LGBT History Month 2014: Tonight in Parliament

There’s nothing like those nights in London when, despite the nip in the air, you can feel that winter is slipping away, and the evenings are starting to stretch out. The dusk is a cobalt blue and the faded orange of the setting sun is amplified by the glow of sodium floodlights.

The 27th of February 2014 was just like that when a band of Pink Singers gathered in preparation for a performance at the Houses of Parliament.

This year has been a momentous one for the Pinkies. Last summer we sang at No. 10 to celebrate equal marriage, and so to perform in the Palace of Westminster to mark the end of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History Month which focused on music was not only a privilege and an honour, it also gave us a sense of completeness. We were there at the invitation of ParliOUT, a cross-party networking group which does amazing work from within the Houses to advance LGBT issues.

This being my first visit to Parliament, I felt a lot like a tourist, in awe of the amazing spaces we passed through to get to our stage on the terrace. I confess to gawking open-mouthed at the massive hammerbeam roof of Westminster Hall, the oil paintings of St. Stephen’s Hall and the ornate mosaic floors and gold leaf ceilings of Central Hall as we were ushered to the Commons.

There was hardly any time to take in the views before the event kicked off.  John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, started with a light-hearted and self-deprecatory speech, before turning with seriousness to the recent noxious legislation in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria. On a world stage where innovation and talent makes a country competitive, governments must give their people, regardless of sexuality, every opportunity to flourish and grow. Persecuting minorities in the name of a perceived national identity does exactly the opposite and is self-defeating.

It was in that spirit that we started our set with ‘Hand In Hand’, a Pinkies’ and LGBT choir standard about how we are stronger when we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters. Normally a Pink Singers concert consists of 80-odd people on stage which brings with it a powerful visual as well as audible solidarity. At this performance, however, the comparatively intimate group of just 16 singers actually lent it a greater poignancy. We then performed a series of songs from our recent ‘A Night At The Movies’ concert, including ‘My Heart Will Go On’, ‘Jai Ho’ – with choreography – and ‘9 to 5’. Tracey even told us what it was like to be ‘Out Here On My Own’.

Judging by the whoops and applause the audience seemed to really enjoy our performance, and with the sheer number of phone cameras which were pointed in our direction I await the inevitable on-line videos with both eagerness and dread.  We are always told to smile when we perform, but I hate visual reminders that my self-conscious grimace isn’t quite right yet!

A confident stage presence is clearly not an issue for the very talented Andrew M. Pisanu who followed us on. He sang several of his own songs and then a number of crowd pleasers such as ‘I Know Him So Well’ and ‘Borderline’. By this point the increasingly enthusiastic audience, and the Pinkies of course, were joining in too. What I had imagined would be a rather staid evening turned out to be an enjoyable and unforgettable night filled with song: a perfect way to bring LGBT History Month to a close.


Timeline datestamp: 27 February 2014

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