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Preview ‘Therapy for activists’

LEN PHELAN looks forward to a great May Day festival of music, poetry and politics in Barnsley

IF THERE'S a better celebration of May Day solidarity coming up than the one due in Barnsley on May 5-6, let me know.

That weekend, The Old School House hosts a very special line-up to celebrate international workers day which includes the likes of punk-folk from Wigan's Merry Hell, Glasgow antifa heroes The Wakes, superb singer-songwriter Reg Meuross and punk-rock troubadour TV Smith.

Other big highlights are sets from Morning Star Album of the Year winners The Moods, Headsticks, Poetry on the Picket Line, Under A Banner, Chuck SJ Hay, Tracey Curtis, Paul Carbuncle, Ribbon Road, Quiet Loner and Rebekah Findlay and an acoustic set from The Hurriers and Joe Solo. Speakers from unions and campaigning groups are to be confirmed soon.

Now in its third year, the festival was the brainchild of Hurriers frontman Tony Wright. “The movement needed another milestone weekend on the calendar to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Tolpuddle Martyrs and Wigan Diggers as an annual gathering of the clans,” he says.

"Those are incredible events and, when you're there and a part of the crowd, you feel an immense sense of belonging, of togetherness and we need more of that. It's often a battle out there and we all need a place we can recharge our batteries and compare notes.

“It reminds you that there are thousands of people just like you out there every day fighting for social justice and equality. It's like therapy for activists."

Wright enlisted the help of singer Joe Solo after the pair worked together building the We Shall Overcome movement over the summer of 2015. Solo's role as “Big Gob In The Middle” put him in the perfect place to help start a new festival.

It was a no-brainer, he says. "With Jeremy Corbyn elected leader of the Labour Party that September, it felt like we finally had a voice in Parliament and he was calling for people to not just rely on party politics but to build a positive and collective movement from the grassroots.

“Both We Shall Overcome and May Day Festival of Solidarity felt like a part of that. If we want to change society we need to change it on the ground and not just rely on the country following the lead of politicians because that doesn't happen without a social movement behind it."

As with previous years, donations will be made to Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and there will be collections of non-perishable food and warm clothing for We Shall Overcome.

Solo is particularly looking forward to the appearance by members of Poetry On The Picket Line, whose work will soon be featured in the Morning Star. "They do incredible work turning up at pickets around London entertaining strikers with pop-up gigs,” Solo says.

“We invited them north because in many ways they represent exactly what we're about, bringing culture and politics together to work for each other, to lift spirits and to take the fight forward. It matters."

Tickets for May Day Festival Of Solidarity are £15 for a day or a bargain £20 for the full weekend. They are available from the See Tickets. See maydaysolidarity.wordpress.com for more details on the festival.

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