(This article was first published on Liberal Democrat Voice www.libdemvoice.org)
If it didn’t exist would you create it? Well based on tonight, the answer for the London Gay Men’s Chorus was a resounding Yes.
As thousands of members of the LGBT community poured into Soho, supported by friends, family and a host of straight allies - everyone was very uncertain. The nervousness was palpable with no-one clear about what was going to happen next. There were a few attempts to get a political chant going, but the crowd was more contemplative. As the hour of 7pm approached there was a hanging sense of expectation in the air.
One of the good fortunes I have enjoyed is to have travelled widely - of late this has been in two particular places that I find fascinating: Sri Lanka and Serbia. Vast distances apart, they are in many respect tackling the same issues and have similar opportunities.
Most people I speak to at home link Serbia to the troubles of the First World War or the more recent Balkan War, and Sri Lanka is known to have struggled through a bitter civil conflict in the north of the island. But in both cases, whilst you can see and sense many of the issues that arise from conflict, recent or old, at no time have I felt in danger or threatened. In fact on both cases I have explored, travelled and enjoyed the customs, people and traditions and managed to get underneath the veneer and learn and understand better.
And so I prepare to leave rural mountainous Serbia. These are not high rugged Alpine climbs - these are steady strong uplands - sparsely populated by a proud people. The thing to realise about Serbia, the Balkans, is the extent to which the cross roads to Europe and the East has affected the reach of time and place. Few people here have a heritage that reaches back more than a couple of hundred years - but in countries that have seen more war and conflict than most of us can imagine, that is long indeed.
Here in upland Zlatibor there are families who go back six and seven generations - in part that is due to the reality - that there is little that is bold or brash or noisy. Lifestyles are subsistence, the quiet is dominating, the natural is normal. Here woods, vines and moss take over and buildings crumble back into the earth if they are left or forgotten - eaten by the earth and her history.
Migration, refugees and asylum seekers - If we are judging people, lets judge ourselves.
So I'm heading back to the UK and reflecting on what I have seen, thinking through the conversations I have had and drawing all of my notes together. More than anything else I think the UK and public opinion should face up to its historic responsibilities. The truth is we have sought to be a world power - that brings with it massive privileges. But the responsibilities need to be thought through much much more clearly.
Living in Kilburn, north west London we have a very multi-cultural community drawn from across the globe. I often joke proudly to friends that of an evening, if I so choose, I can eat on virtually any continent of the world based on the restaurants we have locally. The curry houses of India, Bangladesh and Nepal are great, the Ethiopian and Somali cafes add astonishing taste and flavour and add to that the Thai, the Brazilian, the Afghan and of course the Chinese, Italian and Irish outlets and there is positive smorgasbord of options and choice.