Shaped by a 9/11 loss
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Date: 8 September, 2011


'We're in a cycle of destruction – and the way we get out of it is for all of us to step back and look at the reasons and how we can put an end to all the suffering.'


Rob Halligan's father was killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11th. George Luke talks to the singer-songwriter.

Your latest album is called The Perils, the Grace and the Way. What does that title mean, and how did the album come about?

It's an album that's come together over the last couple of years. It's the journey that I have had; it's some of the people I've met; it's quite eclectic in its style of music as well. I think it's very different.

And what does the title mean? Well, when you're on a journey, you get the perils, you experience grace – and you're on the way!

I didn't go out of my way to write an album. This was just a collection of songs I'd written over the last couple of years. So it is very much about the journey I've had.

It covers some of my trip to Bangladesh; it covers people that I've met and people I work with who are homeless on the streets of Coventry.

I wouldn't say it was political, but it touches on some of the more edgy issues that affect me through my involvement in various things.

What is it that motivates to to travel to all these places and capture these stories?

I don't go looking for stories as such. I think a lot of it is to do with wanting to make an impact and wanting to make a difference in whatever way you can.

So I use my music to try and raise awareness of people who otherwise haven’t got a voice. You know – speaking up for the downtrodden; speaking up for people who are much worse off than we are.

So I sing about homelessness; I sing about kids in developing countries; I sing about all that stuff – and I sing about the difference that we can make.

Let's go back to 2001. Where were you when you heard that the World Trade Centre had been hit; how did you find out your father was one of the casualties, and how has your journey been since then?

I found out that there was an attack on the WTC when I was working in an office in Coventry. We didn't have any televisions in the office, so I went over to a department store and watched it all in the TV section in the store.

I wasn't sure if Dad was there, because he works there but he'd had a couple of weeks off. He'd only just gone back to work. He worked on the 99th floor of the South Tower.

It took a while for us to find out if he had gone in to work that day, and it took us even longer to find out what had become of him. His body was never found, and so it took a long time for us to find any real closure to the whole thing.

I think that initially when it all happened, I determined that whatever the outcome, I was going to look for some sort of hope and positivity in it. It would be so easy to react in a negative kind of way.

I think that's been my drive ever since then: when I sing I try and sing about hope and about reconciliation.

You were featured quite a bit in the media when Osama bin Laden died. What sort of feedback did you get from people who either saw you on or read your comments in the press?

All the feedback I actually heard was positive. It's surprising, because my drive was that I didn't think it was right to celebrate the death of bin Laden.

For me, bin Laden has become a bit of a poster boy for terrorism; he was probably the spark, but he's certainly not the fire now. He's gone, but there are many, many others.

One of the things I said was that when 9-11 happened, we saw pictures of people in the Middle East celebrating and jumping around, and we thought that was really sick and we would never do anything like that.

And then when bin Laden got killed, we saw pictures of people in the West doing exactly the same thing. And you think, 'hang on a second...' None of this is putting an end to terror.

We're in a cycle of destruction – and the way we get out of it is for all of us to step back and look at the reasons and how we can put an end to all the suffering.

People can be very short-sighted about terrorism and the 'War on terror'. I quite often quote this quote – and I don't know how accurate this is – there's more people dying every day from preventable diseases and preventable causes due to poverty than in ten years of terrorism.

And yet we pile so much into terrorism... I sometimes think that some of these people who have this gripe against the West have a reason to have a gripe against the West, and if we look at the root causes of it all, maybe we could do something real about it.

Amazon links

Click the following links to order albums from the featured artists Christian Aid will receive a percentage of each sale.

The Perils, the Grace and the Way

Best Thing That's Happened

Dancing With Seagulls

The New York Sessions


Try This at Home (with Gareth Davies-Jones)