Edinburgh Climate March
On 30 September, members of PiH joined other protesters at a demonstration outside the the UK Government building in Edinburgh, to protest against the decision to approve the Rosebank oilfield — the biggest undeveloped oilfield in the North Sea.
The demonstration was called by Edinburgh Climate Coalition, with a number of speakers fiercely denouncing the UK government’s decision, which grants permission to Oslo-based Equinox and British firm Ithaca Energy to go ahead with developing the Rosebank oilfield off Shetland. Despite the rain, a crowd of protesters warmly applauded calls to stop Rosebank.
End Fossil Fuels
On Saturday 16th September we welcomed the End Fossil Fuels (End Fossil Fuels — Edinburgh Climate March — Global Justice Now) demonstrators at the Mound. Despite competing noise we attempted to keep singing on the march to our first stop at Queen Elizabeth House. By making sure we were first to arrive at the Parliament we were able to sing to greet the demonstrators as they arrived down the Royal Mile for the main part of the rally.
Edinburgh City of Sanctuary protest
On Wednesday 4th October, Protest in Harmony members joined Edinburgh City of Sanctuary’s monthly protest against the UK Government’s inhumane and unjust asylum policy. We gathered outside Queen Elizabeth House, Westminster’s ´visible presence´ in Scotland. We handed out song sheets and were joined in our singing by fellow protesters with fairly easy to pick up songs: Citizen Shanty, Welcome Home, Lead with Love and Roses and Bread. The return of students increased numbers and enthusiasm. The event takes place on the first Wednesday of the month from 5–6pm outside Elizabeth House, EH8 8FT.
Vigil for Chile
After taking part in Chile 50 Years On: A Concert of Scottish and Chilean Music, members of PiH joined activists, musicians and community members outside St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, on Monday 11 September, to mark the 50th anniversary since the military coup in Chile that deposed the country’s democratic government and ushered in a brutal dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.
The event, at which people lit candles to commemorate the thousands of Chilean citizens who were killed, opened with a song from activist and singer Carlos Arredondo.
Penny Stone led the choir in two songs that linked to the theme of honouring all who disappeared: Think of Me and Roses and Bread.
Poetry, speeches and a moving dance were also part of the event. Shereen Benjamin then led the choir and the audience in singing El Pueblo Unido.
Sheku Bayoh inquiry — 28 August 2023
Members of Protest in Harmony were able to join local trades unions and anti-racist campaigners to support the family of Sheku Bayoh at the resumption of the public inquiry into his death in May 2015.
Jane Lewis led us in Black Lives Matter, by Arnae Batson, before speeches were made. As the family arrived to enter the inquiry, we sang Make Good Trouble, based on words by the late American politician and civil rights activist John Lewis, and Sheku Bayoh by Penny Stone. To close the vigil, we sang the South African song Bambelela — Never Give Up.
Hiroshima Commemoration — Sunday, 6 August 2023
Members of PiH joined CND members on Edinburgh’s Princes Street to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The event included songs and a two-minute silence to remember all who were killed and all who have suffered since the nuclear explosion, as well as all those affected by the bomb dropped three days later on the city of Nagasaki.
Penny Stone led the choir in four songs: Down By The Riverside, There’s A Fire In My Heart, Peace Salaam Shalom, and Freedom Come-All-Ye.
Lynn Jamieson, chair of Scottish CND, made a speech with words from the mayor of Hiroshima, Matsui Kazumi, who called for peaceful repose of the victims, the abolition of nuclear weapons and lasting world peace. “Together with Nagasaki and like-minded people around the world, we pledge to do everything in our power to abolish nuclear weapons and light the way toward lasting world peace,” he said.
Lynn also quoted one of the survivors of the bombing — the hibakusha in Japanese — who was eight years old when the bomb exploded, and who called for the leaders of all countries with nuclear weapons to stand in Hiroshima, to feel the full weight of the countless lives lost.
Singing and Silent Vigil to Remember Grenfell — Wednesday, 14 June 2023
Sixteen members of PiH joined another 50+ people at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 14th June 2023 to remember the 72 people who died in the Grenfell Fire in London on this day in 2017. The rally and a silent vigil marking the 6th anniversary of the terrible tragedy was organised by the Edinburgh Trades Council. The Trades Council produced a photo placard for each of the 72 people who lost their lives and these were on display. Three speakers shared their current thoughts about the tragedy: a tower block resident from the Edinburgh “Living Rent” organisation about living in a tower block and thinking about the circumstances of the Grenfell fire; another speaker from the Fire Brigades Union spoke about the traumatised fire fighters and the work of emergency services; the final speaker, an EIS member and formerly from London read a message from the Justice for Grenfell group about how few answers and how little help the survivors had. PiH then sang 3 songs: Step By Step; Think of Me; and Bambelela (with a songleaderoo stepping up to lead us – so appreciated). After this, those present each took a sign with photo of one of the victims of the fire and held it up to form a row at the front of the Mound near Princes Street. A 30 minute silence was then observed as passers-by took note of what the signs were. It was a very moving event to be part of and so important to mark, remember and to continue to ask questions about what happened at Grenfell.
Sheku Bayoh Inquiry, 9 May 2023
Protest in Harmony was again able to join with others to support the family of Sheku Bayoh at the start of the next session of the legal enquiry into his death. Jane Lewis was our songleader and we sang Black Lives Matter, by Arnie Batson, Make Good Trouble with lyrics from John Lewis and Sheku Bayoh, by Penny Stone. We were especially pleased to be able to sing Sheku Bayoh when the family were waiting to go into the hearing.
Mayday, 6 May 2023
About 20 singers from Protest in Harmony joined about 1000 people for this year’s May Day March. We were competing (positively!) with pipe bands, drummers and the chanting of many slogans. It was a colourful march from Johnstone Terrace to the Pleasance for the May Day rally. We finished by singing Freedom Come All Ye in the Pleasance courtyard.
PiH sing in solidarity with asylum seekers, Erskine
Om May 21st, PiH sang in solidarity with asylum seekers currently living at the Muthu Hotel in Erskine, as part of the ‘Big One’, with people from trade unions, the Erskine community, and various activist groups there to resist extreme right wing protesters — Patriotic Alternative and Homeland — who have been ‘campaigning’ aka verbally abusing and intimidating people in the hotel for weeks and weeks. It was an uplifting event: 400 of us — none of them showed up! Great speakers including some brave asylum seeker hotel residents. 12 PiH people sang, from Edinburgh and Glasgow choirs.
International Conscientious Objectors’ Day
On Monday 15 May, Protest in Harmony sang at the annual event to mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day.
We gathered by the Wellington Statue in Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place to show solidarity with Conscientious Objectors around the world, and those in past conflicts. The ceremony focused on COs in Israel, Russia and Ukraine, as well as the often-overlooked role of women COs. Statements were read out from COs in Israel, Russia and Ukraine who have bravely refused to take up arms. A one-minute vigil was held to commemorate COs today and in history.
The event was organised by Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War, Peace & Justice (Scotland) and Pax Christi Scotland. Led by Jane Lewis, we sang four songs: Fire in My Heart; We Refuse; Ukrainian song Mnohaya Lita, which means “Many Years”; and Freedom Come-All-Ye.
International Workers’ Memorial Day
On Friday 28 April, Protest in Harmony sang as part of the annual Edinburgh International Workers’ Memorial Day commemoration, a day to mourn those who have died through work and to recommit ourselves to improving working conditions throughout the world. We were part of 150 people who gathered at the Workers’ Memorial Day tree in Princes Street Gardens. 30 wreaths/floral tributes were laid by bereaved families, trade unions and other organisations. Edinburgh was one of 21 events throughout Scotland and were joined with commemorations in over 70 other countries. We sang William Morris, Think of Me and Roses and Bread. More details about IWMD at 28april.org.
Climate Change Solidarity event
On April 27, members of PiH gathered outside the Scottish Parliament for a solidarity event on Climate Change, to link with the BIG ACTION in London the weekend before.
The start of the singing was delayed due to a piece of non-violent direct action beforehand, with paint being thrown at the parliament building. This was followed by a noisy clean-up operation, which meant PiH had to move from directly in front of the building to somewhere we could be heard!
But spirits were high, and the event was enlivened by the Aye Notes band and the Loch Ness monster. We were led by Penny for several songs, including the Freedom Come All Ye, and then processed up to the UK Government building, where banners were displayed by groups including Stitches for Survival, Secure Scotland, Campaign Against Arms Trade and Trident Ploughshares.
AGM April 2023
Bhopal Anniversary event in Edinburgh
Protest in Harmony joined with others to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Disaster. We gathered on 3 December 2022 at the memorial plaque in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Wreaths were laid, words said in memory and solidarity and the choir sang Another World, Bambelela and Freedom Come All Ye.
Refugees Are Welcome Here
Thanks all who were able to go to the Refugees Welcome gathering on 14 June — you were greatly appreciated as you will see in this tweet and wee clip of some joiny-in singing:
(You can still see this link if you aren’t on twitter, but you will need to look at it on a computer rather than a phone or tablet.)
AGM April 2022
UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Bhopal Commemoration, 4 December 2021
See https://www.bhopal.net/our-demands/ for more information and for the demands of the survivors who continue to campaign for justice, good health care, and clean water.
Following an online songwriting session with Scottish, English, Chilean, Canadian and American activists and musicians, Penny Stone and fellow activists produced a wonderful short video: Somos Todes, a new song which they wrote to uplift the voices of the people of Putaendo.
Here is the link to the film: https://youtu.be/pKyCGWAXWIU
Please share it widely.
This is a collaboration highlighting the resistance by the people of Putaendo in Chile to a Canadian Copper mining company. It also includes the song written and sung by local 12 year old Barbara Torres Astudillo. The funding from Climate Fringe is all going to the activists in Chile for their input to the film and ongoing campaigning.
Protest in Harmony went on to organise an international Zoom ceilidh, held on the 24th September, at which the film premiered. Amber and Paula, 2 Chilean activists, were able to attend the ceilidh. They shared with us their desire to have international support for their campaign and their delight at the participation of over 50 people at the ceilidh. Songs were shared, stories were told and we learned a new song inspired by the quote from Arundhati Roy: ‘Another world is possible, she is on her way….’
Friends joined from Nashville and shared a song: ‘Don’t Blow Up The Mountain’:
while some Canadian activists shared a song about a salmon river near Vancouver.
We are currently editing the recording of the ceilidh to share with people who could not attend and are delighted to be able to share the Somos Todes in solidarity with the struggle.
Chair’s report 2020 and 2021
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, July 2020
Local groups from Edinburgh and as far afield as Melrose found socially distanced ways of commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago. Click the link below for more pictures and writeups.
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki 2020
Some pictures from the Portobello event:
November 2019 Awayday
Favourite PiH songs
Kathy Jenkins has kindly made a list of the top 20 (turned into 21 as too many tied places!) PiH songs taken from the list people ticked at the Awayday, with some notes about the songs.
- Bambelela: source: Xhosa, South Africa. From the singing of JL Zwane Memorial Congregation, Guguletu, Capetown; Transcribed: Gordon Munro & Mairi Munro; Arranged by: Phil Jakob
- Bandiera Rossa: Italian (Red Flag); Labour Movement song. Words: Carlo Tuzzi; Music: Traditional, Lombardy
- Bella Ciao: Italian (beautiful women); Traditional Italian protest song originating in the hardships of women working in the paddy fields
- Comin’ Home: Words & Music: Steven Clarke; Arranged by: Jane Schonveld
- Deep Blue Sea: Words & Music: Pete Seeger and Odetta; thought to be a fragment of an old English ballad or sea song
- Down by the Riverside: Trad USA, originally Gospel, civil rights and peace movement. A spiritual that was sung by slaves in the South as a work song. It dates back to before the American Civil War
- Freedom Come All Ye: Hamish Henderson to the tune Bloody Fields of Flanders; written by Hamish Henderson in 1960 for the peace marchers at the Holy Loch near Glasgow.
- Gentle Angry People: Words & Music: Holly Near; Arranged by: Jane Schonveld. It began life as a cry for and from members of the global LGBT community in response to the killing of councillor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone in San Francisco in 1978.
- I Ain’t Afraid Words & Music: Holly Near; arrangement Shereen Benjamin
- Joe Hill: Words: Alfred Hayes; Tune: Earl Robinson; Arrangement: Jane Lewis. The story of a Swedish-American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World
- Leave the Oil in the Ground: Tune: 17th century melody arr. Kate Howard; original words: Gerard Winstanley. new words: Jane Lewis
- Movin’ On Song: Words & Music: Ewan Macoll – about travelling people. Arranged by: Eileen Penman; extra words: Eileen Penman
- Nana was a Suffragette: Words & Music: Jules Gibb – the story is of her own Nana
- One Song, One Dance: Music: Mayenziwe; Source: South African; Words: Cynthia Cockburn (researcher, author, peace activist, singer and songwriter)
- Peace, Salaam, Shalom: Words & Music: Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow (Emma’s Revolution duo) Written for a peace march in New York City following the 9⁄11 attacks.
- Somos el Barco: Words & Music: Lorre Wyatt
- Think of Me: The Diamond Choir, South Africa
- This Land is Your Land: Tune: Woody Guthrie; Words: Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg
- We Who Believe in Justice: Tune: Bernice Johnson Reagon — ‘Ella’s Song’; Words: Mary McCann
- William Morris: Words & Music: John Young (after William Morris) William Morris was a British textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist
- Ye’ll No Sit Here: Words: Thurso Berwick; Tune: Hey, Jock, Ma Cuddy; from the anti-Polaris demonstrations at Holy Loch, 1961
These can be viewed as a separate document here.
On Tuesday 6th August 2019 we joined Edinburgh CND in organising an event on Castle Street to remember and draw attention to the implications of dropping the first nuclear bomb at the end of the Second World War. A number of people spoke about the destruction and danger unleashed through the first nuclear attack, and voiced the imperative to rid the world of nuclear weapons given what we know happened in Hiroshima. PiH sang in between the speeches.
At our meeting in May, Hilery Williams delivered the Chair’s report 2019.
Glasgow launch for PIH’s “Our Voices Resound”
Sixty people crowded into Jim’s Bar in the QM Union at Glasgow University on February 22 for the premiere of “Our Voices Resound” — Eileen Karmy and Martin Farias’s wonderful film about Protest in Harmony and the power and practice of political song. The launch was sponsored by the Alistair Hulett Memorial Trust and organised by the Janey Buchan Political Song Collection. It was great to see such an enthusiastic reception for the film when Eileen and Martin fielded questions at the end of the showing.
Eight members of the choir travelled through to Glasgow to join the occasion and were invited to sing the Freedom Come All Ye, identified and filmed by Eileen and Martin as our theme song, and to lead everyone in We Shall Overcome. We were very grateful and proud to be part of it.
Eileen and Martin are keen for a wider audience for the film and invite us all to contact them for further showings. They intend to subtitle it in Spanish (good luck with that for Freedom Come All Ye!) and show it in their native Chile one day.
Open Shuhada Street Event 16th February 2019
A great turnout from Protest in Harmony supported the Palestine solidarity choir San Ghanny in Rose Street as part of the International ‘Open Shuhada Street’ campaign. Beside a mock ‘checkpoint’ many singers joined in a simulated confrontation of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers at Shuhada Street in Hebron. Shuhada Street epitomises Israel’s apartheid policy as Palestinians are not allowed to walk on it even if they live there, while Israeli settlers, soldiers and international visitors may pass freely.
Other Palestine solidarity organisations helped by handing out leaflets as PIH sang Penny Stone’s song ‘Open Shuhada Street’ and several other songs. The event was eye-catching and some interesting and some challenging conversations took place with passers-by. A short video was sent to friends in Palestine in solidarity – and was much appreciated by them: Open Shuhada Action 2019. Feel free to watch it and pass it on.
Anti-nuclear groups from all over Britain joined representatives from a number of countries to gather at Faslane on 22 September 2018. There was a very good reason to come together to celebrate the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). And as long-term campaigners, Protest in Harmony was there!
Jane Lewis had written a new song for us, set to Offenbach’s Can-Can and had somehow persuaded at least ten of us to make and model very fetching tutus. Another fifteen choir members lent joyful support. A large green Nessie and a ten-foot puppet of “Craig” led about a thousand of us to the North gate. Jane, our banner and the choir were to the fore while Penny and Shereen stationed themselves along our column to keep us all in time and tune. A piper accompanied us on the “Freedom Come All Ye”. We were a colourful river of life snaking round the grey base which was lifeless except for the sound of dogs barking.
It was a wonderful celebration and if it weren’t that we’re a non-violent bunch you’d want to say we’d punched above our weight.
Jackie Kay spoke, supported by wonderful people from Israel, Russia and Romania, Japan and the USA all praising Scotland’s long witness against the weapons.
We danced our can-can and sang our peace songs. Penny, Sylvia and Eileen sang solos and Abba (Margaret and Sheila in gobsmacking disguise with their friends from the Glasgow Horticulturalists) begged us to “Take a Chance on Peace”.
45 Years of the Chilean Popular Government
On Friday 28th September, PiH members attended an event organised by the Chilean Society of the University of Edinburgh, and sang El Pueblo Unido.
11th September was the 45th anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile that overthrew Allende’s Popular Government (1970–1973). Through short films, photography, and music made at the time, the event was designed to foster conversation about the different projects that aimed to follow a democratic path to socialism in Chile, and beyond the specificities of the Chilean case, to be a direct invitation to bring people together and to acknowledge that positive social change is possible.
Stop the Bloodshed in Colombia
On the evening of Sat 7 August, PiH singers joined the demonstration in West Parliament Square in support of the Colombian peace agreement, in recognition of the assassination of more than 220 leaders since the beginning of the implementation of the Peace Agreement between the National Government and the FARC-EP in December 2016.
Street Choirs 2018
A small but determined and tuneful contingent made it to Brighton, along with some 30 other choirs from across the UK, on a blisteringly hot weekend. The picture shows us at the evening concert singing (and acting out) “Ye’ll No Sit Here”.
Grenfell Tower commemoration
Early evening on 14 June 2018, 200 people gathered at the Mound precinct in Edinburgh to join with others throughout the UK to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell fire.
Large pictures of each of the victims of that tragedy were held by people lining Princes Street in silent vigil for 30 minutes. This was followed by: a statement from Justice for Grenfell read by Alison Murphy of the Educational Institute of Scotland; songs from Protest in Harmony; short speeches from Leigh Craven, Living Rent, Heather Ford, Edinburgh Tenants Federation, Neil Findlay MSP and John McKenzie of the Fire Brigades Union. The moving event was closed with a final poem read by Mary Alexander of Unite.
(The commemoration was organised by Edinburgh Trade Union Council and the images are by Craig McLean, National Union of Journalists)
After our monthly meeting on 17th March a large number of us gathered in the High Street in Edinburgh to sing. Eileen filmed us. A lot of people seemed stop and listen. It was really successful, with quite a few new members coming along. Nearly everyone then went to George Square with Shereen to sing and support a group of students who were demonstrating there in support of the lecturers’ strike.
Open Shuhada Street: taking part in a global protest
On February 24th the High Street was busy with people on their way to the Rugby International against England. So, setting up a checkpoint near the City Chambers, members of Protest in Harmony and street theatre group Active Inquiry told the story of the Hebron “High Street” which, since 1994, has been closed to Palestinians living in the West Bank of Hebron.
With queues, passes and “soldiers”, they acted out Shuhada Street-style apartheid as witnessed by San Ghanny Choir during their April 2017 visit to Hebron, in the West Bank. Songs of non-violent protest were sung by the choir led by Penny and Shereen. San Ghanny’s thirteen members visited and sang in Shuhada Street and were so shocked by the similarity to apartheid they vowed to join the global campaign to “Open Shuhada Street” started by Youth Against Settlements in Hebron. “It was like the High Street in Edinburgh being closed to all Scots!” said Sheila Mackay.
Many people were involved in the planning of this action including making banners, badges, a mock checkpoint and “passes” to handout to passers-by. A preparation day had introduced us to street theatre techniques and Suzanne Dance had encouraged us to improvise and act out scenarios to help us feel what it might be like to live on an apartheid street. About twenty-five choir members were involved in this successful and enjoyable action and nearly four hundred explanatory “passes” were handed to those who stopped to watch and listen.
Eileen Karmy made a video of the event which has been shared with Youth Against Settlements in Hebron and with a campaigning organisation in Chile.
Shereen writes: Many, many thanks to the PiH-ers who turned out earlier this week to support the UCU strikes. It’s been hugely appreciated by my colleagues (and of course by me!).
Bhopal memorial December 3rd 2017
It’s always moving to sing in Greyfriars Kirkyard on December 3rd in memory of the horrendous 1984 gas disaster in India. We stand tucked in, round the corner, near the plaque at the gateway so visitors often don’t see us at first. Then we sing. This year it was Think of Me, Step by Step (as a round) Rise Like Lions (but not without incident!) Bambalela and Freedom Come All Ye.
Sometimes it’s been in the dark or the rain but this year it was just “normal Scottish cold” We, twenty-five or so members of Protest in Harmony led by Jane and Shereen, three wreath-layers from the Trades Unions and one or two other stalwart souls listened to Eurig Scandrett as he spoke of his knowledge of Bhopal and the ongoing work there. Then he read from Rob Edwards’s 2014 newspaper article. We held a minute’s silence. People came and went using the shortcut through the kirkyard. But a small group stopped to listen and learn about the world’s worst industrial disaster.
Campaign Against the Arms Trade
On Saturday Dec 9, 2017, quite a few of us went out to sing in Rose Street after our last rehearsal of the term. A record amount of money was collected by CAAT. Very successful.
Ability Centre, West Lothian
Eight or nine members of PiH went out to Livingston to support them as they challenged the closure of their services. They sang songs including Save Our Public Services and Bambalela.
Refugees are Welcome Here
Some of us were able to be at the vigil on June 15th for the people whose lives were taken in Orlando. We sang as people gathered.
Conscientious Objectors Memorial Day, 15th May 2016
About 70 people joined the third annual Conscientious Objectors Day vigil on 15 May to remember the 16,000 COs of the First World War and all those who have refused compulsory military service around the world in the past and today. Marking the centenary of conscription in the First World War we shone particularly remembered COs from Edinburgh and Scotland who were imprisoned, forced to do hard labour and those who died.
We also remembered local peace activists who have passed away in the past year, including Fr Daniel Berrigan, an American Jesuit priest whose action with the Catonsville Nine in 1968 sparked anti-war actions and demonstrations that eventually ended the Vietnam War.
Speakers included Peace and Justice Centre Coordinator Brian Larkin, Lesley Orr from the Iona Community, Eric Chester (IWW), Arianna Andreangelini, who spoke about Second World War CO Franz Jaggerstadter, and Elizabeth Allen and Andrew Farrar, descendants of First World War COs.
Once more this was a very moving occasion.
May Day march and rally, 2016
Members of Protest in Harmony added their voices to the 2016 Edinburgh May Day march and rally. 2016 May Day was celebrated on Saturday, 7 May and celebrated workers’ rights, human rights and the life of James Connolly. One of our songleaders, Penny Stone, sang at the rally with members of PIH supporting from the crowd!
2016 Street Choirs Festival, Leicester
30 choirs, the vast majority being politically engaged, gathered for a fabulous concert given by local musicians and comedians, a great massed sing in Jubilee Square, busking on the streets (including lusty singing as we strolled past marching soldiers gathered for Armed Forces Day), a fantastic concert of all the choirs, and workshops and a picnic the final day.
Phew. Exhausting? Yes. Exhilarating? Certainly. Inspirational? Undoubtedly — especially as it occurred on the weekend after the momentous decision to leave the EU. Wonderful to be surrounded by hundreds of people who care passionately about solidarity and diversity — the twin themes of the weekend.
Many thanks to Shereen and Penny for their brilliant leadership.
Moffat weekend 2016
Our annual residential weekend took place at the Well Rd Centre in Moffat.
27 of us had a great weekend of singing, socialising, eating, origami, waltzing, Oscars, chocolate spoons and more. It might have been slightly chilly, but we soon warmed up thanks to the lovely food on offer.
Eileen P. led us in some singing on Friday evening and on Saturday morning the song leaders put us through our places, we soon warmed the gym up. Penny taught us The Article 6 Waltz and there were some smart moves in the dancing. Although one member was heard to say that it was difficult to harmonise and waltz at the same time. Shereen fairly woke us up with Big Sky, for many their first experience of Shape Note singing. This proved to be quite a challenge, but as ever we all rose to the occasion and our voices rose as well as we were encouraged to shout our parts. Poor Jane then had the unenviable task of leading us in a very poignant song about refugees, When Death Was Behind Me.
One of the highlights, as ever, is the ‘Saturday Pairty’, very ably compered by John and the glamorous Maggie who did a sterling job with awarding the chocolate spoon Moffat Oscars. At the end of the evening we were all commenting on the huge and varied talent pool that is Protest in Harmony.
Thanks to Kathy and her able accomplices of Liz B, Hilary, Hilery and Liz E who made the weekend run seamlessly. If you missed it, make sure you are free for next year.
International Workers Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died through work to pledge our ongoing commitment to improving working conditions around the world. As it does every year, Protest in Harmony played an important part in Edinburgh’s 2016 commemoration. We sang before and after the event on a rainy and cold day at the Workers Memorial Day tree in Princes Street Gardens.
Despite the weather the event was a moving one, specifically highlighting work-related mental health issues and remembered those who have died through suicide where work played a part. Speakers were Paul Holleran, National Union of Journalists NUJ, Eileen Penman, a member of Protest in Harmony. telling a personal story of loss, and Alieu Ceesay, a journalist and refugee from the Gambia. We sang One Heart Beating, William Morris and Freedom Come All Ye. The event was organised by Scottish Hazards Campaign and Edinburgh TUC. Wreaths laid by UNITE, UNISON, NUJ, UCU, FBU, RISE, Scottish Hazards and Edinburgh TUC.
Scrap Trident march and rally
24 singers traveled to London to join other campaign choirs, and many others from Scotland and the rest of the UK, to encourage the government not to renew the Trident missile system.
(Latest news appears to be that government has by-passed the democratic process and has announced that it will spend a further £642million on Trident ahead of the Parliamentary vote.)
The atmosphere, the weather, the crowds and the singing were all great — the latter brilliantly led by Shereen, Penny and Jane.
At Trafalgar Square there was a majority of female speakers, including political leaders. Nicola Sturgeon made the obvious point that the UK is in a minority in having nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to sing our uniquely Scottish songs, to the disappointment of one small soul (whose push chair she had abandoned momentarily) who had been practising the Chocolate Teapot song diligently!
Sadly one of the unsung songs (I want to have a little bomb like you) was written many decades ago but is still highly relevant.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we no longer had to make these heartfelt protests?
Campaign against the Arms Trade
On 12 December around 35 of us braved the cold to take part in our annual fundraising sing for the Campaign against the Arms Trade. Ably encouraged by our inspirational song leaders, we sang a very satisfying medley of seasonal standards together with some new and moving songs for Syria and Palestine. The Christmas shoppers seemed appreciative. Sadly recent events have made our songs very relevant this Christmas.
We Speak Earth
Members of Protest in Harmony joined singers from the Open Community Singing Group, Portobello Community Choir and Wildfire to sing a Sami yoik, We Speak Earth, in support of the Sami community which will be devastated by the increasing effects of climate change.
We met together at Portobello Beach, luckily in some welcome sunshine after days of stormy weather, to sing together and make a sight and soundbite to share on YouTube on 12th December for the Paris Climate Summit 2015.
Singing it outdoors on the sand with the sea behind us and the sun shining on us, with the sound of the waves, the gulls and the breeze surrounding us made it all the more enjoyable and meaningful.
Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska explains their situation and plea here, and sings the yoik: