Speaking for Ourselves

Land of Hope and Glory - Welcomes Refugees!

Land of Hope and Glory - Welcomes Refugees!

S Chelvan

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Land of Hope and Glory - Welcomes Refugees!

As a child, a child who had himself arrived as an immigrant, there was nothing so quintessentially British, or should I say English, than watching the Last Night of the Proms.  The waving of the Union Jacks amongst the throng marked not only the end of the Henry Wood promenade concerts, but also the end of the summer. 

But this year, as an adult, I, along with my husband Mark, sang 'Land of Hope and Glory' from Lady Grade’s box up on the grand tier, waving black and white Union Jacks emblazoned with ‘Refugees Welcome Here’. We were part of a quiet protest, to show that this land, the United Kingdom, can be a Land of Hope, one that truly welcomes refugees.

We were guests of Susie Symes and Philip Black. Susie and Philip are great supporters of Migrant Voice, and wanted them to be represented at this iconic British event. The late Lord Lew Grade was himself a refugee from the Ukraine, so our show of solidarity from Lady Grade’s Box was poetically apt.

Susie, our co-host, is Chair of the Trustees at Britain's Museum of Immigration, usually known as 19 Princelet Street, the oldest immigration museum in all Europe.  The museum’s aim is 'to connect our pasts with our future'. Organising this quiet protest, with both activist and non-activist guests, Susie assembled us at this time of refugee crisis not only to enjoy a cultural event, but also, surrounded by the music and flags of many nations, to make clear our support for refugees.

We wore our ‘Refugees Welcome’ T-shirts (thanks to Right to Remain and STAR), waved our flags (STAR and Susie), all behind a banner, which read the simple message: 'REFUGEES WELCOME'.  The ten of us, campaigners and not, contrary to some in the views voiced on twitter, did not claim to be speaking on behalf of all of the UK.  We did though represent tens of thousands, including Mark and me, who had earlier marched in London, and throughout the UK, to show that the government’s commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians was not enough – we need to do more. 

This ‘quiet demonstration’ emanating from a box in the Albert Hall, aimed to show, in Susie’s words, that 'amid the flags from many lands was our banner of welcome’. 


S. Chelvan

Barrister, No5 Chambers