We Shall Overcome is five years old today.
It’s five years since Stephen Goodall galvanised us into action with the words:
“What we need is a night of musical protest all over the country. Let’s pick a date.”
Five years since Matt Hill, Tony Peter Wright, Jamie Bramwell and meself ran with it, and quickly joined by Pauline Town, Pete Yen, Val Colvin and Steve White created a movement whose motto ‘A Raised Fist & A Helping Hand’ perfectly sums up our anti-austerity, pro-community agenda to keep people fed and housed and supported in spite of successive governments abandoning them.
Course that was just the committee.
What set WSO apart was that it was not top down but ground up grassroots front line activism by real people in real communities, targeting resources where they were most needed. It took THOUSANDS of people- volunteer organisers, willing promoters, poster designers; musicians, poets, writers and creative genii up and down the land- to make this happen, and every single one made a vital and valuable contribution to the cause.
That is the lesson of We Shall Overcome. That there is no such thing as an insignificant gesture, because added together, all those seemingly insignificant gestures become something very significant indeed.
From the first gig and that first donation of a bag of shopping, We Shall Overcome has built and built until it now stands at 1100+ events, in 150+ towns and cities and has raised an estimated £500,000 in groceries, cash, warm clothing, toiletries and hands-on help going straight to the front line of need in the town which raised it, helping food banks, soup kitchens, crisis centres, homeless outreach, youth projects and refugee support.
And we’ve got more than 400 people off the streets and into a new home and a fresh start.
Lockdown has stopped the physical gigs but we were pro-active and on Easter Saturday ran WSO ISOLATION FESTIVAL- SAT APRIL 11th 2020 a 12-hour online gig featuring the likes of Billy Bragg, Grace Petrie, Phil Odgers, Attila the Stockbroker and The Wakes. The event raised almost £28,000 securing our central operations in Greater Manchester until such times as we can gig again. A further £2000 was raised from t-shirts and is being divided up among our most active regions according to the levels of need.
Going forward times are set to get harder still, and WSO will be needed more than ever. As long as governments fail their people we will be needed to highlight and protest that failure while doing our best to keep folk alive.
If you want to get involved join our organising group at WE SHALL OVERCOME 2020 and run a gig or volunteer to help at another. EVERYONE can bring something to this.
We lost our comrade, brother and friend Stephen Goodall a few weeks ago.
We Shall Overcome is his legacy.
And what a thing to leave behind you.
RIP Ste. Long live what you started.