BOB ORAM went to the musical feast served in Barnsley to celebrate May Day
May Day Festival of Music and Solidarity at the Polish Club, Barnsley
Richard Burgon MP breezes onto the stage at the Polish Club and makes the strongest May Day speech this crowd in Barnsley have ever heard from a Labour MP. Declaring to cheers: “Isn’t it the case that every striking miner was an absolute hero and will be for all time?” he analyses that struggle as “unfinished business,” praises the Bob Crow anti-fascist banner he stands under and stresses how vital it is that Labour is an anti-austerity party that will “celebrate the 99 per cent, who I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with.”
Even though he is dressed in a “dirty Leeds” top he gets huge applause and like the music fan he is returns to see the later acts, especially Attila the Stockbroker.
The first May Day festival of music and solidarity organised by Joe Solo and Tony Wright from the Hurriers was simply the best value event ever at £10 a pop, with all the money, after expenses, going to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OJTC).
Indoors across two stages, 15 artists — many of whom are on our Don’t be Left Without Us CD advertised below — provided over eight hours of excellent quality, politically charged, entertainment interspersed with class speakers. Compered by spoken-word poets Janine Booth and Mark Jackson this was an event that simply had everything.
Barnsley Sime on the decks. Powerful and emotional speeches from amongst others John Dunn of the OJTC, Heather Wakefield of Unison, Chris Skidmore of the NUM and Aslef president Tosh McDonald.
Sheffield Socialist Choir reminded us of their beautiful tradition and gloriously harmonising a set of seven songs including Power in a Union and Joe Hill.
An acoustic stage where packed audiences were treated to some of the highest standard of singer-songwriting in the land. Ste’ Goodall, Serious Sam Barrett and Alun Parry all displayed incredible voices and craftsmanship in excellent lyrics and songs. Quiet Loner previewed a great new song written about the Peterloo massacre only to then forget the lyrics in his song about our movement’s heroes entitled Don’t Forget. Priceless moment in a brilliant show.
Solo fresh from his Morning Star 50th anniversary gig at the 100 Club in London relished the chance to get the whole crowd joining in with his “sheckers.” An artist that constantly sets a new bar for passion in performance his No Pasaran and Tom Paine’s Bones / Bankrobber totally nailed it.
Phil “Swill” Odgers from the Men They Couldn’t Hang played some of his stunning solo work as well as ending with a glorious rousing rendition of Iron Masters. Lizzie Nunnery has a simply beautiful voice that commanded the room on One Day I Want to Get Straight.
As always Grace Petrie was perfect. Relaxed and talkative she exudes a real spirit of solidarity and goes down a storm with this new crowd. You can hear a pin a drop when acapela she sings the marvellous (We will) Rise: “Spread our wings like birds and rain down from the skies. Mark my words we will rise.”
Over on the main stage Headsticks bring an infectious live energy and presence to the stage. The spacious yet intricate guitar work drives the sound, but is always anchored by a perfectly tight bass and drum rhythm team. Lead singer Andrew adds a soaring harmonica and his impas
sioned quavering vocals and lyrics incite the crowd to join in on the What Do You Want’s chorus: “Revolution. When do we want it? Now.” On tour at the moment, you would be foolish to miss them.
The Wakes are one of the best live bands around and they keep up the tempo with a superb set that has the crowd moving as one. Chris James make his harmonica sing, as totally lost in the moment he conducts himself with a free hand, while working his lungs in earnest.
Eamonn and Chris are the Sly and Robbie of Celtic folk-punk leaving Paul to lead the show with his lilting Scottish voice and Strummeresque guitar chords. Stand out renditions of These Hands, Never Again, The Pirates of the League and Power in a Union are highlights of a great set.
Barnsley’s The Black Lamps return to live action packed out the main hall. Tentative and ethereal post-punk rock, their sound is precise, awash with nostalgic, familiar sounds that might appear sad until you realise they are not.
Planets stands out with its glacial aura and Liam’s “hole in my head” vocals seem disconnected in time and space. Mesmerising with a great attention to detail the crowd loved them.
The Hurriers never fail to deliver and this is a blistering home town set. Everything is perfect — tight rhythm, guitars balanced and complementing each other, Wright singing his heart out. The emotion is electric on The Last Shift, a brilliant new song about the closure of Kellingley colliery.
Truth and Justice is an all-time classic that will never lose its fire. Every fist is raised, the stage is invaded and everyone chants out at the end: “The miners united, will never be defeated.”
Up north again in the space of a month, the brilliant “hard-working” Steve White and the Protest Family are loving the “Tarn” welcome. Engaging and thoroughly entertaining, their skill as musicians is sometimes lost in the fun they create. Getting the audience to dance and sing along is effortless and they are cheered them off at the end with their rousing version of Which Side Are You On?
The legendary Attila the Stockbroker brought the live festivities to an end with a classic selection of poems and songs from over 35 years as our nation’s greatest punk poet entertainer. Even after such a fantastic day of entertainment Attila produced a spectacular show and old favourites Prince Harry’s Knob and Farageland had the whole room joining in. They also saw Attila debut a poem telling the story of how Tony from the Hurriers had mistakenly taken home Attila’s rucksack containing proceeds from three gigs in Scotland and his precious laptop.
Politics, fun and quality entertainment of the highest order, among great people and all for a good cause.
No better way to celebrate May Day and understand the real meaning of solidarity and comradeship than in Barnsley — and like this. Plans are already underway for next year’s show.