This was an exciting, unusual and important event for us to attend. It was of particular relevance to our Chagossian members, but also brought together environmentalists, politicians, anthropologists and scientists from all over the world. This was in itself of huge educational importance to all our members and touched on issues of global significance.
Organising getting everyone there was a complete nightmare as it took place during the exam season. However we came up with a plan whereby the drummers went up in the morning to open the conference and the choir would arrive in the afternoon. So at 7.30 am we had gathered in the music room to get the instruments and were driven by minibus to Three Bridges station. Ronny’s dad had kindly repaired two of the drums. We then went by train and tube to South Ken and walked with the instruments up to Kensington Gore.
We were warmly welcomed by Ben Fogle and Phillippa Gregory who were hosting the conference, and then the boys set themselves up in front of the conference platform to rehearse and then perform. They performed for about 15 minutes as people arrived and settled, and were well received.
At 10.30 we went into London for a tour. I managed to haggle a good rate for a tour of the Royal Albert Hall, which is next door. The tour was brilliantly done, and quite fascinating. The boys learned a lot about British 19th century history from the tour, and started to work out the succession of monarchs in the UK in the Royal lounge at the back of the Royal box.
Unsure what to do next, we walked into Hyde Park, inspecting the Albert Memorial on the way past. After walking up to the Serpentine we decided to eat, and hailed two taxis to take us into Chinatown, where we found a good buffet deal. We then meandered along Oxford Street before heading back to the RGS.
By this stage the whole event had heated up considerably, and other Chagossians had arrived from Crawley and Manchester…..many of who them boys seemed to know! Some also met family members.
The choir arrived with Nan Wood at about 3.30 and we rehearsesd in the open air at the back of the building, before gathering to perform. We waited quite a while, as the debate was becoming quite heated.
The conference seemed to have succeeded in allowing all the stakeholders to express their ideas and feelings –probably for the first time ever. As Ben Fogle addressed the conference with his closing remarks, the atmosphere was still noisy and I was a bit anxious about performing to an agitated group. I asked if Jason Alexis could address the crowd in Creole to announce what we were doing, and he succeeded in winning people over and even making them laugh.