Dana Songs of Praise


Dana

Irish singer Dana talks to Sally Magnusson about her remarkable life, and joins a congregation in London for hymns and songs that are important to her.


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Transcript


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Back in 1970, Northern Ireland was in serious turmoil.

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Catholics and Protestants fought on the streets of Londonderry and Belfast.

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And yet, in the middle of this anger,

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a different side of Northern Ireland emerged.

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# Snowdrops and daffodils... #

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A 16-year-old schoolgirl called Dana surprised everyone

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by winning the Eurovision Song Contest with All Kinds Of Everything.

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# All kinds of everything

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# Remind me of you... #

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# It's gonna be a cold, cold Christmas... #

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It launched a career that included top ten hits,

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success across the Atlantic,

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and, to the surprise of many, a career in Irish politics.

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Dana's had an extraordinarily varied life,

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and today she's my guest on a special Songs Of Praise.

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Coming up, some of Dana's favourite songs and hymns.

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She's in for a surprise when she returns to her old school,

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and Dana meets someone whose life was changed by a project

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that's helped create a more peaceful Northern Ireland.

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Songs Of Praise today comes from a remarkable building.

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This is Air Studios in North London, once an abandoned church,

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until Sir George Martin converted it into a recording venue.

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Now, for the first time in 40 years,

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a congregation is back within these walls.

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And they're here, looking forward to our special guest.

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Ladies and gentlemen, Dana!

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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Thank you.

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And you are back on home turf,

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-because you were born just up the road.

-I was.

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I was actually born in Islington, just off the Caledonian Road.

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I don't remember a whole lot of it,

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but my mother talked about it for all of her life,

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she just had such a happy time there, and wonderful neighbours.

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She just loved it.

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You were young, but the house was crammed with people, wasn't it?

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It was, yes, because as people would move to London,

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as a lot did in those days, looking for work, then they'd all come.

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If my father found anyone at the railway station or whatever,

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he'd just bring them home.

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And your house always full of music,

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which is good, because we've got plenty of it tonight.

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-Yes.

-Tell me about the first hymn.

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Well, it's a hymn that I hope you'll all know

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and you'll all sing along with,

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and it's called I Will Sing The Wondrous Story.

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-Let's hear it now. Thank you.

-Thank you.

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APPLAUSE

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APPLAUSE

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-Come and have a seat.

-Thank you.

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It's a wonderful hymn, that, and without being too sacrilegious,

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it's been a kind of wondrous life for you, too, hasn't it?

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Well, yes, it has. A lot of things happened in my life

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I really never dreamt would ever happen.

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That Eurovision Song Contest win in 1970, it changed everything, didn't it?

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Totally. Totally changed my life.

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I wouldn't be here today but for Eurovision.

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And yet it was such a long time ago, if you don't mind my saying so,

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it was a time when you were sort of young and fresh and innocent,

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it was a very sweet song.

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You've had to live with that image all your life since, haven't you?

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Well, I suppose so, except for the young. I'm not young any more!

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You don't mind? It's not been hard to shake off?

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I think part of the problem with people looking at someone,

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maybe they think that you think you're better than they are, for Christians.

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Maybe they think you're a holy Joe who feels they're better than they are.

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The opposite is true, I think you realise how much

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you've got to work on yourself and how much you rely on God to get you through life.

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And it's interesting, because your career hasn't been plain sailing,

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it's been gilded in all sorts of ways,

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but you had a period in your life

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where you thought you were going to lose that golden voice forever.

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Well, I did lose it for quite some time.

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In fact, it was five years before I actually came back

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-to being able to sing normally again.

-What happened?

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I had a growth with a root on one of the vocal cords,

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which is a very delicate muscle.

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And they thought it might be cancer, thank God it was not.

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But the operation to cut into the cord,

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of course, that's quite a devastation.

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And it took me five years to get back.

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How low did you get as a result of that?

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I think after I had my first relapse,

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I continued downward till I hit rock bottom.

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And that particular day I'd had to cancel another comeback,

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I was alone in my house and I remember sitting at my kitchen table

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and just saying, "If there's anybody up there, please help me."

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And I think looking back, that was one of the best prayers I ever prayed.

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I didn't think it was a prayer at the time, but I remember thinking,

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"Call the doctor and get the name of a teacher," which I did.

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-You saw that as answer to prayer?

-Yes, looking back on it.

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At the time I just thought, "How could I be so stupid not to think

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"to ask my specialist for the name of a teacher?"

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And he said he had one sitting on his desk for the past couple of weeks,

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and I called her and then I began my walk back.

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And she taught you to sing from down here rather than up there.

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She did, she taught me how to protect my voice.

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She was just a wonderful lady, and I'll always be grateful to her.

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What effect did that experience have on you?

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Because it made you very vulnerable for a while, didn't it?

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I remember thinking, "I'll never be able to sing again."

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And suddenly realising, what we take for granted is actually very precious,

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whatever it is - being able to walk, being able to talk,

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being able to sing...

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It's very precious and we need to really remind ourselves

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how important it is to appreciate them.

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Tell me about the next song.

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Well, I wrote it some years ago and it's basically...

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I think I almost get really frustrated sometimes,

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because we all know people who feel alone,

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they feel quite isolated,

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and how frustrating it must be for God who's there with us all the time,

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but actually, those people see him in us.

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So, if we're not his hands and his eyes and, you know,

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if we don't love,

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then those people may never encounter him.

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-It's called I Am The Light.

-Let's hear it now. Ladies and gentlemen, Dana.

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APPLAUSE

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# Oh, I know why you are crying

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# I can feel the pain you feel

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# I am walking here beside you

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# And my love for you is real

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# Yet it seems that you don't know me

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# You can't hear the words I say

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# Are the eyes of those around you

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# Cold and empty as your day?

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# I am the light

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# The light of the world

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# I am the light

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# And the light will burn

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# Within the hearts of those who love me

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# It lights the way for those who yearn

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# To see the light

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# The light of the world

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# I am the light

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# And the light will burn

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# And like a moth drawn to the flame

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# Consumed in my love

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# You are born again

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# Who will speak my word of comforts?

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# Who will love for love of me?

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# Who will shine out in the darkness?

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# So that all the world can see

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# When the flame of love is growing

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# Like a tide that never turns

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# Like the sun that's never setting

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# So the flame of love will burn

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# I am the light

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# The light of the world

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# I am the light

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# And the light will burn

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# Within the hearts of those who love me

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# It lights the way for those who yearn

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# To see the light

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# The light of the world

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# I am the light

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# And the light will burn

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# And like a moth drawn to the flame

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# Consumed in my love

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# You are born again

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# And like a moth drawn to the flame

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# Consumed in my love

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# You are born again. #

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APPLAUSE

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Dana is going back to her roots. Back to Derry, where she grew up.

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On the outskirts of the city,

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is a collection of abandoned buildings -

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Dana's old school, Thornhill College.

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Whoa, it's so strange to see this place boarded up, you know.

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I suppose in my mind, it's kind of,

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as I always remember it and bustling with girls.

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I remember my first day.

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My school bag was so heavy, I couldn't lift it off the ground.

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BELL RINGS

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I suppose I just see little snippets of time

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and I have memories of the people I went to school with.

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It is sad to see it

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but just across the road is the new Thornhill,

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so it goes on.

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In the brand new building, Dana wants to see

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if its strong tradition of music teaching still survives.

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CHOIR SINGS

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# Our motto to the end. #

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Well done. Girls, that brought back an awful lot of memories to me.

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We always had a huge emphasis on the choir in Thornhill

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and I'm glad to see that's carrying on because I think it brings,

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you know, the whole year together.

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When did you come here?

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I came here in the early '60s,

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and I left in 1970 when I won Eurovision.

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So, I was wearing the same uniform you're wearing.

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I took part in the musical and I got the lead role

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in my junior year,

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only because the girl who had the role got sick.

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LAUGHTER

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So, I got the lead role in Love From Judy,

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which was a great experience. Do you still do the school musicals?

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ALL: Yes.

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What was your latest one?

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ALL: Hairspray.

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Hairspray? That's a fantastic... Any of you in lead roles in that?

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I was the lead in it, so I was.

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-So, will you sing us a few bars of it, then?

-Aye.

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# Good morning, Baltimore

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# Every day's like an open door. #

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That's a short song.

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LAUGHTER

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'They're a great bunch of girls.

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'They just love their music, love their singing and performing.

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'I was thinking, you know, how...'

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How much things change and yet how little things change

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because you know, I could see myself in their position.

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'Coming back here was, for me, a kind of,'

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a process of uniting the memories with the present day.

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Seeing these young girls today and meeting their teachers,

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that's lovely to see that ongoing circle of life.

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We come to Strasbourg once every month

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and we're here from Monday to Thursday

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and during that time, we vote on the bulk of the reports.

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It's a chance to find out what's going on and for that reason,

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it's excellent and of course, it's also a beautiful city.

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It was quite a shock to everyone and possibly quite a shock to yourself

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when you went into politics.

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Oh, yes. I call myself an accidental politician.

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And the question rises to my lips - why?

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Well, I ran for the presidency in Ireland.

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If you're going to start, you might as well start at the top

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and work your way down.

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But, basically...

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But you've been singing successfully, you've got a great career,

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you're living in Alabama with your children

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and you think, "Ah, I think I'll stand for the Irish presidency."

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Well, I was actually asked if I would.

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I knew I wouldn't win it, but I knew I had an opportunity to speak

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because I was a personality

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and therefore I would get exposure for what I had to say.

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But what was it you felt so strongly about that you decided to go there?

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Well, the Irish constitution is a very special constitution.

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It recognises a higher power, it recognises God.

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It protects the family,

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it protects parents as the first children of their teachers

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and it protects life.

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So, it's a very special constitution.

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Also, because only the Irish people have the last say on any changes.

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And there was obviously a...

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People felt that they were being forced into change

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and that the people were not being listened to.

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So, I spoke on behalf of the people who felt

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that no-one was listening to them and they were right,

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and I spoke on their behalf.

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Dana actually means "bold", doesn't it?

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Yes, yes, to be bold, to be daring.

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Is that, then, a part of your character that was there

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all along or did you discover it?

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I suppose that we don't know what's within us until we're tested.

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We really don't.

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And I never dreamt that I would be in the hurly-burly of politics.

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Neither did I want to be there.

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But there are certain values, I think, that, more and more,

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you have to be willing to stand up,

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"Well, this is what I believe, this is what I think,

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"and I have the right to say it."

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Now, you lost the race for the presidency

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but you clearly had a taste for it because you stood, then, for Europe

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and you got into the European Parliament.

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Yes, I was there for five years.

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Did you enjoy it, you who hated politics?

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I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. It was a battle every day.

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And politics is like that, you know, you do have to stand your ground.

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You're going to lead us now in the hymn, Be Thou My Vision.

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The wonderful hymn, it's my favourite.

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And very much the right hymn for a politician with a cause.

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For anyone facing everyday life, I think we all can benefit from this.

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-Let's hear it now.

-Thank you.

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APPLAUSE

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Londonderry is divided by the River Foyle.

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One bank is predominantly Protestant, the other, Catholic.

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Last month, something rather remarkable opened,

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designed to unite both sides.

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After months of construction, the Peace Bridge, as it's known,

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is proving extremely popular.

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Well, I'm going to try out the bridge

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and I'm going to meet someone who says her life

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has been transformed by an organisation

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that I've supported for a very long time.

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And what they do is what this bridge is all about.

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-Hi.

-Hi, nice to see you.

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Marguerite Bradley grew up on a Catholic estate in Derry.

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She knew nothing about her Protestant neighbours.

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I went to Catholic schools and my friends were all Catholic.

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I had no interaction for any reason with Protestants.

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It's just the way I was brought up.

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Then, aged 10, Marguerite was selected by a charity

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called Project Children to spend the summer in America.

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It's a simple but effective idea.

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They stay with a host family,

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mixing with people of a different Christian tradition.

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The journey there is also part of the process.

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It was just unbelievable.

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900 kids in a plane from both denominations

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and it didn't matter if you were Catholic or Protestant.

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We were all going to America to have a great summer

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and that just changed my life, that one summer.

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Do you think that your life would have gone the way it did,

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getting your degree, had it not been for Project Children?

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Definitely not.

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Project Children, when my host family came into my life,

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they just inspired me so much.

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My dad was great but my host family just were so educational-wise

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and kept saying, "Get your degree, it'll teach you loads."

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-Did it give you confidence?

-Definitely.

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They believed in me, that I could do it

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and then I ended up doing it and I needed that in life.

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Do you think the work of Project Children helped the peace process?

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Definitely. It changes your whole outlook.

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I went to college with friends that said,

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"Don't talk to them, they're Protestant."

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But they're just the same as us.

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Like, go talk to them and see how they are.

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My whole opinion completely changed and we're just all the same, we're equal.

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-And you've kept those friendships from...?

-I have friends from 20 years ago

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that I first went out with from Project Children.

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They're lifelong friends. I wouldn't part from them.

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# Christ be beside me

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# Christ be before me

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# Christ be behind me

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# King of my heart

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# Christ be within me

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# Christ be below me

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# Christ be above me

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# Never to part

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# Christ on my right hand

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# Christ on my left hand

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# Christ all around me

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# Shield in the strife

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# Christ in my sleeping

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# Christ in my sitting

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# Christ in my rising

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# Light of my life

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# Christ be in all hearts

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# Thinking about me

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# Christ be in all tongues

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# Telling of me

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# Christ be the vision

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# In eyes that see me

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# In ears that hear me

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# Christ ever be. #

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APPLAUSE

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Dana, I was wondering as I was sitting listening to that, whether that lovely Celtic prayer,

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through all the ups and downs of your life,

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actually remains, for you, your prayer for life?

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Well, it does, because I have a great affection for that prayer

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and for the melody, I love it and I find that really,

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it's the only way I can get through life, so yes, I love it.

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Well, thank you for joining us tonight.

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And we finish with a hymn with which any singer can identify,

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O For A Thousand Tongues.

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Next week, Pam is in Salisbury where she encounters flower power

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on a spectacular scale and discovers the remarkable story

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of the church on the battlefield.

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There's glorious music from Hayley Westenra

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and favourite hymns from beautiful Salisbury Cathedral.

0:33:400:33:44

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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