The Night Billy Bragg Sang Tank Park Salute For My Little Girl At Glastonbury

On the April 15th 2008 my 5 year old daughter lost her battle against a nasty childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma. Despite trying to remain positive until the end, I was now left with the realisation that I had lost my little girl forever and turned to music to help me deal with my grief.

A song called Tank Park Salute by Billy Bragg helped me through a difficult time more than I could ever express in this short post and when feeling low one night, I emailed the organisers of the Glastonbury Festival advising that it would mean the world to me if Billy Bragg could sing the song as a tribute to my little girl on Sunday night when he was performing in the Leftfield tent at the festival.

599019_10152659723000153_383200816_n

I thought nothing more about this until the Sunday of the Festival several months later, when my phone rang early in the morning as I was eating my full English Breakfast which was lovingly prepared on our camping stove by my Kerry, as I answered the phone call, I was greeted with a familiar voice from Barking saying “Hi Neil, Its Billy Bragg here and wanted you to know that I will sing Tank Park Salute as a tribute to your little girl tonight if you fancy dropping by

Billy was incredibly nice and we chatted for a good 10 minutes like old friends with no hint of awkwardness at all, for me this encapsulated the very essence of the Glastonbury Festival. All too often people think of music festivals as being big corporate affairs with no heart or soul. However what Michael and Emily Eavis family have built is like nowhere on earth and there is a community of over 170,000 people who quite literally fit the demographic of new born babies to 70 year olds with a common love of music and making a difference.

That Sunday night, I went to see Billy Bragg and with minimum fuss he said this song is for those that have lost someone and subtly changed the lyric.

Some photographs of a summer’s day
A little GIRLS lifetime away
Is all I’ve left of everything we’ve done
Like a pale moon in a sunny sky
Death gazes down as I pass by.

Everyone has a Glastonbury story and being on the front row of the Leftfield tent in 2008 with tears streaming down my face whilst Billy Bragg sang Tank Park Salute is something that I will forever be grateful for and it helped me so much in dealing with the unthinkable, the loss of my little girl.

A few years later, I was waiting at Derby station and who should get out of a cab and walk towards me? It was Billy Bragg and I had the chance to thank him for what he did that night and shake his hand in what I thought was a poetic moment of closure. Imagine my surprise when 8 hours later I returned to Derby station to board a train to Birmingham when I bumped into Billy again. I assured him that I wasn’t stalking him but must admit I was a little spooked by the bizarre coincidence.

Life can be quite bizarre sometimes and I have always thought about posting my story, but I never actually got around to putting it down in writing.

My little girl would have been 10 years old today and my biggest battle is not forgetting her smile, her voice and all those little things that a parent takes for granted so as a thank you to the people that made a Sunday night in Glastonbury very special and as a tribute to my little Princess Samantha on her Birthday I have finally wrote it down.

A massive thank-you to the Eavis family and Billy Bragg for a truly special moment that I will never forget and a big Happy Birthday to my princess in heaven.

Advertisements

17 comments

  1. Hi Neil. I cried when I read this story about the sad loss of your beautiful little girl. I lost my dad to cancer and he was a massive Bragg fan. He sent my dad a signed CD and some words of encouragement when he was battling this horrendous disease. I too bumped into Billy several years later and thanked him. I also am reduced to tears every time I hear ‘Tank Park Salute’. As every day passes I hope the loss of your daughter becomes easier to bear.

  2. Hi Neil. Everything I was going to say Denzil W has already written, very succinctly, so I’ll just echo his words. I’ve lived half my life listening to Billy, and must admit that when TPS first came out, on Don’t Try This at Home, it passed me by a bit. Fast forward to 5 years ago when I lost my Dad and never has a song struck such a powerful chord with me. Every time I’ve seen him since and he plays this song, I’m a wreck. But everyone needs a good cry every now and then, for my Mrs it’s whilst watching Brief Encounter, for me it’s listening to Tank Park Salute whilst doing the cryptic in the Telegraph, which I used to do with my Dad every morning growing up. Thanks for writing this piece. It’s beautiful.

  3. Hi all, I cried at this song long before I had children. Now I do and have just played it for a friend.We both had a cry. Thank you for sharing. Amazing how deep a little honesty can touch us. So rare these days…

  4. Thanks for sharing this touching story. The song holds a special meaning for me as well and I tear up a bit when ever it plays. I sincerely hope the memories of your beautiful child remain strong while the sadness fades.

    1. Thanks Tony, the kindness I receive from readers such as yourself mean the world to me and offer a little reassurance that she will never be forgotten.

  5. Neil, I have a 5 years old daughter and when I read your story I started to cry. We must learn to never ever give for granted the most precious things we have. I give you the biggest hug, greetings from Italy

  6. What a beautiful story. Not surprised. That Billy Bragg is a great guy. I hope you are doing OK. Xx

      1. Every time I read your story I feel a weight in my stomach. It is so nice to see that your love for your daughter remains so strong. I give you a big big hug. Forza e coraggio. Greetings from Italy. Nicola

  7. I stumbled across this song completely by accident a few weeks back, had never heard it before. And then stumbled across your website after googling the song lyrics. I lost my mum a year ago and have been doing a lot of soul searching and really struggled to be able to explain to people what its like to lose someone so close to you. After hearing this song and playing it on repeat for days on end, I’ve finally been able to express to friends and family how I’ve felt, just by sending them this song and telling them to listen to the lyrics. It sums things up so perfectly.

    It must have been an incredible moment to have had Billy dedicate it to your daughter in front of your eyes. I’m really sorry for your very sad loss, but its great that this song exists, and that you had that wonderful memory at the Glastonbury festival (I’m a regular there as well and it certainly is a wonderful place)

  8. It’s a wonderful song about loss, and your loss was the worst I can imagine. There is no greater fear than that of a parent losing a child, a reflection on a song about a child losing a parent.

  9. I don’t quite know what I can add to what has already been said here. As the Daddy to a beautiful young daughter, I can’t begin to imagine what you must have suffered inside since your loss. It must have been terribly hard to put into words here. However, when I read your post, I also read it as a message of hope. One special favour done for another, wanting nothing in return. People like Billy Bragg remind us that there are decent people out there who understand our grief as human beings and are willing to add just a little colour in our lives with small, but meaningful gestures, such as the one he gave you. Thanks for putting this post up and thanks to Billy Bragg for being a stand up gentleman.

    Dave

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s