On this page, you will find a series of comics that are the result of a collaboration with Dr. Giada Peterle of the University of Padua.
Dr. Peterle has created work that represents different aspects of the internment of civilians by the British state during the Second World War, a process in which many of the musicians focused upon by our project were caught up. Her work was inspired by both the history of internment in general and, particularly, the musical revue What a Life!, which was produced and performed by inmates of Central Camp in Douglas on the Isle of Man; the composer Hans Gál wrote the music for the performances.
The different 'units' can be read in any order, but they are all connected. Click on the images to expand each gallery and zoom in on the pages.
Text that appears in brown speech bubbles within the comics quotes directly from the diaries of Hans Gál or from What a Life!
Dr. Giada Peterle
Unit 1 - The Seagull
Dr. Peterle: "Inspired by Hans Gál’s The Song of the Barbed Wire, this comics story observes the dreadful absurdities of human behaviour during wartime from the detached perspective of a seagull. In these pages, looking at the repetitiveness of human history from above, the seagull sees the barbed wire coming back again and again along the coast as if it followed the recurring movements of the waves crashing against the shore."
Dr. Peterle: "The musical revue What a Life! and the autobiographical diary Music Behind Barbed Wire by Hans Gàl are precious textual sources which reconstruct life in British internment camps. These comics pages help us fill in some gaps in the historical sources, visualising the performances and the mobilising power of music. Music moved, at the time, when it resonated from behind the barbed wire, across the Isle of Man. It allowed internees to exit the camp, and to enter the theatre for just one night. Music moves us today, as it reminds us of that time."
Unit 3 - The Ballad of the German Refugee
The Ballad of the German Refugee takes its inspiration from the song of the same title in the What a Life! revue. It explores the shared mobile experiences of a large number of the internees, many of whom fled Germany as a consequence of Nazi persecution.
Unit 4 - The Memory Game
Dr. Peterle: "Like a comics page, memory is an archive made of gaps and holes, of unpredictable connections and resonances. In these pages, hands function as a red thread that helps to connect fragments of those everyday lives that were interrupted and deeply changed by internment. If each hand holding a suitcase is a series of broken relations, each gesture on a piano key evokes a note, resonating loudly to invoke memories of life as it was outside the camp. Each panel is a card that invites you, reader, to play this memory game and create your own associations and meanings."