3 performances

Song And Shiver, 2016
Freedom Song, 2016
The Long Note, 2018

  • Helen Cammock

  • Presented by — Kate MacGarry

  • Helen Cammock, performance at Arnold Circus for Kate MacGarry, part of Performance Exchange London, 2021. Photo: Manuela Barczewski.

Song And Shiver, 2016

Song And Shiver is a short spoken and sung performance that weaves together song from the Caribbean and text by Cammock, Hegel, Walter Benjamin, Susan Buck Mors and Langston Hughes. It asks questions about invisibility and exclusion, resistance and the colonial narrative intrinsically linked to these states and process.
Approx 3.5 mins

Yellow bird,
Up high in banana tree
Yellow bird
You sit all alone like me

Did your lady friend
Leave the nest again
That is very sad
Make me feel so bad

You can fly away
In the sky away
You more lucky than me
(old Caribbean folk song)


It’s a thread, not of silk or nylon but thread of cotton — or rope that burns and cuts, No slices…and I can’t stop it touching all my thoughts or what I feel — it drives me through, and on and back before I can move anywhere — it’s always a part of it all.
(Helen Cammock)


From time to time one would like to stop. To state reality is a wearing task. But when one has taken it into one’s head to try to express existence, one runs the risk of only finding the non-existent.
(Franz Fanon, Skins, Black White Mask p137)


Yellow bird
Up high in banana tree
Yellow bird
You sit all alone like me

Better fly away
In the sky away
Picker coming soon
Pick from night to noon

Black on yellow too
Like banana too
They might pick you someday
(old Caribbean folk song)


And what if what we get to see and hear isn’t layered — isn’t complex, isn’t comprehensive — what if certain people get to choose who exists comprehensively, historically — who is important — existent — even great?

And the choices made by these choosers we must appreciate will often (I won’t say always) mirror their perceptions of greatness because this maintains and justifies their rightful place as choosers.

And sometimes people we don’t expect slip through — push through — are allowed passage, and they are then used to justify the legitimacy of the choosing…But there are so many we know — who are rendered non-existent; when you dig you find, when you push you might learn, but this digging and pushing means they are non-existent in history and therefore their value is not contagious from one generation to the next.
(Helen Cammock)


Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you —
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Til it drives you crazy too
(Langston Hughes, Evil, p45

Freedom Song, 2016

Freedom Song is a spoken and sung performance that weaves together voices that ask questions about how freedom, loss, entitlement, resistance and resilience are understood — through a colonial reading that also encompasses the lens of misogyny, violence and homophobia. It considers the position of the marginal body across geography and histories and how it must be acknowledged as a form under attack.

Wade in the Water
Wade in the water children
Wade — cos something’s gonna happen now
(Negro spiritual/Blues) (Sung)


A linnet in a gilded cage
A linnet on a bough
In frosty winter one might doubt which bird is luckier now

But let the trees burst out in leaf
And nests be on the bough
Which linnet is the luckier bird
Oh who could doubt it now
(Christina Rossetti) (sung and spoken)

And what of this idea — this idea of luck and freedom

Is it true?

The History of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom
(Georg Hegel)

So Hegel says, that “the master” is in the possession of the overabundance of physical necessities generally, and the other (the slave) is in the lack thereof.

Buck Mors says that at first consideration the masters is ‘independent’ and it’s nature to be for itself –whereas ‘the other’ (the slaves position) is dependent and its essence is life or existence for another. The slave is characterised by the lack of recognition he receives. He is viewed as a ‘thing’ and ‘thinghood’ is the essence of the slave consciousness

(Susan Buck Morss)_______________________

But what about resistance?

And what about damage?

We can watch it
trickle down the spine
of time
where has it pooled
In our heads
In our families
In our histories

How do cut — short — stop — it?
How do we see — hear — feel — know it?

How does the life of the slave replicate — reactivate in the mind

How does everything around us allow this to be protected, underpinned
Tenacity of steel
Rigidity of aluminium tube

A young male student rapes a young woman
She is drunk — her irresponsibility is her fault — cause and effect
She is unconscious — he rapes her while she is unconscious
He gets three months because he can’t sleep at night and for him alcohol is the excuse
not his reason for blame

The Plantation rape
The Varsity Rape The Plantation Rape
The Varsity Rape

Where is the line of freedom and who drew it?

The long road, mountainous, insurmountable

Hardship unacknowledged for those who carry the pain sack knapsack rucksack on their back

The heavy invisible neck, wrist, ankle chain that cuts and weighs and restricts mobility

So what of resistance?

What about Mary Prince, Nanny Grigg or Granny Nanny.

They ran, they fought, they led, they wrote

Found freedom of the mind when freedom of the body, their body could not be found

There is something of the intricacies that bind us and the intricacies that tear us apart — we ignore these until we are hurt by them ourselves and begin to question our very own freedom

What about the varsity girl
What about the plantation girl
What about freedom
Yes what about freedom

What about Orlando
What about Pulse
What about 50 lives, 100 lives, 200 lives, thousands cascading from the end of the gun
So what about freedom



Michael Row the boat Ashore Hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore Hallelujah
There’ll be milk and honey on the other side Hallelujah
But what promises over time Hallelujah

Michael Row the boat Ashore Hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore Hallelujah
There’ll be milk and honey on the other side Hallelujah
But will the ghosts ever leave the mind Hallelujah
X2 (Negro spiritual) (Sung)

Walter Benjamin says — To be happy is to be able to become oneself without fright.

Michael Row the boat — humming out…

The Long Note, 2018

The Long Note is a spoken and sung performance that weaves together activists, writers and singers voices together with Cammock’s to explore what it means to both chose, and to have no choice but to fight for Freedom, and what this position might feel and sound like. Texts and song from Gaelic folk, Nina Simone, Bernadette Devlin — McAliskey, Audre Lorde, Andy White, Collette Bryce and William Shakespeare are combined with Cammock’s. The conversation crosses geographies and time frames.

Just with the battle of Jericho
Jericho, Jericho
Just with the battle of Jericho
And the walls came tumbling down

And the voices of the women ring in my head
And I follow them down the alleys
Rain in their hair
The streets in their hands

And I sit and I listen
As the peace bridge springs with cable and steel
Waterside to Cityside

But I read it wrong
And I thought it said skies
And with that word change
I heard a whole other story from Collette Bryce

I stepped from my skies and stumbled in, like childhood,
knee deep, waist deep, chest deep, falling
for the sake of being caught
in its grip.

It was crisp and strangely dry and I thought: I could drop
here and sleep in my own shape, happily,
as the hare fits
to its form.

I could lie undiscovered like a fossil in a rock
until a hammer’s gentle knock might
split it open; warm
and safe.
(Collette Bryce)

You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that all us folks
Are just second class fools (Nina Simone — Backlash Blues)

You have to wake the people up first, then you’ll get action (Malcolm X)

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head

Like the brass cannon;
(William Shakespeare — quoted many times by Tory party MP’s)

AND the battle went on
And the depths had to be found

Do you know what it is to find out you exist

She’s got an agile smile and a fragile sense of humour Watch out or she’ll call around

She’ll walk in the room
The ceiling falls
The carpets bloom (Andy White)

And you said that women contained the brutality
Because communities under threat lose their humanity

And I agree

And then I say that communities who always believe there is a threat
…that someone will take away what they have…have no humanity
Because they only see the human in themselves

You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that all us folks
Are just second class fools (Nina Simone — Backlash Blues)

And it is clear that in the colonial countries
the peasants alone are revolutionary,
for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The starving peasant, outside the class system is the first among the exploited to
discover that only violence pays.
For him there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms;
colonization and decolonization is simply a question of relative strength.
(Frantz Fanon)

And there’s a battle to be had when everyone is subjugated
That the run of relativity
Splits and divides
And the view through the curtains is impaired

So sing to me the Parting Glass

And I can’t stop listening to those words
And they roll around and around

And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me

And the voices sing
And they own my ears
And I tremble at the sound of the pipes and the strings
And then I remember where I am and I read the headlines
The tag lines

And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall

Face at the window
spectre of threat,

And Sunday came crashing in
An agreement on a Friday

but tell me what about the days in between?

And you said Bernadette; We were born into an unjust system; we are not prepared to grow old in it.

And I hear you whispering between the pages of the newly reclaimed respect for you Audre that

Your silence will not protect you (Audre Lorde)

So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else. (Bernadette devlin)

The artist Helen Cammock sat, giving a performance of Freedom Song, to a room full of people.
Helen Cammock, Freedom Song, London, 2016

Conditions of Production

Performances should be sung with script exactly as supplied. Performances should be performed without amplification if possible. The performance is to be performed by the artist Helen Cammock where possible but also propositions for other voices are allowable in adherence with the following guidelines:

Such voices need not be trained singers but must have a confidence performing, being able to sing in tune and be practised at using their voice.

The work can be performed by any woman with a marginal experience where this is understood as meaning from a community that experiences discrimination and exclusion because of unequal power relationships across economic, political, social and cultural dimensions.

Any performer should be paid fairly for their participation. A minimum fee of £250 per day for rehearsals and performances (this is a 2021 rate, to be adjusted for inflation over time). The performer should be offered adequate time and space for rehearsal and access to archival material of the artist Helen Cammock performing. The name of the performer must be credited on any and all print and online materials relating to a re-staging of the Performance at all times.


  • The acquisition of this work gives permission for the re-staging of the performance. The collector of this work will be expected to follow the guidelines — which are provided in a presentation box including:

  • Written guidelines for the performance
  • Script, signed by the artist
  • Any archive photographs of the performance
  • Audio or film file for reference