Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

The choir of the National Deaf Children’s Society has been prevented from performing in this year’s carol service in Trafalgar Square by the Greater London Authority (GLA), headed up by Mayor Boris Johnson.

The GLA have classed the NDCS’s song choice of ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham! as “untraditional” and are refusing to provide them with the PA system they require to perform their Christmas songs through sign language.

Performers from the NDCS Choir were told that they would not be allowed to use the PA system – an essential piece of equipment because the group perform to a backing track, rather than sing – as it was felt this would upset the other groups scheduled to sing at the concert. The NDCS was later told that 75% of their playlist was unacceptable, resulting in them withdrawing from the programme altogether at this late stage. This is not only a huge disappointment to all the performers, which goes against the spirit of Christmas, but it means the NDCS will miss out on a huge fundraising opportunity at a time when budgets are already being squeezed.

I find it very unpalatable that the NDCS’s choir has been prevented from performing at this year’s carol service in Trafalgar Square. It’s unacceptable that City Hall, on Boris Johnson’s watch, can’t accommodate deaf children and are policing what constitutes a ‘traditional’ Christmas song. I don’t know what traditions the Mayor is working to, but I have always believed that Christmas is a time for celebration, for charity and a time for inclusivity – not a time for excluding organisations that help deaf children.

If City Hall and the Mayor want to play Scrooge and inflict this on a charity that helps deaf children across London it is a step too far – this is a new low. Hindering the NDCS from performing at the carol service results in a missed opportunity for the charity to raise awareness about its work, to show people that there are no barriers when it comes to deafness, and, crucially, to raise much needed funds.

I have written to Boris Johnson and have urged him to act quickly and ensure that the deaf choir are provided with the PA system they need and to allow the charity to perform the songs they have been practising long and hard in preparation for this event.