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Running for Our Lives

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

The Story Behind a Unique Artwork and Performance

It’s been a fortnight since our stunning 2023 Wildlife Ball took place at the incredible Dorchester Hotel. Undoubtedly, the standout moment of the evening was the performance of ‘Running for Our Lives’. This unique, powerful, moving tribute to Africa and its iconic apex predator, the lioness, saw a new stunning piece of artwork created in front of our audience, by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) patron artist, Emily Lamb. As Emily put paint and charcoal to canvas, DSWF ambassador and English Mezzo-Soprano Laura Wright, brought her haunting composition and lyrics, co-written with John Haywood, to life.

Image credit: Alex Cossey, CPG

This trinity of artistry left our audience on the night spellbound. Today, we’re incredibly pleased to be able to share that performance with you. But first, let’s explore how something so special and unique came into being. The piece itself was performed in less than seven minutes, but its conception started six months ago, as Emily explains.

“As artists, Laura and I connected when we discovered our shared passion for wildlife and especially African, motherland energy. What happened next was kinetic, fluid alchemy. We took to the project like wildfire, as soon as the idea was born. We knew we wanted to perform side by side and we wanted people to feel something visceral, wild, and compelling. The freedom afforded to us by the deep trust shown by DSWF, gave us the space to let loose with our ideas and embrace our respective powers to the fullest. We immediately found a common language and started building our vision, purpose-lead by the work of DSWF.”

Image credit: Alex Cossey, CPG

“Harnessing my inherent connection to DSWF, and how Laura and I worked in unison, echoing the tie of the lionesses in my vision, it became clear that heritage, legacy, and family were the backbone of the piece.”

“Our creative process was the most organic and connected venture I’ve personally ever experienced in a collaboration. As I reflected on my own deeply considered needs and callings, Laura responded with an interpretation that was equally wild and fierce. The track she and John created made the room shake. It demanded attention of the subject and issues we were trying to express on behalf of these iconic animals.”

“This couldn’t have been more apparent on the night. During the six and half minutes of the performance, not a sound was murmured by the entranced audience. My paint brush span and charcoal flew as hushed tones and reaching notes echoed behind me. It was in synchronised rhythm and dance that our skills and hearts found a place to be bold and raw in our combined energy and vision.”

Image credit: Alex Cossey, CPG

“Laura and I believe art should be more than a linear, limited definition. This piece shows that the true power of art can be harnessed through collaboration, community, and bold risk taking. Ultimately, the message I want to express is, whether it’s art or conservation, enabling people to build on a vision and making the resources available to achieve those goals, is how great things like ‘Running for Our Lives’ come about.”

Whilst Emily shaped the stunning, inspiring visuals, it was Laura who gave the piece its voice.

“Emily and I brainstormed around the idea of bringing two art forms together, creating something highly emotive. We wanted people to feel moved, maybe even shocked. Our real desire was to move away from ‘the expected’ and to stay true to what we’re both most passionate about – using art to convey a message and make positive change.”

“Working on the composition, there was a rawness within the samples and instrumentation I wanted to capture and protect, whilst using my voice for plainchant and soaring high melodies. I felt this dramatic contrast would hint at the devastation the world is witness to, caused by human hands. Seeing the sketches and Emily’s work develop during this time meant we were very much moving as one, feeding off each other’s creativity.”

“I brought the rhythms of Africa and sound-shape of animal calls into the work, as well as the voice of David Shepherd himself, which I felt gave a cyclical nature to it.”

Image credit: Alex Cossey, CPG

“Prior to the performance on the night, conversations were focused on logistics and ensuring we both felt comfortable about what was going to happen on stage. I also created an entrance piece of music, with help of my co-writer, John Haywood. This enabled us to set the tone, and the stage, for the performance to come.”

“The performance went by in a blur, but I felt such connectivity and confidence with Emily, it was completely natural and instinctual. Then, to see the amount raised for DSWF was the most wonderful feeling. Above all, working with Emily has been an enlightening experience and something I’m truly proud of. Watch this space – we have big plans!”

On the night, the piece went into a heated auction even as the paint dried. Cumulatively, the artwork and the painting sketches helped us raise over £25,000 for the vital, frontline projects we support.

Image credit: Alex Cossey, CPG

The ‘art of survival’ is a legacy concept at the core of everything DSWF does. We use art as a foundation that inspires change and a deep-rooted will to make a difference. As ‘Running for Our Lives’ shows, art is interpretive and accessible to all. Art encourages us to explore a more personal connection rather than presenting a dictated narrative, enabling us to find meaning beyond the linear. DSWF uses this voice to challenge and change. Art has enabled us to fight wildlife crime, protect endangered species, and engage with communities impacted by human-wildlife conflict. Through this holistic approach to conservation, we successfully support 19 vital, long-term frontline projects across 22 countries – truly making a difference.

You can watch the thrilling performance of ‘Running for Our Lives’ below. And, as both Emily and Laura have hinted, we can look forward to more exciting collaborations on behalf of DSWF in the future.

A huge thank you to Alicia Hayden, filmmaker / editor, who captured the performance for us on the night.

Watch ‘Running for Our Lives’ performed by Emily Lamb and Laura Wright.
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