Great Britain

Lancashire-based charity create powerful new video opera featuring domestic abuse survivors

A powerful new video opera in which domestic abuse survivors and perpetrators describe their experiences and feelings has been commissioned by a Lancashire-based domestic abuse charity.

The 40 minute opera, entitled Behind Doors, was commissioned by the Calico Group to help more people understand the stories of those involved in domestic abuse, and ultimately end male violence against women.

Written by composer John McHugh and performed by a string quartet made up of musicians from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Behind Doors features two perpetrators and five survivors describing their experiences on camera, and weaves the melodies in their spoken words into the performance to tell their stories in a unique and powerful way.

Calico executive director Helen Thompson, who commissioned the composition, said: “These are each truly harrowing stories but they are important because they represent a reality that is shared by too many people but which is rarely discussed.

“We started the project before the first lockdown but the tragic rise in domestic abuse since March makes it even more important that we listen to these stories now.

“The opera itself is about inspiring a conversation and building understanding of both survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse.

"It is about supporting them to move on in their lives but also about showing the vital need to work together as a society to end male violence against women in the first place.”

The opera, which will be premiered on Friday December 4, features participants from all over the UK and includes a woman who managed to turn her life around after years of being kept as a virtual prisoner in her own home; a man speaking of his remorse after abusing women for 30 years, how he was beaten as a child and why he blames himself because his stepfather ultimately murdered his mother; a man who watched his father beat his mother and started abusing his own wife after seven years of happy marriage; a mother who is now able to treat ‘every as a new day’ despite almost being killed by her partner and having to leave her children to escape his violence, and four more harrowing stories.

Liverpool-based Mr McHugh, of Music in Mind, said his musical score was inspired by the rhythms and patterns of speech recorded during conversations with the participants.

He said: “I was very, very surprised at how people opened up but was grateful for the honesty that they all showed.

“I think the fact that they had all been through a programme with Calico and had had lots of chance to reflect actually helped them prepare for taking part.”

Behind Doors will be premiered online at 2pm and 7pm on Friday December 4 via the Calico Group Twitter account, @calico_group.

Video footage for the performance was created by Bad Kamra, a social enterprise run by Acorn.

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