The last month has fizzed past in a whirl of picket lines and performances; rallies and announcements, and has kept me on my toes every second…….just the way it should be.
The Road took in Bradford, Hull, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, and Sheffield; and it started in a blizzard and ended in dazzling spring sunshine.
En route we raised £140 each for the Solidarity Mission causes- Pauline Town, Mesopotamia Cafe, Hull Unity Shop, and Refugee Support Europe; hopefully helping them over the last hurdle of a winter which has been a nightmare for fundraising.
The principal reason was the new Teeshirtme designed ‘One Life At A Time’ t-shirt, which proved popular on #BandcampFriday and rightly so- it’s a banger!
By far the most significant event of the month was the Trade Union Rally in Hull, organised to counter a Far Right gathering on March 18th.
By occupying the centre of the square and repelling them when they tried to take it, Hull‘s organised Working Class successfully drove the fascists out to the fringes where they were forced into speaking from a park bench drowned out by jeers. I was proud to have helped provide a soundtrack, and perhaps my FB posts describe this best.
Yesterday, the fascists came to Hull and Nazi-saluted their way through speech after speech of hate that doesn’t belong in our city, or anywhere else in the world.
They made those speeches to a small number of mostly imported supporters from the far side of the square, because we wouldn’t let them have the stage.
At times we were forced to repel them and it wasn’t pretty, but ours is not a city of hate, it is the city of Jack Atkinson, and they did not pass.
A massive thank you to Hull’s trade union movement and organised Working Class who turned out in force and stood heroically in the face of fascist intimidation. It filled me with pride to see young and old standing firm and holding their ground.
In the end it took an 8-year old girl, singing unaccompanied, her voice cutting through that cauldron of hate. For a few brief seconds even the Nazis fell silent.
It was a beautiful thing.
It was the sound of hope.
THE POWER OF SONGS
This is me singing ‘No Pasaran’ last Saturday, as Hull’s organised Working Class fought off the fascists and denied them access to spew their hate in the centre of Queen Victoria Square.
Songs are about connections.
The more egotistical performers think it’s the connection between them and their audience, but it isn’t; it’s the much more powerful connection between the listener and the character and narrative of the lyric.
That’s where the emotion is.
That’s where the tears are.
The singer is a conduit for that connection and not the connection itself.
So as I sang, and 50 people hollered along, fists raised to the sky, you could feel our courage rise, and the sight and sound of it took away the confidence of our enemy.
It wasn’t because singing ‘No Pasaran’ put 50 Joe Solo’s on that platform.
It’s because it put 50 Jack Atkinson’s there.
I didn’t do that.
And THAT is the power of songs.
Elsewhere, I stood on pickets with the Junior Doctors and RMT as the strikes continued, and offered as much solidarity as I could in their fight for acceptable pay and conditions in a country guilty of increasingly devaluing its workforce at the altar of profit.
And some VERY exciting gig announcements came through, not least my trips to Barrowlands in Glasgow for #LoveGlasgowHateRacism in aid of Scottish Refugee Council. I join a bill featuring two incredible bands- The Wakes and She Drew The Gun– plus Musicians In Exile, a group formed by refugee artists hoping to make Scotland their home……
……and the incredible news that I’ll be flying to Barcelona to play ‘Solidarity Park 2023’, an anti-fascist festival remembering lives lost to the politics of the Far Right in the 1930s, and a timely reminder of why it is so important to deny their hate and blame vendettas today.
The first act of the new month is to launch the video and download for ‘Answer Machine’, the first new Lithium Joe song in 22 years.
The video goes live on Sunday 2nd, the download via Bandcamp on Friday 7th, and on all streaming services from Monday 10th. I can’t wait for you to hear it.
I’ll be playing Leeds, Harrogate, Scarborough, Newcastle and Barnsley in April, and if you haven’t already bagged em, PLEASE grab tickets for May Day Festival Of Solidarity on the 30th……just so Tony and I don’t have our usual panic over numbers in the week running up to the day.
Right, that’s about it. A massive thank you to Jason Shipley, Neil Terry, Dave Titterton, and everyone else whose photographs and posters have defined the month; and to you lot who turned out to make the gigs happen. There’s a LOT of darkness out there, but your light will eventually drive it out into the corners where it belongs.
Keep the faith.
See you out there ✊️