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Bonpo | Stream Arts | 2007

A book and audio work by Helen Marshall, 2007. Audio and text was used to protect the identity of participants, who were vulnerable isolated older people.

Stream commissioned a work to be made with several older housebound residents in the borough of Greenwich, London. Marshall visited each client several times during the winter period. One of the participants revealed to her that he had been a monk in the 1940’s and had experienced ‘purgatory’ during this time through the means and ways of Bonpo. In addition he mentioned his relationship with Ronnie, one of the Kray brothers, notorious organised crime leaders in London’s East End during the 1950s and 60s. A limited edition 250 page verbatim transcript, book and audio publication was printed and distributed.

Voices: Anon
Sound Design: Helen Marshall & If Six Was Nine
Transcription: Kim Stephens, Leah Bartczak, Selina Akram, Drue Zell & Aviva Leeman

’’A Bonpo is a believer in Bon, and for him Bon signifies truth, reality or the eternal, unchanging doctrine in which truth and reality are expressed. Anthropology as well as Himalayan traditions have affirmed that the Bonpo were masters of sound.’’

Read the transcript here


” Bonpo, means the glorious. If you add or subtract from the chronicles that are written, you’re sinning. So you mustn’t scorn it and you mustn’t take nothing away. So you can’t exaggerate and you can’t knock it in other words, otherwise it would be sinful. But when I saw the Nomads it was a big tent and in it was prostitutes. When the blokes went in and paid them, if it was temple tokens, oh! They’d get the old dharma he’d come round and you can’t do the celibacy thing no more. You want to see some of them talking like little gents and they’ve been round this knocking shop with temple tokens giving them away, straight away. I thought it was so funny, you know they used to do judo and things, or unarmed combat whatever. They’ve got different names for all these martial arts. I said, I don’t know about that mate do I. It was one thing me doing all this snaffling and grinning and he jumped at me, I smacked him on the chin and he’s gone out cold. He said, Try another one, so I tried the other one, he’s done the same.”