BOB ORAM reports on the phenomenal We Shall Overcome music events next weekend from Cornwall to the north of Scotland
TWO weeks before last May’s election the Trussell Trust — one of the largest foodbank operators in Britain — released figures showing that over one million people received at least three days emergency food in the year from April 2014 to March 2015.
It was a staggering increase on the 61,000 who claimed from them in the first year of the Con Dem coalition government and, like many, I asked myself the question of how this can be happening in the sixth richest country on the planet.
I wasn’t alone. A week after the election, a group of musicians simply weren’t prepared to sit around and do nothing.
They came up with the idea of organising We Shall Overcome (WSO), a whole weekend of musical gigs to cheer people up and raise some much-needed support for foodbanks and the local communities they served.
Inspirational, ingenious and fuelled by their incredible enthusiasm WSO has come together in a way not been seen in this country before. What began as small-scale has exploded into a massive nationwide movement, with close on 250 events scheduled between October 2-4.
One of the organisers, artist Matt Hill — aka Quiet Loner — is clear why there’s such phenomenal support.
“There’s a lot of talk about ‘new politics’ and I think we’re tapping into the same vein. People are sick of the X Factor and manufactured music that says and does nothing.
“We’ve shown how diverse, interesting and co-operative the British music scene can be. This is proper grassroots stuff.
We’ve shown what we can do and that we don’t need celebrity faces or big marketing budgets to do it.”
Joe Solo, another organiser, says that a “quiet revolution” is taking place. “We all knew as soon as we started that there was something in the air, that we’d tapped into a need for people to respond to the election with something more than reprimand and insult — that change was going to come.
“The race for the Labour leadership confirmed it. A left-wing ticket has won the hearts and minds of the party membership but, more tellingly, brought thousands of new members to Labour, many of them young people who had previously felt disenfranchised by party politics and in Jeremy Corbyn recognised a man who saw what was happening to their generation and talked about solutions.”
For Thee Faction’s Babyface that new enthusiasm has to be harnessed.
“Every night socially and politically conscious musicians are busy playing in pubs and clubs, doing their bit and making a little bit of noise to a relatively small number of people.
“So let’s get all of those musicians to play, across the same weekend, make a noise about austerity and take donations for carefully chosen charities that will do their bit to alleviate the social destruction of austerity.
“Let’s celebrate communities pulling together to feed families who need our help. Not because we see them as charity cases but because they’re our friends, our neighbours and it could be any one of us at any time who needs that help.”
Next weekend there’ll be WSO events from Poldown in Cornwall right the way up to Dingwall, north of Inverness.
Billy Bragg will be playing a WSO event in Manchester on Saturday October 3 at The People’s History Museum where they are running a reverse Supermarket Sweep in which gig-goers are encouraged to fill the space with provisions for the local foodbank.
But it is not all about “names.” Hundreds of great artists are appearing in what’s an unprecedented and historic moment, which readers of this paper can contribute to. There’s a full list of events on the weshallovercomeweekend website — be there!