Brutal London street attack leaves gifted pianist in dire need

Two messages from the British pianist and conductor James Sherlock. Last week:

Four weeks ago I was attacked in Ion Gardens off Columbia Road as I was walking home. I visited the site yesterday with my sister, where the council have since installed new street lamps across this little park. In six years in the East End, I’ve felt safer here and in London generally than in most other towns in the country.

The group of four took everything I had, passport, phone, computer with valuable work, concert clothes and scores, before attacking me with a mace and/or knuckle dusters leaving multiple fractures in the eye socket and cheekbone.

The NHS are a national treasure: Prof Simon Holmes rebuilt my face in an amazing operation which he has demonstrated on the BBC’s An Hour to Save your Life, for the distinctly unsqueamish. The result should mean a return to full sight and health in a few months.

Victim Support and Saving Faces are fantastic. As are my friends. And family.

And today:

Over the past two days, many of you have contributed towards a justgiving fund set up by my friend Nazan. If she had asked me first about setting up this fund, I would have said no – I find it difficult to ask for help from friends, and almost as difficult to accept it. Due to her initiative, the response has overwhelmed many of us, and the fund she set up will now recover the items stolen during my attack.

More than this, of course, your thoughts and messages have brought comfort – I will try to write to everyone over the coming weeks. As musicians, we live wonderful and perilous existences. Our bodies are our instruments and vessels. This attack came at a time where I also hadn’t played the piano seriously for 16 months, cancelling a hundred-or-so dates. It hasn’t been easy to talk about this publicly, as much as anything for fear of losing future work. It has become a little easier with a shift of focus towards conducting and composing.

Others know better than I how to be open and humble about struggles; to facilitate help for others where we can, as Nazan and each of you have done for me. That this has happened against the backdrop of the loss of one of my family’s dearest friends shines another light on the preciousness of today. So I will learn to accept your generosity, and try to live with the same spirit I’ve been shown.

So far, more than £10,000 has been raised to help James’s recovery. Please give here, if you can.

james-sherlock

James studied at Trinity College Cambridge, the Guildhall School of Music, the Georg Solti Accademia and the Franz Schubert Institut. He is a winner of the Royal Overseas League Piano Competition and the ROSL award for accompanists, Das Lied International Song Competition, the BBC Performing Arts Trust, Award for Young Concert Artists and Gold Medallist at the Marcello Galanti International Organ Competition. His recordings have won awards from Gramophone, BBC Music and International Piano Magazines. James is a Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, a Samling Artist and Director of Music at Hampstead Parish Church.

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  • John Borstlap says:

    What is going-on in London? It seems that musicians and their stuff have become popular targets for the underlings.

  • Marg says:

    Best wishes for a full recovery, and lets hope you get your possessions back. Its good to know you are surrounded by loving friends and family at this time.

  • David Nice says:

    Shocking news – my deepest sympathy and best wishes for a speedy recovery. But isn’t ‘underlings’ the kind of word that doesn’t help anyone in such circumstances?

  • Una says:

    I was attacked and mugged in 2009 outside my own front door in my garden by a lone black man who told me to ‘prepare to die’, but then who appeared to be a case of ‘care in the community’ but who wouldn’t have know I was a musician, and had no instrument, only my voice. He had also tried to beat up a guy who worked on the London Underground and someone from the betting office, so a musician wasn’t the target, and desperate people do desperate things. He just came from nowhere, and as I am an East Ender by birth and education, I have peripheral vision. You see everything around you and are aware of noises or people following you. It’s part of the East End culture if you’re one of them. This guy took my small backpack bag, which only had £7 in my purse, which had cards and my keys – the police were terrific in getting the locks changed immediately – and book on Birgitt Nilsson, which I had borrowed from a friend and would have been useless to him. The cards were never used. But all this resulted in five days in the Royal London Hospital with a broken finger, a slashed eye – which resulted in an operation at Moorfields later that year, and then finding out I had three broken ribs – just what you need as a singer and a pianist. I looked absolutely horrendous, and was all black and blue as well for a few days, and the police would not let me out of hospital to go back to the scene of the crime and where I loved alone. This was in East London and when you come from there, you find it very safe compared to some other parts of London. Now I live in West Yorkshire, and a whole new life has opened up where you are not anonymous and less expensive. So this E2 assault is another case of something just dreadful and far worse than my experience.

    • Una says:

      … where I lived alone …

    • John Borstlap says:

      Shocking story. Big cities as drains, attracting the worst of humanity. I hope you completely recovered and could pick-up functioning soon thereafter.

      • Una says:

        People were more worried about me since 1989 with travelling around the big cities of East Africa for my charitable work, and particularly going to Nairobi and to parts of Burundi – and I went back in 2011 for 10 weeks. No one expected – least me – to have a guy come in my own gate and trap me in my small garden like that on my own doorstep, and appear from nowhere. And it was all in a built-up area and well lit, coming back from Dutchman at Covent Garden on a Sunday night. You recover mostly but you don’t forget anything where violence is employed …

      • Una says:

        People were more worried about me since 1989 with travelling around the big cities of East Africa for my charitable work, and particularly going to Nairobi and to parts of Burundi – and I went back in 2011 for 10 weeks. No one expected – least me – to have a guy come in my own gate and trap me in my small garden like that on my own doorstep, and appear from nowhere. And it was all in a built-up area and well lit, coming back from Dutchman at Covent Garden on a Sunday night. You recover mostly but you don’t forget anything where violence is employed … and whole host of people, including your neighbours, get terribly upset too. It leaves scars on everybody.

      • jaxon says:

        I am absolutely delighted by the way you hyphenate random-phrases.

  • Reg Prentice says:

    UNA: Why did you feel the need to use the descriptor “black man” for your assailant? Was the attack at night? Perhaps you could have used a descriptor relevant to your situation, such as “large man” or a “strong man”?

    • JJC says:

      Perhaps the term she used was ‘relevant to her situation’. Ever think of that?

    • Dean Armond says:

      Why should not give details of her attacker

    • Reg Prentice says:

      Maybe you are late to an appointment and you say:

      I am late because a Scotsman wanted to pay for his petrol in pennies.
      or
      I am late because a blond woman was driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

      Maybe it’s true that the man was Scottish and the woman was blond, but by including that seemingly irrelevant detail you are inferring that the man paid in pennies because he was Scottish and the woman was confused because she was blond.

      “I am traumatized because a black man attacked me”

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