Amnesty International makes a song and dance for human rights

pic: Jane McCallion

Amnesty International’s Write for Rights Festive Fayre, held at the Human Rights Centre in Shoreditch this weekend, merged traditional stalls with live entertainment, ranging from the hilarious to the bizarre.

After some time browsing stalls and sampling mulled wine, mince pies and cupcakes, the entertainment kicked off with 23-year-old former boxer and spoken word artist Sean Mahoney. The young rhymer’s short but funny set focused on the sort of problems faced by young men, such as how to talk to attractive girls.

The next act on stage was alternative comedian Andrew Bailey, who has dubbed himself ‘The King of Dysfunctional Doowop’. Bailey emerged dressed as the grim reaper and performed a set involving a sound sampler. Wearing a rubber gas mask upside down over his face, he played a piece of clear plastic tubing like a didgeridoo while inhaling ping-pong balls, all interspersed with jokes, before finally blowing up a heavy-duty, full-arm black rubber glove which he then fired off his head. Somewhere between theatre of the absurd and just absurd, Bailey was far and away the most bizarre act of the night.

During the intermission, attendees were encouraged to write letters to 24 prisoners of conscience and their families, either on paper provided or on Christmas cards available from the many stalls.

Hackney Song Works choir gave an eclectic performance including a Medieval carol, a Croatian love song and a number in the Congolese language Lingala, which choir leader Maya Waldman said was “so essential” to the work done by Amnesty.

Song Works were followed by controversial punk poet Attila the Stockbroker. His expletive laden rants about topics from his racist maiden aunt, to skinny women and the fashion industry, left some members of the audience feeling uncomfortable.

Kate Fox, a satirical stand up poet, writer and Radio 4 regular, was the penultimate act of the night.

The evening closed with a performance by stand up comedienne Sara Pasco, who spoke about her letter-writing project and the importance of communication. Over the past year she has written to a variety of people, from ex-boyfriends to vegan prisoners. Although Pasco abstained from jokes, many of her stories were still amusing; she told of one prisoner who believed she was sending him coded messages from contacts on the outside.

It was a fun evening for both the audience and performers, but the purpose of the event was not forgotten and piles of letters and cards were left on all tables at the end of the night.


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