By Romain Malan
The Brexit referendum felt like a slap in the face for many foreign people living and working in Britain, especially European ones like me. I came from France to study at the Royal College of Music seven years ago and I’ve been here ever since, making Britain my home.
It felt for me like I gave this country love and got "Leave" in reply. This would maybe have been OK if I and the many other Europeans here had done something wrong. This would maybe have been OK if we had failed to do anything for the UK.
But most of us have done many good things, working hard and contributing to the soul of the country. We could have reacted by just giving up. But we did not, as our desire to contribute to society has always been stronger than the fear from the Leave side. After that shock, we remained humane. We kept calm and carried on.
Being a community musician and teacher, I kept playing music with and for British audiences, including children, older people, and those with mental health issues. Being a professional cellist, I kept sharing my passion in rock and jazz gigs as well as classical concerts.
The referendum happened about one week before the launch of the international orchestra that I created: the World Harmony Orchestra.
We are an ensemble of professional musicians based in London who come from all over the world – 18 countries at our launch concert. We play for peace and humanitarian causes. We wish society could be like an orchestra, a place where everyone plays their part. We believe in the fantastic power of music to bring people together and we perform repertoire that is meaningful and poignant, expressing hope, igniting empathy, raising awareness about tragic issues and inspiring people to act.
We focus our work now on the refugee crisis, one of the most urgent issues of our time. Through our music, we want to give a voice to refugees worldwide and collaborate with the organisations that support them. That is why we performed twice with the refugee choir from Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants, where I have been the choir leader for two years. The track we recorded together for the album is from our recent concert at Amnesty International.
The orchestra is proud to be supporting the One Day Without Us initiative, a national day of action on the 20th February next year. It’s a 24-hour period when migrants like me and supportive Britons will come together to send a clear message that we’re better off together and that losing Britain’s migrants would be a blow to the country.
I’m supporting One Day Without Us by helping to produce an album of music for the day, which is available now for download. But if you’re not the musical type, you can get involved any number of other ways: the name of the game is inclusion. Just like the Britain I love.
I believe this country has been enriched by migration and if people like me had to go home it would be poorer and duller. We shouldn’t be shy about saying that.
So whether you want to wave a banner on a march or just organise a tea party with your friends or colleagues, 20th February is the time to get involved and send the message to Theresa May and her government: Britain couldn’t go even One Day Without Us.
Romain Malan is the conductor and director of the World Harmony Orchestra.
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