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Melanie Reid introduces ‘Spinal Chords’

The Times columnist Melanie Reid, whose ‘Spinal Column’ offers readers a frank account of how she deals with paralysis, was the inspiration for ‘Spinal Chords’, a new work by composer Sally Beamish.

The piece will be performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Millfield this evening and we are delighted to be part of the event.

Melanie has kindly written some background on the piece where she talks about the ‘sense of rebuilding and reconnecting’ following a spinal cord injury.

Spinal Chords
I am thrilled that Spinal Chords is being performed again, and this time at Millfield in such special circumstances. My words were drafted when I was still in hospital and they are a visceral reflection of the devastation that spinal injury inflicts upon both body and spirit. I think, however, that I got the easy part of the artistic challenge: I just said it like it is. Sally Beamish’s task was altogether harder, for her music had to seek some redemption from the sadness; to capture the sense of rebuilding and reconnecting. This she did; and I hope you find that the piece brings optimism. When you damage your spine, you go in a split second from being an ordinary, free individual to a prisoner of a ruined body. People may call you brave. The reality is that you have few options, other than to laugh bleakly and let the spirit learn to empower the body. In time, there is healing; and the realisation that life, although changed, is still good. My thanks go to everyone connected with putting on this performance: the school, which does so much to support spinal injury through Edmund Rhind-Tutt, and of course the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust (SSIT), a charity which does wonderful, unsparing work on behalf of spinal injured patients in the South and South West. One of its trustees is Annie Maw, who mentored me by letter when I was in hospital and taught me to hope again. Please give all you can to support the vital work the charity does.
Melanie Reid