Renell Shaw, composer, songwriter and Associate Artist of Hackney Empire, today releases a new video to accompany his Ivor Novello award-winning composition THE VISION THEY HAD (FROM THE WINDRUSH SUITE). A deeply personal work, featuring the voices of his grandparents and his mother telling their stories, overlaid with original visuals, the video features a talented ensemble of West End dancers, with debut choreography from Delycia Belgrave (Legally Blonde, White Christmas, Guys and Dolls).

Renell has teamed up with the FUTURE channel from the creator of Secret Cinema to release the film at 19.00 GMT on Wednesday 31 March 2021. The Future channel has over 540,000 subscribers showing the most emotive and powerful short films from around the world.

Directed by Otis Dominique, whose music video credits include working with artists such as Jorja Smith, Giggs, and Kojey Radical, The Vision They Had stars dancers Samara Casteallo (Tina, Starlight Express), Jordan Crouch (The Greatest DancerWhite Christmas), Anu Ogunmefun (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Tina), Terique Jarrett (Find Me In Paris – Hulu/Cottonwood Media, Motown The Musical), and Tonye Scott-Obene (Wicked, Best Recent Graduate Award Winner 2020 (BBTA))

The Windrush Suite was commissioned in 2020 by Kathianne Hingwan from London’s The Vortex Jazz Club who secured funding from the PRS foundation and The Shape of Jazz to Come to present an online broadcast that honoured the Windrush generation for Windrush Day on 22 June. The Windrush Suite was subsequently offered a one-hour special on Jazz Fm hosted by Orphy Robinson MBE and was also played by Julian Joseph MBE on BBC3. The Windrush Suite EP was subsequently signed and released through Rudimental’s Label ‘Major Tom’s Records’, and went on to win the Ivor Novello Composers Award (jazz composition for small ensemble).

Renell Shaw said, “These are literally my family’s stories – the beautiful part is that these stories resonate with so many Caribbean people in the UK, who have heard similar stories from family members over the years.’ The Windrush Suite’ is about love, injustice, adventure, triumph, loss and so much more. These are some of the things my Grandparents and my parents’ generation experienced; I wanted to express and honour their stories in a beautiful way.”

Renell Shaw’s association with Hackney Empire started in 2002 when he participated in their flagship education programme ADP. After 2 years he became assistant Musical Director for ADP, shadowing Orphy Robinson MBE. He went on to become one of the founding members of the Hackney Harlem Theatre Company, which grew out of ADP and was set up to continue participants’ creative development. They performed A Midsummer Night’s Madness at the National Black Theatre in Harlem, NYC, at the Edinburgh Fringe and then a week on the main stage at Hackney Empire. Eventually he became Associate Musical Director, working closely with the current Artistic Director, Yamin Choudury, on a wide range of shows and community projects, including the creation of ALTER EGO, East London’s biggest talent showcase for young people, where finalists are mentored by top industry professionals and then perform alongside headline acts in front of over a thousand people at Hackney Empire.

Renell has also written, collaborated, recorded and toured alongside artists such as: Rudimental, Anne-Marie, Jess Glynne, Skepta, Nitin Sawhney CBE, Maverick Sabre, Cleveland Watkiss MBE, Orphy Robinson MBE, Aloe Blacc, Speech Debelle, Sharon D. Clarke MBE and Carleen Anderson.

As a composer and arranger, he has worked with: Google, Barclays, BBC, U.N.E.S.C.O, Southbank Centre, Britten Sinfonia, London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

West End and Theatre credits include: Brief Encounter Directed by Emma Rice, A Midsummer Night’s Madness Directed by Susie McKenna, Cage Street Memorial Directed by Tim Hopkins and Kneehigh’s Ubu Directed by Carl Grose & Mike Shepherd.

Renell’s other work includes creative consultancy, master classes guest lectures and speaking panels for organisations such as: Youtube, TED Conferences, The National Youth Theatre and The Academy of Contemporary Music.

Hackney Empire Artistic Director Yamin Choudury said, “Both Renell and myself are beneficiaries of Hackney Empire’s outreach work with young people from across London that began over two decades ago; all of us at Hackney Empire are so proud to be a part of his creative journey, and the fact that after all these years he is still part of the Hackney Empire family – now investing his energy into a new wave of creative changemakers.

It is more important now than ever for experiences and stories like the ones heard in THE VISION THEY HAD to be recognised. Hackney Empire has a long legacy of embracing and nurturing incredible communities of artists and audiences, creating access points to platforms that can be impenetrable for many. Renell and I have been lucky enough to sit in the wings of the theatre for many years  and see the transformational power of our people, sharing our stories, and with his work Renell is a part of the next generation to ensure that this legacy will continue.”

Renell Shaw said, “Everything I know about stage performance and musicality I learnt through my mentors and the opportunities I experienced during my early years with The Hackney Empire. It’s one of a kind, there’s nowhere else like it.

I’m fortunate now to work in both the contemporary music and theatrical world and I can see that theatre is trying to evolve and expand its audiences. I believe it will get there as long as it’s willing to take creative risks, explore new artistic ideas and embrace the advantages that technology has to offer.

As a songwriter I’ve been able to work with a variety of successful artists, I like to read between the lines of the songs we write, that’s how I get to know the person and figure out what they’re really trying to say. Authenticity is key for me, that’s how we write the best songs. I’ve taken that same formula and I am applying it to a few original theatre show ideas I’ve been developing, when the time is right, I’ll find an interesting way to put them on their feet.”