Trench Brothers – Tributes to Fallen Heroes

TRENCH BROTHERS; Hackney MusicDdevelopment Trust; Starks Field Primary School, Edmonton; 13 October 2014; Costumed interpreter with schoolchildren; Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL;


HMDT Music’s Trench Brothers commemorates the achievements and contributions made by ethnic minority soldiers during the First World War. This is an education programme for primary schools, which incorporates a new music theatre work. Following research into unknown and known stories of West Indian and Indian troops, the piece will draw from their historical, cultural and musical influences. Alongside the commission, the programme delivers a wide range of events enabling students to develop a creative, artistic response to the stories and immortalise the deeds of these forgotten soldiers for their fellow students and wider audiences.

The new music theatre work by composers Julian Joseph and Richard Taylor will dramatise some of the soldiers’ stories collated by researchers Parmjit Singh and Stephen Bourne enabling students to try and understand what it was actually like to be a soldier in the First World War and to emphathise with the reality of life in the Trenches. It will be written for performances by two professional singers and participating students and use a wide range of musical genres to bring to life their hopes and fears, their longing for home, their camaraderie and their courage and valour.

Trench Brothers project involves a range of workshops from artefacts handling (in partnership with the National Army Museum), to song writing and puppet making (in partnership with the Little Angel Theatre) and specially designed cross-curricular activities and lessons. The project will go to 50 schools over the next three years and engage over 3500 students. Khudadad Khan, the first Muslim soldier to be awarded the Victroa Cross for his bravery, is one of the many soldiers that the children have been studying.

It has just been awarded the David Bedford Music Education Award by PRS for Music Foundation. Through one of its many strands is we give each school a research toolkit about a specific black British, British West Indies or Indian Army soldier so that can find out about his life and WW1 experiences. They use this to write a letter home and then set this to music in a composition session with each school working with a different composer/genre/soldier. They then perform their letter song in their in-school performance of the new work.

The commission is performed in each school by participating students singing with their force of Trench Brother puppets they have made in sessions delivered by the Little Angel Theatre, together with a team of Director, MD and soloists including 3 x Guardian jazz singer of the year, Cleveland Watkiss.

The project has just started and their are projects afoot for the rest of this half term, with the first performances at the end of November.

HMDT Music is looking to recruit another 40 schools for 2015-17.  With the new Education Zone offering 90 lesson plans and activities mapped to the new curriculum, Trench Brothers is an education project and also a heritage project (with funding from HLF) and also of course an arts and music project.

AUTUMN 2014      SCHEDULE – 


 11 Nov            am       Katherine Gillham      Gayhurst, Hackney (Yr 5)

*12 Nov          pm       Matthew King             Walker School, Enfield

13 Nov            pm       Jenny Gould                Our Lady of Lourdes, Enfield

*14 Nov          am       Matthew King             Gayhurst, Hackney (Yr 6)


Performances 2.15pm

 26 Nov                        Starks Field

27 Nov                        Gayhurst Yr 5

*28 Nov                      Gayhurst Yr 6

1 Dec                          Our Lady

*2 Dec                         Walker

*3 Dec                         Colvestone

4 Dec                          Firs Farm