Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival- just WOW!

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What a truly incredible day I had yesterday. Flippin’ MINT. Massive thanks to Keith Hatch and all the staff at Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival for making such an amazing event feel so much like the best family gathering EVER.
Hard to know where to start.
I got to meet the fabulous Maxine Peake and pass on a copy of ‘NO PASARAN!’ as I know she does amazing work for International Brigade Memorial Trust and I managed to untie my tongue long enough to say how much respect I have for her speaking up on issues when others would protect their careers and stay silent. Maxine was every bit as lovely you’d imagine. If Cloud Nine had steps leading upwards, then I was on ’em.
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Managed to get sunburned watching not one, but TWO sets from the brilliant Efa Supertramp who ROCKS; missed Emily O’Brien singing my song ‘A Revolution In An Empty Room’ at the open mic, which I was gutted about as having people sing your songs is probably the greatest tribute they can have- thanks Emily; watched a truly stunning performance of ‘Billy Bragg Jeans’ by Paddy Nash, Diane Greer, Steve, Lol and Robb Johnson; saw John D Revelator sporting the first We Shall Overcome 2016 t-shirt I’d seen in the flesh; spent a cracking day with Pete Yen, Matt Hill, Caroline Turner, Steve White, Lol Ross, Iain Skeg Seymour and a cast of a thousand more amazing comrades and friends…..oh, and I got to play too!
What an amazing crowd! Properly raised the roof on ‘NO PASARAN!’ and I collapsed off stage to be greeted by the outstretched hand of the one and only Tom Robinson who made me blush a little when he said: “That was f***ing brilliant!” and promptly bought two cds! Having got over famous-person tongue-tied syndrome with Ms Peake I managed to tell Mr Robinson that seeing him on telly performing ‘Glad To Be Gay’ in the 80s had been an inspirational moment for me as it had struck me how provocative, challenging and dangerous five chords and the truth could be….a lesson that stuck. When his band absolutely brought the house down with that song later, and a thousand voices sang out instead of the bottles and heckles it used to get, you realise how far we have come in 40 years, and how important it is to remember.
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Over to the acoustic stage run by Steve White and Lol Ross. Again amazing performances I could have watched all night. Elvis McGonagall was incredible, Kate Smurthwaite hilarious and I got to lead a chorus line of Paddy, Diane, Steve and Lol joined by the entire audience singing ‘We Will Be Free’ my Tolpuddle Martyrs song.
In short, it was like dying and going to heaven.
I dedicated my set to the much-missed Beryl T Peril who was there in spirit and will be laughing like a drain at the fact that I can’t stop singing Steve’s tribute song, the chorus of which is:
“Facebollocks, Wilko bastards, Virgin-f***ing-media”
During the afternoon a lovely lady slipped an envelope into my hand on which were written the words:
“For Pauline Town via Joe Solo”
containing a cash donation to help Pauline help the homeless of Ashton-under-Lyne. Incredible solidarity, and a testament to the positive power of social media when we use it to HELP instead of always to criticise. A wonderful gesture. I’m about to paypal it over now.
Arrived home to find my own WSO 2016 t-shirt had landed yesterday from Philosophy Football.
That’s this summer sorted then.
MASSIVE thanks to everyone who cheered and sang and shouted and debated and leafleted and campaigned and shook my hand and gave me a hug. It is genuinely amazing to drive 6 hours from your front door and find people you love and who love you in return.
On Friday I thought we were being beaten.
Today they don’t stand a chance.
Thanks to Dave Gould and Paul and Lindsay Rutland for the photographs.
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