John Coast



John Coast was born in Kent, England on October 30, 1916. As Britain entered World War II, he left a comfortable post in the City to serve in the Coldstream Guards and then as an officer in the Norfolks. He was one of the few survivors of that regiment when it was trying to defend Singapore against the Japanese.

As a prisoner-of- war Coast was sent into Siam (Thailand) to build railways for the Japanese and the story of that time Railroad of Death (1946) became a best seller and was later to form the subject of Return to the River Kwai, a documentary made in 1969 for the BBC.

During his internment, Coast got an inkling of his future profession: he drew together musicians among his fellow prisoners and put together concert parties, which he stage managed.

After the war, Coast joined the press department of the Foreign Office in Bangkok and then became press attaché to President Sukarno during the Indonesian struggle for independence. He described his adventures in Indonesian poltics in his book Recruit to Revolution (1952).

In 1950 Coast withdrew from politics and moved to Bali to write and fulfil a dream of organizing the first post-war Western tour of Bali's finest musicians and dancers. Together with his Javanese wife Supianti, he brought such a troupe to Europe and America, to spectacular success.

His book Dancers of Bali (1953), published in Britain as Dancing out of Bali (1954) relates the story of this legendary tour.

Back in London in the mid 1950s, Coast became a manager and an impressario to such artists as Mario Lanza, Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, Jon Vickers and Montserrat Caballé. He was the first man to present Bob Dylan in London and take Ravi Shankar to the West.

He also contributed articles to The New Statesman, The Economist, Ballet and Dance News and made several films on Balinese culture with Sir David Attenborough for the BBC.

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