On September 9th 2016 I was approached by Les Moore to write a song which would help pay back what he called a Debt of Honour miners felt they owed the thousands of people who had clubbed together during the darkest days of the 1984-85 Strike to give them a Christmas they have never forgotten. Les had seen people in his village becoming ever more reliant on the local food bank and felt it was time to act.
I duly obliged, and ‘Merry Christmas From Hatfield Main’ was born.
Recorded in two sessions, one at home in my shed in mid-September and the other at Stainforth Central Club on October 30th, where The Hatfield Brigade, a choir made up of former miners and their families, turned it into something very special indeed. The song was released on 28th November with all proceeds going to a new community Hardship Fund for anyone struggling to make ends meet under austerity.
It was quite a journey. The music video shot by Michael Lee Toas of MLT Productions is here:
We had so much fun over the two months following the recording, from radio interviews to telly appearance on BBC Look North and press coverage from The Morning Star, The Canary, The Prole Star and The Daily Mirror.
We sang together at two very special gigs. Firstly the #StandUp4Labour event at Wakefield Unity Works Theatre….
and then the ASLEF Annual Dinner at Doncaster Trades and Labour Club where we were joined on stage by none other than Mr Jeremy Corbyn…..
We did a flashmob in Frenchgate Shopping Centre….
And we made a ‘Story Behind….’ video too…..
And in the end we decided we’d loved the whole process so much we’d do it all again next Christmas.
Which we did.
‘They Could Not Break This Town’ was the result.
On 12th November 2017 we reconvened at the Central for another cracking afternoon and the resulting madness captured on the music video by Michael. There is something very special about these recordings and I think you can see the love, community spirit, laughter and defiance which all add up into something quite magical.
‘They Could Not Break This Town’ is released on download and limited edition CD on 4th December and once again all proceeds go to the DN7 Hardship Fund.
A very special Hatfield Brigade Christmas Knees-up took place on Friday 22nd December 2017 at the Central, and it was total mayhem. Plans to make this an annual event are underway.
Going forward, sales from ALL Joe Solo downloads on Amazon and I-Tunes will go direct to the Hardship Fund, and we hope our song will top that up every Christmas from now until there’s no longer any need for it.
In March 2019 we released the reissued ‘Never Be Defeated’ on double-CD featuring the original album on one disc and eight bonus tracks, including our three songs together, on the second.
At the end of that year we recorded two political folk classics ‘Solidarity Forever’ and ‘Which Side Are You On?’ for inclusion on my ‘We Shall Overcome EP’ released as Covid put an end to our efforts for the year.
But Joe Solo & The Hatfield Brigade collaborations were at the heart of my #LockdownSolidarity campaign selling music and merch for grassroots community support networks up and down the UK throughout 2020/21, and although our much-loved base of operations The Central fell victim to the financial ramifications of the virus, we WILL be back as soon as humanly possible.
Maybe you could join us?
The more the merrier.