Burning the bones: An Adventure on jura

Credit:Ronnie Leask

2024 is the 75th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', a book he wrote while living in a remote farmhouse on the north of the Scottish island of Jura. It was there that he laboured to complete the book whilst falling increasingly ill with TB, a condition which would kill him shortly after publication of the book. 2024 is also the 30th anniversary of the K Foundation (formerly KLF) burning a million pounds in cash in a disused boathouse, again on Jura. 

Both the book and the burning are significant markers that have prompted questions about how we live, about the continuing encroachment into our lives of technology, power and money – and both ask us to contrast this with the wild, natural, open landscape around us.

Commoners Choir are heading up to the island on May 17th to spend a weekend walking and singing a specially-composed song that sees KLF and Orwell performing a ritual burning away of winter and heralding the coming spring. The choir will sing to echo the ancient practice of burning the old animal bones to mark the changing seasons – literally, a bone-fire (later becoming bonfire).

Around 50 Commoners will catch the ferry across to the island, where, fortified on Jura Distillery’s whisky, they will perform, record and film the new song. They’ll also take time to trace a triangle that takes in a mountain summit, Orwell's farmhouse and KLF's boathouse; singing, drinking whisky and making fire... a ritual, an adventure, and a way to sing in a better future than Orwell predicted.