Emma Ballantine

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Somebody's Story single release: Secret Tunnel

Listen to the first track from the new EP!

Three months ago I set myself the challenge of writing and recording a new EP based on your stories - and the first track is now out in the world! The song, Secret Tunnel is the first of four new songs that I'll be sharing between now and March 2017.

Secret Tunnel was one of the most powerful and moving stories I was sent. I was blown away by Lisa's bravery and determination to move on with her life after such a harrowing experience. The task of bringing this to life musically was daunting, but I knew her story had to be told.

You can hear the full version of Secret Tunnel on Spotify (listen now) or over (here) on SoundCloud, and below is the true story that inspired it.

It was first sent to me by Bill, who together with his daughter rescued Lisa and helped her start a new life. He explained that after going through her ordeal, Lisa was anxious to share her story as widely as possible, in case it could help others struggling to find the courage to escape an abusive situation.

It has been a privilege working to bring Lisa's story to life, and I've been so moved by the responses I've had from people - particularly those who feel a personal connection to her experience.

It was also great fun working with Brixton-based producer Moseley, and evolving my sound from the traditional folk influences of my last EP, Tourist, to create a more contemporary feel.

I'll be playing all four tracks live for the first time in the New Year - watch this space for details of my spring tour!


Lisa's story, told by Bill

It's February half-term in 1988 and starts on the Wednesday at 6:30pm, when my daughter, 16 at the time, is working part-time at the bus station tea bar. Also working there is 14 year old Lisa.

My daughter calls and asks me if I can collect her after work - there's something she needs my help with. Lisa has told her a secret that is too big to keep... A secret she can't tell her mother because it involves her father, and what he's been doing to her for the past three years.

I have no idea what to do, but I know she has to escape before Monday, when school term starts again.

So my daughter and I come up with a plan. I arrange to borrow a friend's van and my daughter tells Lisa that we're going to rescue her and she's not to tell anyone at all. On Sunday night, Lisa secretly packs a bag and all her school things.

We've arranged to be parking round the corner, waiting for her at 8:00am on Monday morning; which is after both parents have left for work and 20 minutes before she would normally leave for school. Nobody sees her.

It works perfectly, though in all honesty, I'm panicking, and have no idea what to do next! When we get to my house, I call Social Services; they call the police and we all go to the police station. Lisa's statement is so graphic and contains so much information that her father is arrested that afternoon and is remanded to prison. December 2016

Then the social worker asks me if I'm able to look after Lisa. They've contacted their register of emergency foster parents and it looks like the only other option is a children's home. I never imagined that this is how things would work out, but I started this and I can't back out now.

I was Lisa's foster father for the next two years. Lisa was right. Her mother took her father's side and accusing her of lying. Her father's extended family rallied round him and told the police that if they found who'd kidnapped Lisa, they'd deal with it themselves, making it clear they intended to track us down and attack me!

So for the hearing, the trial and the sentencing, we had to be given police protection. Our address was never disclosed and Lisa was helped to change her surname, so there was no obvious link back to us. Police also arranged for me to park in the police compound; they told me that there was a secret tunnel between the police station and the Crown Court.

The three minute walk through the tunnel to the trial was the scariest I've ever known. We'd been told there was a big crowd of his family waiting outside the court. A screen was put up between witnesses and spectators and Lisa and her father.

Her father pleaded "not guilty", forcing Lisa to re-live and repeat all the details of her abuse. The trial lasted two days. The jury went out and returned only 50mins later, finding him "guilty" on all five sample charges.

Rescuing Lisa was probably the best thing I've ever done. And I'm not scared of ANYTHING now. Nothing will be as scary as those three minutes in an underground tunnel on the way to court with a crowd of angry people waiting to attack me for telling the truth.

And straight after the trial, with the support of her headmaster, Lisa told her story to a full school assembly. She could never be shamed, embarrassed, bullied or frightened. She wasn't a victim any more. She's a survivor!


6.51pm 16th Dec 2016