By Mark Joyce,
A few weeks have passed since our final Act of Remembrance took place in Soho to mark the 20th anniversary of the London nail bomb attacks. The three acts of remembrance in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho were both a memorial to the victims of the attacks and a celebration of the strength of the communities following acts of hatred designed to divide them.
Words cannot express our gratitude and love for everyone involved who attended and helped make these Acts of Remembrance possible. The gatherings in Brixton and Brick Lane were larger than usual, whilst almost 1000 people attended the event in Soho that started outside the Admiral Duncan pub, then moved into the gardens at St. Anne’s Gardens for speeches, songs and poems.
The volunteer team from 17-24-30 NationalHCAW have been planning these events for several months, liaising with local authorities, key partners and the communities affected by these attacks. Our team arrived in Soho at 2 pm and set up base in St. Anne’s gardens. They made contact with local businesses and handed out leaflets and hate crime reporting cards to passers by to tell them about the memorial, providing useful information and answering questions. We were joined by other volunteers from the Pride in London volunteer team and the Soho Angels. 17-24-30 founder Mark Healey and Kevin Wilson gave a short volunteer briefing outlining what the rest of the day would entail and how we could best support those gathering.
The Admiral Duncan pub had rainbow flags flying outside covering every window. As people began to gather outside, many spoke to us about their memories of that day 20 years ago; where they were, what they were doing, how they felt. For some people, this was the first time they had attended one of the Acts of Remembrance, one survivor said the feelings of a great weight being lifted from them. This is one of the reasons we continue to organise the April Acts of Remembrance, to stand in solidarity with those affected by these attacks and provide as safe space for ongoing support.
The London Gay Man’s Choir set up outside the Admiral Duncan and performed to the huge crowd that had gathered, Old Compton Street was packed with people wanting to show their support. Then members of the LGBT+ Mosaic Youth Group lead the procession towards St. Anne’s gardens. Each young LGBT+ members carried one of the three candles that represent the three communities that were targeted and the three victims remembered.
People were greeted as they entered the gardens by the Pink Singers and soon the entire garden space outside the Church was full, as was the road and street nearby.
Family, friends and invited guests stood by the three trees and the Admiral Duncan plaque memorialising the victims. The candles were placed on the triangle bench in the top left corner of the garden, the same bench that represents the three London Boroughs of Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and Westminster united against hate.
Cllr Ian Adams, representing the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the Speaker of Tower Hamlets, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Cressida Dick and representatives from the London Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service joined Rev’d Simon Buckley and Mark Healey in solidarity to remember those who had been killed and injured twenty years ago.
Rev’d Buckely began the speeches and welcomed everyone to the gardens.
Mark Healey delivered an uplifting message of unity with those effected by hate crime and confirmed his commitment to continue the April Acts of Remembrance and support victims of hate crime.
This was followed by touching poems from the LGBT Poet Laureate Trudy Howson and Terry Morely (Nik Moore’s aunt).
Hundreds of people bowed their heads together for a two-minute silence, and for a brief moment, one of the busiest parts of the busiest city on the planet, was peaceful and still.
The Diversity Choir’s singing rose through the silence after two minutes had passed and then, the London Gay Man’s Choir took over. Whilst the singing was taking place photos were taken with the families, friends and guest which we have shared on our 17-24-30 Public Facebook page here.
This concluded this years April Acts of Remembrance.