An artwork by Hew Locke for Runnymede, Surrey, UK to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. Commissioned by Surrey County Council and National Trust.

On 15 June 2015, The Jurors was revealed for the first time as part of an international gathering of thousands of invited guests to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. To mark this occasion, Owen Sheers, poet, author and playwright was invited to write a dedication for the artwork, to be performed at the event.

The film below was screened on site, depicting the performers emerging from the surrounding landscape of woodland, roadways and riverbanks.

‘Or In Any Other Way’ directly references the content of The Jurors and follows the form of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol. On 15 June, each of the performers recite a stanza while approaching The Jurors. As they assembled at the artwork, the final stanza was recited by the group in unison before they took their seats, eventually joined by heir to the throne, HRH Prince William.

Download Owen Sheers’ full dedication with notes and references.

Or In Any Other Way
A performed dedication for ‘The Jurors’ by Hew Locke

15th June 2015

The sound of footsteps approaching from many directions.
The sound of a boat cutting against a river, wheels on a rough road.
Each speaker recites their verse while approaching the camera and the artwork.
All continue advancing after they have spoken, forming a tightening ring around the artwork.

A young black woman emerges from the trees.

I

In every human beating breast
the love of freedom lives,
impatient of oppression’s print
it pants deliverance –
which only words that break cement
have the power to give.

A young black man comes into view.

II

But words are weak as well as strong,
they die upon the air,
and commerce can enslave the heart
that once was feathered fair.
For in the middle passage
who will hear, who will care?

An Asian woman appears from behind the tea rooms.

III

But words are strong as well as weak,
like carvings on a tree,
they sing to those who mark them down
and those still yet to be.
For humanness is in the ‘look’
as much as in the ‘see’.

A man in a wheelchair approaches down a road.

IV

And like the piano tuner
who stalks his temperament,
so we can seek our equal notes,
our words to represent.
For knowledge is like water held
without the words to vent.

A Burmese woman comes into view.

V

And whatever heaven you hold
within your body, your head,
its sight is through the people’s eyes
despite oppression’s lead.
The only prison is that of fear,
the fear of what is said.

A man appears wearing a ‘coat of shabby grey’.

VI

Yet each man kills the thing he loves –
The stricken ship spills its oil
upon the sea that made it whole,
so we will tear and spoil
the best of us that makes us man
the best that makes us royal.

A refugee emerges from a boat moored on the river bank.

VII

Even now we become unmoored,
cast off our best creation
like throwing children overboard.
But the rule’s venation
is hardy – grained within our wood
in spite of what we’ve done.

A young Indian woman appears.

VIII

And not just for men but women, too,
however veiled their dress.
For what is a law that only
applies to half of us?
A scar, that’s what, upon itself,
a gain become a loss.

A South African man approaches.

IX

But words are strong as well as weak,
and in their death, revive.
Their light shines through the censor’s ink,
when torn they still survive.
For freedom looks towards the sun
so in the darkness, thrives.

A young man emerges from the American Bar Association monument.

X

So laws are words, and words are us
and speech has set us free.
But what when laws become our chains
in name of liberty?
When mouths are watched, and tongues are cut,
how then does Justice see?

A child appears.

XI

A dancing leader needs the led,
their heart as well as hand,
and in this way justice can live,
and we can make our ground –
with words and witness, ‘til
all we sought, can now be found.

A young woman appears.

XII

And should a bullet pierce the brain
its thoughts will still live on,
and all the more if those ideas
are grown from ‘Us’, hand-spun.
So this is how our justice flows,
and this is how it’s won.

All the speakers are now converging upon the artwork together.
As they circle around the chairs, they recite the final lines.

XIII

So this is how our justice flows,
and this is how its won.
With strength of mind and strength of word,
and in a thousand tongues.
A tale of ‘Us’ and not of ‘You’
across the nations sung.

Yes, this is how our justice flows,
and this is how its won.

A tale of ‘Us’ and not of ‘You’
across the nations sung.

This is how our justice flows,
and this is how its won.

They build to a climax, then each speaker sits on one of the 12 chairs.
Silence.

 

© Owen Sheers 2015. Reproduced by permission of the author c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN

 

About Owen Sheers

Owen Sheers is an author, poet and playwright. He has published two poetry collections, The Blue Book and Skirrid Hill which won a Somerset Maugham Award. His debut prose work The Dust Diaries, won the Welsh Book of the Year 2005. Owen’s first novel, Resistance, was released as a film in 2011. His latest novel is I Saw A Man.

Owen’s theatrical writing includes National Theatre of Wales’ 72 hour production in Port Talbot, The Passion, the WWI play Mametz and a play created with wounded service personnel The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which won the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. His verse drama Pink Mist, commissioned by BBC Radio 4, won the Welsh Book of the Year 2014 and will be produced for the stage by Bristol Old Vic in July 2015.  He is Professor in Creativity at Swansea University.

Read more about Owen Sheers 

On 15 June 2015, ‘Or In Any Other Way’ was performed by:

Naz Ahmed, Timothy Barker, Edson Burton, Charlotte Discombe, Matthew Donnelly, Joel Douglas, Rupika Gunawardena, Alicia Ingram, John Kelly, Rafail Panagi, Kate Smith, Michael Tesfaye, Terri Winchester

The dedication performance was directed by Stephen Rayne and produced by Situations. The film is produced by Lighttrap Films.

Stephen Rayne directing the rehearsal at Runnymede.
Stephen Rayne directing the rehearsal at Runnymede.

With thanks to Owen Sheers, all the performers, Stephen Rayne, Andy Field, Sanja Djeric Kane (Director of Refugee Action, Kingston), Viv Colvill (Freewheelers Theatre Company) and Sam Irving at Lighttrap Films.


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Designed & Built by Fiasco Design

© Surrey County Council & Hew Locke 2015