A Tribute to the late Paul Goggins

This tribute was also published in the January issue of the Oremus. Tickets to the memorial concert are on sale here.

Paul Goggins and Bishop arnoldI can count the number of times I shared time with Paul Goggins on one hand. And yet I will never forget this lovely man. He had a magnesium flash about him; as busy as ten stretched people, there he was, an admired MP devoted to his constituency and, on top of all this, briefly the Chairman of the Cardinal Hume Centre.  For Paul, giving hours of his time to help the vulnerable and the homeless was as important, more important, than just about everything else.

I met Paul during my time as a mentor at the Cardinal Hume Centre. This fantastically run charity – well worth a visit to if you haven’t already – has introduced me to several people whose lives were hard. A man who worked all night cleaning the escalators at Canary Wharf and then, sacrificing his sleep, headed for the Centre for free English lessons; a young woman who just needed a steer to help her realise that she was a natural-born carer. Their lives were not easy and yet, unlike many fortunate people, they never complain.

To run as smoothly and professionally as it does the Cardinal Hume Centre needs funds so in recent years I’ve had much fun haring around the UK on a bike with like-minded folk who love the melody of the wind on their ears and were up for raising money. As I have a music background, I suggested to Paul and Cathy Corcoran (the Chief Executive) that we have a crack at putting on a concert. They both welcomed the idea. Paul and I went to talk to Sir Nicholas Kenyon who runs the Barbican Centre. We sketched some thoughts on the back of an envelope for the first Cardinal Hume Centre charity concert. A few weeks afterwards I turned on the BBC Radio 4 news and the headline was Paul’s untimely death.

So there’s a sad twist to this story, in that the charity concert that Paul and I have put together has become an In memoriam to him. All of us, especially Sandra Deeble at the Centre, are now working around the clock to ensure that the performance of Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto at St John’s Smith Square on 30th January will prove a lasting legacy to a great man and will benefit many people who are finding life especially hard at the moment.

To play the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 will be the great pianist Ashley Wass. Ashley proposed to his wife, Claire, in his dressing room at the Albert Hall during the Proms seconds before he performed the Vaughan Williams Piano Concerto! Claire works at Downside Abbey and will be bringing their ‘Monks at War’ Exhibition to St John’s Smith Square on the day. Have a look at the other names we have recruited for the concert. They are all stars, from Maxim Rysanov, to Jean Rigby, to the up-and-coming soprano Eleanor Dennis. And the bass soloist is my fine friend Timothy West who when a choral scholar at New College, Oxford, was known as ‘Golden vocal chords’.

To fill the 764 seats of St John’s Smith Square is a challenging task, but one we must accomplish, so please make the 30th January a date in your diaries. It’s going to be a special evening. Bring yourselves and others along, hopefully something of the sacred memory of this dedicated public servant will touch your lives, just as it has mine.

Thank you

Benedict Warren 

Ben Warren Ben is a long term supporter and volunteer for the Cardinal Hume Centre.