Two days to go – Why protest songs?

In two days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

Our show in New York is called I See Fire. When we bring the show to the Cadogan Hall in London in June, we’ll be singing many of the same songs. The London concert is called AgitPop. The Cadogan Hall describes it as “the music of liberation and protest”.

Why protest?

After all, there’s much to celebrate. It’s fifty years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales. It’s nearly four years since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act received royal assent in the United Kingdom.

So, why protest?

In the words of one of the songs we’ll sing: “The buggers are legal now, what more are they after?”

According to Galop’s Hate Crime Report of 2016:

More than seven thousand hate crimes against LGBT people were recorded by UK police in one year

In that period, over a thousand prosecutions were made for homophobic acts in England and Wales

Over a thousand charges for LGBT hate crimes were made in Scotland and Wales.

So the law isn’t quite enough.

Personally, I know of several people who have experienced either verbal or actual, physical abuse as a result of homophobic attacks in the last eight months.

A friend of mine in the Chorus was subjected to sustained, verbal abuse as he walked down the street in central London, simply because he was holding hands with his partner.

The boyfriend of a friend of mine was badly beaten up in Sheffield, because “he looked too gay.”

It’s not good enough if gay and lesbian couples can legally get married and have children, but can’t walk safely hand in hand down the road.

That’s why Pride marches are still so important. That’s why we in the London Gay Men’s Chorus sing protest songs at our concerts.

But don’t worry, we’ll be singing lots of songs of celebration too!