Opinion

A night of karaoke and the life-affirming joy of belting out a tune

Murphy's Bar in Leamington Spa hosts a karaoke night as a fundraiser for Safeline, a charity to support people recovering from sexual abuse

John wowed the karaoke crowd with his rendition of Elvis's It's Now Or Never. Image: Bruno Cervera on Unsplash

A few Fridays ago I took a train from London to Leamington Spa, last visited by me over 50 years ago. To go to a pub called Murphy’s Bar on a corner in central Leamington to sing It’s Now or Never by Elvis Presley. Landlord Kevin Murphy gave the night over to a karaoke fundraiser for Safeline, a charity devoted to helping people survive sexual abuse, started 30 years ago. A third of people with drink and drugs addiction issues have been sexually molested in childhood and early life.  

I was met at the station by a silent Rebecca Noonan, a new young local councillor for Leamington who had asked me to come along and make a fool of myself. Her silence was to last for 24 hours and was part of the fundraising for Safeline, with the silence to be broken with the karaoke show at 8pm.  

How could I resist?  

What a brilliant and lively and loud collection of largely young people, committed to turning the Friday night into a useful endeavour to aid people scarred by sexual abuse. To provide support that would help people heal and live a fuller life.  

One can get very grey about the mind on occasions when you look at what bestial things are being enacted in the world. Certainly the New Year did not start well, with Gaza and Ukraine, to name but two killing fields. So I felt compelled not only to shake off dread but to touch base with our basic human desire to contribute to the wellbeing of others. And the opportunity to use my loud but untuned voice aligned well with the desire to just do something different but useful.  

For Murphy’s Bar and the engaged community of Leamington to rally round a social supporter like Safeline was a magnet to me. Bringing me back to terra firma and the enthusiastic desire that many people have to simply do something useful with their time in the world.  

The mayor and mayoress of Leamington came to the event, as well as the mayor of Warwick. Future Creatives, run by a young woman called Vince, provided singing tuition for prospective karaokers and sang full blast, demonstrating what song – in the right hands – can do to the soul.  

Community was the form of this loud and useful night: the coming together of the voluntary sector with local councillors and the general public. These are the essential ingredients that make up the fabric of a supported local society. Yet many communities have been harmed by the plight of local authorities which are often unable to offer support due to the shrivelling up of central government funding.  

Now, with a vast increase in the need for local authority-provided temporary accommodation due to increased homelessness, many authorities are being pushed towards the financial edge. It’s as if former money-saving stratagems by central government, to pay for the bankers’ crisis of 2008, still haunt the foothills of local democracy.

Our societies are being harmed by an inability of local authorities to provide the necessary support. An unravelling of local communities is one of the great dangers to democracy itself. This government’s likelihood of re-election seems even more far-fetched if you visit the communities that have been broken by our need to pay for the nationalisation of bank debt in 2009.  

I greatly enjoyed getting out and meeting the people devoted to supporting the work of Safeline, an organisation that campaigns and provides help for those who have suffered abuse and also works to prevent abuse from happening. Volunteers play an important role in their work, and fundraisers really help to spread the word as well as getting them the money to keep doing this work.  

I left Leamington the following morning full of the sense of joy that comes from seeing communities come together to aid those who need the help that they often don’t get.  

If you want to look at Safeline, whether for their services or to support them, go to safeline.org. They have been running almost as long as The Big Issue, and their work is so important in addressing the problems of sexual abuse. Interestingly, many women end up homeless because of domestic violence, but this broad term often includes sexual abuse.   

My sardine-packed three train rides home on a day of industrial action was well worth the sweat. I saw people who were devoted to a good cause. And I met people who were determined to revive local democracy.  

A positive in an often negative background.  

Safeline is a charity that supports anyone affected by or at risk of sexual violence. John Bird is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.

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This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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