Last spotted in Redmire, North Yorkshire.
One kind resident made us laugh.
Not a UK resident? Read this.
Out of the loop? Read this.
We turned up early – though not half as early as some – to help get things ready and to join a short choir rehearsal.
This was January 31st, Britain’s last day in the EU, and the occasion for North Yorkshire for Europe’s ‘Thank EU for being here’ party: a celebration for EU citizens who’ve made their homes here.
There were tables and chairs in place, enough for about 120 people. There was Richard up a stepladder wrestling to get the home made (thank you Phil) banner up. And there were the cameras and reporters. BBC Look North were already busy interviewing and ITV News at Ten was due too. But look! Isn’t that Nick Robinson from the Today programme? Yes. He stayed and listened to the choir rehearse, and did a few short interviews, which were transmitted on Saturday’s programme at about 8.15.
Then it was 7.30. People started arriving – slowly at first, then in a busy queue. A Polish nurse who’d been part of the team when Malcolm was in hospital came, with two Spanish friends. As we sat down, we found ourselves with, apart from them, Italian and Ukranian guests. I chatted to a French woman. We heard German, Dutch. We puzzled over quiz sheets. Where ever in Europe had all these pictures been taken? There was music from our very own The Raisers.
Supper was only partly European. There were pizzas. But besides them were vats of Indian vegetarian curries, breads and sweetmeats. Feeding us all took quite a while, but gave the chance for lots of talking and getting to know one another.
Speeches of course. You’ve got to have speeches: but they were short, and though full of regret, positive and forward-looking.
And the choir sang. No longer the Remain Voice Choir, we’ve become the Reunion Chorus. Some of our old favourites have been brought up to date (‘Brexit is a form of Madness’ – you may know it as ‘Bread of Heaven’); and others are new (‘Europeans all are we..’ – ‘Bobby Shaftoe’).
The hands of the clock kept turning. It was getting late. We stopped out chatter. At exactly 11.00 o’clock, we stood up for a minute’s silence: reflective, saddened, angry. And then the choir and everyone in the room joined in singing Ode to Joy. After which, many of us turned to our neighbour for a comforting hug as we wept for what we had lost.
The evening was over. But not our movement. We’ve made new friendships in Yorkshire and beyond. One day, we’re sure, Britain will be part of the EU once more.
North Yorkshire for Europe made the best of a very bad job yesterday: a party for locally-resident EU citizens, to say ‘thank you’ for making their home here.
It was a great night, with fun, friendship … and tears. More tomorrow ….
An entry for Six Word Saturday.
I thought I couldn’t let January end without a final entry for Becky’s Squares: January Light. So here we are at the car wash.
Frankly, though, I’m not really in the mood. Not the day that the UK leaves the EU. I’m looking forward to this evening though, when North Yorkshire for Europe is holding two parties, one in York, and one in Harrogate, where we’ll be. The group’s invited EU nationals who’ve made their home in Yorkshire, so we can say ‘Thank EU 4 being here‘. We’ve already been mentioned on the Today programme, and …. well, we’ll just have to see.
Last Friday night was the first real winter’s night. Temperature of minus four. Saturday morning saw intrepid members of North Yorkshire for Europe climb into every bit of warm clothing they could round up, and head for Harrogate …..
…. and the Big Red Bus for Remain. For one week only – this week – if you live in Yorkshire you’ve a chance of seeing this re-badged Routemaster bus parked up in a town square near you. Parking place secured, members of the Yorkshire Remain Choir, plus assorted brass instrument players (with a tuba, a euphonium, a saxophone to name but a few) and guitar-players clamber off the bus, secure a vantage post, and sing.
It’s the Christmas period now, so in addition to all our tried and tested favourites:
and about thirty other numbers –
we have adapted seasonal fare:
Goodness, we were cold as we sang in Harrogate. We were freezing in Richmond, 37 miles north. And by the time we reached Ripon at sunset, 26 miles south, we’d lost all sensation. Only singing warmed us a little. That and having raucous sing-songs on the bus between venues.
We were generally well received. Obviously we weren’t always appreciated. But in Ripon, a dyed-in-the-wool Leaver approached us with a huge box of shortbread: ‘I don’t agree with you at all.’ he said. ‘But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t be friends.’
Hardly any photos of course. 1. I was busy singing. 2. Nobody in their right mind would want to take gloves off, just to take a photo. Brrr.
At this late stage, most of us have difficulty in believing we’re making a difference. But it takes our minds off the prospect of being led into an uncertain future by a serial liar with no moral compass, or interest in anything beyond his own ambition.
Read all about Saturday’s visit to Richmond in The Northern Echo, and about today’s visit to Leeds – sadly we weren’t there – in Leeds Live, and in Yorkshire Voice, where you can actually hear a few moments of song
Today commemorates the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. You’ll find plenty of posts celebrating this in different ways: here’s one.
I thought instead I would share a tale I heard when we were in Berlin two years ago. It’s an optimistic, positive story for unoptimistic times.
September 17th, 2017
I love this story. I hope you do too.
Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, one night in 1961, Berlin became a divided city. At first there was merely barbed wire fencing, then a wall. It was all done in such a hurry that mistakes were made. One tiny part of Kreuzberg that belonged to the Eastern sector got isolated in the West. The Americans – for it was in their zone – could do nothing about this unremarkable patch. It became an unloved and unlovely rubbish dump.
Then along came Osman Kalin, an immigrant Turk. He wanted a vegetable patch. He cleared the land and started to plant seeds. As his patch became productive, he gave vegetables to schools, to the local church, to anyone in need. He cobbled together a rather ramshackle tree house. He became something of a local hero.
Initially, the East didn’t mind. But when East Berliners successfully started to tunnel under his patch and escape he came under suspicion. The authorities came to interrogate him, and he welcomed them in his usual hospitable way. They gave up and left him alone.
In 1989, the Wall fell. A newly united Berlin City Council began to see Osman’s ramshackle domain as an embarrassment. They gave him notice to quit. The local and wider community was horrified. 25,000 people signed a petition demanding he be allowed to go on growing his vegetables.
He stayed. He’s 95 now, and doesn’t work so much on his vegetable patch, though his son does. He lives in a flat nearby rather than in the tree house. He’s still a much-loved local hero.
An entry for Six Word Saturday. In her post, Debbie too has chosen to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall
On Saturday, about a million of us descended on London, all committed Remainers, demanding a Final Say on the Brexit Deal, which even as we marched was being debated in Parliament with as much dissent as usual.
But the Yorkshire Remain Voice Choir had come to sing. We had permission to commandeer Wellington Place, right next to Trafalgar Square, and sing below the Duke of York Monument. And that’s what we did.
We’d come into being about two years ago in two ways. Over in York for Europe, Martin and Gill were crafting clever lyrics with a view to starting a Remainers’ choir. And in North Yorkshire we began to sing at our street stalls. Arnold conducted a few singers, a tuba, and a guitar. Small beginnings …. but now it’s county-wide, with members from Settle to Sheffield – almost 80 miles apart. Dozens play their parts. Composing lyrics; practising; arranging; securing singing spots; keeping song books up to date; booking coaches.
We have SODEM’s support in London, and an official photographer in Bedford-based Chiara Mc Call. We’ve sung all over Yorkshire, in London, even (thanks to Louise in South Yorkshire) in Brussels. Whenever the going’s got tough, we’ve had North Yorkshire’s Richard S’s boundless enthusiasm and hard work to keep us going. These days, apart from the original small team, we have a Yorkshire band’s worth of brass, and drums and various stringed instruments.
In London on Saturday, we had a large and pretty much captive audience. Slow-motion marchers inevitably listened – enthusiastically – as they passed. Many stopped off specially to listen, applaud and join in too. Demonic Cummings and Boris Johnson, those two splendid images fresh over from Germany, unsurprisingly pushed off towards Trafalgar Square as we began.
There are thirty eight songs in our repertoire – all, with one exception, pastiches of well-known numbers. Our signature number is of course:
‘We’ve come from Yorkshire just to say (just to say)
Your Brexit deal is naff…‘(to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor’, naturally).
But we can do other folk songs:
‘What shall we do with….‘, not a ‘Drunken Sailor’, but ‘this Rotten Brexit?’
…..drinking songs: ‘I’ve been a Remainer for many’s the year’ rather than the more traditional ‘Wild Rover’.
We can do Old Time Musical: ‘I’m forever European’ (‘I’m forever Blowing Bubbles’).
Radio Two standards such as ‘Delilah’ ask:
‘Why why why deceive us?
More lies won’t appease us’.
We can reference American traditions:
‘We’ve had quite enough of Brexit it’s a con’. (‘She’ll be coming round the Mountain’)
While ‘The Battle Hymn to the Republic’ becomes ‘Our eyes have seen the threat to all the freedoms we hold dear’.
Hymns too …. ‘Bread of Heaven’, and the Last Night of the Proms (‘Land of Hopeless Tories ‘).
There’s one song in our repertoire that’s not original: ‘Ode to Joy’. It moves many of us to tears every time we sing it.
Brexit or no Brexit (no Brexit please!) we’d like to continue. A pro-Europe Choir and Band for Europe?
Photos and videos labelled ‘CM’ are by our wonderful friend and supporter Chiara McCall. Follow her on Instagram @chichi76.myreflection
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that we’ve been on another demo: a Flash Demo – one of the many that sprung up around the country as a direct and horrified response to Boris Johnson’s decision to ask the Queen to Prorogue Parliament: here’s an explanation.
If you’re reading this on Saturday, we’ll be in York, demonstrating again, alongside thousands of other in Leeds, and cities all over the country.
On Thursday, we heard from politicians from different parties, cooperating to fight together. We heard from campaigners. We heard from those from mainland Europe who’d chosen Britain as their home. We heard from individuals terrified of the effect of No Deal on their own health or that of a loved one, dependent on prescription drugs. And best of all we heard from children, some still in primary school: informed, passionate, articulate speeches. Those children, still a long way from voting age, are our future.
This time, these rallies aren’t about Brexit. Not really. They’re about our Democracy.
Here are photos.
But I’ll leave you with this one, snapped through the window of a barbers’ shop in Leeds. You might not like the language. Gotta approve the sentiments.
My post for this weeks’s Six Word Saturday.
We’re back from Brussels. ‘We’ were a 60 strong group whose members, between us, had birthdates representing every single decade from the 1930s to the 2000s. And we had indeed come from Yorkshire just to say- ‘We’re for ever European’…
…. to ask ‘What shall we do with this rotten Brexit?’….
.. and to assert…..
We were cheered and moved to be tooted supportively by passing cars, told by streetcleaners, policemen, ice-cream stallholders, bar staff, passport control staff, passers-by that people in mainland Europe want us to stay, welcomed our efforts.
Wednesday was the day when we marched round the European Parliament campus singing and waving our European, Yorkshire and Union flags. It was the day when we toured the parliament building, having a question and answer session with Henry Wasung, British multi-lingual member of staff, and in the absence of our own MEP Richard Corbett, who was in London, with Seb Dance, Labour MEP for London. All of which assured us in our knowledge that only staying in Europe makes sense.
In the afternoon we were centre stage. We were at the Schuman Roundabout, focal point of the buildings of many of the EU institutions. So were members of Brussels Light Opera, Women for Europe, EU super girl and Young European of the Year 2018 Madeleina Kay. And we sang (see above!). Madeleina sang. Various British MEPs came to support us and to speak. Our own Shaffaq Mohammed and Magid Magid made speeches too.
Then it was four o’clock and time to go. Time to load the flags, the posters, the banners into the coach and make our way back to the ship, and to England.
We feel energised, optimistic, ready to plan the next stage of our campaign. Whatever we do, we’ll continue to make it fun and uplifting. No sour faces here.
…… all kinds of things about our love of Europe and our wish to remain in the EU. There are a dozen songs in the Yorkshire Remain Voice Song Book, pastiches of traditional songs, popular music staples, sea shanties and even hymns.
Sixty Yorkshire folk, all committed Remainer campaigners have arrived in Brussels to sing every one of them.
We’ve sung our way across on the overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge.
We’ve had an entertaining and informative afternoon at the Comité Européen des Régions, and held an impromptu flash mob there.
Flash mob alert
We’ve practised in the park, and brought gratitude and tears to an elderly Belgian, remembering his youth, with its fascism, division and war.
And this evening, we went to Place Jo Cox, laid a wreath of knitted white roses, and sang in memory of the murdered Yorkshire MP. One of our own newly elected MEPs, Magid Magid (Green), who joined us, reminded us of Jo’s hallmark: her compassion.
Magid Magid lays our wreath
Tomorrow though, is our big day…..