St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. Sat January 20, 2001.
A month after her death, stars of stage, screen and music industry rubbed shoulders with family and fans of Kirsty MacColl at the public memorial service for Kirsty in a packed St Martin in the Fields in central London. Stars such as Johnny Marr, Spider Stacey, Billy Bragg, Jools Holland, Holly Johnson, Phill Jupitus, Bono and The Edge sat amongst fans, friends and family. Some fans had travelled from New York, Philadelphia, Germany and Slovenia just to be there, as well as the length and breath of the United Kingdom.
Opening to music from J.S. Bach, The Rev Nicholas Holtam said although Kirsty’s death had been deeply shocking there was much to celebrate about her life. ‘Many of her songs touched the big questions of life,’ he told the congregation.
‘This is one weird gig,’ commented Billy Bragg as he stood guitar-in-hand between the pulpit and a giant photograph of Kirsty. He sang his own. ‘A New England’, slowed down and poignant, the contrast with the more familiar treatment of Kirsty or Bragg himself turning her biggest solo hit into a lament. Of her efforts in the campaign to have the US sanctions against Cuba lifted and Bragg said this was typical of her spirit. ‘I considered her not just a friend but also a comrade. While others just sing about issues Kirsty always got involved,’ he said.
There followed a series of tribute speeches from John Dalby, Phill Jupitus and Kirsty’s mother Jean. Jupitus achieved the impossible and made people laugh with his off the cuff remembrances, which revealed sides of Kirsty many would not have known. Jean told the congregation, ‘I didn’t realise just how many friends she had. There is no farewell, no goodbye. Kirsty is still with us touching hearts of people she loved. I have lost my best friend as well as my daughter but her friends will remain our friends because we shared what we had with Kirsty and that was very special.’
The church then echoed to the familiar sounds of Kirsty’s voice with. ‘Us Amazonians’ from her final album before Pete Glenister read a brief section from Matthew Chapter 5, verses 1 to 10. He acknowledged that Kirsty would not have wanted a bible reading but said that for once he wasn’t going to do what she wanted. The hymn. ‘Jerusalem’ by William Blake followed, before her partner James Knight addressed the congregation with his memories and another stalwart Dave Ruffy read the poem. ‘Remember me’ by Christina Rossetti.
The service ended with her band, augmented by Boz Boorer, Mark Cox and Spider Stacey and featuring family friend Holly Johnson, who sang ‘Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim!’ with great humility, inviting everyone to join him on the choruses. Having filled the only place on stage which could never be filled, and with such grace, he deserved the greatest respect. Then, after the applause died down, everyone drifted out into the cold streets of London, lost in their memories.