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Florence Pugh lends voice to recording of Simon Armitage lockdown poem

The track was inspired by the coronavirus crisis.


Florence Pugh (Ian West/PA)

Florence Pugh (Ian West/PA)

Florence Pugh (Ian West/PA)

Florence Pugh has lent her voice to a Simon Armitage poem set to music in aid of domestic violence charity Refuge.

The Midsommar star, who was recently nominated for an Oscar for her turn as Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women, joins band LYR, made up of Poet Laureate Armitage, Richard Walters and Patrick J Pearson, for a recording of his recent poem Lockdown.

Recorded remotely at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it is the first time Pugh has contributed both spoken word and vocals to a song.

The poem, which was written in response to the coronavirus restrictions, moves from the outbreak of bubonic plague in Eyam, Derbyshire, in the 17th century – when a bale of cloth sent from London inadvertently brought fleas carrying the plague – to the poem Meghaduta by the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, which follows the legend in which an exile sends words of reassurance to his wife in the Himalayas via a passing cloud.


Simon Armitage (Victoria Jones/PA)

Simon Armitage (Victoria Jones/PA)

Simon Armitage (Victoria Jones/PA)

It was set to music by LYR, who recorded each track in isolation, with guest vocals from Pugh and saxophone from Melt Yourself Down’s Pete Wareham.

Armitage said: “We’ve worked flat out from three points of the compass – the song has been accomplished via the wonders of technology, the internet being no respecter of quarantine rules.

“The musical tones of the track echo the atmosphere of the lyrics, claustrophobia rising to a hopeful euphoria, the magical landscape at the end of the poem transformed into a vibrant and pulsing soundscape.

“We also knew that we wanted a female voice in the mix and were thrilled when Florence Pugh agreed to contribute. Florence brings intelligence and intensity to everything she performs in – we can’t thank her enough.”

The decision to give proceeds from the track, released digitally via Mercury KX, to Refuge was prompted by news of a sharp increase in demand for the charity’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline since the UK entered lockdown on March 26.

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Armitage added: “One subtext of the poem is the difficulty of communication during stressful situations; we have been especially conscious of the rise in domestic abuse cases and violence against women and children during the coronavirus restrictions, and all proceeds from the track will go to the charity Refuge, who we are proud to be working with.”

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge is enormously thankful to Simon, Florence, Pete, Richard and Patrick for supporting our life-saving work through this exciting project.

“Almost one in three women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime; it is the biggest social issue facing women and girls in this country.

“Public support for services like ours is more important now than ever. It is critical that Refuge’s helpline and our refuges continue to provide urgent support and safety for women and children trapped with their abusers during lockdown. Women’s lives depend on it.”

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