Last night’s atrocity at the Manchester Arena is beyond words, as many, including the singer Ariana Grande in the aftermath, have said. Beyond senseless. Pure evil. I have nothing I can add to that – just my heartfelt best wishes to all those affected. And to the city of Manchester, a city I admire and really enjoyed visiting in March this year. We Londoners stand with you.
But I do want to say something about Love and Hope. So important in these dark times. By chance, tonight we went to a Leaver’s Mass at one of my daughter’s schools. Sacred Heart in Hammersmith. As it happens I am a governor there too, but tonight I was there as a parent, marking the end of my daughter’s seven years there, as she embarks on her A levels, and, beyond that university. A new world, a new life.
The priest tonight gave a sermon based on his relationship with a friend who had cancer, but who took strength from the love and the hope that his religion, amongst other things gave him. It was a sermon tailored to the girls about begin a new life outside school, but it had resonance after last night too. It was very moving.
And then, right at the end, three of the girls sang a beautiful medley of three Coldplay songs: “Don’t Panic”, “The Scientist” and “Yellow”. One played an acoustic guitar, another piano. Simple and incredibly affecting. Coldplay’s songs are often criticised for the obviousness of their words and emotions, but actually that criticism is wrong. They strike a chord with so many because of the basic, heartfelt beauty of the tunes and the sentiments. That is why they can light up Glastonbury like no other band, and they can inspire three young women in a school chapel in West London. Universal.
And, after last night, those songs had a real poignancy. Not just because of their inherent magic, and the way they were sung, but because it took me back to 7 July 2005 in London. Those of you who read my blog regularly – or have read bits of my book – will know that Coldplay, by chance, formed a musical backdrop to my reaction to the bombings of 7/7, as I just sat down and wrote a piece straight from the heart.
I don’t mention this to promote anything I’ve done, simply to acknowledge that love and hope can be captured in music, perhaps more than anything else. The atrocity last night was the latest attempt to kill that love and that hope, but it will never succeed. Because more human beings are good than bad, even if the latter get most of the headlines, and because there will always be music, always there to inspire. The Guardian music writer Alex Petridis penned this piece today about the positive power of pop idols like Ariana Grande. It’s really worth reading.
Keep loving and keep hoping. It’s the best chance we’ve got.
(And if you’d like to read my recent tribute to Manchester, it’s here.)