Every year at Maida Hill market around this time, the Mayor of Westminster comes down along with the local MP and a few other VIPs to switch on the Christmas tree lights. It’s a relatively new tradition that our community choir All Sing! is delighted to accompany with a few jolly carols – and anything else we’ve managed to learn during the term.
A merry buzz of anticipation grew amongst my fellow choral members as we gathered around the base of the tree. Hats and gloves warded off the cold as J cranked up the keyboard and we got to grips with the carol sheets.
I glanced at it. ‘Away in a Manger’ was first. “Have you got a spare one of those” a bundled up gentleman asked me. I explained that we only had enough to go around the choir itself. “Never mind” he said. “It’s nice we’re going to hear some singing – festive and all that.”
We went on to discuss all things Maida Vale and this particular market – not long on the scene. “I like this square” he said. “It’s kind of Dickensian, all sorts of dippers and artful dodgers. You know you’ll get a bargain even if it has fallen off the back of the lorry. But, it does bring people together – like now.”
I had to agree. Character has been spared here; no airbrushing, no filters, just this particular part of West London keeping it real.
We moved on to the tree which I noted had cones on it. “I think it may be a present from Sweden or somewhere like that” my new friend told me, “You know, like the one in Trafalgar square: That’s shipped over from Norway every year, it’s a gift from the Norwegian government… Well, they should do it too – we sent all our agents over there in the war. All our James Bonds.”
We appraised the fine tree with the as yet not switched on lights. “There was a fairy on the top last year – but it got nicked” he said with a shrug.
As we sang our carols I noticed sundry spectators I occasionally pass on the street throughout the year; a child ran over to put some money in the bucket; a couple shyly sang along – him foot tapping.
Speeches were made and finally the lights went on. A simple action, but indicative of so much more.
Thanks to Stephan for the pic!
Next All Sing! Concert is on Saturday 5 December 3.30pm St John’s Kensal Green, W10. Please do join us – there’ll be a chance to join in!