With the support and blessing of Kirsty MacColl’s family and management, a proposal was put to Westminster Council to place a Bench in Kirsty’s memory in Soho Square, central London. Soho Square is a garden in the middle of one of London’s busiest areas. It has a special place in the hearts of Kirsty’s fans as the setting for a song on the Titanic Days album: it’s where “the pigeons shiver in the naked trees” and there’s “an empty bench in Soho Square”. Kirsty once said that had she appreciated the special fondness for this song amongst her fans, she would have included it on the Galore compilation.
The Bench was unveiled in a public ceremony in Soho Square, London on Sunday 12th August 2001 at 11am. Speeches at the unveiling came from organiser Chris Winwood and Kirsty’s mother Jean, who handed over the cheque for the Music for Cuba Fund to Steve Wilkinson of the Cuban Solidarity Campaign and the Cuban Ambassador to Britain. Kirsty songs were played over a PA system to add the necessary ambience. As the song Soho Square finished, two pigeons flew over the bench.
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Some extracts from the speeches:
Chris Winwood, bench project organiser, said “Kirsty MacColl once sang about Soho Square: with pigeons shivering in naked trees, it’s a sad place. there’s an empty bench in Kirsty’s Soho Square, if we’d have come, we’d have found her there. I don’t think this is either the time or the place to mourn, or to dwell on Kirsty’s passing. I know that, no matter how upset and shocked we fans were, we cannot compare with the experience of those who knew Kirsty. However, Kirsty’s death led to a real sense of community among and shared experience the fans.”
“Using Kirsty’s website, fanzine and internet chat group, fans from across the world pulled together and became friends. Meeting so many fans at Kirsty’s memorial service in January was so exciting. After the service, we sat in the pub, had a giggle and sang bits of her songs. we talked about our favourite and least favourite of Kirsty’s lyrics, and celebrated everything she’d done. The idea to make Kirsty’s bench a reality came from that. We all said it would never happen. We wanted a permanent, lasting memorial, not just another blue plaque on a wall somewhere.”
Jean MacColl, Kirsty’s mother, said “I’m so thrilled to see you all here, your love and affection and kindness and your solidarity has been so supportive of all the family, and I do thank you, really, from the bottom of my heart. It helps a lot. You’ve been most generous, and I’m sure Kirsty would be amazed at how many friends and fans she had, and I can’t thank you enough. I think this is a wonderful place, and I’m sure she’s looking down and having a little smile somewhere, and I shall come and sit on the bench. If I get down, this is where I shall come.”
A decent turnout of 150 consisting of fans, family & friends plus the occasional passing tourist ignored the rain and celebrated Kirsty’s memory in the Square before heading to the excellent, welcoming and acoustically rocking Pillars of Hercules after a brief attempt to enjoy the day in another establishment ended in a mass walkout of Kirsty fans and relatives.
Barman: “If you touch that guitar I’ll ask you all to leave.”
Craig: “Oh, alright then, 1-2-3-4 I was 21 years when I wrote this song…”
Once safely in a decent pub, the Kirsty songbook (and the Bragg one, thanks to Terry!) was comprehensively sampled to varying degrees of accuracy in a touching display of community singing, fed by the guitar lines of star contributors John “Aloha” Meranda, Craig “Buskin'” Ferrier and Terry “where’s Wiggy?” Hurley. Old friendships were renewed and new ones started.
Just passing by as it’s Kirsty’s birthday… I visited the bench with my Daughter last month, her middle name is Kirsty in tribute to Kirsty Mac. Despite Soho Square being very busy, Kirsty’s bench was free (which was good as I was geared up to ask people to move in order to take a photo!). Glad I was able to have our photo taken sitting on it. Never forgotten Kirsty xxx
One of these days I will make it to the reunion. I always sit there if I am in London, and smoke a spliff. Saw her at tramps in NY during Irish week, and Wolverhampton civic
I’m sitting on the bench now. It’s peaceful. So glad to finally make the pilgrimage from Dallas, Texas. A flock of pigeons flew over as I was listening to the song and I burst into tears. We miss you Kirsty.
Will always be the ‘ wonderful ‘ kirsty maccoll, and loved by us, always.
Tom and erin
Im hoping to come. is 11 o clock the bex st time?
Hi, I’m planning to go down there this Sunday at 11ish.
I’m assuming it’s still on?
Will there be a gathering at the bench this year 2021?
By the looks of it yes. Depending on covid. Still be best to take mask, just incase.
She will never be forgotten, every I have to go to London, I always try to visit the bench. It means so much to me to have that place. All the Love.
I went down today at midday as the clock over the back struck 12.
My daughter is 18 today and I thought it fitting to make the trip for the first time. There were no other people there. Was it because of Covid that there was no meet up this year?
We didn’t meet physically for Kirstyfest this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but we had it virtually on Zoom this year.
She won’t be forgotten and her songs are still in my head
I visited Kirsty’s bench yesterday. Shivering pigeons outnumbered the people. Such a peaceful haven amidst the hustle and bustle of Soho. What a song!
I made my first visit to Soho Square todqy, after wanting to go for almost two decades. It took a few more minutes to find the bench, wandering around and asking several bemused bench denizens if I could kindly see the plaque on their bench. Kirsty’s Music was a constant companion through my 20’s and Titanic Days still makes frequent visits in the rotation. Kirsty will be missed and remembered always.
Indianapolis, IN, USA
I’m a huge Kirsty fan and can’t believe I haven’t visited her bench but will be in London next Wednesday and will go along then.
I would love to meet other fans and will visit again next October to remember a lovely lady
It was a pilgrimage for my family and I to visit Kirsty’s memorial bench today in Soho Square. We searched a bit and found it, then once an unknowing occupant left we solemnly occupied the spot and took photos and shared the moment in her honor. We played Fairy Tale of New York and my daughter read Kirsty’s poetic lyric from her darkly hopeful song Soho Square to us as we celebrated her memory. We are all better for her artistry taken too soon. This world craves more like her.
Chase family, Portland Oregon
please let me know when next gathering is at Soho Square in memory of the fantastically talented and appreciated Kirsty McColl
Such a lovely tribute! Always was a fan and often wonder what she would have gone on to sing and do? So sad but the good so often do seem to die young! She left a great catalogue of work!
I always visit her bench when in London, her Xmas song with the Pogues is the best Adrian
She was just great! I still listen to her music. Hope to visit her bench in Soho Square this summer.
I just discovered her wonderful voice and cannot get enough of her I will be in London in a couple of years and will definitely visit the bench.
she was a wonderful singer and please let me know about any other reunions