Exploring the voices of conscientious objectors at Newhaven Fort

The REFRAIN project will explore the voices of conscientious objectors at Newhaven Fort (Photograph: Paul Blakemore) SUS-171104-135809001
The REFRAIN project will explore the voices of conscientious objectors at Newhaven Fort (Photograph: Paul Blakemore) SUS-171104-135809001

Sussex singers are sought to take part in a choral experience in Newhaven Fort this summer.

For three days in June (9 to 11), the event will explore the voices of conscientious objectors in the First World War, with a professional and local male singers.

Singers are sought to take part in the REFRAIN project SUS-171104-135751001

Singers are sought to take part in the REFRAIN project SUS-171104-135751001

The project, REFRAIN, is devised by composer and artist Verity Standen, in partnership with arts organisation Situations and the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) at the University of Sussex.

Organisers said during the First World War, Newhaven Fort became a part of larger defences, linking with Seaford – the site of a work camp that now lies buried underneath the town.

The North Camp at Seaford housed a number of conscientious objectors, firstly before their deportation to Northern France, and subsequently for those who refused to fight and were put to work on the road improvements between Seaford and Newhaven.

Seeking locals to join the project, organisers said singers do not have to be professional and can come from any musical background.

Verity Standen said: “I am thrilled to be working with such a diverse range of voices - men drawn from all walks of life. I try to leave room for the performers to make the music their own within the compositions I’m writing. I expect the piece to sound and feel totally different in each location, as it will be shaped by the local singers, the architecture and history of each site, and each audience who will explore it in a different way.”

Laura McDermott, creative director of ACCA, said: “We are delighted to present this work in Sussex with Situations. It’s our first major off-site project and working as a co-producer on this project chimes with the values we use to guide the public programme at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts: human rights, social justice, creative education and access to the arts for all. These values are inspired by Sir Richard Attenborough, after whom our centre is named. It feels particularly pertinent to be working on a project about conscientious objectors in the First World War.

“Verity Standen’s work is incredibly potent and moving and I’m sure she will do justice to the rich local history of conscientious objection in East Sussex. It’s thrilling for us to collaborate with Situations – one of the UK’s most visionary artistic producers – as we begin to expand the scope of our artistic programme beyond the walls of our building.”

Claire Doherty, director of Situations, said: “REFRAIN represents Situations commitment to growing art out of place and to offering the chance to hear untold stories. REFRAIN offers the opportunity to experience these sites as never before, against the background of the extraordinary struggles over conscience.”

For more information on how to get involved, or to book tickets, visit: refrain.online

The project will also take place this year at Richmond Castle, Yorkshire and St Helens, Merseyside.