Last night, 2nd October, guests at The Siding in London Bridge were treated to an evening of spoken word and live music to celebrate some of the incredible people that ABF The Soldiers’ Charity’s work has touched throughout its 75-year history.
The evening kicked off with a poem written by Sid Sallis, the last surviving RASC Air Despatcher from Operation Market Garden in 1944. Aged just 21, Sid flew in a Short Stirling aircraft to drop supplies to stricken British troops trapped at Arnhem in the Netherlands. The operation would later be immortalised in Richard Attenborough’s 1977 film, A Bridge Too Far. Sid made a special appearance at the event to see his poem, Arnhem, being read by a variety of people including Jeremy Irons, former head of the British Army General Sir Mike Jackson and Archers actor Paul Copley, who himself had a small part in A Bridge Too Far.
Sid Sallis commented on the evening: “It was wonderful to see my poem performed last night at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity’s evening of spoken word. I loved seeing a great line-up reading my work from 75 years ago including Jeremy Irons and General Sir Mike Jackson– what an honour! I cannot believe it has been 75 years since I flew over Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. Hearing my poem again was a fitting tribute to my fallen comrades, friends who should have been sat here with me today.
“ABF The Soldiers’ Charity has helped support me over the last few years and for that I cannot thank them enough. I encourage those who need help, however big or small, to give them a call so they can become your friend too.”
Poet, photographer and veteran, Martin Figura, performed his specially commissioned collection, Maps, for the event. As the charity’s poet-in-residence, Figura met with charity beneficiaries to hear their stories and understand the unique impact soldiering has had on their lives. At times funny, at others achingly sad, the collection touched the audience with its piercing descriptions of trauma, friendship, mental and physical injury, transition and recovery.
There was not a dry eye in the house by the end of the evening, as guests enjoyed a rousing performance from Britain’s Got Talent winner and Chelsea Pensioner, Colin Thackery, who performed a selection of his favourite songs, including wartime classic ‘We’ll meet again.’
The evening also included readings from charity beneficiaries Alexandra and Victoria Hale; winner of poetry competition, A Poem to Remember, Debbie Lawson; comedic poetry by David Williams; and a performance from Soldiers’ Arts Academy.
The evening was in partnership with regular spoken word producers Nowhere Nights.