The Thumping Tommy’s were firmly placed on our radar at this years Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. In recent months, one of the trio, Benedict Amadeus Scrivener, has visited Ukraine – a country he has visited before. This time, the trip was different…for obvious reasons.
Inspired by his trip, Benedict has recorded a single to try and raise money for a refugee hostel in Lviv. This Old Town (Won’t Die Alone) will be available via Bandcamp (here) on 22nd October and will be available on streaming platforms in the coming weeks.
To set the scene for the single, Benedict tells us a little more about his experiences.
BENEDICT AMADEUS SCRIVENER SAYS…
‘This Old Town (Won’t Die Alone)’ is a single that I wrote after a trip to Ukraine with my friend John (Mangan) in September 2022, when I played at a refugee hostel in central Lviv. It’s due to be released on Saturday 22 October, and all proceeds will be donated to the hostel.
I had been to Ukraine twice before, to Lviv in 2019 and to Kyiv in 2021, both times to play music. This time I didn’t know quite what to expect. John certainly did not.
Lviv in 2019 was a carefree city – amazing food, beautiful people and great street musicians. Kyiv last year was similar – a genuinely bohemian music scene, almost untouched by tourism, where I listened to Jazz, Punk, Manouche, and even English and Irish folk.
What was I trying to achieve this time round? I hoped to do something good, but was I just going to be a hindrance instead? I’m not a medic or a nurse, or even a counsellor. I am a musician. John thought the same, but he felt he needed to give his support to the Ukrainian people: for him it was a personal calling. But by the end of our stay I think that, as a ‘mere’ musician, I helped the refugees that I met in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined or understood until now.
The refugee hostel where I played and stayed at was both beautiful and traumatic to see. It’s run by young women – they’re incredibly strong. The last time I visited Ukraine, they could easily have been some of the young students that had come along to my gigs just for fun. And now suddenly they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.
I say ‘my’ gigs, but actually I should talk about my Kyiv-based friend Oleksandr Remez – a fantastic bassist whom I feel privileged to have played with during my previous visit to Kyiv. When the war started, he joined the army to fight for his country’s freedom but was injured. Thankfully he is now recovering.
Like Oleksandr, the people of Lviv in war time just get on with things – the markets are still going, the bars are all open, the restaurants continue to serve excellent food. But there is of course a difference: there are lots of military personnel, and it’s only when John and I went to the refugee hostel that we fully realised the gravity of the situation. I will always remember the strength of some of the refugees, some of whom had life-changing wounds but were still able to smile. One young man in his twenties had lost all his limbs: he was so nice, and John and I got on with him very well, despite the language barrier. There were many like him, missing arms and legs. It is for this hostel I hope to raise money with this song, which will all go towards rent, electricity and heating equipment.
Playing the gig itself at the hostel was quite something. It seemed to put people in touch with a world beyond war, a memory of peacetime.
It was all too brief. Later in the evening, despite the curfew, we were outside drinking Ukrainian vodka and looking at the stars. I looked up at Mars and noticed that it had a twin. But the twin was moving in the sky. I thought I was hallucinating at first. Then I saw it drop, and in the distance there was an explosion. The outskirts of the city had been bombed. The Ukrainians, being used to it, said ‘Don’t worry, it’s just a missile. Have another vodka.’ I’m not a smoker but I had a cigarette as well.
I hope the music will inspire listeners as much as it inspired me to make it. The Ukrainian people are strong – I know they will win this. It’s just a matter of time.
My friends in Kyiv from the band Cardinal Birds have helped me produce the video to this song, which was all filmed in Krakow, Lviv and Kyiv, and contains footage from all three of my visits to Ukraine.
Two other songs will be released with the single. The first is ‘Midnight Sun’, which was written and recorded during the lockdown in 2020, and features Christopher Short of the Churchfitters on mandolin and violin, Matt Redman on harp and Gaspar Sena on drums. ‘Winter’s Summertime’ features Jenifer Sanin on bass and Gaspar Sena on drums.
The final words are from my friend John:
It was an amazing, powerful eye opener which I’ll never forget. We’re the lucky ones who could get on a train or plane and go away. Those poor people have no choice but to accept their lives. Controlled by a single self-centred tyrant. If we had the chance, which I did with your strength, I’d do it all again. Those last smiles from the ladies in the hostel will stay in my heart forever, mate.
You can view the video for the single below.
All the money from the donations will be spent on the support of a free hostel for the refugees in Lviv, Ukraine and to the Aerorozvidka organization.
You can find out more about the hostel here, and you can call 0507200229 to reserve a sleeping place there.