The hours preceding the phone call that changed our lives were unremarkable. Sat at home preparing for a Christmas fair the following day, it was not until my parents contacted me to say they had heard there was a hostage situation unfolding at the Eagles of Death Metal gig in Paris where my brother was working selling merchandise that I had an unshakeable feeling that our lives were about to change forever. The next few hours were a maelstrom of phone calls and pleas for information until some hours later we received the news we dreaded with every inch of our beings. Our precious Nick had not made it out alive.
Surprisingly as the facts of what had happened throughout that horrific attack emerged and the faces of the people who had taken Nick from us looked out from every newspaper in the supermarket they meant nothing to us at all. We were entirely focused on protecting Nick and our family from the dizzying media clamour. The terrorists had carelessly taken his life but they would not get to dictate his legacy – that was within our control, our guardianship. We had a job to do and for Nick, who always had an exacting attention to detail, we would do it properly.
The emotionally charged letter to the attackers from Antoine Leiris, a bereaved husband, just days after the attack claiming ‘you will not have my hatred’ served only to echo our own feelings. As his powerful statement went viral we were resolute that somehow we too would turn around what had happened to our family and regain the control that had been taken from us. We were powerless to change what had happened, but what if we could somehow turn this one darkest of acts into a thousand positive ones? Nick was a vibrant man, a funny and proud man with a throw-your-head-back belly laugh. He was strong, a life force. To allow him to be defined by what happened that night, perennially a victim trapped in the amber of the attack, would be doing him a disservice.
Our decision to start a music-related charity in Nick’s memory was aided by the overwhelming generosity of the global music community who had contributed to a GoFundMe campaign set up by one of his touring colleagues in the aftermath of the attack. The Nick Alexander Memorial Trust was established with the mission of positively impacting lives through music by awarding grants to small charities and community groups across the UK to purchase musical instruments and equipment. We set out not knowing whether there was even a demand for our offering but the thrill of receiving the first grant application confirmed that we were doing the right thing.
As the first anniversary of the attack approached we wanted to mark it in a way which we felt not only represented Nick but more importantly celebrated his life, and those of the other victims, young, vibrant, gig-goers all. Nick was life-long music lover who had been lucky enough to make enough to make it into a career which had taken him the world over. We wanted to harness the incredible sense of solidarity that resonated across the music industry after the attack and use that power and strength to look forward. Live music seemed the obvious choice and after a few conversations with some of his music industry colleagues, A Peaceful Noise was born.
Support flooded in from across the industry and in November last year a host of Nick’s friends and contemporaries including Gaz Coombes, Frank Turner, Maximo Park and Fran Healy played to a sold-out Shepherds Bush Empire. The show culminated with the unforgettable raucous on-stage rendition of Neil Young’s Keep on Rockin In The Free World, with the likes of Frank Turner and Blink 182’s Matt Skiba sharing a microphone with Chas & Dave while the victims’ names played out on a screen behind them; an improbable yet uplifting contrast to the solemn roll call read out to a silent crowd by President Hollande at the official commemorations two days previously.
Although originally intended as a one-off fundraising event, the powerful response to A Peaceful Noise and money raised for the Memorial Trust was more than we could have ever anticipated and now, moving into our second year, the need for a message of solidarity and hope seems to resonate more than ever. The creation of music exists in every culture across the world and the connection gained by standing in a crowd of strangers who are all singing the same lyrics is almost primal in its power. It’s this which underpins A Peaceful Noise with plans in place to expand across the UK with a series of fundraising gigs and the long-term vision of establishing it as a live music inclusivity project.
Through the money we have raised we have been able to support a diverse spectrum of life-changing projects; from providing sensory instruments for a music therapy programme for deaf babies and pre-schoolers through to recording software for a community project supporting hard to reach youth unable to access mainstream education and funding handcrafted sounding bowls for dementia patients in residential homes to use. This year’s show will enable us to build upon this and support more incredible music projects across the UK.
Although Nick and the Bataclan will always be at the heart of A Peaceful Noise, it’s vital to look forward as well. It’s a continually evolving journey which we’ve only just embarked upon. We miss Nick hugely and our lives have been rearranged forever but we have been afforded an incredible opportunity to tell as many people as will listen about my amazing brother and ensure that his legacy continues and grows. Above all we are committed to positive change and doing it in Nick’s name is the greatest honour of all.
A Peaceful Noise will take place on 25th November at ULU Live London with Frank Turner, Band of Skulls and False Heads on followed by an afterparty, More Peaceful Noise featuring The Libertines’ Carl Barat and Gary Powell. For more information and tickets, please head to www.apeacefulnoise.com