Twenty years ago, 70,000 people joined hands around Birmingham to call on the G8 leaders meeting in the city to drop the debts of countries in the global south. In 2005, after years of campaigning in the UK and around the world, that dream was realised and $130 million of debt cancellation for highly indebted countries was secured.
On Saturday, the Jubilee Debt Campaign returned to the city, to remember the successes of the debt justice movement over the last twenty years and to learn about the struggles that lie ahead.
Some Clarion members attended the workshops and speeches during the day, hearing some very interesting contributions from Nick Dearden (Global Justice Now) and economist Ann Pettifor.
Birmingham Clarion Singers sang several songs for the event, to an appreciative audience outside St Phillips cathedral. These included “We Are Building One Big Union” and “We’ll Walk”, which was written by Clarion Chair Rob Harper for the original G8 demo in 1998.
Also, in Birmingham on Saturday, the TUC mobilised a protest rally and march in the City Centre, to mark the beginning of the Conservative Party Conference, and to call for an end to the Austerity measures which have blighted the most vulnerable in our city.
Birmingham Clarion Singers joined the marchers in Victoria square where we sang “Bring Out the Banners” and “Solidarity Forever” (briefly joined by two musicians, who quickly left due to “too many chords” being played by Robbie the banjo maestro).
Travelling home on the train afterwards, I am moved by the notes of a new song in our repertoire, which aptly links both aims for marching and singing today:
We turn away and turn about. Everywhere mistrust and doubt
And one by one our lights go out. We need each other now.
And while we sit upon the fence. In harmony and dissonance
The bell tolls out intolerance. We need each other now.
(Words and music by John Kettle)
Photos by Adrian Banham