'Goodbye Barcelona' on its 10th anniversary

Post date: 18/11/2021

'Goodbye Barcelona' is a musical about a fictional group of British volunteers who go to fight in the Spanish Civil War, which first debuted at London’s Arcola Theatre in November 2011. Reflecting the internationalism of those it tells the story of, it has since been performed in Barcelona, Madrid and New York City, with productions planned in Germany and Mexico.

An online celebration planned for 24 November will mark the 10th anniversary of the show and inaugurate the forthcoming German production. The event brings together key people involved in the ongoing development and journey of ‘Goodbye Barcelona’ around the world. It will be live streamed via YouTube here.

Written by Judith Johnson and composed by KS Lewkowicz, with support from the IBMT, ‘Goodbye Barcelona’ centres on 18 year old Sam, who leaves his home in London and travels to Spain to join the International Brigades. The writers drew from interviews they conducted with International Brigade veterans to provide an authentic representation of the struggle in Spain.

International Brigader Sammy meets Pilar in Spain, from the Barcelona production.

Speaking in October 2019, Lewkowicz describes the original inspiration behind ‘Goodbye Barcelona’ and the role the Brigade veterans played in shaping the story:

‘I had read an article in the Guardian in the year 2000, which had interviews with most of the surviving International Brigaders at that time…I suggested that this would make a great story and Judith agreed.

‘We were immediately fascinated with these men and women and what it was that motivated them to join the International Brigades. After some discussion with Mehmet Ergen, the artistic director of Arcola Theatre who encouraged us to continue with the idea, we decided to see if we could make a musical out of this largely unknown but amazing story.

‘I went to my first IBMT annual commemoration in 2005 and we found out more about the people from the UK and all over the world that had travelled to Spain to fight against fascism…

‘With the help of Marlene Sidaway, who was then the IBMT Secretary, we were able to set up interviews with some of the surviving Brigaders and we became even more enthralled by their incredible stories.

‘We went to Wales to interview Alun Menai Williams who had been a medic, we visited Penny Feivel in Bournemouth who had been a nurse and was then a sprightly 99 years old. In London we interviewed Lou Kenton who was then 100 as well as Jack Jones and Sam Lesser who we first interviewed in his flat in Brixton in 2007. After that I used to call him on the phone to ask questions and visit him sometimes, which is a memory I cherish.

‘Like the other interviewees, Sam was fascinating and he became passionate about the musical, a kind of guardian angel, so we ended up naming our main character, Sammy, after him.’


Posted on 18 November 2021.

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