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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 22:59 GMT
Alicia makes Commons 'hip'
Alicia Keys agreed to sing a duet with a GCSE student
Alicia Keys agreed to sing a duet with a school student
US singer Alicia Keys turned the House of Commons into a hip music venue when she played a concert there on Friday.

The show was set up by David Lammy MP, the youngest member of parliament, who said he wanted to bring the inner city into the corridors of power.

David Lammy MP
Mr Lammy said Keys is a good role model
Keys performed her chart-topping soul music to 150 school students and journalists - and even agreed to sing a duet with a 16-year-old girl.

"There has been a lot of coverage recently about apathy and the relevance of politics, and I think it's important that the House of Commons is seen as the house of the people - particularly younger people," the Tottenham MP told BBC News Online.

Tough

"It's really important in a week of hearing about violence, crack and the under-achievement of black boys to send a signal that some can come out of the inner city and achieve."

Keys has gone from a tough upbringing in New York to international stardom, winning five prestigious Grammy Awards last month.

She is currently promoting her new single, A Woman's Worth, and the concert was part of an attempt to raise her profile in Europe.


I am happy that I have been able to bring Alicia Keys to the heart of the British establishment

David Lammy MP
Mr Lammy, 29, a Labour MP, agreed to organise the show because he was a fan of the singer and thought she was a good role model for young people in his constituency in north London.

"It's also a positive signal about the power of the arts," he said.

But he denied he had been duped by her record company into setting up a publicity stunt.

"Because I am the youngest MP, I will choose to do things in my own way. I am not here to promote the status quo," he said.

"I am sad some people are being cynical about this event because they prefer to concentrate on the negative things that come out of the inner city.

Keys took questions from the students and media
Keys took questions from the students and media
"I am happy that I have been able to bring Alicia Keys to the heart of the British establishment."

Keys played for about an hour and agreed to sing with Careen Green, 16, a GCSE student from Tottenham, when she asked if she could perform a duet.

As well as performing her own songs, Keys played a number of cover versions, including Killing Me Softly, originally by Roberta Flack.

Unwitting precedent

She then took questions from the students.

But Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler hit out at allowing a pop concert to be staged in the House.

"Any commercial company wishing to launch a product like this would have to pay a big sum to get a central London venue of this sort," he said.

"House authorities may have unwittingly created a precedent for all sorts of commercial events. How can they now resist the Brit Awards, Miss World or the launch of a new deodorant?

"If the event was intended to persuade young people that Parliament is relevant to their interests and concerns, I doubt whether it could have had that effect," he added.

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Music
Nicely in tune in the Commons
28 Feb 02 | Music
Alicia has keys to stardom
21 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Lammy raises the laughs
23 Jun 00 | UK Politics
The great black hope
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