Since arriving back from my last journey to the US, I’ve given myself some time. I realised that I’d been on the road for a long time, not just during journeys, but for years. I needed to ground. To give myself the gift of time has been immensely freeing. And its on that subject – time – that I’m writing about here ☞
Tomorrow Die Zeit will release my short film “The March of Hope”. It will be a year to the day since it was shot, during which many thousands of refugees left Idomeni. Below I’ve written some memories and an introduction to the film. The raw footage is being used in a legal case by the ECCHR (European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights ). I’d like to say special thanks to so many people who have contributed to translating the film into German, English, Arabic, Dutch and Greek. It is a huge moment politically in Europe, and anyone who knows my work knows that I am passionate in my belief that the arts have an important contribution to make to the dialogue. In particular in its capacity to be a flag bearer for the humanity which our politics too often forgets. I hope to that end the film is seen as a contribution.
I’m very happy to be releasing a limited edition of the JOURNEYS #2 documentary this Christmas! My journey through East Africa was one of the great experiences of my life, and the creation of the documentary a wonderful and challenging adventure.
I have taken a good look at the doom & realised that the only response is to breathe the whole dam world into your soul, convert it into love & exhale joyously. Am not at all down with the doomsdaying. Whenever was the world resolved, fixed, perfected? Its the dam challenge that stimulates us, that shows us who we are. The ability to rise which kicks us out of our slumber, which shows us the energy & courage we never thought we had. Are we up for the challenge? Its always a challenge of the spirit. Can i keep on my feet in the midst of the earthquake? Will i buckle when the hurricane hits? Will i tremble when the psychopath glares or stare him down, watch the bully disintegrate because he recognises a foundation so deep, so powerful, so resilient, that his language of hatred, division & flames burns up in its own wild fire! Let the storm energise our spirits, sometimes the best of us is only pulled out by the confrontation with the greatest darkness. And in our moment of reckoning we stare back the abyss & let it know, in no uncertain terms: “we are at hand”
After 6113 miles driving through the US I arrived at the Pacific Coast. I took a deep breath in, and realised that I’d arrived at the end of a long road. It’s a road that has taken me now through China, Africa, Russia, Europe and the US. Along the way I’ve witnessed the world changing slowly around me, and sometimes, like during the long hours alone on the Trans Siberian Express, witnessed my own changing. The road has led me to many places I never intended to go to, and one of its gifts was, within the movement, to hear the calling of events, issues and sometimes screams – and to be drawn towards them READ MORE ☞
Just arrived in New York & headed down to Trump Towers on 5th Avenue. My head is muddled to have come full circle. Has my own belief in human beings blinded me to something uglier & darker lurking in human nature? I know my understanding has grown through so many experiences, conversations & invitations into people’s stories. But I knew that something was amiss (in the election predictions) simply through finding so few journalists or pollsters in the deeper corners, nooks & crannies of America. The abandoned vast buildings, the boarded up little businesses, the sheer volume of homeless, the students saddled with vast debt, the sense of a certain degradation in infrastructure. All made me wonder if the polls were off. But much more i feel left with questions. What of this leadership, this racism, misogyny, bigotry, xenophobia. People want change. But at what price? What does it say that we put our own economic advancement over parents, children, families feeling safe in their own countries & homes? We’ve entered “post-truth” but we’ve also entered “don’t give a fucking dam”. We’ve abandoned the history our Grandparents lived through & in amnesia history is locked in a never ending repeating cycle. So yes, i feel questions for myself. I know that my faith in humans is built on solid ground, upon journey upon journey, mile upon mile, person upon person. But equally if we cannot see that things are deeply unlatched at the moment, we’re just getting deeper into this collective blind spot. I feel all our premises & suppositions & presumptions need examined at this time. For now i’m left with questions. A sense of deep uncertainty. A knowledge that a sense of actions & a developed purpose is required. That its a moment of history each of us must have our own personal internal reckoning with. And that my own begins as my journey ends. Or maybe i’m just tired, travel weary & in need of some company.
A mistaken journey into the eye of a hurricane. Upon arriving at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, the news hit that Matthew would in fact make land fall just a few kilometres down from my host Anthony’s house. Frankly, I would have left as soon as I heard the news, but the roads were all ready terrible on arrival & first responders were suspending operations until the impact had subsided. An continuing education into the American spirit.
I sat tonight, moments ago, on the little porch in the place I’m staying in Brooklyn. Felt a part of this great city, of its mad, beautiful heartbeat. Smoked a rollie. Thought of it’s history, of its creation by the immigrants of the world. “Immigrant” – a word which has become, in Europe, a dirty, almost accusatory word. And yet here I sat in an African American couple’s house, feeling a sense of homeliness on a new continent. Feeling a sense of wonder ☞ READ MORE
After missing our ferry, Basti & I were lucky enough to have our hearts uplifted by this amazing coming together of locals, refugees & homeless people in Athens. These incredible moments of humanity are the under-reported story of the refugee crisis. People being good to people. Whenever did that stop being the coolest thing on earth?!
It was a joyous, educative and funny experience. Everyone was so welcoming and that was one of the most lovely introductions to Greek hospitality. Very fun to shoot, and I had fun the last days putting together this little video. So many spirited people around – and these stories for me are the real story behind the refugee crisis.
An acoustic version of “Shadowlands” – one microphone, one shot, one balcony. It’s a little song about what unites us. I’m not sure when that became such a distant aspiration for us. The lyric “we’re entering an age of solitude” is about witnessing this great dividing that is happening. It doesn’t matter whether its Trump’s speech last night with its “pointed-finger” rhetoric, politicians playing on fear to win votes, the resurrection of old borders – it does feel there is a great retreat into fear & suspicion. Personally I think that we have much bigger challenges as a species. I find all the focus on creed, colour, class, religion, gender, sexuality a distraction. Ultimately we have to overcome all the “isms” and “distinctions” between us and recognise 1) that our underlying humanity is something shared 2) that the preciousness of the planet is a challenge we need to focus on collectively as a species. The lyric “we’ll cross that bridge together” isn’t about some soppy sentiment. It’s based on the fact that we will enter an age of solitude – in the extinction of the animal species, in the destruction of the rainforests, in the overfishing of the seas, in the event of nuclear attack – unless we face the spiritual challenge of learning to love one another, overcoming our differences, recognising that our challenges are collective, and rolling up our sleeves to work together – rather than against one another. Despite all the dark forces at play, the song is ultimately about hope. Life remains the great miracle, and living the great joy. And its remembering those gifts that can keep us motivated, keep us inspired, keep us challenging old problems with renewed spirt.
Thank you Adi from RAWCREATION and of course the boss that is Ben Barritt
I’m very happy to report that Sara’s Boat is now built. It has been manufactured as a tailor made “search and rescue” boat. This week the electronics and engines are being put in, and hopefully the boat will soon be in the water.
PROEM – AID continue their work on the South Coast of Lesvos. Even through numbers are down, there are still boats coming in. This week 4 more people drowned, with several more missing. There is renewed uncertainty now about what will happen in the Aegean since the Turkish coup. Turkey is more unsafe than it was before, and no one knows how that is going to effect a) the lives of the 2.7 refugees there and b) what will happen to the EU-Turkey pact.
With so much uncertainty, I think this boat is a statement to stand by vulnerable people on our shores. No human deserves to drown, especially while not fleeing war, torture and persecution.
Thank you again to everyone who has supported “Sara’s Boat”.
Proud to be contributing to the great work done by lawyers from the “European Centre For Constitutional And Human Rights” (ECCHR) by providing footage from the recent journey. I can’t say details at this stage except that my work will be having a more specific practical result beyond the realm of ideas and culture.
I’m very happy to announce my first multi media tour. It is something new for me and will feature several short films, photographs, speaking and of course songs. It is an opportunity to have a conversation about many of the themes explored in “Journeys”:
- The role of culture in a humanitarian crisis
- Stories from the road
- Songwriting process
- Tools for the challenges of a creative life
- DIY filmmaking on a zero budget
- What connects the youth of Africa, Russia & China
- What it is to be a European
I am hoping to have a conversation with people about life at this time, to drink a few beers, sing songs and to catch up with my friends in my adopted home.
Looking forward to seeing everyone, and all help to get news out appreciated! x Jim
I am very proud today to release the third musical release of the “Journeys” project. It’s an emotional conclusion for these songs, after being written in a van from Lesvos to Idomeni, Sofia to Belgrade. The most part was written over those 2 months earlier this year, and the album itself was recorded in on exhausting but beautiful session in 48hrs after returning to Berlin.
I really hope you enjoy the songs, and thank you again to every one who contributed, whether in its inspiration or its creation. Below are the links – I will send out the physical copies personally next week!
Dressed in your Sunday best, looking like the rest
Trying to blend in and pass this test
While the Christians frown,
A Hindu Wedding Vow,
Reminds me I´m not the only odd one out
Straining still to speak
Silence cutting through the air so quench
The dryness in your throat
The fist in side you coat
Some words are better left unsaid
All our lives, walking through the rain God Knows Where
See the bride embrace the rain,
The groom in tears again
Kisses, stolen by champagne glasses
A broken histories,
The tangled webs webs we weave,
Flowing from each Adam to his Eve
The furrowed brows allude
to the creases in your suit
Reigniting those old family feuds
Draw on that cigarette,
Try not to forget
Some words are better left unsaid
All our lives, walking through the rain to God Knows Where
I watched the BBC news from Berlin with dropped jaw last week. The implications of the vote are so so far reaching from every aspect from the economy, to the conventions of human rights, to the open borders of Europe, to the rise of the Right Wing, to the divisions in Europe, to the ending of the Erasmus scheme for students, to the effects of people like myself enjoying a free and connected life in the heart of Europe. My most recent journey was an exploration of Europe and what it means to be a European. Here are some emotional thoughts at the end of the 2 months traveling through my own continent, and learning about the lives of refugees, aid workers, volunteers and locals.
When I set out this year with Basti, we didn’t have a plan, or any fixed notion of what lay ahead. It was about going into the shadows, to take a look for ourselves. So much troubled me before setting off; what we’d discover, how we’d be received, whether we could make a contribution. In particular, I had a deep sense that there was a darkness over Europe. I feel it still. It seems to have many forms. There seems to be so much fear. Suspicion of others. There seems to be so much worry of ourselves and our own lives, that traditional European values – looking out for your neighbour, putting someone in need first, looking after children, empathising with what someone else has gone through – seem to be forgotten, or at least somehow suspended. There is nothing political about this video. It’s just some clips put together by a couple of friends, trying to muscle up, make something of value, and to record what’s in front of them. What I can say, is that as we stepped into the shadows we found nothing to fear. In fact, I feel like we discovered its opposite. The heart of humanity. That heart lives in the darkness of the chest, beneath the light. But it causes life. That’s how I feel about the people I met along the journey. And I mean all of them – the refugees, the aid workers, the locals, the volunteers, the Europeans. This journey has somehow become a metaphor for what I value most in life. And not because of anything sentimental – but because in so much of my own doubt, I discovered a renewed faith in things. And in so much of the hurt and destroyed lives of the people I met, I found a dignity, a compassion, a love, which seemed on the surface so at odds with what they were “meant” to feel. The song is not political. It’s not about Brexit, Grexit, anarchism, hooliganism, militantism, this-ism, that-ism. It’s about taking a step back because no matter what colour, class, creed or culture, we do have to cross this river together. Whether one likes it or not. So yup, I do think its time to overcome, to be renewed, to take a leap of faith, to discover something higher, to dam well believe that something is possible other than whatever is in front of us today. A challenge either makes you who you are, or it makes you become a coward. And I have too much dam faith in people and in things to believe that the future of our continent, or our planet can, or will, be based on cowardice. And the more I journey the more I believe that there is a greater undercurrent growing, world wide, of people who believe the same thing. And all the rest, the wars, the bombs, the corruption in the financial markets, the vested interests, the inability to empathise, is just temporary, just surface. Because fuck it, regardless, there is nothing more revolutionary than love. And nothing more enduring.
When I set out on the “Journeys” project I didn’t have much of a sense of what lay ahead. I knew that I had a guitar and a camera, and a will to engage and experience the world in a new way. The capturing of what I discover happens on film, and its interpretation happens in song. My hope has always been that in combining them, that I might be able to offer a different perspective than what is reported in the news. Having traveled across China, Africa, Russia and Europe so far, I’ve found that the most beautiful things often lay in the darkest corners. That the deepest insights often happen when you are most alone. That you learn more about yourself the deeper into the unknown you venture. I find that most people have a kind heart, despite how things sometimes appear. When you’re lost, people help. When you are hungry, someone will feed you. When you’re honest, someone will give something back of themselves. Anyway, there’s so much more that I have to learn. How one can make a contribution in one’s life, and hopefully to the world, is one of life’s greatest challenges. But I feel that to explore it – how we engage, how we involve, how we give, is one of life’s great adventures. And like all adventures, you have breakthrough’s, you make mistakes, you grow, learn, discover, and hopefully at the last, contribute something. Anyway, at the moment, I’m continuing my exploration of how experience, film & music can combine to offer something. Peaceful evening all & more to come.
With the crowd funding for the “Boat for Sara” campaign ending this week, I have been thinking about the next steps – ordering and buying the boat. With so many tragic events on the Mediterranean this week, it is possible to get lost in the sheer scale of tragedy. What we can forget too quickly in the face of such vast events, is the value, and importance of smaller contributions. Proem Aid have decided to stay on Lesvos, and it is a reminder that each human life matters. Here is an article on my recent thoughts about what is going on politically – and the difficulty of predicting what will happen next. It is also a little celebration of small actions – and on that theme, I would like to take this next opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has contributed and donated towards Sara’s Boat.
It’s the last 24 hours of the “Boat for Sara” campaign. I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to every single person who has contributed, cared, shared and been a part of it. It’s not the final figure but we have now raised, €18,487 – and we’ve had a wonderful late push in the last couple of days. Once the campaign is over, I will publish the final amount, as well as news of the next steps. I would also like to say special thanks to PROEM – AID for all the work they do. Beyond that, a special shout out to all the aid workers, locals and volunteers who contribute daily in so many ways. I don’t think that this most most kind, most human aspect of the “refugee crisis” is celebrated enough. Hats off – you’re all heroes to me and many others. Finally, I am particularly thinking of friends – refugee and volunteer – at Idomeni this week. It is a reminder that this situation is ongoing, unpredictable and ever changing.
I will never forget last night as long as I live. There is simply no leap the imagination can make to replicate these scenes. Scenes which happen over and over every night, and only the latest of which I have participated in. We arrived at 11pm last night and only finally left at 12 noon today simply because every human hand was needed. And those were by far not enough ☞
Just a small fraction of the life jackets at a dumping yard in the North of Lesvos. The dumping site just a fraction of the life jackets on Lesvos. The life jackets on Lesvos just a fraction of the life jackets on Greek Islands. That’s before mentioning those swallowed by the sea. I’ll never forget how many are the size of a child’s. Or that each jacket signifies a human life.
Today I saw Greek homeless men cooking food, on a mass scale, for refugees. Not discriminating who can get what dependent or defined by nationality, but simply, food for the hungry, cooked by the hungry. I’m not sure about whether miracles exist or not, but I felt that I witnessed something miraculous. Something with the shape and colour and innocence of miracles.
We arrived in Greece not as a destination but in the spirit of looking for a beginning. In reaching the end of the road in Southern Europe, we realised that the only beginning for us can mean the beginning that is meant for the refugees. And that means the Isle of Lesbos, the first European port, for those setting off from Syria.
We arrived in Greece after driving 48 straight, that’s just over 2000 kilometres eaten by the beautiful little yellow submarine that is carrying us. It wasn’t until we arrived in Greece that things started to go a little hay wire. By haywire I mean that every single road to Athens was blocked by police and there were, literally, 100’s of burning fires by the side of every road. We circled around the same highway in criss cross self repeating cycles as if in a David Lynch movie. All around us police sirens swirled and the pillars of fires blazed. We eventually gave in the ghost and headed in the only direction possible which was Thessaloniki.
Over the next month I am traveling with the photographer Bastian Fischer through Europe. We are trying to educate ourselves first hand on what is happening in the continent, and while doing so making a documentary. This is the first part of an ongoing diary on my website where I will share what I learn along the way.
Over the next weeks I will be traveling through Europe trying to learn as much as I can both about the refugees arriving on our shores, and how it is effecting the continent. I am currently stuck in the port of Athens attempting to get over to Lesbos. If you would like to read more about my motivations in going PLEASE CLICK HERE
I began today working on an extension to the Journeys project – Interpretations. It will be a collection of solo piano pieces by players that I love, inspired by different aspects & fragments of my travels. Today I began this new side path with the great pianist Ingvo Clauder.
The DVD of the first Journey in China is now printed and available to buy at my SHOP. It has been a hugely fascinating project to create from start to finish. The project has been struggling financially towards the end of the year, and I have had to take ever more responsibility to keep it going.
For the first time I see the end of my journey nearing. Body is feeling worn, and is being pushed, pushed. Mind feels fresh, and surprisingly so. It feels the journey is climaxing, as if, for some reason unknown to me, Russia is saving her most unexpected and deepest secrets till last. Perhaps she had to see that I am worthy of them, and yes, they do arrive earned only by hard miles, and the wrestling with her vastness. But at the last you do see her – thick skinned, powerfully set, limbs of iron…but at the last a kind heart, a soft centre, and a capacity for vulnerability. That is the Russia I see, and have come to cherish. A Russia defined by its people, it’s hospitality and it’s soul, and not by its politicians or its facade.