Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Madiba

Richard Attenborough, Wendy Wood (widow of the artist, Donald), Ken Livingston, Gordon Brown, Nelson Mandela, Dame Graça Machel (Mandela' s third wife) and the statue
This morning I put my legs on and got myself out of the house for a short walk up the road to Parliament Square where a new statue of Nelson Mandela was being unveiled.

The ceremony was scheduled for 11am but the blog on which I found this information suggested to get there at about 10. This is what I did and was grateful for it as people were already waiting when I got there.

While a short film on Mandela's life was shown on the giant screens, we watched as guests arrived and were directed to their seats by GLA staff (I recognised the Mayor's LGBT advisor, on the breach). Most faces were unknown to me though I spotted (Dr) Brian May (former Queen), Darren Johnson (leader of the Green Party at teh GLA), David Cameron, John Prescott and Peter Hain. There was even a representative of the BME LGBT community which was a nice touch.

Jesse Jackson was there too but he arrived late. The ceremony had already started. He was quick however once it was finished to step up to the statue itself in what I could not help but feel was an attempt to crab people's attention. Soon, a group of people including journalists had joined him...

When Mandela arrived the seated guests stood and everyone cheered. At 89, he had to be helped and walked very slowly but he still seemed very perky.

The poet Benjamin Zephaniah welcomed us and after arendition of Something Inside So Strong (a favourite song of my choir) by the London Gospel Community Choir (who sang with us at Singing River), Richard Attenborough (chairman of the Nelson Mandela Statue Trust) took the stand and introduced the various speakers as their time came to speak.

First is was Wendy Wood, the widow of Donald Wood originated the idea of a statue and designed it. Then it was the turn of Ken Livingston who had given his support to the project several years ago. Finally Gordon Brown took to the mic before unveiling the statue helped by Livingston and Wood.

Brown actually seemed a little star-struck, even muscling in on the wife a couple of times to take the great man's arm and help him along.

Mandela speaking
Mandela said a few words after this, saying how Oliver Tambo (his companion of struggle) would have been proud to see the statue of a black man in Parliament Square, a few metres away from that of Jan Christiaan Smut. He informed us that he intended to be back in London during the summer next year when a concert would take place in a park to celebrate his 90th birthday and raise fund for his anti-AIDS charity: 46664.

The events was closed by a performance by a group of young dancers (Notting Hill Carnival style) and another three songs by the London Gospel Community Choir.

Although the guests had by now left, the crowd seemed to linger on enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Quite unusual to be honest: strangers talking to each other. Rather unheard of in London. The Mandela Magic, I am guessing.

I walked back home.

This is of course not the only picture of Mandela that can be seen in London. There a giant head of the man on the side of the Royal Festival Hall, on the South Bank.

The picture at the top shows Richard Attenborough, Wendy Wood (widow of the artist, Donald), Ken Livingston, Gordon Brown, Nelson Mandela, Dame Graça Machel (Mandela' s third wife) and the statue. The second picture shows Nelson Mandela speaking to us.

You can view my pictures of the event here.

See also:
* Nelson Mandela statue is unveiled - BBC News
* Mandela 'honoured' as statue unveiled - The Guardian

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, your description was much better and more engaging than the BBC. By the time I had sorted myself out this morning, I'd already missed it - Breakfast TV didn't mention the time of the unveiling, so I'm glad to have your experience at first hand!

    Love the picture of cute cop, too.

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  2. Am glad you enjoyed it and found it useful.

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  3. Yeah, thanks for this. I would have liked to have been there myself, but couldn't make it. I linked to your post from my blog...

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