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  1. Penniless Porch

Jeremy: “In the city we live in, a space was created in 1450 by the then Bishop of Bath and Wells to allow those in need to find shelter while they begged for alms. The space is called the Penniless Porch, and stands to this day in Wells, Somerset. Although you could argue that the Cathedral could have helped the needy directly, it would have nonetheless been quite progressive, 600 years ago, to have compassion for those experiencing poverty to the extent of building them a covered space. Fast forward to today, and the city authorities have banned begging for pennies in the Penniless Porch, stating clearly on the City Council’s website that transgressors will have the police called on them. And that very thing happened in 2016, with the “offender” taken to court and fined £100 for having begged for pennies in the Penniless Porch. The song is a metaphor in many ways for our system’s attitude to poverty today, when such despair simply shouldn’t exist in this exceedingly wealthy nation, where people shouldn’t have to queue up at food banks as they’re so desperately hungry and where 700 people should never die on our streets each year.”

Lyrics

How many pennies have fallen from heaven
Ever since 1450 as fortunes and hopes disappear
They’ve come here since Shakespeare
And still to this very year
The people with cash had no need to be frightened
Throwing their wealth at the church
So St Peter’s on side
It survived while outside
In the Penniless Porch thousands died

Here they come
The guardians of plenty
To wash lives so empty away
And run a stake through the heart of this land where no part should be played by despair
In 2019...I ask, what does progress even mean?

Six hundred years, why is need just the same
Is history easier on those saying please here
Below they still go, did you know
That in 2019 we say no?
Dealing in standards and checklists, the tickers
Ignore human suffering as a man’s hope flickers
How dare you despair, we don’t care
Would you please move your suffering elsewhere
Logic is in short supply now, if any
Remains when a man’s fined a ton for the pennies that drop in his cup
Messing up the streets of our beautiful town

In 2019, we have learnt from our failings
Consigned things to history that the present day
Has replaced with good grace
Some disgrace
That the Penniless Porch still has a place