some of what we got up to in 2012

TUC demo 20,10,12-2

Soweto welcome and Aleida Guevarra

A busy Tuesday evening in September saw us double booked. Starting with a spirited and emotional rendition of a selection of our South African songs to welcome Bright in the Corner, a young choir from Soweto, we then rushed to the Refugee Forum where we had been invited to sing to Che Guevarra's daughter Aleida at a meeting organised by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. We arrived to find that we couldn't get in as the hall was packed to capacity, and people were overflowing onto the street. After an improptu performance to entertain the overflow crowd, we eventually managed to get in and sing Hasta Siempre to Aleida.


The Pentrich Uprising

Mayday in Chesterfield

Clarion Mayday

When we agreed to fill in for the absence-hit Sheffield Socialist Choir at the annual May Day celebrations in Chesterfield, I pictured the scene in my mind. Cold, grey and with an omnipresent threat of heavy rain. In fact, a traditional Bank Holiday Monday, but this particular one to be spent in the er, historic market town (the sign tells you) in north Derbyshire famed for its crooked spire. As it turned out… it was cold, grey and with an omnipresent threat of heavy rain in Chesterfield on May Day Bank Holiday Monday.

However, the wholly seasonal weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the happy band of Clarionistas who, once they had managed to find the correct location for the start of the march, gave those assembled a couple of impromptu songs to get people in the mood.

Marching in close proximity to a very loud samba band , and distracted by trying to keep the sail-like Clarion banner upright in a strong north easterly, there was to be no opportunity for singing whilst parading round the town. However, after rousing speeches in Rykneld Square, the choir led the throng (OK, medium-sized crowd) in the two great workers’ anthems: The Red Flag and The Internationale.

Then on to the Winding Wheel where, bizarrely, Des O’Connor is due to appear in a few weeks. I wondered if this was another first for the choir – singing at the same venue as a once hugely popular variety performer who used to host the afternoon Channel 4 quiz Countdown? On the way back to the station, another Clarionista and I pondered the seemingly pathetic concession of £1.00 reduction being offered to less well off Des fans. Then we realised that given the likely age of the audience, pretty much everyone would qualify…

Anyway, back to the event: we took the stage at just after 1.00 and, I think, performed our set of five songs very creditably given the hubbub going on in the background. The likelihood is that much of the subtle wit of the Childsplay Miscellany was lost on most of the audience that day; however we have had subsequent feedback suggesting that there had been some very attentive listeners at the front of the hall. There was one particular young lad I remember: he’d been very keen to hear more of us after the songs in the square and took it upon himself to guide us to the Winding Wheel. He was probably aged around 17, dressed in tracksuit bottoms, trainers and baseball cap; probably the unlikeliest-looking Clarion Choir fan you could imagine.

As we emerged from the hall after a well- earned cuppa, the rain was still holding off. How lucky we’d been with the weather, we thought. Then, happy with our day’s work and full of inspiration and feelings of solidarity, we travelled back on the train to Nottingham …where it was, of course, chucking it down.

How about some statistics: the room, airy with a nice stage and a bar, friendly staff and a capacity of around 100, 30 from the choir, plus all the other acts so generously given. So it was bound to be a sell-out and that was by the week before.
Imagine the scene. Sound people setting up, a choir doing semi embarrassing exercises – all to do with breathing and vocal chords, people trying to get their seat early, balloons and flags being raised, early dinners and drinks being served, raffle prizes assembled (including the author’s Havana Club). This was always going to be a good night.
First up Clarion (well we had to be) amused and harangued the filling hall with songs about the cuts and the coalition as well as giving an apt and well received rendition of Guantanamera. And the air conditioning was turned off so we could all hear – the heat was going to rise.
Then came folk with guitars, Rosa’s Lovely Daughters and loads more people by the interval. Raffle prizes dispatched with great finesse by Maggie and thanks to great selling by Paravidia, Ingrid and Pete we made a bit too.
The drummers were loud and then with the choir surrounding the seated got some noise – quite a din and very much enjoyed as some joined in.
And so back to statistics – 85,439 lapsed Catholics in West Bridgford informed Stanley Accrington, the act of the night – and with 60s songs to close, a hundred and more happy people on the night and over £900 raised to bring Aurea to Nottingham.
Well done everyone!

Cabaret for Cuba at the Poppy and Pint

Cuba cabaret flyer

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