Make music, not war: Post War Orchestra converts weapons into musical instruments


Turning pistols into piccolos sounds like the kind of hippie dream that died out with flared trousers. But a group of UK musicians is doing just that, taking the theatre of war and giving it its own orchestra pit.

The Post War Orchestra has launched a fundraising campaign to convert more weapons into instruments. It has already made six flutes out of old Lee Enfield rifles, and turned a Second World War helmet into a lyre. Now, it wants to raise £27,000 to create a full range of instruments suitable for all different musical styles.

The symbolism of converting instruments of death into tools capable of producing beautiful music is obvious enough. But the PWO believes it can have a powerful message, and is determined to make its music as polished and as varied as possible.

On Friday, the UK-based group launched its fundraising campaign, using the crowd-funding site A deadline of 20 April has been set, and if insufficient funds are raised by then, it receives no money at all.

The PWO was created by the artist Hilary Champion, who got the idea to fuse weapons and music after watching television footage of Hurricane Katrina. "In about 2005 I had been noticing there was a lot of depressing coverage of war in the papers and on TV, and then I saw this guy gathering bits from what was left of his house after Hurricane Katrina. He got a broom and turned it around and started using it as a guitar. He started to laugh and I thought about the war coverage and how music brings people together," she said. "One day maybe we could have two tanks on top of a windy mountainside that are somehow wired together so that when the wind blows they act like a beautiful aeolian harp sending out gentle, soothing sounds across the valley below."

Among the PWO's instruments is a bazookaphone, which was made from a disposable grenade launcher, and features a wind-controlled interface. They have also turned a rocket launcher into a theremin, and are hoping to do the same with a Maxim machine gun. The easiest conversions, not surprisingly, have been in the percussion department, which includes empty ammo boxes and spent shell cases.

The orchestra has grown steadily since its foundation in 2009, and has the backing of prominent musicians including Bruce Woolley, who co-wrote the song "Video Killed the Radio Star". He has helped enlist the electronic music pioneer Thomas Dolby to collaborate on a track for the PWO's forthcoming debut EP, and the group hopes to attract other names – including Yoko Ono, whose themes and artistry have strong similarities to the PWO ethos.

"The first time we played we had no rehearsals and no experience of the instruments. Now we hope to play a range of music people can understand and make the transition from avant-garde to instruments that play reasonable structures and harmonic layers," Woolley said, adding there would be up to 12 people in the ensemble – which includes the composer Tim Wheater and singer-songwriter Ruby Fenn.

If it raises the funds, the group hopes to play the latest converted instruments at the Orchestra in the Field event at Glastonbury Abbey in July. Woolley said the ensemble would compose its own music as well as playing covers. Asked if it might perform Status Quo's "In the Army Now", the answer was a firm "no".

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before