2021: That Was The Year That Was

And so we near another psychological milestone, as one day drifts inexorably into the next and we convince ourselves a new number on the calendar brings with it the might of meaning.

2021, just like it’s predecessor, brought more to forget than remember. We have lived through a period they will one day teach in schools, but as musicians we have struggled to cut through the static of indifference as priorities shifted, and, for the vast majority of people, survival instinct took centre stage.

Nevertheless, we tried.

Really hard.

Probably as hard as ever we have.

Because it seemed to matter more under the circumstances.

My year began pretty much where the last left off, with a ‘Live From T’Shed’ gig raising money for We Shall Overcome, and a new album- ‘A Northern Soul’.

Together with the ‘Smile A Day For Pauline’ campaign, and much support from the wider WSO family, we raised £9536 to keep The Station open through to the Spring. This was always priority No.1 for us during Lockdown, and the generosity of so many people during that winter lifted a massive weight from our shoulders during the cold, dark days of January, and shone a little light into the world. That same solidarity continued throughout a year in which WSO Central could never function as a pub or a venue, and as the new year turns we are funded to Easter and preparing for a MASSIVE all-dayer to kick new life into our spiritual home.

As restrictions eased we stayed within the rules but were able to put some live music on there to lift Pauline’s spirits, and our three ‘Live From T’Station’ gigs were an absolute joy, with my most treasured memory being a collaborative version of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’ with Dan Lucas, Matt Hill and Jess Silk, which after so many months of gigging on my own in a shed to a phone on a tripod, was absolutely exhilarating.

As Spring approached, but Lockdown showed no signs of lifting for gigs, we launched ‘WSO We Shall Overrun’, initially an attempt to pool our miles- ran, walked and wheeled- in order to cover the virtual distance between Lands End and John O’Groats. However, when we’d smashed that within a week, the decision was made to attempt to wrap our collective arms around the world by circumnavigating the Earth at the Equator. When our ever-growing ramshackle tag team of volunteers smashed that, we decided to do the same pole to pole. Having also achieved this, the team is currently attempting the moon and back. Utter madness, but it brought a lot of people together and helped a few folks back outdoors to brave the real world after so many months of isolation. Our efforts have so far raised £9492 for grassroots community outreach.

I pitched in with a Summer of coastal walks which culminated in a knackering 23.5 mile walk from Crook Ness to Robin Hood’s Bay along the Cleveland Way. It was fantastic to discover some historical treasures as I clocked up the miles for the cause.

May brought a second album in the form of ‘A Northern Coastal Town’, telling the story of Hull during The Blitz. It was a set of songs I had wanted to write for many a year, and the extra time on my hands plus the approaching 80th anniversary galvanised me. Having researched local and family history, I released the album over the weekend of May 7/8th, which 80 years before marked the worst night of Hull’s war and the date my Great Aunt Ida and her daughter Sylvia were killed by a parachute mine while staying with Ida’s mother-in-law, Ada, at 83 Albany Street. I performed the songs ‘Live From T’Shed’ as per, and it was pretty emotional.

July brought an end to Lockdown and so an end to my ‘Lockdown Solidarity’ campaign. It finished having run for 66 weeks raising a total of £24,248 for 64 front line grassroots causes helping people struggling to get through those darkest of dark days. It had been an exhausting task, and it required the support of a LOT of people to work, but we nailed it, together, as always. Much love to Billy Bragg, Kevin Pearson, Rebekah Findlay, Jess Silk and Chip Hamer for pitching in with merch and creativity way beyond the call.

Of course the crisis wasn’t over and We Shall Overcome was calling, so Lockdown Solidarity quickly morphed into ‘WSO Solidarity Mission’. This is a tripartite campaign dividing all raised money three ways and sharing it weekly to Pauline Town, Mesopotamia Cafe in Nottingham and Hull Unity Shop. To date this has raised another £2809 to keep people fed and housed through the current crisis. It’s on a far smaller scale than its predecessor, but I had asked far too much for far too long to continue as before. After all, there’s only so many t-shirts and mugs you can sell folks before divorce proceedings beckon. Nevertheless, WSO Solidarity Mission will receive all merch money and all gig money beyond expenses until such time as we can see daylight again.

Together with my comrade-in-crayons Kevin Pearson, and in association with Unison, two more children’s books landed this year. ‘Pride’ and ‘The History Teacher’ received rave reviews from a lot of people with titles in front of their names as well as the folks who actually matter, and we are phenomenally proud of them. Three more are written, and we hope to have news of at least one early in the new year. A big thank you to Joe Gibbins and all at the union for their support and enthusiasm, and to the schools and libraries up and down the land who have embraced our little books in the spirit they were written.

‘Pride’ also performed another service.

Late in September the Hatfield Main Memorial was unveiled outside Pit Club in Stainforth. After years of incredibly hard work by Mick Lanaghan, Les Moore, Norman Moore and the committee, this brilliant and culturally important monument to a community of heroes finally saw the light of day and I was delighted to sing at the ceremony.

I performed ‘Farewell Hatfield Main’ with a quivering bottom lip and subsequently released it as a download-only single. Between that and sales of ‘Pride’ we managed to raise a significant sum of money toward the final stage of the project, the lighting. I’m delighted to say this was completed just before Christmas. And it is STUNNING.

As you know, being the Official Bard of The Hatfield Brigade means the world to me, and seeing this memorial in all its glory makes my heart sing. It will outlive us all, and is a fitting reminder of their hard work and sacrifice.

As gigs became possible again I made myself as busy with the mischief and mayhem as I could. It was so good to be back on the road, and although, like many of my fellow musicians, that first couple of shows were a little rusty and awkward, I soon blew off the cobwebs and picked up where I left off. I managed gigs in Nottingham, Oldham, Filey, Durham, Newcastle, Portslade, Rawtenstall, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Scarborough and Leeds as well as the Battle Of Stockton event and a wonderful day at Wigan Diggers Festival. Hopefully Covid won’t halt the recovery of live music in 2022, because we all need it, artists and audiences alike. The human connection it brings is a huge part of who we are.

All of which I suppose leads us to the low point of the year. In truth though, I am passed caring. I will give no more oxygen to the Cancel Culture or its facilitators. Suffice to say I learned a lot about who my real friends are, and unsurprisingly it was you lot, the folks who come to the shows and play the music; the people who sing along and support the merch campaigns and live streams; the friends and comrades who have been there for me time and time again, year in year out, like an extended family. I had the worst 12 hours of my life followed by a lesson in the true meaning of solidarity from thousands of amazing people sharing comments, phoning, texting, messaging, posting and tweeting. Over and over again I had those words we have sung together up and down this land posted in my name:

“You take on one of us, you take on all of us.”

When it was my turn to need a hand back to my feet, there you all were.

It was truly inspirational.

And Tony Booth‘s fundraiser doubled the prize money meaning we got more than £10,000 out to genuine anti-fascist, anti-racist, pro-community support networks in time for Christmas.

I was moved to tears so many times. I will never be able to thank you enough.

Perhaps the moment that best sums up my year was the day in September when a whip-round at the Battle Of Stockton event was handed to me for the Scarborough event I had that evening for our town’s Afghan refugees. One community supporting another community in every sense. One heartfelt gesture of solidarity which meant so much more than the. money to all of us. Moments like that are what life is all about.

Thanks to that same spirit of solidarity, through the smiles and the miles, the rough sleeps and the live streams We Shall Overcome was able to share £4400 in £200 donations to 22 causes in time for Christmas, and as we move into our seventh year the level of support we receive continues to inspire us to push on, past these turbulent times and into a better future for all.

Oh, and we planted 150 trees. One for each sale on Bandcamp since October. This one sale, one tree campaign will carry on going forward.

So as we wave goodbye to 2021 I need to thank everyone who kept me going this year, but especially Pauline, Pete Yen, Matt Hill, Vicky Blake and Joe Gibbins constants at my side no matter what the situation.

2022 will bring new challenges for sure, but we will face them and defeat them and move past them as always.

I will soon start recording a new album, there are three new children’s books written, there will be as many gigs in as many places as will have me and I will raise every penny possible to help support our communities.

That is a promise.

Just don’t nominate me for any awards eh?

Love and solidarity
Joe

Photos by Neil Terry, Adam Samuels, JenFoto and many more. THANK YOU!

SOLIDARITY FOREVER!

Those of you who have followed me this last month or so will know it has been a rough ride, but thanks to the wonderful Tony Booth and the hundreds of people who responded to his moving demonstration of solidarity, we have managed to turn that into something pretty special.

Tony’s GoFundMe campaign eventually raised £10,320.53 after the site’s fees.

It cleared yesterday.

I wanted everyone to know where their help went, so here goes.

The three main causes I support with music and merch sales got pole position because it was there I had originally pledged the prize money; so £1750 went to Pauline in Ashton-under-Lyne, who is keeping WSO Central running against all the odds. This money has already gone to secure three flats and a house meaning seven people will have a proper home this Christmas instead of facing winter on the streets.

Another £1750 went to Mesopotamia in Nottingham where Rachel and the team perform miracles every day keeping the community together in spite of the pressures currently tearing people apart.

£2000 went to Hull Unity Shop whose anti-fascist, pro-Working Class manifesto is helping keep the Far Right off the estates with solidarity parcels of food and hope.

£1000 went to 0161 Community in Manchester who mirror the stance of Hull and reach out into struggling communities with a message of unity and resistance to fascism in all its forms.

£1000 went up to Glasgow St. Pauli who do fantastic work with the Scottish Refugee Council and United Glasgow FC and who immediately pledged it to a non-referral food bank locally to help rescue Christmas for those going without.

£500 is heading to Clapton CFC whose message of positive anti-fascism is giving hope to tens of thousands worldwide, and who run a support campaign for members struggling to survive.

£500 went to the UVW Strike Fund to help workers in struggle this winter. United Voices Of The World support mostly migrant workers on the lowest pay and worst conditions who have often never witnessed trade unionism or ever had someone stand at their shoulder. As such they are some of the most exploited people in the country, and I’m glad to help them fight for better.

£500 went to the We Shall Overcome Christmas pot adding to the £500 donated by Coast and County Radio, and the big share out will be announced tomorrow in Good News #2.

I asked Tony if he would choose a cause for £1000 as a gesture of thanks for his solidarity. He chose Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, and we subsequently donated the remaining money there.

The £320.53 is going to help support a musician much-loved by the WSO family, who is currently struggling as a full-time carer for a very poorly partner, and to whom we want to pass on our love and solidarity in these tough, tough times.

So there you have it. All gone.

It will be out there tomorrow fighting fascism by shining a light in its darkness and driving it back to the shadows. The Far Right thrive on poverty and hopelessness. What we try to do is combat that environment by giving people hope, not just in the form of food but in the means by which that food is raised- Unity and Solidarity. It says we are a community and we will not leave you behind.

Tony and all those who contributed have changed a lot of hearts and minds this Christmas, and have turned some of the bleakest days of my life into some of the best.

I will never be able to thank you enough x

We fight til they lose.

Farewell Hatfield Main- Fundraising Single

I’ve recorded Mick Lanaghan’s song ‘Farewell Hatfield Main’ as a fundraising song to help complete phase two of the incredible memorial in Stainforth.

You can listen/download here:
https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/farewell-hatfield-main

With a slideshow video featuring the photographs of Neil Terry and Paul Rutland from the unveiling ceremony last Sunday, plus some from the more distant past.

You can watch that on my Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/1281069501/videos/823146588365677/

Please bag it if you can, it will be an incredible sight to see this fantastic structure paved and lit as testament to a community they could not break.

Thanks everyone x

Hatfield Main Memorial Unveiling

Absolutely superb event today unveiling the Hatfield Main Memorial and Garden at Pit Club in Stainforth.

Historic, and rightly so.

Those who know me best know how proud I am to work with these loveable rogues whenever they’re making mischief, but today, seeing that memorial unveiled and the crowd there to see it, and the speeches…..let’s just say there was a fair bit of hay-fever about.

Singing at the ceremony was tough, nearly lost control of my bottom lip a couple of times, but I made it to the end. If they can do 12 months, I’m sure I can do 3 bloody minutes to pay tribute!

As I said through the mic, people like me travel the country talking about solidarity, but that community, and that memorial, they ARE solidarity. If you ever need inspiration drive down there, stand in front of it, and think how those lads and lasses gave everything fighting Neoliberalism before any of the rest of us even knew what it was.

I have nothing but love, admiration and respect.

Oh, and a few songs that take the piss. Hehe.

Great to see Paul and Lindsay Rutland, John Dunn, Tosh, Tony Peter Wright and the Scarborough posse Dave Griffiths, Sue Ward and Matilda and Eric Barnes. And of course Mick Lanaghan, Leslie Moore, Harry Harle, Norman Moore and Tracy Armstrong and Karl Lanaghan and Kerry Lanaghan and a hundred more folks who made a great day even greater.

And Neil Terry for these photos which I love. These memorials don’t just remember the past, they remind the present to fight for the future. And we ALL need some of that spirit. Fantastic day ✊

NEW ALBUM: A Northern Coastal Town

My second new album of 2021 ‘A Northern Coastal Town’ will go live on all streaming platforms from Monday August 2nd, and I’d dearly love you to hear it.

Comprising 9 new songs, the album features my long-term collaborator Rebekah Findlay on 7, including two stunning vocals. I am used to Rebekah’s magic dust being sprinkled on my songs after seven years of working together, but here she takes those songs to entirely new levels and the results are stunning.

‘A Northern Coastal Town’ is part of my ‘People’s History’ series which includes the two ‘Potter’s Field’ albums, ‘No Pasaran’, ‘Never Be Defeated’ and ‘Headscarves & Hurricanes’, albums in which I try to tell the stories of major events as they unfolded through the eyes of those who were there. With these songs we’re taking you back to the nights of May 7/8/9 1941 and the worst nights of The Blitz in Hull.

It’s part social history and part family history. My Great Aunt Ida was killed when a parachute mine dropped on 83 Albany Street killing her, her mother-in-law Ada, and her youngest daughter Sylvia. Her eldest daughter, Gwendoline, had stayed home that night and survived. I’ve coupled their stories with those of Albert and Esther Baker, a husband a wife working for the fire service during the air raids, and between the two parallel narratives I’ve attempted to paint a picture of real lives witnessing catastrophic events, and their impact. In this way I hope I’ve told a true story which is often forgotten, that of ordinary people dealing with death and mass destruction on the Home Front.

I could not have written these songs without two books: Nick Cooper’s ‘City On Fire’ and Esther Baker’s ‘A City In Flames’ written with the help of her son Howard. Both of these I highly recommend, and they helped me fill in the blanks in my knowledge of events and gave me the confidence to start writing knowing I was armed with all I’d need to close my eyes and step into the past once more.

You can stream the album already at:

https://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com/album/a-northern-coastal-town-hull-in-the-blitz

And you can also advance order the limited edition CD while you’re there. Discs will be dispatched in mid-August.

Please take a little time to hit the link and have a listen. It’s worth it.

Thank you
Joe

#LockdownSolidarity Is Over

LOCKDOWN SOLIDARITY IS OFFICIALLY OVER.

Just sent £710 to Hull Unity Shop raised from sales of music and merch during the last seven days, and that marks the end of 66 weeks of fundraising in this way to help folks through the worst of Covid and into the first steps out of the other side.

There are bigger challenges ahead as the new financial realities begin to bite, but I think this particular stage of the struggle has a natural end today ahead of tomorrow’s lifting of restrictions, and I’ve asked far too much of too few people for way too long, to not recognise a pause is needed before the next idea sweeps me away.

The official final total is £24,248.

I shared that around 64 different causes over the 66 weeks, and spread it around the UK as best I could, hitting food banks, soup kitchens, homeless outreach, community hubs, refugee support networks and domestic violence units, donating what was raised on a week by week basis and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done here, not just keeping money flowing to the frontline, but giving people something to fight for and a little hope during the darkest of all days.

I didn’t do this. WE did this. YOU donated, I just handed it out. That is important. Together we turned a very difficult year and a half into a collective action which reached far beyond any of us, and anyone wearing a t-shirt, drinking from a mug, carrying a tote bag or playing one of my CDs, has put food on a table somewhere in the UK just by making that purchase.

Class Action. People Feed The People.

Too many folks to thank, but without Billy Blagg on merch duties this could never have happened; without Kevin Pearson making that incredible Vagrant Art jewellery we wouldn’t have had the totals we got last Summer; without Chip Hamer‘s donation of Poetry on the Picket Line tees and books; without Rebekah Findlay‘s artwork; without Jess Silk‘s sketch; without people donating direct to my paypal because they were totally merched-up; and without the amazing people (and you know who you are) who bought absolutely everything we produced, none of this would have been possible.

So here’s the final tally of what went where and when.
WK1 £125 for Mesopotamia Cafe in Nottingham
WK2 £130 for Teardrops in St. Helens
WK3 £540 for Dundee Food Bank
WK4 £532 for The Florrie in Liverpool
WK5 £501 for East Worthing Food Bank
WK6 £335 for Help The Homeless in Glastonbury
WK7 £346 for Kitchen For Everyone in York
WK8 £915 for Feed Newport
WK9 £635 for LoveGlasgowHateRacism
WK10 £453 for DN7 Food Bank
WK11 £713 for East Durham Trust
WK12 £630 for Unity Shop in Hull
WK13 £462 for Tommy’s Kitchen in E17
WK14 £448 for IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Service)
WK15 £450 for Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank
WK16 £350 for One Heart in Bangor
WK17 £430 for Leeds South and East Food Bank
WK18 £400 for the Tony Smith Solidarity Fund
WK19 £330 for Little Sprouts in Stockton-on-Tees.
WK20 £364 for We Are One in Grimsby
WK21 £323 for Furness Refugee Support
WK22 £175 Helping Hands in Bournemouth
WK23 £238 for Fans Supporting Foodbanks
WK24 £143 for PCS Tate Commerce Strike Fund
WK25 £230 for Women Shall Overcome in Widnes
WK26 £110 for We Shall Overcome Sussex/Leeds
WK27 £240 for The Welcome Centre in Huddersfield.
WK28 £202 for Teesside Socialist Clothing Bank
WK29 £450 for 0161 Community in Manchester
WK30 £550 for Broxtowe Community Projects
WK31 £213 for Eggcup in Lancaster
WK32 £568 for The Station Xmas Appeal
WK33 £230 for Oasis in Plymouth
WK34 £351 for The Miners in Moston
WK35 £240 for ECHO in East Lincolnshire
WK36 £250 for Rainbow Centre in Scarborough
WK37 £205 for Louth Food Bank
WK38 £266 for Made In Stourbridge food bank.
WK39 £375 for 0161 Community Winter Appeal.
WK40 £125 for Super Supper Club in Bristol
WK41 £252 for St. Aidan’s Kitchen in Hartlepool
WK42 £521 for Help Our Homeless in Ipswich
WK43 £932 for Pathways in Chesterfield
WK44 £300 for Enniskillen Food Bank
WK45 £230 for Caring Is Sharing in Glasgow
WK46 £310 for Cwtch Up in Cardiff
WK47 £510 for Doorways in Derby
WK48 £245 for Sheffield Young Carers
WK49 £350 for Stroud Refuge
WK50 £402 for The Studio in Widnes
WK51 £630 for Food For Thought in Darlington
WK52 £885 for Blackburn Foodbank
WK53 £150 for Wakefield Street Kitchen
WK54 £155 for West Belfast Food Bank
WK55 £150 for S6 Food Bank
WK56 £400 for Scunthorpe Food Bank
WK57 £175 for Help The Homeless in Leicester
WK58 £730 for WSO Ashton-Under-Lyne
WK59 £110 for Birmingham Community Solidarity
WK60 £381 for Mesopotamia Cafe in Nottingham
WK61 £118 for Belper Food Bank
WK62 £145 for Bridport Community Fridge
WK63 £120 for Glossopdale Food Bank
WK64 £204 for Barnsley Food Bank
WK65 £650 for Hatfield Main Memorial Fund
WK66 £710 for Hull Unity Shop

Going forward nothing will change except I won’t be quite so insistent on a weekly basis. Sales of the new album ‘A Northern Coastal Town’ will be donated to Hull Unity Shop; sales of ‘Pride’ will be donated to the lighting fund for the soon to be unveiled Hatfield Main Memorial; and all other money will go to Pauline if she needs it, or whoever We Shall Overcome sees is in need the most.

This is just the start, but it’s the end of Round One.

And we’re ahead on points.

Thanks everyone. We did good.

#LockdownSolidarity: A Year Of Giving Dangerously

That is an unbelievable amount of money, and it is impossible to thank you enough for supporting this with your music and merch purchases from http://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com or your donations to GoFundMe pages or my Paypal. What we have achieved here is pretty staggering in the grand scheme of things, and while it hardly scratches the surface of the scale of need out there, try telling that to the mother who could feed her kids because we were there when she needed us.

As with everything We Shall Overcome related, I am just the big gob in the middle of a fantastic team of people giving their time and talents for free. So credit where it is due; without Kevin Pearson‘s design work and Vagrant Art jewellery, without Chip Hamer and Poetry On The Picket Line donating books, without Rebekah Findlay‘s sublime artwork, and above all without the unwavering support of Billy Blagg designing, making and shifting the stuff, none of this would have been possible; so my eternal gratitude goes out to them and to you for being there when it mattered.

Here’s how it was done….

WK1 £125 for Mesopotamia Cafe in Nottingham
WK2 £130 for Teardrops in St. Helens
WK3 £540 for Dundee Food Bank
WK4 £532 for The Florrie in Liverpool
WK5 £501 for East Worthing Food Bank
WK6 £335 for Help The Homeless in Glastonbury
WK7 £346 for Kitchen For Everyone in York
WK8 £915 for Feed Newport
WK9 £635 for LoveGlasgowHateRacism
WK10 £453 for DN7 Food Bank
WK11 £713 for East Durham Trust
WK12 £630 for Unity Shop in Hull
WK13 £462 for Tommy’s Kitchen in E17
WK14 £448 for IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Service)
WK15 £450 for Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank
WK16 £350 for One Heart in Bangor
WK17 £430 for Leeds South and East Food Bank
WK18 £400 for the Tony Smith Solidarity Fund
WK19 £330 for Little Sprouts in Stockton-on-Tees.
WK20 £364 for We Are One in Grimsby
WK21 £323 for Furness Refugee Support
WK22 £175 Helping Hands in Bournemouth
WK23 £238 for Fans Supporting Foodbanks
WK24 £143 for PCS Tate Commerce Strike Fund
WK25 £230 for Women Shall Overcome in Widnes
WK26 £110 for We Shall Overcome Sussex/Leeds
WK27 £240 for The Welcome Centre in Huddersfield.
WK28 £202 for Teesside Socialist Clothing Bank
WK29 £450 for 0161 Community in Manchester
WK30 £550 for Broxtowe Community Projects
WK31 £213 for Eggcup in Lancaster
WK32 £568 for The Station Xmas Appeal
WK33 £230 for Oasis in Plymouth
WK34 £351 for The Miners in Moston
WK35 £240 for ECHO in East Lincolnshire
WK36 £250 for Rainbow Centre in Scarborough
WK37 £205 for Louth Food Bank
WK38 £266 for Made In Stourbridge food bank.
WK39 £375 for 0161 Community Winter Appeal.
WK40 £125 for Super Supper Club in Bristol
WK41 £252 for St. Aidan’s Kitchen in Hartlepool
WK42 £521 for Help Our Homeless in Ipswich
WK43 £932 for Pathways in Chesterfield
WK44 £300 for Enniskillen Food Bank
WK45 £230 for Caring Is Sharing in Glasgow
WK46 £310 for Cwtch Up in Cardiff
WK47 £510 for Doorways in Derby
WK48 £245 for Sheffield Young Carers
WK49 £350 for Stroud Refuge
WK50 £402 for The Studio in Widnes
WK51 £630 for Food For Thought in Darlington
WK52 £885 for Blackburn Foodbank

That brings the total donated in ‘A Year Of Giving Dangerously’ to £20,150.

So THANK YOU.

But a promise is a promise, and WK53 YR2 starts at midday.

We fight til they lose.

We Shall OverRun 2021

Today saw the end of the #smileaday4pauline campaign, and tomorrow We Shall Overcome launches We Shall OverRun, a massive tag team relay bid to wrap our arms around the world, or in slightly less poetic terms, cover the 24,901 miles it will take to circumnavigate the globe.

We want as many people involved as possible, and here’s how you do it.

  1. You walk, run, swim, cycle, wheel, hobble or crawl for whatever distance you can manage; whether that be down the shops with the dog or a full scale marathon the distance is less important than your willingness to join in.
  2. When you’re done you post in the WSO: We Shall Overrun 2021 group on Facebook to let us know.
  3. You can share an optional selfie, or pic of something interesting you saw en route when you post.
  4. We add it to the total that day and put together a big post for the night collecting the pics and announcing that day’s total mileage and who clocked it up and how together with your pics.
  5. We gradually build it up to the 837 total at which point we have collectively travelled the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats by road.

On each daily post we share the GoFundMe link and ask for donations.

If we get there really quickly, we turn round and do the 837 miles back again in the same way.

Remember, this is not an exclusive thing for marathon runners and fitness fanatics. This is an inclusive campaign to get everyone involved in something which will hopefully pull a lot of people together, make some money to keep Pauline going, and get us all a bit fitter in the process. So whether you cycle 30 miles of a weekend, or walk the dog to the end of the street it all counts so long as you can tell us how far you went. If all you can manage is to the front door and back, we will count that too. We want everyone to feel a part of it no matter how little the distance. As WSO has proved from day one, it all adds up.

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered so far.

For those who haven’t yet, JOIN THE FACEBOOK GROUP!!

Let the madness begin x

New Album: A NORTHERN SOUL

Art For Websites

The brand new album ‘A Northern Soul’ will be released on Monday 1st February 2021.

It will be available to stream and download from all the main sites, plus as a strictly limited edition CD via my Bandcamp at http://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com 

‘A Northern Soul’ is eleven new songs written and recorded over the last 18 months and I can’t wait for you to hear it. My musical partner in crime Rebekah Findlay sprinkles her magic dust over six of the tracks and I’m also joined by the fantastic Jess Silk on ‘Hugs & Handshakes‘, a song dreaming of a post-Covid world where gigs are back and human contact is in 3D once more.

You can stream that, and ‘Music Will Find A Way’, a song about resilience in the face of adversity, and featuring the Rebekah Findlay String Quartet, on the Bandcamp link above.

The album was recorded in T’Shed, Findlay Towers and Silk Central, all remotely, and then mixed here before being mastered by Chris Miley at Strange Reality Studios…..so no lockdown rules were violated in its production.

There will be a ‘Live From T’Shed’ gig to launch it on Saturday March 13th, a date picked because it marks the anniversary of my last REAL gig before Covid kept us all under house arrest. It will be a mini-festival featuring Boss Caine, Jess Silk, Carol Hodge and Matt Hill as well as myself so will be well worth putting in that new diary.

So PLEASE pre-order if you can from http://joesolomusic.bandcamp.com and let’s get this show on the virtual road. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and you won’t have long to wait for the next album……I have written it in five manic days and it is ready to be performed on Saturday May 8th to mark the 80th anniversary of the worst days of the bombing of Hull during WW2.

The album should be ready for that day, and is called ‘A Northern Coastal Town: Hull In The Blitz’.

Watch this space.

2020: That Was The Year That Was.

“The cards aren’t always kind,
Some they fold, but I always felt
That even if you’re bluffing, son,
You play the hand you’re dealt.”

It has been the cruellest of years for the cruellest of reasons, and 2020 has cost so many good people their lives or their livelihoods, so reflecting on this last 12 months would seem like the last thing any of us wanted to do. Yet this year has taught me so much about resilience and togetherness, and most importantly the ability of the human spirit to transcend separation, that it is worth picking over the ashes before we scatter them to the wind.

It started routinely enough, in fact I drove more miles in the first 3 months than even last year when I never seemed to stop. The mischief and mayhem hit Sheffield, Portsmouth, Belper, Otley, Hull, Nottingham and Ashton-under-Lyne before arriving at the King’s Arms in Salford knowing Lockdown was coming and this was likely the last show for a few weeks.

I finished that night standing in a circle of people singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ unplugged in the company of friends and comrades unsure of when and if we would see each other again.

These moments you tend to remember.

Then came 23rd March and THAT announcement.

To be honest, I knew it was coming weeks before, having followed the spread of the virus from Day One. That helped, because I’d been able to imagine a world with no gigs and make a mental list of what would need to be done in that eventuality.

Top of the list in block capitals was KEEP PAULINE GOING.

We Shall Overcome‘s heart and soul is Pauline Town and The Station Hotel in Ashton-under-Lyne. Losing them was unthinkable, but as the daily food parcels and rehousing operation relied on gigs to fund it, and with no live music, not only was the work there impossible, but without any income, Pauline was in grave danger of becoming homeless herself.

So we hatched a plan.

WSO ISOLATION FESTIVAL took place on Easter Saturday run in one Facebook group from a couple of laptops raising more than £28,000 to ensure Pauline‘s work could continue uninterrupted and meet the growing need as redundancies, furlough, and zero hours reality bit. It was a monumental effort of concentration and focus behind the scenes and would not have been possible without the solidarity, friendship and patience of Matt Hill and Pete Yen, nor the willingness of that fantastic roll-call of artists and the staggering generosity of everyone who threw in a donation.


The festival taught me a vital lesson in the psychological dynamic of live streaming. It wasn’t about the artist- it would always feel wrong to us, singing to a phone screen or a laptop with no response- it was about the audience.

We knew the festival would live and die on how much people felt a part of it, how much of the experience they could share with others. To this end we focused on the comments thread as much as the stream itself, encouraging people to use emojis and to type choruses in quotation marks to show they were singing along. We also asked for photos of makeshift campsites and bunkers which were shared all day creating a genuine festival atmosphere. Of course we were lucky, the experience was still new to everyone, but we gave it our best, and I’m so proud of what we managed to achieve that day. I sat there as Billy Bragg sang knowing I was exactly where I was meant to be, at that time, in that place.

These moments are rare in life.

It was unforgettable.
And it set the tone.

While WSO ISOLATION FESTIVAL was a genuine one-off, I decided to hold a series of fundraising gigs under the banner ‘Live From T’Shed’ and the first took place on Saturday May 2nd.

Running from a dedicated Facebook group I tried to encourage the same sense of belonging, of being in a venue around friends, that we’d had on April 11th and I have loved each and every one of them. So far there have been two all-requests shows and four dedicated to the history albums when I played ‘No Pasaran’, ‘Never Be Defeated’, ‘Headscarves & Hurricanes’ and the ‘Potter’s Field’ songs and spoke of the stories which inspired them. Each had a dedicated GoFundMe and each a cause we were playing for.

So far, those six live streams have raised more than £12,000 with a further £1000 from a WSO Songwriting Workshop. This money helped grassroots campaigns and frontline support networks up and down the land including Mesopotamia Cafe in Nottingham, Black Country Food Bank, Orgreave Truth and Justice, Hatfield Main Memorial Garden Fund, Hull Unity Shop and many more. If you missed them they are all archived on my YouTube channel. You can start here….

Or in the Facebook group under the ‘Announcements’ tab here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/joesololivefromtshed

Even the WSO Washing Machine Workshop which proved such a surprise hit…..

Though some of that fundraising was done in the face of a crisis of my own.

After catching water in buckets for months, from a series of leaks in a fatally damaged roof, T’Shed- my rehearsal room, recording studio, and now only venue- gave a great crack and the central joist snapped leaving the ceiling hanging precariously and in grave danger of collapsing completely. After securing the funding through one of the streams, Mark and Alfie McKay came to the rescue and transformed my beloved home from this:

Through this….

And this…..

To THIS….

So I have a new home, safe and warm and dry thanks to the solidarity of people up and down the land. I cannot thank those who donated enough as this genuinely means the world to me and I owe you big time on the other side of all this.

Just wonderful.

The ‘Live From T’Shed’ gigs were not the only gigs I did this year, and some weeks have been so busy I don’t know where I found time to actually drive to shows before!

Continue reading “2020: That Was The Year That Was.”