar privately rang John McCartin, one of five directors of QIH under threat, twice last week saying he was “appalled” at the intimidation. That the Taoiseach should open a direct line of communication with the victims of this campaign indicates that the penny has finally dropped.

For eight years, the directors of QIH and its property have been under siege. The businesses were once owned by Sean Quinn, the local former billionaire who lost control of his empire in 2011. He has repeatedly denounced the attacks on the companies, saying they are not carried out in his name. According to Mr McCartin, the failure of authorities to act – from Cavan County Council not taking down signs to gardai not making arrests – has “emboldened” those responsible and allowed for an escalation of violence and the creeping involvement of paramilitaries.

A photograph in the Irish News of the masked man bearing the latest death threat prompted a number of calls to the police confidential lines from local people claiming to recognise him, sources said. They suspect he is a dissident republican, originally from Northern Ireland but now living in Cavan, who has served jail time for possession of explosives. He was once prominent in the Real IRA. A director of QIH has also reported this man’s suspected identity to the PSNI and gardai.

The abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney bore the hallmarks of a paramilitary- style operation. He was kidnapped, tortured and had his legs broken in an attack resembling a punishment beating. The care that his attackers took to destroy a forensic trail, viciously pouring bleach over Mr Lunney before dumping him on a Cavan roadside, was also redolent of paramilitary thugs.

Drew Harris said last week that the investigation into the attack is making progress. Garda sources say several of the suspected gang members have been identified, and a van seized in Meath recently is believed to have been used by the gang in the attack.

But the directors of QIH struggle to see that progress. On Tuesday, the directors will hold their first meeting with the Garda Commissioner in Monaghan. Present will be chief executive Liam McCaffrey, chief financial officer Dara O’Reilly, non-executive director John McCartin and production director Tony Lunney. Mr Lunney’s brother Kevin, the company’s chief operating officer, will also attend if he is well enough.

“We are preparing for the meeting with the Commissioner. We will be asking for an update on the investigation, what progress has been made and why there have been no arrests six weeks after Kevin was attacked,” Tony Lunney told the Sunday Independent.

An obvious question is whether in the vacuum of any arrests, those responsible for the intimidation felt emboldened to issue a second death threat. The paramilitary theatrics surrounding its delivery suggests an element of playing to the media gallery too, and the statement even referenced newspaper articles about the attacks on the Quinn group.

John McCartin believes this is all part of the strategy: “We have had intimidation, signs and posters going up, defamation on Facebook and on social media, physical assaults, and now torture and kidnapping, and using mainstream media attention to scare away future investors.”

The directors believe the endgame of the campaign of violence is to run them, and the US investors, out, risking more than 2,000 jobs connected to the businesses and leaving the remnants of the group there for a new buyer to pick over. The Garda investigation is building on the question cui bono? Who ultimately benefits from running the directors and their investors out of town?

Sean Quinn has made no secret of wanting “his” company back. But he has repeatedly condemned the attack on Kevin Lunney as “barbaric”, acknowledging that his family would be “blamed”. He told Channel 4 News that he no hand, act or part in the attack, and had abandoned his ambitions to return to the businesses as a result of it. In his most recent statement to RTE last week, he said: “I call on those who have advanced threats to withdraw them immediately. If they feel that they are doing it in mine or my family’s name, they are badly mistaken.”

Mr Quinn is also clearly irked at Fr O’Reilly. He called to his home two weeks ago to challenge him on his now famous homily, even though the priest did not identify anyone in it.

This weekend, Mr Quinn confirmed to the Sunday Independent that he has complained to the priest’s Kilmore Diocese. He said he met the administrator, Monsignor Liam Kelly, and has written to “other people”.

He denied threatening legal action but he didn’t rule it out either. “I made no threats to anybody,” he said, in a phone call. Asked if he is considering legal action, he replied: “Well, we are where we are…”

Asked why he wrote the letter, he said: “I’m not going there but sure any fool would know why I wrote the letter.” He accused the priest of “telling lies” from the altar. “So, it’s not hard to know, anybody with any wit would know the man was off his head.”

Fr O’Reilly told the Sunday Independent this weekend that he wrote his homily in “anger” at the “awfulness of the inflicted injuries on Kevin Lunney”.

“It is not a good way to be writing something when you are angry,” he said. “I have to take that on board myself before asking anyone else to do that. I don’t want to vilify anyone. It never was my intention. I want to give more rational debate a chance, with the hope that these years of intimidation are now coming to an end.”

In the sitting room of his parish home in Ballyconnell, a large detached house clearly visible on the hill, Fr O’Reilly cited Nelson Mandela’s words about “leaving bitterness and hatred behind”.

“The most terrible walls are the walls that grow in the mind. I believe that applies to this area. Walls grow in the minds of some people that are causing great difficulty for themselves and for others. These walls are about perceived grievances, and I suppose prejudice plays a major part and they become entrenched,” he said.

“We must find ways and means of helping people to take down these walls.”

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Neeson, Branagh and Rea narrate Troubles ‘requiem’

BBC Image copyright DoubleBand Films
Image caption The film, Lost Lives, is a requiem for those killed in the Troubles

In 1991, four men sat down in Belfast to write a book of the dead.

They resolved to put on record the stories of what happened to every man, woman and child killed during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Their testament to suffering would take eight years of painstaking research. They detailed 3,700 lives shattered. Their book was Lost Lives.

Now, two film makers and a host of Irish actors have followed in those writers’ footsteps.

news Image copyright DoubleBand Films
Image caption Actor Stephen Rea was one of the narrators for the film, Lost Lives

Taking Lost Lives as their inspiration, they have created a requiem for the Troubles dead.

Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds, Kenneth Branagh, Adrian Dunbar and Bronagh Waugh are among a long list of acting talent from Northern Ireland who have given their voices to the film.

The book was written by veteran NI journalist David McKittrick, BBC journalists Chris Thornton and the late Seamus Kelters, and political commentator Brian Feeney. At a later stage, David McVea joined in.

BBC
Image caption Lost Lives authors Seamus Kelters and David McKittrick pictured at the book launch in 1999

First published in 1999, it was an act of remembrance, lest a single life be forgotten.

It is considered the go-to reference book and an authority on the Troubles.

In the Irish Times in 2006, journalist Susan McKay wrote: “A Tyrone man bought five copies. Five members of his family, all in the security forces, had been killed.

“A Donegal man found out from the book that it was the UVF, and not the IRA, that had killed his brother – as his family had supposed for 30 years.

“It has been read out in churches, Protestant and Catholic. A woman wept so much over the book in a shop she left mascara stains on the page at which she’d opened it.”

‘War is Hell’

The new film, which has its premiere in London later on Thursday, tells individual stories from the book, using archive footage, music and the book’s words spoken by actors to bring them to life.

news Image copyright DoubleBand Films
Image caption A still from the film which combines beautiful imagery with the horrors of footage from the Troubles

Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt of DoubleBand film say theirs is not a documentary, but rather a “creative response” to the book.

They found their inspiration between the pages of the stout volume where each victim’s name and age are listed along with the date and the details of their death.

Their film melds strikingly beautiful images with the crackle of gunfire and the ugly thud of bombs.

“It is a reminder that war is Hell,” said Lavery.

“For us, it is a cinematic event that addresses the past, but looks to the future.”

BBC

Wrap my country up in cotton wool

Bronagh Waugh, actress

news Image copyright DoubleBand Films
Image caption Actress Bronagh Waugh narrating her part in Lost Lives

I felt deeply honoured to take part. I was born in Coleraine in 1982 and I knew friends whose parents had been killed in the Troubles.

I didn’t know that the book, Lost Lives, existed. When I held it in my hands, what struck me was the sheer volume of it. I wanted to read all of it.

How personal the stories were. People can become statistics. But here were the stories of real people. There were so many ordinary lives and what would those lives have been, if they had not been killed?

At the recording, I was reading the story of a mother and my voice kept breaking. It was so visceral and real.

What Lost Lives shows is how fragile peace is and how we must never take it for granted.

I want to wrap my country up in cotton wool.

BBC

Lost Lives – a production commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland with funding from NI Screen – is a film about humanity and inhumanity, about innocence and experience during the Troubles – a local story that played out for more than 30 years on a worldwide stage.

It marries the beauty of the natural world with old footage from past atrocities.

The camera holds the face of a toddler in a knitted bonnet sitting in her pram at a street corner, watching her world collapse.

A woman stares out from behind lace curtains as violence unfolds on her street.

A man is filmed abandoning his home, loading his worldly possessions on to a trailer with an air of resignation, lumping a huge statue of the Virgin Mary on the top.

The film is an elegy that flicks from children playing with toy guns to the crackle of real gunfire.

The viewer is brought back again and again to the fluttering pages of the Lost Lives book and to story after story of heartbreak.

We hear about the parents who left Belfast after their child was shot dead… but they had to come back.

“I wasn’t content knowing that Patrick was buried here, I wanted to be near him,” said Patrick Rooney’s mother.

news Image copyright DoubleBand Films
Image caption The authors of the book wanted to communicate the human cost of the Troubles

We hear the words of Mary Isobel Thompson’s widower: “She was a happy wee woman, the world’s best.

“There was just the two of us, we had no family, so we always went everywhere together. Now I am by myself. Sometimes I do not realise, I think I hear her calling for me…”

And there is Philip Rafferty, just 14, abducted, hooded and shot dead. He had been on his way to a music lesson.

His Jewish uncle wrote a letter to a newspaper. He said he had lost a cousin to Hitler’s gas chambers and now, more than 30 years later, another child had died needlessly.

He said Philip was a small frail boy who suffered from asthma. He was his parents pride and joy. He was barely 14.

“That’s all the years Philip Rafferty had… Why did he die?”

BBC

‘Nobody needed persuading’

Michael Hewitt, film maker

news Image copyright DoubleBand Films
Image caption Michael Hewitt and Dermot Lavery ensured that every name in the book Lost Lives appears in the film

We started making the film three years ago, but we were having conversations about it long before that.

Lost Lives is a reference book, but it represents much more than that. The challenge was how do you make a film from a book like that?

We made a commitment that every name in the book should be listed in the film.

Then we found extracts where there was a quote from a family member that reflected the hurt felt by those left behind. We were very much drawn to that.

The actors all came on board so readily. There was something of real value in the fact that they were lending their support and their voices to the film.

We felt enormously honoured. Nobody needed persuading or to be asked a second time.

We are very clear that we are living in troubled times. We need to remember the cost when things are settled through violence.

When you hold that book in your hand, you can feel the weight of all that was lost, all the lives.

You have to ask why.

BBC

Lost Lives, the film, is being released to mark 50 years since the Troubles began.

It receives its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on Thursday 10 October, followed by a question-and-answer session with the film makers and narrators which will feature at UK screenings on 23 October.

Actors Stephen Rea, Brid Brennan, Roma Downey, Michelle Fairley, Brendan Gleeson, Dan Gordon, James Nesbitt, Conleth Hill, Susan Lynch, Emer O’Connor, Stephen Rea, Judith Roddy, Michael Smiley, Bronagh Waugh Des McAleer, Martin McCann, Ian McElhinney and Sean McGinley also lend their voices.

The film is also being shown at Belfast’s QFT cinema from Friday 11 October. It will be shown on BBC television later this year.

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Downton Abbey, like plantation houses, delivers fantasy over brute reality | Michael Henry Adams

The American south may seem a long way from the estates of England, but in both places a veil of caprice covers harsh truths

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The son of a Scottish immigrant who worked as a servant, Donald Trump could hardly wait for his banquet at Buckingham Palace. A seat next to Elizabeth II conferred a sense of accomplishment little else could.

To many, such behavior from an American president appeared downright unseemly. But how could we scoff? How else have so many of us been eagerly awaiting the return of Downton Abbey?

TV and film can be transporting, giving us glimpses of lives we can only imagine imperfectly. Decades before Julian Fellowes creation came forth to conquer America, PBS offered a steady diet of British clotted cream. Royals, aristocrats, castles, servants, sex. Such is the stuff of which Downton daydreams are made.

We make our own fantasies too. As a boy, watching Gone With the Wind, I saw plantation houses for which I thought I could sell my soul. It seemed such an alluring way of life.

No wonder people complain of being lectured about slavery when they visit Savannah or Charleston. They, like me, have imagined themselves in the masters place. No work to be done, fanned on white-pillared porches, sipping cooling drinks, pondering pleasures to come. Is it surprising so many, confronted by the nightmare behind the reverie, recoil in unacknowledged shame?

I came to this crossroads early, no longer able to overlook the anguish of my ancestors. I saw exquisite architecture and ideas of gracious hospitality but knew both to be built on the worst criminality.

Fortunately, thanks to green England, I was able to transfer my affections. The Forsyte Saga, Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, The Admirable Crichton. The Shooting Party, The Remains of the Day, Gosford Park. They became my refuge and taught me much. Entranced by an elegant aesthetic, reading countless books, even attending the Attingham Summer School to study famous country houses, I sought an elusive loveliness, untroubled by oppression.

I know I never escaped. I had only embraced a new quagmire of contradictory caprice.

At the very lightest level, all this means I know that Downton the whole phenomenon, the TV series, the film, the traveling exhibition, the merchandising is a ludicrous and ahistorical fancy.

I know, for example, that contrary to what we see on Fellowes screen, non-royal butlers did not wear white waistcoats and that waiters did not wear dinner jackets at all. I know ladies were never gloved while drinking or eating, candles were never used on a luncheon table and candle shades, now found only in royal residences, were in fact universal. For enthusiasts like me, its such esoterica which makes Downton so enjoyable.

But as in my love affair with the plantations of the American south, there was a wriggling worm in the bud.

How alike our ruling classes are. How nefarious the sources of their vast wealth, on which such beautiful homes were built.

In the UK, to take just one example, a house as sublime as Harewood, near Leeds, altered by Robert Adam, was funded by the infamous triangular trade. Even English currency came to be defined by slavery. With abolition by Britain in 1833 came compensation to 46,000 slave owners for 800,000 liberated Africans, until the banks were rescued in 2009 the largest government bailout in history.

There were other sources of income. Indian opium, imposed on China. Farms in Ireland. The wealth behind many of the estates of England was no less tainted than that which built plantations in Virginia, Alabama and Georgia.

Fellowes was careful to give his great house a more benign foundation. The Earl of Grantham, we are told, derives his affluence straight from his Yorkshire estates.

Hit hard by agricultural depressions, he takes an option not available to his tenants: he marries the daughter of an American millionaire. That said millionaire is an untitled Jew, a dry goods merchant from Cincinnati, is among storylines meant to show us what a good egg the earl really is, an unlikely egalitarian in tweeds. But hes an imprudent one too: by investing his wifes millions in a Canadian railway that goes bankrupt, Grantham places all his loved ones in peril.

Worse occurred in real life, of course. Much worse. Take the brutal, polluting mills and mines, like so many plantation fields, that often lay just outside the gates.

Of course, Downton isnt real. So, to stay in the realm of art, consider Shipley, the neo-Palladian masterpiece DH Lawrence invented for Lady Chatterleys Lover. There, Squire Leslie Winter talks of the miners who work his pits with all the condescension a planter might have for his slaves.

Chatting with the Prince of Wales, Winter quips: The miners are perhaps not so ornamental as deer, but they are far more profitable.

HRH replies: If there were coal under Sandringham, I would open a mine on the lawns and think it first-rate landscape gardening. Oh, I am quite willing to exchange roe-deer for colliers, at the price.

In the real world, many fine homes have been lost. Their deaths, like their lives, are all about the money.

In Lawrences book, the squire dies and his heirs tear down his hall to build semi-detached villas for workers. Lady Chatterley is shocked to learn such people are as capable of love as she is. One suspects Fellowes, the author of a novel called Snobs, no less, might feel a similar shock if told us ordinary people who love Downton, his facile but beautiful and seductive creation, are capable of sincere feeling too.

We are. And while we are equipped to daydream of such luxury for ourselves, or to pick nits with Fellowes staging while we swoon at his stars in their gorgeous firmament, we are also the heirs to those who did all the work, those who built the Downtons and the plantations.

We know a profound truth behind all their costly beauty and misery. Every stately home, in every land, belongs to us too.

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