Henry writes: A friend of mine, John Walker, was recently telling me about his son Jonny: a gifted musician…who founded the Keep Streets Live Campaign, to advocate for public spaces for people and against the criminalization of homelessness and street culture. Jonny once said: “Buskers act as civic lighthouses. We give directions, we break up fights, we call the police when we spot trouble. We talk to the lonely. We create moments of enjoyment between strangers, and contribute to the social and cultural enrichment of shared urban spaces. We are an integral part of the ecology of the street. We care deeply about the well-being of the places where we perform.”
One evening in June of 2016 John was in the centre of Leeds and bumped into Jonny who was busking in an area now known as Jonny’s Pitch. He was due to pack up and whilst he was getting his car his father looked after his gear and during this time a devout Muslim gentleman called Umair came up and asked whether he could put his prayer mat on the spot where Jonny had been singing in order that he might do one of his prayer times. Then Umair invited father and son to break his Ramadan fast with him at sunset, and Jonny commented about the privilege of having these kind of encounters and their being one of the main reasons why he loved doing what he did.
After Umair left them Jonny videoed himself singing ‘Into my Arms’ by Nick Cave, It’s a song he really loved, he described it as a hymn for the non-religious. You might call it a prayer. It was raining and Jonathan’s pitch was pretty much deserted – in fact his father was really just an audience of one. On his Facebook post of the video Jonny wrote, “It's very quiet in Leeds this evening …and it's only my dad Revd John Walker who I bumped into by chance on the Headrow …left in the audience.” See the video here: https://fb.watch/hsfdBX2nwi/
Jonny was interviewed by the Church Times in August 2015, and in that interview he said: “I grew up with an ever-present sense of God, mediated through the faith of my parents and my full immersion in the life of the Church,” but then he went on to say, “As I grew older, I questioned my faith very deeply, and lost it at one point. I experienced God as absent during this time. I describe the journey since then as a faith that runs towards the questions instead of running away from them. God is mainly mediated through my relationships with the people I encounter.”
Nick Cave has a blog 'The Red Hand Files' where you can ask him a question. He answered an English fan’s question “Does God exist?” in this way, he said “I don’t have any evidence either way, but I am not sure that is the right question. For me, the question is what it means to believe. The thing is, against all my better judgement, I find it impossible not to believe, or at the very least not to be engaged in the inquiry of such a thing, which in a way is the same thing.” And then he said this: “My life is dominated by the notion of God, whether it’s his presence or his absence.”
Both Jonny and Nick Cave sound feral to my ear.
John went on to tell me that he had been interviewed about Jonny for a radio programme on BBC Sounds 'Soul Music’. Its been running for some time, and each episode features a piece of music that three or four people nominate as being music that speaks to their soul. There was to be one on Nick Cave’s song ‘Into my arms’ and John was asked to share on it the substance of what he shared with me and I’m now sharing with you. The programme was aired recently and I found it very moving. I commend it to you, you’ll find it here.
You might also find a recently published book equally stimulating. Its entitled “Faith, Hope and Carnage” and consists of a series of interviews with Nick Cave by Sean O’Hagan. I’m reading it now.
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Just wanting to say “yes” to this. You will be speaking for, and to, many. I will certainly be passing this on to others, and will contribute some thoughts myself later.
So, I was delighted to see Feral Spirituality make an appearance. I'd think you could find many wanting to join in