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Women Writing War

Lara Rossi and Carolyn Pickles with poetry and prose by the mothers of WW1 soldiers and of young men serving in Afghanistan with music by PJ Harvey, Samuel Barber and June Tabor.

From the poets and journalists of WW1 to the mothers of soldiers in Afghanistan Carolyn Pickles and Lara Rossi tell of the experiences of women in warfare.

We begin with Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman before our collaboration with the Big Ideas Project, Motherhood Loss and the First World War, brings letters from the mothers of soldiers in the First World War. Their words are heard with commissioned music by Clare Connors.

Then Helen Thomas, the young wife of the poet Edward Thomas remembers their last night together before he returned to the Front, heard with George Butterworth’s The Bank of Green Willow: both Thomas and Butterworth did not return from the war.

The great American journalist Martha Gellhorn’s report on the devastation in Madrid is set alongside Samuel Barber’s A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map, inspired by the death of a soldier in the Spanish Civil War.

Much closer in time is the war in Afghanistan. The music of Miles Davis is heard as the American Iraq veteran and poet Chantelle Bateman remembers her post traumatic stress on returning from the conflict. And the poets Bryony Doran and Isabel Palmer tell of their experiences of being the mothers of young soldiers in Afghanistan.

Women Writing War ends with May Wedderburn Cannan’s July 1919 and her final lines, ‘Never for us is folded War away, Dawn or sun setting, Now in our hearts abides always our war’ are heard with Elgar’s Carissima.

Producer: Fiona McLean

1 hour, 14 minutes

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:01

    Joan Tower

    Fanfare No. 2 for the Uncommon Woman

    Performer: Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop (Conductor).
    • KOCH 374692.
    • Tr4.
  • Phoebe Smith

    Sacrifice, read by Lara Rossi

  • Susan Owen

    Letter to Rabindranath Tagore read by Carolyn Pickles

  • 00:04

    Clare Connors

    Dear Oswald (from the 'Motherhood, Loss and the First World War' project commissioned by Big Ideas)

    Performer: Clare Connors.
  • S. A. Walker

    Letter to her son, read by Lara Rossi (from the 'Motherhood, Loss and the First World War' project run by Big Ideas)

  • 00:09

    Samuel Barber

    With Rue My Heart Is Laden

    Performer: Cheryl Studer (Soprano) and John Browning (piano).
    • CD1 Tr12.
  • Moniza Alvi

    How the Stone Found its Voice, read by Lara Rossi

  • 00:10

    Bohuslav Martinu

    Cello Sonata no. 1 - III. Allegro con brio

    Performer: Josef Chuchro (cello), Josef Hala (piano).
    • Supraphon 11 0992-2.
    • Tr3.
  • Mary Borden

    The Forbidden Zone, read by Carolyn Pickles

  • 00:17

    Olivier Messiaen

    Quatuor pour la fin du Temps – VII. Fouillis d'arcs-en-ciel, pour l'Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps

    Performer: Yvonne Loriod (piano), Christoph Poppen (violin), Manuel Fischer-Dieskau (cello), Wolfgang Meyer (clarinet).
    • EMI CDC7543952.
    • Tr7.
  • Helen Thomas

    from World without End, read by Lara Rossi

  • 00:24

    George Butterworth

    The Banks of Green Willow

    Performer: Bournemouth Sinfonietta, Norman del Mar (Conductor).
    • CHANDOS CHAN 6566.
    • Tr3.
  • Audrey Withers

    from Vogue’s Victory Edition, read by Carolyn Pickles

  • 00:30

    Eric Bogle

    No Man’s Land

    Performer: June Tabor.
    • Tr16.
  • Jane Duran

    Spanish Civil War, read by Lara Rossi

  • 00:37

    Samuel Barber

    A Stopwatch and an Ordnance Map

    Performer: Cambridge University Chamber Choir, Timothy Brown (Director).
    • Tr6.
  • Martha Gellhorn

    from Spanish Civil War, read by Carolyn Pickles

  • Cecily Mackworth

    En Route, read by Lara Rossi

  • 00:44

    Clare Connors

    Love Loss Resilience (from the 'Motherhood, Loss and the First World War' project commissioned by Big Ideas)

    Performer: Clare Connors.
  • Isabel Palmer

    Worse Case Scenario, read by Carolyn Pickles

  • 00:46

    Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

    Symphony no 3 – Lento – cantabile semplice

    Performer: Dawn Upshaw (Soprano), London Sinfonietta, David Zinman (Conductor).
    • ELEKTRA NONESUCH 7559792822.
    • Tr3.
  • Ruth Fainlight

    Handbag, read by Lara Rossi

  • 00:54

    Miles Davis

    Blue in Green

    Performer: Miles Davis.
    • Big3 BT3046.
    • CD3 Tr1.
  • Chantelle Bateman

    PTSD, read by Lara Rossi

  • 00:55

    PJ Harvey

    Hanging in the Wire

    Performer: P. J. Harvey, Jean-Marc Butty (Drums), John Parish (Guitar), Mick Harvey (Piano/Vocals).
    • Island Records 2763025.
    • Tr10.
  • Bryony Doran

    Snow on the Line, read by Carolyn Pickles

  • 00:58

    Frederick Delius

    North Country Sketches – Winter Landscape

    Performer: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox (Conductor).
    • CHANDOS CHAN 9355.
    • Tr6.
  • Margaret Postgate Cole

    The Falling Leaves, read by Lara Rossi

  • 01:03

    Max Richter


    Performer: Max Richter.
    • Late Junction BBCLJ30022.
    • Tr16.
  • May Wedderburn Cannan

    Women Demobilised, read by Carolyn Pickles

  • 00:00

    Edward Elgar


    Performer: BBC Concert Orchestra, John Wilson (Conductor).
    • SOMM SOMMCD 247.
    • Tr5.


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