The new anthem of the women’s movement I Can’t Keep Quiet is as infectious as it is stirring. And to sing it with meaning you need to have the harmonies in place so to learn before you perform.
Workshop booked, travel plans made. But to get there you need to have got all that women’s work done – and time often isn’t on our side...
A woman’s work is never done they still say and so it was I found myself flying to the station between chores to get the train and tube to Piccadilly. No sooner had we pulled out of the station, the train stalled. The next half-an-hour was spent gazing out at the platform (while adding to my shopping list and work scheduling, obviously).
A group of four passengers sitting by me started to compare diets. WeightWatchers versus Slimming World versus Cambridge: the knives were out. There was no conclusion – except, maybe, that a woman’s body is never right.
Arriving breathless at the rehearsal venue, I found it silent. Banging furiously on the door only provokes tuts and stares from passers-by. A woman’s patience is inexhaustible, right? Charge down to Piccadilly Circus, where a news vendor says, ‘Those girls in pink hats? They left about ten minutes ago.’ Feel like telling him pink used to be associated with dominance - a male colour until protesting women appropriated it -and that the pink-hatted bunch weren’t girls they were women, but by then I’m flying down the tube steps.
King’s Cross station is big and busy - but lo! a siren call... And there they are, in full flow: they Can’t Keep Quiet.
I remember at the last such flashmob in early March one woman commenting how women are rarely offered a public platform for their views about being women. This is pretty public though; and we’re right under the national railway system’s biggest platform indicator
The sound is big and confident – not surprising given how, I hear, they’d just sung in the tube carriage and up the escalator. No political rent-a-mob this though. For Georgina (15), the March event in Parliament Square was her first ever political protest; this just her second.
So what is it about this song that’s made it take off at protests across the world? For her, the best line is ‘One woman riot’: it’s about ‘our power within and how that’s compounded collectively’. Mylene, 33, sings it ‘when things get difficult – and all of it.’
They’re not all women though. Isaac, nine yesterday and with no hesitation in calling himself a feminist, has come with his mum. Having done all four venues today, he declares it ‘better than my birthday’.
We’re still standing in a big circle on the station concourse. It’s not that often women are this vocal and visible, someone remarks. And it’s definitely not often they take up such space – so long a male prerogative, from playground to Parliament.
I recall the comment of Ellie, an Underground supervisor, last time when we sang by the ticket office at Piccadilly. She loved the song and I told her we’d only just learnt it and never sung it in public before. ‘Women can do anything,’ she said.
Oh all right then. Time to race back up the line to Wood Green: shopping for son’s birthday to finish, elderly parents’ check-up phone call to make, desk work to complete and a to-do list to now add to. What was that about a woman’s work...?