Elbow, Doves, Stephen Fretwell, Cherry Ghost, The Beep Seals, Nine Black Alps and The Travelling Band are just some of the Manchester artists involved in the new MaK Ten album, which launches next week with parties in Manchester and London. We talk auctions, peace banners and muscle tone with some of the team behind the album, and find out about the wonderful community Peace Park in Kosovo which was born out of wartime atrocities.
MaK formed in 1999 in a pub in Manchester, after some guys had simply been watching the news and had seen what was going on in the Balkans. They couldn't just have another drink and forget about it, so in that moment 'Manchester aid Kosovo' was born, with them as founding members.
A mere three weeks later, MaK took 15 articulated lorries full of supplies over to the camps in Eastern Europe. After some simple food or equipment provision a lot of people would have thought the victims were catered for, but not MaK. As a lot of Kosovan people were evacuated here to Manchester with serious injuries, the charity put a lot more thought into how they and the people of Manchester could help the suffering region a lot more.
Some of the children who survived the awful Podujeve massacre (on 28th March 12 years ago) asked MaK to make a peace park in their home town where they'd lost so many members of their families, and where they were all shot many times themselves. MaK deiced this was a task they could undertake, and the small piece of land initially discussed turned out to be 22 acres, now with a sports field, seated area, coloured flags designed by a local school girl, lots of plants and a series of ongoing activities for the whole of the community including art schemes, IT projects and music showcases.
The relationship between Jo Dudderidge, the curator and compilor of the Ten album, and MaK began at a MaK music memorabilia auction two years ago, where pieces up for grabs included the original artwork from Elbow's 'Seldom Seen Kid' album by Oliver East. Jo's band The Travelling Band have worked tirelessly for the last couple of years with the charity, making a trip out to Kosovo to play alongside local musicians to celebrate the regeneration of the area and help with the building of the park. Jo said “the opportunity to work with local musicians and begin collaborative projects is very exciting. I'm personally fascinated with the folk music [in Kosovo], what instruments they use, the local music culture... I wonder what they'll make of us! We're all humbled and privileged that we've been involved with MaK and are in the group of British artists and musicians who are part of the dedication to the lives lost here.”
The album was conceived at the ten year anniversary of the Podujeve massacre, hence the name, and after two years of work from Jo and the MaK team, is being launched on 4th April with a gig at the Deaf Institute, and on 7th April in London at Union Chapel. A total of eighteen Mancunian acts have donated their music to the compilation, including Doves, Elbow, Stephen Fretwell, Cherry Ghost, The Beep Seals, Nine Black Alps and Keith. A select few will be performing at the launch shows, including Gideon Conn, Josephine, Jim Noir, Liz Green, Silverclub and Badly Drawn Boy.
The lovely Liam Frost, whose song 'Shipwrecks' is included in the compilation, got involved at the inception of the project. “I didn't really think anything of it at the time that Jo asked me," he said, "but two years down the line we're here and we've put these two gigs together for this amazing charity. I'm doing the 10k run for MaK now as well. I've just been provided with my illuminous MaK branded vest, that I'm going to have to wear, I'm going to have to work on my muscle development a bit so I look good in my top, but the run is in May for anyone who wants to sponsor me!”
“Manchester musicians have contributed to the fundraising in many, many ways" said Pam Dawes of MaK. "This is now the second album, we've done lots of concerts, including the Eden Sessions with Damon and Ian Brown which raised £14,000, and we've done many different musical events, so a huge chunk of funding has come from the work of Manchester musicians.
"The park now is nearly finished, the sports field is being sown today, as we speak, and we've planted out thousands of trees and shrubs. We do lots of children's activities out there across the summer and it's a place that's used by the whole community, of about 125,000 people. It's really brought life to the town.”
MaK also raise funds through music memorabilia, with some impressive donations made to the cause in the form of music collectibles. One such item is Badly Drawn Boy's gold disc for The Hour of Bewilderbeast, which was kindly donated to rase money for MaK.
And it won't stop when the park is finished because then it's all about programming and how to make the park into a really special place as a Peace Park. There will be drama events, sport, poetry, maybe some comedy, and Pam has organised a new music project with Badly Drawn Boy, who is going to give some exclusives tracks. “So we're really excited about that!” she says.
The Peace Banner that is being used at the launches is actually based on artwork of the word peace, translated into about 140 languages. MaK held workshops across Manchester, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, the team went to a mosque where the Iman painted 'peace' in Arabic, and down at the Eden Project in Cornwall people of all ages got involved.
The banner really is a beautiful montage of World peace. It's got some power and real meaning. It hung for a few months in the space where the town's library had stood before being burnt down during the war - now the town hall square - and MaK decided to bring it home for the launches as it forms part of the artwork for the album. The people's artwork was digitised for the banner by Mancunian artist Stephen Raw.
“We feel really really grateful and involved with Manchester musicians because they've been such a huge part of this whole project” said organiser Pam.
The Ten album launch takes place at The Deaf Institute, Manchester on Monday 4th April, and at Union Chapel, Highbury, London on Thursday 7th April.
For more informtation visit: www.makonline.org/ten
Words: Miz DeShannon
Photo: Press launch at Platt Fields Park with Liam Frost, Badly Drawn Boy, Gideon Conn, Josephine, Silverclub, Liz Green, Jim Noir, The Travelling Band, and Pam Dawes of MaK