Report: Merlyn Vaz Christmas Tree Light Switch-on Ceremony, 2011

The late Merlyn Vaz was the first Asian female councillor to serve on the Leicester City Council in 1989 and served for 14 years in her area of Charnwood. After coming to the UK in 1965 with her late husband, and moving to Leicester after he passed in 1985, Merlyn Vaz put all her efforts into public service. First she was a teacher at Whitehall Primary, empowering the youth, and then upon her successful bid to represent Charnwood ward in 1989 she never looked back. AT the centre of her agenda was for pensioners to be taken care of and o it was fitting that she be the chairman of the first Senior's Citizen's Forum. Dedicating her political power to helping those who cannot be heard, it is an honour for the EAGA Gospel choir to sing at her memorial Tree Light Turn On annually.

Since the death of Mrs. Vaz in 2003, every December a Christmas Tree is erected in honour of the mother of MP Keith Vaz. This year marks the 9th time that such a memorial has taken place, and the third year that such has occurred at the Merlyn Vaz Health & Social Care Centre in Charnwood ward.

To open the annual event, the Emmanuan'-El Apostolic Gospel Academy (EAGA) Choir sang a variety of Christmas carols such as Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, Little Donkey, and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, The enlarging crowd enjoyed the sweet harmonies as the choir sang. All weathered the bitter coldness as they anticipated the arrival of the right honourable MP Keith Vaz.

Around 6:45, the MP made his appearance, along with his daughter, East enders character Zainab Massood, better known off scene as Nina Wadia, and from the Lord Mayor's Council, Councillor Barbara Potter. As they entered the stage from the Merlyn Vaz Health & Social Care Centre the Gospel Choir finished their last song the First Noel.

Welcoming all present at the event, MP Keith Vaz handed over the microphone to his daughter Anjali. Opening up her speech, young Vaz described how she missed her late grandmother's "kindness, generosity and love". She further asserted that "Christmas is a time for family and on such a cold night like tonight, we are kept warm by the love and kindness of our families." In honour of Mrs. Vaz being the "champion for pensioners" on this evening hampers were given to local pensioners in the area.

Continuing on with her address, Anjali Vaz began to introduce the celebrity present at the event. Describing her as a young grandmother herself, Mrs Nina Wadia was presented to those gathered, with cheers and applause. Mrs Wadia admitted that she had never turned on Christmas tree lights before and was honoured to be at such an event held in honour of a great woman such as Mrs Merlyn Vaz. Eager to switch on the lights, Mrs Wadia had to be stopped by MP Keith Vaz. He explained that before the lights were to be turned on, the representative from the Lord Mayor's Council, Councillor Barbara Potter.

After welcoming everyone to the light switch on the countdown began. Jokingly requesting that we start from 100, the MP led the countdown from 10. In unison 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1. Upon the completion of the countdown the big red button was pressed, turning on the lights on the Christmas tree. To the crowd's surprise there was fireworks! Startled, surprised and elated, the crowd watched as the fireworks lighted up the sky. To add to the moment, the choir sang 'O Happy Day'; a fitting ending to a great event to honour the life's work of an admirable lady, Mrs. Merlyn Vaz.