My friends will know that I’ve been having a bit of a hard time recently and am feeling quite unsettled about my life. Whether it’s chicken or egg, I don’t know, but this feeling of unease has also applied to my job. Maybe it’s unsurprising given I have worked for the Commission for 18 years. But then sometimes a day comes along that makes you think, my job rocks. Not only is it interesting and varied and intellectually challenging, but I am also part of something that is actually helping people and changing attitudes. And that day was yesterday.
It all started at Arsenal Emirates Stadium, where the kids involved in the Arsenal Double Club Olympic Song, Together in the Language of Sport, were putting together the video. The Double Club is a project that we have been involved in for several years, which uses football to help kids engage with foreign languages. Working with the Goethe Institut in particular, a song was written and schools were invited to take part in a competition where they wrote verses along the Olympic theme in 5 different languages (Spanish, French, Italian, German and Greek) and an English chorus. They recorded the song, and then yesterday 350 kids came to Arsenal to do the video. It was lovely seeing all these kids singing with great gusto in different languages. As a language junkie, I also loved learning the chorus in British Sign Language. Whenever I meet a deaf person now I’ll be able to have a great conversation, as long as it involves the phrases “there’s no losing, only winning” and “all together in the language of sport”. Here’s a brief taster of the video, which will be released officially on 18 July. Be warned – the song is a complete earworm that you’ll be humming for the rest of the day.
Then that evening I headed to the Royal Opera House for an event the like of which I’m sure that august venue has never seen. It was called With1voice and was a one-night festival with performers who are or have been homeless. There were two rooms, one more acoustic, with individual performers, poets, films and then a mainstage, with bands, choirs and theatre groups. It all came to a head with Streetwise Opera blasting out O Sole Mio. It was an astonishing evening, and really challenged my preconceptions of homelessness. It really made me realise that but for a few quirks of fate, that could be me, you, anyone. I think of all the acts I saw, the one that affected me most was Veteran Voices, based in Aldershot. Two of the former soldiers read poems they had written. They weren’t the greatest poetry ever written (and I know, because I write bad poetry myself), but these quite buttoned-up men, trained to be emotionless and direct, writing about what has happened to them in a very matter-of-fact way, but with the pain and hurt leaking out of the seams was so very moving. How has it come to this, that men who offered their lives to protect us are living in sheltered accommodation?
This was part of the London 2012 festival/Cultural Olympiad and the first time that homeless people have had a voice during the Olympics. There’s a petition to sign, if you’d like it to be a regular part. And an article in the Society Guardian to get another point of view of the night.
Some of the acts and films showcased: