My name is Benedict Amadeus Scrivener and I’m a UK based singer, guitarist and songwriter. I’m part of the British folk band The Thumping Tommys.
I recently travelled to Ukraine to play at a refugee hostel, and have written a charity single and released a music video to raise money for it.
Here’s a spotify link to the single:
The music video for the title track is here:
You can find the story behind the song below, and also hear me talking about and playing it last Saturday on BBC three counties radio 11 minutes 30 seconds in here:
‘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 this year, when I played at a refugee hostel in central Lviv. It was 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 (available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qk8sZg6vj4), which was all filmed in Krakow, Lviv and Kyiv, and contains footage from all three of my visits to Ukraine. (The Cardinal Birds have also recently released a charity song (in which I play bass) to raise money. You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2aQxTtvvF8.)
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 Jennifer 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 buy and stream the single through the following links, and also on all other streaming services: