WSO Isolation Festival- UPGRADE!

Poster with Billy

WSO Isolation Festival, set to take place in the dedicated Facebook group on Saturday 11th April just got a major boost and the icing on its cake when Billy Bragg answered the call and added his name to an already stellar cast of performers.

I am so looking forward to this. It is taking every waking moment right now, but promises to be a really special day of togetherness, even if we are all miles apart. Quite aside from the fundraising aspect is the genuine need we have to share something together, a sensation the lockdown is set to deny us for many weeks to come. I’m hoping this will be a day we can all be normal again, a day to remember in a year to forget.

How it works

On the other side we have the GoFundMe page for #WSO2020 to keep Pauline Town going with her We Shall Overcome work over in Ashton-under-Lyne. As many of you will know, that incredible lady’s daily graft includes making 70 packed lunches for the local homeless community as well as working tirelessly to house those in desperate need of shelter. That is usually funded by gigs and donations, but the current circumstances mean this is impossible so we were forced to get creative and from that was born this festival.

You can help Pauline by donating here:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/we-shall-overcome-2020

As a footnote I want to acknowledge the phenomenal contribution of Steve Nevard who has been selling #WSO2020 merch and festival t-shirts, so far raising an incredible £1500 for the cause. Steve has been forced to self-isolate with Covid-19 symptoms and I’d like to wish both he and his family a speedy recovery and send my love and solidarity in this worrying time x

As for the rest. SATURDAY 11th APRIL.

Join the group here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isolationfest/

Pauline

 

 

 

 

WSO Isolation Festival- Q & A.

Poster Insta

On Saturday 11th April We Shall Overcome will be running an all-day virtual gig on Facebook called WSO ISOLATION FESTIVAL. It will involve 30+ musicians and poets all playing songs in THEIR homes and beaming them straight into YOURS.
Loads of people asking about it, so here are answers to the main questions.
 
1. WHAT IS ‘WE SHALL OVERCOME’?
WSO started in May 2015 as a response from the music community to the worst excesses of austerity. Since then our organisers have run more than 1100 gigs raising an estimated £500.000 worth of food, cash, warm clothing and toiletries for food banks, homeless outreach, soup kitchens, crisis centres, youth projects and refugee support, every penny of which went straight to the front line.
 
2. WHAT IS WSO ISOLATION FESTIVAL?
It is an 12-hour online festival run through a Facebook group here- WSO ISOLATION FESTIVAL- SAT APRIL 11th 2020– where you can see 30+ artists perform in their homes from midday to midnight on Saturday April 11th.
 
3. WHAT IS IT FOR?
We raise our help at gigs, and thanks to Covid-19 there aren’t any. Our main hub in Ashton-under-Lyne provides 60 packed lunches per day to Greater Manchester’s homeless as well as working 24/7 to provide shelter for some very vulnerable people. We are running a GoFundMe page for voluntary donations and we ask you help if you can.
 
4. HOW DOES IT WORK?
From midday on Saturday April 11th we will have 20 minute sets from each artist, and when their stage time comes they will become the pinned post at the top of the group. When they finish, their post will be unpinned and the next act will take ‘the stage’. All you need to do is put the kettle on and enjoy music from our kitchen to yours.
 
5. CAN YOU TELL US HOW YOU PLAN TO GET 30+ ARTISTS TO DELIVER A SET TO A TIMETABLE WITHOUT THE WHOLE THING DESCENDING INTO A SHAMBLES?
No. Because I haven’t tried it yet. But when I do, and if it works, I will happily share the mechanics of it so that you can run similar events while we are in lockdown.
 
6. IS THERE NEW SOFTWARE INVOLVED?
No. Strictly Old School hard graft and organisation. Hopefully, like a mighty swan, it will appear to glide seamlessly through troubled waters, while I paddle like f*** beneath the surface.
 
7. SO WHAT DO I DO?
You join the group. Everything will happen in there. And at midday on Saturday April 11th, you turn up and cheer us on while we try to build bridges up and down the land and raise spirits in these darkest of days.
 
Oh, and SHARE THE HELL OUT OF POSTS LIKE THESE!!!
 
8. SO WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING TO ACHIEVE?
We’ll, aside from raising much needed funds for We Shall Overcome, we are at a unique moment in history. There are no gigs. If we focus all our collective energies on THIS one, we could get a global audience of….well, who knows? But it will take EVERYONE working at it to achieve this, from our artists hitting their fan base, to you guys hitting ‘Share’. Only TOGETHER can we make this work, only TOGETHER can we get to the other side in one piece still smiling.
 
And THAT is a message for our times.
 
Join us.
Banner Best

#WSOIsolationFestival- Apart Together

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It will come as no surprise to any of us when the country is finally put into lockdown. Even if they still allow small events, most people will likely avoid them in the short to medium term, so as fundraisers, they won’t be much use anyway.
 
So at WSO Central we’ve hatched a plan to get us through it.
 
At some point over the coming days we will be announcing an event we’re calling the #WSOIsolationFestival. This will be initially an all day online gig in which we use a Facebook event page to broadcast short sets by multiple performers who will all have an allocated time to play. Each set will be posted to the page either pre-recorded, or live, and we will compere it centrally.
 
In this way people up and down the land can watch the whole thing from the safety of their homes, and the artists can work from rehearsal space or wherever so everyone stays safe.
 
Folk can comment on threads, catch up if they missed something, encourage the acts, and get direct contact to online merch etc if we share you links.
 
In return we ask you donate to a new GoFundMe page set up to keep Big Sis ticking over with her incredible work in Ashton-under-Lyne; because Pauline needs gigs to fund those packed lunches and rehousing campaigns, and without the ability to run those shows we all lose.
 
This is the link:
gf.me/u/xq7g4d
 
More news as soon as we have it, but we can do this. We can get through this current crisis together, and we can emerge stronger and more determined than ever.
 
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
 
And we will find it.
 
#WSO2020

MAY DAY FESTIVAL OF SOLIDARITY 2020

May Day Festival Of Solidarity, the celebration of International Workers Day put together by myself and Tony Wright of The Hurriers, returns to Old School House, Barnsley on Sunday May 3rd.

As always we aim to bring you the finest in live music, radical poetry and speakers all at an affordable price. This year we are headlined by Glasgow’s antifa heroes The Wakes with a stunning supporting cast including Dakka Skanks, Jess Silk, Eight Rounds Rapid, Steve White & The Protest Family, Naomi Bedford & Paul Simmonds, Chuck SJ Hay, Parson’s Lot and Del Scott Miller with The Hurriers and myself completing the line-up. When you add the rhymes for our times of comperes Poetry On The Picket Line and speakers from Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign and the BFAWU, you have a ready-made classic.

And it’s only a TENNER!!

Bag your tickets from: https://www.seetickets.com/tour/may-day-festival-of-solidarity

We Shall Overcome 2020: Reset & Renew

We Shall Overcome enters its sixth campaign this year needed now more than ever before.

With the post-election and post-Brexit fallout consuming the national conversation, and ideological warfare sucking all the air out of social media, it is once again those at the front line of government cuts who get left behind and forgotten.

It shouldn’t be this way. Yet such have been the battles for control of the wider political narrative, that those who need representation the most often get the least, and the more time we spend fighting, the more we begin to associate politics with the art of winning an argument and not the act of solving a real and pressing need on our streets.

The We Shall Overcome movement began the day after the General Election of May 2015 as a response from the artistic community to the renewed vigor with which the newly elected Tory government was set to pursue its austerity agenda. We wanted to encourage anyone, whether they had run a gig before or not, to book a venue and run a local benefit gig for their community. We wanted you to choose where that help went, because you knew and understood the needs of your town better than anyone. So we had people collecting donations of not just cash, but food, warm clothing, toiletries, sanitary ware, you name it, if it was needed we were running gigs to collect it, for food banks, soup kitchens, homeless outreach, crisis centres, refugee support and youth projects.

And we have had success too, with more than 1000 events in 150 towns and cities up and down the UK raising an estimated £500,000 worth of help for those struggling to make ends meet out there; not just the homeless, but those on poverty wages in zero hours employment battling to raise a family and swimming against the tide.

We Shall Overcome is something I am phenomenally proud to be a part of. It’s a genuinely community-led movement of ordinary people who roll up their sleeves and become that somebody somewhere who does something about it. These are people being the change they want to see in the world.

They inspire me.

And I hope they will inspire you to join in and make #WSO2020 a force for good in an uncertain world.

Get in touch.

https://weshallovercomeweekend.com/

Tomorrow Is A Highway- 21st Century Cynicism & The Antidote

“Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair”.

Lee Hays opening line to a song I sing on the new EP.

It sounds naive, almost childlike, but that is why I sang it; because it isn’t Hays’ lack of insight which makes it that way- it is our cynicism.

We have become so embittered as a society, so beaten down, that this cynicism has embedded itself in our belief system and become so entrenched that our solution to a loss of faith in politics is to elect a proven liar as prime minister. Johnson isn’t there on hard-earned merit, he is there because we have given up.

I believe songs are there to press our reset button; not to tell us things we think we already know about the times we are living in, but to take us back to the distilled essence of what we believe and why we believe it.

They are a message from the past, yes, but they are something more- they are the key to unlocking the future.

Hays didn’t write that lyric because he was an innocent. He wrote as a man who was physically and verbally assaulted for his politics, who was blacklisted as a musician and tried under McCarthyism. He wrote because the purity of those words took him back to why he chose to fight in the first place, like a prisoner alone in a cell finding hope in the light creeping through a crack in the wall.

The same is true of many of those songs.

“Solidarity forever for the union makes us strong” Ralph Chaplin wrote. Yet he wrote it at a time when being a trade union member made it harder to find work, and could get you beaten, ostracised and even killed by armed thugs in the pay of bosses and under the protection of the police. We may look at our unions today and see leaders more concerned with protecting their OWN jobs than they are ours, but it is our cynicism doing that; Chaplin’s message remains the same, if we DO stand together, if we DO demonstrate unity in the face of exploitation, the union STILL makes us strong. We have just lost the ability to believe it.

And that is where the secret lies.

Belief.

The original protest songs often took their music from well-known hymns of the day and in doing so subliminally transferred some belief in a better future from the churches to the fields and the factory floors. As we have become more secular as a society, so have we lost that belief, not just in an abstract concept like God, but in a collective purpose, and ultimately in ourselves.

We need to press reset.

We need to remind ourselves we stand on the shoulders of giants who took the insults, the beatings, the jail time, the misery, the death and the war and were STILL able to sing “We Shall overcome some day”.

And maybe then we will hear what so many miss.

That the emphasis in that song is on the word ‘shall’.

We SHALL overcome.

It was not written in a moment of whimsical fancy.

It is a threat.

So put down your baggage. Pack away your cynicism. And press reset.

Tomorrow IS a highway broad and fair.

A brave man devoted his life to making sure future generations heard that and stayed strong.

So let’s.