It is only the most important things that can cross the political divide and unite the nation. One of these things is certainly the joy of singing together, something that has been so tragically missing from this difficult year. Another is the shared belief that everyone deserves a home.
Thankfully, for one day in Westminster, we were able to stand, in a safe and socially distanced way, together for an event on both these things. The Parliament Choir has been mostly silent this year, able to only practise over Zoom. But they were determined to come back for a special carol concert to show that love and music were still in their hearts. However, they also wanted to do so in a way that marked the struggle so many have faced over this year. That is why we at Shelter were so pleased to work with them to put together a live concert, now filmed and available to watch from home.
As the Speakers for both Houses say in the concert itself, it speaks to the spirit of the Parliamentary Estate that the choir did not let the challenges of this year prevent these carols from occurring. Not just the MPs and peers but researchers, security staff, cleaners, all have ensured our Parliament could continue to function this year. We are grateful for their support for Shelter.
An hour of magical reading, songs and music has been put together for us all to enjoy at home and I hope you can enjoy with those you love. Those who agree on few things on the political battlefield sang together, as seen by a magnificent rendition of We Three Kings by David Lammy, Bernard Jenkin and Lord German.
We finished with a very special reading from Shelter service user Stella, who has benefitted from our help to ensure she got the home her and her family needed. She read a poem especially commissioned for the evening written by Katherine Collins. The full text of the poem is below.
The unsheltered places
The unsheltered in their places might remark
if asked, that a pavement
at close quarters
is like the surface of the moon
just before the sun disturbs itself
to snuff out, one by one
each florescent streetlight’s fizz
that crowds out deeper
And paving slabs, when seen up close
are crusted in a skin-deep film of ash
and shallow breaths that blur
the craters worn by sleeping
bags, which only the dislodged perceive
as they move between their havens
footprints captured in a lunar scene
of crumpled blankets seared
by solar winds that rise
as if from a blazing paper cup of tea
steam whirling like the telescope
that sends the stars’ song home.
by Katherine Collins