3oth April 2019
Having led a procession of over 600 people down Old Compton Street, the site of the homophobic bomb attack in 1999, to St Anne’s Gardens the Rector, Rev’d Simon Buckley opened the Act of Remembrance with the following words:
Welcome to St Anne’s Gardens on the 20th Anniversary of the bombing of the Admiral Duncan Pub. We commemorate a beautiful April evening in 1999 when the streets were alive with the sound of people enjoying the company of their friends only for the laughter and music to be silenced by a loud explosion that none who heard it have said they will never forget. A horrific attack that took the lives of three beautiful and much-loved people: Andrea Dykes, Nick Moore and John Light and which wounded and scarred both physically and emotionally many more. I know from conversations in previous years, that many of you who are present this evening will have been in Soho that evening and I welcome you all as you come both to remember and to try and lay to rest the horror of that night.
It is a particular honour to have with us Councillor Ian Adams, Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster, The Lord Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Baroness Williams of Trafford, our Ward Councillors and Louise Ritchie the Headteacher of Soho Parish Primary School (who created the lovely windmills and rainbow bunting). And, with senior members of the police, particularly the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Cressida Dick. Whilst it was the ordinary citizens of Soho that were first on the scene to help that night, all three emergency services played their customary roles with the dedicated professionalism, calm and courage we often take too easily for granted.
They are the ones trained and dedicated to the task of going into areas of danger in order to get the rest of us out. In an age where so many institutions have lost the respect they once had, Commissioner, can I take this opportunity to say that what I repeatedly hear in Soho is that we want to see more of your officers on our streets, and you and they should take that as a compliment and a sign of our appreciation. And perhaps those elected to serve us will hear that as a heart-felt plea from the people of this community.
This year has again been one in which, from Sri Lanka to New Zealand, we have seen vile acts of hatred wreak havoc on innocent people’s lives. Hatred is built on discrimination and yet is applied without discrimination. April 30th 1999 affected far more than the LGBT community alone which was its primary target. And it is easy to lose hope and faith in humankind when we watch repeated scenes of carnage on our news and hear the racist and homophobic rhetoric that is being openly and even proudly declaimed in diverse places across the globe. But I take comfort from this: that whilst one man caused carnage here 20 years ago tonight, a great many more instinctively rushed to the aid of the total strangers he had attacked. So, let us say loudly to all those who continue to hate their fellow men and women- you are outnumbered.
Just a week after Easter when Christians have celebrated and proclaimed the victory of Christ over suffering and death, let us be joined together whatever our religion, our race, our gender identity, sexuality or disability, joined in faith that love is stronger than hate, goodness is more plentiful than evil and that nothing can separate us from those we love but see no more.
Closing Prayer at the end of the service:
God who made humankind in your image to reflect your beauty in all its diversity. We pray for those we have remembered this night, for one another gathered here and for all who face persecution and live in fear. Turn the hearts of the blinkered, ignorant and intolerant to recognize themselves in the faces and lives of those who are different: to exchange animosity for understanding and hatred for harmony. And begin with us, that together we may live out what we long for, and be agents for peace and justice in this community of Soho and the diverse communities from which we come. Give rest to the departed, comfort to the bereaved and hope and faith to us all.