Waterloo Song Set: Phil Ryan sings Christmas single at homelessness event

Lord John Bird speaks, Phil Ryan sings, and Vince Cable joins the fight at The Blue Sky Network Campaign Against Homelessness event at Waterloo Station

Phil Ryan performed his Christmas single – which is raising funds for The Big Issue – at a major homelessness event in Waterloo Station today.

The singer, who worked with Big Issue founder Lord John Bird 26 years ago to launch the magazine, sang “Walking Down This Lonely Street”, before Bird made one of his trademark rousing speeches and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable added his voice to the Big Issue’s campaign to prevent homelessness.

“I used to sleep here,” said Bird, recalling his own experiences of homelessness.

Lord Bird speaks at Waterloo Station, with Vince Cable looking on

“Every Christmas there is an enormous interest in homeless people. It usually lasts from the end of November until the beginning of January.

“This is the only time we are able to put homelessness at the top of the political and social agenda. It is a seasonal issue. But the problem is not seasonal. It is 24/7, 365 days a year.”

At The Blue Sky Network Campaign Against Homelessness event in Waterloo Station, Vince Cable added: “Well over 4,000 people are estimated to be sleeping rough every night in England, a 16% increase in 2016 alone.

Organiser Nic Careem, Sir Vince Cable, John Bird, Phil Ryan and Shaun Bailey AM
Organiser Nic Careem, Sir Vince Cable, John Bird, Phil Ryan and Shaun Bailey AM

“There is a responsibility on politicians to highlight the scale of the problem.

“The situation is deteriorating at a rapid rate. There must be more government funding to tackle homelessness as a matter of urgency,” continued Cable.

“There are rough sleepers, beyond that are sofa hoppers who no-one is counting, and beyond that the people in temporary accommodation.

“Supporting The Big Issue  Christmas single is an excellent cause – and it’s a good song to boot!”

Ryan, who entertained a sizeable crowd at Waterloo, said: “My friend John Bird asked me to write a song to let people know about the most important people at The Big Issue. The vendors.

“I wrote this song to tell their story and to help The Big Issue raise money to help them continue their life journey. The best description of the song was when Bill, one of the vendors, heard me play it and said I’d just described his life. No higher praise is possible.

“It’s been great to play the song today at Waterloo and get awareness up,” he continued, before accompanying street singer Charlotte Campbell on guitar as she sang her song Streets of London (not to be confused with Ralph McTell’s hit of the same name).

Network Rail stations are playing a part in the fight against homelessness this year, beyond hosting our seasonal singalong.  Euston Station is to host a Christmas dinner for up to 200 homeless people this year.

But, as John Bird made clear as he joined Cable in demanding action, so much more needs to be done.

“We have to do something about this. Enough is enough. We are not going to let this remains a seasonal issue – you will all be asked to get involved with the idea that we can dismantle homelessness.”

Walking Down Lonely Street is available now on iTunes and Google Play. All proceeds go to The Big Issue Company to support their work in dismantling poverty

* Main picture by Helena Tipper