A unique opportunity for Island songwriters to help preserve and promote Jersey’s native language has been launched today.
The Jersey Song Project, a groundbreaking collaboration between the Jersey Festival of Words and Jèrriais expert and musician Kit Ashton, aims to use the power of song to keep the threatened Norman-French dialect alive.
Local musicians and Jèrriais speakers will be encouraged to get together to create new songs that will be performed at the opening event of the Jersey Festival of Words 2018 on 26 September at Jersey Arts Centre.
The compositions can be on any theme and in any genre or language but must include at least one word of Jèrriais.
The Jersey Song Project is led by Kit Ashton, whose Jèrriais band Badlabecques have already done so much to revitalise the Island’s language through their concerts and recordings. It will form part of his research towards a doctorate from Goldsmiths College, University of London, on how music can help endangered languages.
The 26 September performance will be filmed for YouTube and the organisers hope that new songs generated by the project will be good enough to keep being sung into the future.
Kit said: ‘I am really excited to be launching this project with the Jersey Festival of Words, though a little nervous too as it really depends on the creative involvement of the community. Anything could happen!’
He added: ’Jèrriais is now a critically endangered language and, unless the people of Jersey revitalise it, it could disappear from our culture altogether, taking with it hundreds of years of literature in the form of songs, stories, poems, reports, recipes, local wisdom and more. Music is one of the most powerful ways to keep a language alive in our hearts and imaginations, so we are hoping for some really interesting new music to come out of this process.’
Musicians and Jèrriais speakers interested in joining the Jersey Song Project are invited to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
They will be helped to participate in a choice of ways: by collaborating with some of the remaining speakers of the language, by setting an existing text to music or by translating their own lyrics. Help will be available at every stage from Kit Ashton and Education’s L’Office du Jèrriais.
Providing a showcase for Jersey’s history, heritage and language has been one of the guiding principles of the Jersey Festival of Words since its launch in 2015.
Festival vice-chairman Paul Bisson, himself a musician and teacher, said: ‘Kit Ashton, Badlabecques and L’Office du Jèrriais have done fantastic work in recent years to reignite interest in our native language and its rich literary tradition. We are proud to be working with Kit in this new project, which will create a unique and very fitting opening event for the whole festival.’