John Maxwell Geddes work If It Wasn’t for Their Wellies performed at 2014 Edinburgh Free Fringe and Museum Lates
Old Edinburgh rubber factory and 103-year-old worker inspire WW1 songs
This article is from 2014.
’When I got this commission I didn’t think it was the most exciting idea to write about welly boots,’ says the composer John Maxwell Geddes, ‘because it’s hardly writing about romance. Or about the start of the First World War, because I don’t celebrate that at all.’ Yet when he started to hear the stories, the ideas began to form. Following Live Music Now Scotland’s ‘Composing With Care’ model, the story of the old Castle Mills rubber factory in Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge was gathered from historical documents and one surviving worker, an 103-year-old lady, with Geddes using it to build a body of work called ‘A Castle Mills Suite’.
Presented as part of the 14-18-Now WWI Centenary Art Commissions series (and paraphrasing the project’s title from the Billy Connolly song), Geddes’ work consists of five songs celebrating the mill’s work in supplying the frontline. The songs tell of love, industry, the loss of a fighting child and the 1916 zeppelin bombing raid on Edinburgh. Composed for female voice and piano, these works are intended to live on beyond their initial performance. ‘I could be dead and gone,’ says Geddes, ‘and hopefully they’ll still sing it.’
National Museum of Scotland, 0300 123 6789, 6 & 8 Aug, 2pm, free, part of Live Music Now’s daily Free Fringe Music series, NMS, 2-24 Aug, 2pm. Wellies will also be performed as part of Museum Lates, NMS, 8 Aug, 7.30pm, £16 (£14).