Sunday 16 December 2018

Have a heart and support the homeless

Imelda May, Dermot Kennedy, Wyvern Lingo, Jack O'Rourke and Loah are lining up for our blockbuster charity concert

Imelda May is one of the headline acts for the gig of gigs in the Olympia for the Homeless on May 13
Imelda May is one of the headline acts for the gig of gigs in the Olympia for the Homeless on May 13
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Unless you have a cruel and callous nature - and are stewing in your own hatred of yourself and the world - you, like most of us, will find it difficult to ignore the people trapped in poverty and homelessness in this modern country of ours. Not least when, according to Focus's figures, there are over 9,000 people now homeless in Ireland, over 3,000 of these being children. A child became homeless almost every 3.5 hours in January in Ireland.

Focus advocacy manager Roughan Mac Namara told me: "The situation would be much worse without the work of Focus Ireland as we managed to help over 700 families to escape homelessness last year. We need so much support to carry out our work helping over 14,000 people a year who are homeless or at risk."

Niall McLoughlin, CEO of the Irish Youth Foundation, which is also involved through the One For Ireland campaign, said: "Being without a secure home affects children and young people acutely, and creates a unique set of problems, in addition to those faced by their parents.

"It seems too obvious to have to state it but long-term living in inappropriate emergency accommodation is not conducive to a child's education, health, self-esteem and overall development. The future of a specific demographic of young people in Ireland is being thrown on the scrap heap before they even have a chance to try and achieve their potential."

Needless to say, the homeless crisis in Ireland is depressing on many levels. One of which is that very little seems to be done to help the homeless. So applaud, then, the likes of Imelda May, Dermot Kennedy, Wyvern Lingo, Jack O'Rourke and Loah who will join the High Hopes Choir (and some very special guests) for Independent News & Media's Rock Against Homelessness concert in aid of Focus on Sunday May 13 at Dublin's Olympia theatre.

Karen Cowley of the brilliant Bray trio Wyvern Lingo (their self-titled debut album is already a classic) said: "Changing perceptions of homeless people is a crucial element in tackling the crisis as a whole, and I applaud the choir, its organisers and members for changing these stereotypes in such a positive way."

She added that Wyvern Lingo's song Out of My Hands "also touches on some of what I'm saying about homelessness in Ireland".

Ireland's first choir for homeless people, The High Hopes Choir, performed at the first Rock Against Homelessness in aid of Focus concert at the Olympia in 2016 along with Camille O'Sullivan, Mundy, Something Happens, The Stunning, HamsandwicH and many others.

"We have grown our beliefs and audience to the European Parliament in Brussels last March to send our message to a European audience, as well as collaborate with Glen Hansard last year in Vicar Street," said Glenn Alexander, managing coordinator of the High Hopes Choir.

"We performed two weeks ago with The Script at the 3 Arena and we are looking forward to being front and centre this year. Every member will look forward to giving their all, to perform on such a platform, raising awareness of social inclusion not exclusion."

Dublin's poet laureate Paula Meehan will read a poem she wrote that reflects the experience of her family being evicted from their home when Paula was a child.

She said: "The deepest and most fundamental dream of all is to be at home in the world. We cannot stand by and watch our fellow citizens deprived of the right to a home. That any man, woman or child should be without shelter is a profound wound to our common humanity."

Comedian and actress Tara Flynn, who will be MC, said: "A night like this can reawaken people's passion and remind them that we can all do something, that we must do something. There but for the grace of God go all of us. And we can't leave things as they are."

Certainly this year's concert will be unforgettable if it is even half as good as last year's concert.

This year's line-up is just as special and spectacular.

Imelda May needs no introduction. Similarly, international star Dermot Kennedy (who has notched up 20m listens on Spotify, 6m streams for his classic Moments Passed alone.) He is currently on a sold-out tour of America and Australia.

Loah (Sallay Matu Garnett), a sublime soul singer/songwriter of Sierra Leonean/ Irish origin, is based in Dublin. She co-wrote Someone New on Hozier's 2014 debut album; and last year released her much-heralded debut EP, This Heart which received worldwide praise.

Tom Waits's favourite Cork singer-songwriter, genius Jack O'Rourke, is also taking the stage at Rock Against Homelessness. Paula Meehan will also add something very special on the night.

Tickets for Rock Against Homelessness in aid of Focus (Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 8pm, Sunday, May 13) are available from Ticketmaster (€35). Phone and internet bookings are subject to a 12.5pc service charge per ticket, agents €2.15.

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