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Kit de Waal memoir extract: ‘The Irish just want to kill us all,’ says one girl after the Birmingham bombings

The novelist recalls growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and the impact of the Birmingham pub bombings as the child of an Irish mother and Afro-Caribbean father

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Author Kit de Waal. Photo by Sarah Lee

Author Kit de Waal. Photo by Sarah Lee

Kit de Waal (right) with her elder sister Kim aged five or six

Kit de Waal (right) with her elder sister Kim aged five or six

Without Warning & Only Sometimes by Kit De Waal

Without Warning & Only Sometimes by Kit De Waal

A police officer beside the damage caused by one of the two pub bombings in Birmingham in November 1974. Photo by Getty Images

A police officer beside the damage caused by one of the two pub bombings in Birmingham in November 1974. Photo by Getty Images

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Author Kit de Waal. Photo by Sarah Lee

At Waverley Grammar School we have music once a week, but in the autumn half-term they bump this up to three. Christmas approaches. We are learning the Hallelujah chorus for the Christmas concert.

The music room is near the assembly hall, a massive room with a high ceiling and wooden floor, 30 chairs circling a grand piano. There’s no blackboard, no desks, just light and space and the feeling, as you walk through the door, that some part of you might be brought alive by the music. You might learn the opening chorus of the operetta Robin Hood or be one of the “three little maids” of The Mikado with Mr Martin bouncing up and down on his spongy Nature Trek shoes, poking his baton at “You!” now “You!”, and your heart swells and you rise to it and sing with your chest out, curling your tongue around The Modern Major-General. “And again!” Mr Martin shouts as we near the end. “And again!”


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