Songwriter Sarah McQuaid and filmmaker Brett Harvey team up for video based on true organ donor story

Photo by Phil Nicholls
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Singer/songwriter Sarah McQuaid has teamed up with award-winning filmmaker Brett Harvey for a music video/short film based on the poignant true story of Bill Conner, a father who lost his daughter and cycled 1,400 miles to hear her heart beating again in the body of its recipient. 

Underpinned by Sarah’s song “Slow Decay”, from her just-released fifth solo album, If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous, the video was released today, Friday, March 30, with Conner’s blessings. To view it, click here:

In May 2017, five months after Conner’s daughter Abbey died at the age of 20, he decided to honor her short life by cycling from his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to visit Broward Health Medical Center, the hospital that had recovered Abbey’s organs for donation. 1,400 miles into Conner’s trip, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he met with 21-year-old Loumonth Jack Jr., who’d been given 10 days to live before he was saved by Abbey’s heart.

After sharing a minute-long hug, Jack pulled out a stethoscope so that Conner could hear his daughter’s heartbeat for the first time since she died. The family made a recording of Jack’s heart for Conner to listen to as he continued his journey to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation, promoting the efforts of The “Slow Decay” video seeks to further his efforts.

“I was struck by the simple humanity of the act,” says Harvey, “and the notion that we live on through others after we pass away. I had wanted to tell a version of this story for a while, and as soon as I heard Sarah’s beautiful song I knew it was the right fit.”

Born in Spain (to a Spanish father and an American mother) and raised in Chicago, Sarah now lives in Cornwall, England, as do Harvey and the five actors who appear in the film.

Produced by guitar icon Michael Chapman, If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous was released in February on both CD and vinyl and has been garnering a slew of rave reviews: it was described by Dutch music magazine Heaven as “een vroege kandidaat voor folk album van 2018” (“an early contender for folk album of 2018”), by The Vinyl District as “a major statement in contemporary folk” and by PopMatters as “a gateway into a true innovator’s soul.”

“The body fails / These bones won’t last forever / So I ask myself what are the things we leave behind,” ruminates Sarah in the lyrics of “Slow Decay”. The question is answered, at least in part, elsewhere on the album: the bluesy, upbeat “Break Me Down” includes the line “If my organs are of use, I hope they find a happy home.”

In his beautifully rendered film, Harvey takes up that theme subtly but effectively, as a mother (played by Mary Woodvine, whose credits include Eastenders, Doc MartinCasualty and Poldark in addition to starring roles in Cornish-language short film Blight and award-winning 2007 psychological thriller The Lark) undertakes a cycle journey intercut with flashbacks of her daughter’s short life.

Links for the and websites appear onscreen after the film’s closing frame.

Harvey’s first feature film Weekend Retreat won the Golden Chough award at the Cornwall Film Festival 2011, Best Director at the London Independent Film Festival 2012, Best Actress and Best Film at the Bootleg Film Festival 2013, Best Director at the International Film Festival of Wales 2014 and nine awards at the Global Independent Film Awards. His second feature film Brown Willy played in international film festivals and was described by The New Statesman as “Cornwall’s answer to Withnail And I.

With the help of financial support from Arts Council England and Cultivator Cornwall, Sarah was able to commission Harvey’s film of “Slow Decay” as well as two videos by Cornish filmmaker Mawgan Lewis: a documentary on the making of If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous and a music video of lead single “The Tug Of The Moon”, both released on Sarah’s YouTube channel in the run-up to the album launch.

Sarah will be touring in the UK and Ireland in April and May, in the USA in September and October, and hopes to extend her touring range into Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in 2019. Keep an eye on for announcements of tour dates.

“I’m so, so glad that Brett came up with this beautiful concept for ‘Slow Decay’,” says Sarah. “It’s something I feel very strongly about, and I hope it’ll inspire anyone who’s not already registered as an organ donor to sign up.”

Web and social media links for Sarah are as follows:

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