Joe Solo talks about the astonishing explosion in musicians opposing austerity
On May 8th, in the immediate aftermath of the General Election I logged onto Facebook and discussed with some friends what happens next. There were two possible reactions to it: to spend yet another five years calling Tories names, or do something positive about it.
The question was what? Stephen Goodall, a fellow songwriter from Widnes, came up with the answer. He commented on my thread:
‘We need a coordinated night all over the country of musical protest. Let’s pick a date.’
And so it began.
Within two days we had managed to mobilise every left-leaning musician we knew, we’d formed a five man organising committee, we had our weekend, October 2/3/4, and we had a name WE SHALL OVERCOME. We thought maybe we could organise ten or twenty gigs around the UK. The response we got was staggering.
Up and down the UK people heard the call and began to step up. We currently have 100+ towns putting on 220 gigs and literally thousands of people coming together in the spirit of cooperation, all showing solidarity in the face of the state-inflicted misery of austerity, and all in peaceful defiance of those who would use it as a weapon against society’s most vulnerable. Every day brings new gigs as the word gets around. And our idea has gone global, with events springing up in the US, Canada and Australia.
It’s worth stating that all this has happened without advertising budgets and without any big organisation behind it. It is a genuine grassroots movement, bottom up, driven by the energy and imagination of ordinary people everywhere.
The way it works is that each event is independent, booked and run locally, but flying the one banner nationally – We Shall Overcome. Rather than fixed admission charges we are asking that people bring donations for local food banks and/or voluntary cash collections for local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Your gig can be anything, the majority are musical, but we also have poetry, storytelling, comedy, DJ sets, Radical History walks, karaoke, snooker competitions, art auctions, film nights, and board game contests.
Thousands of people are making this happen with their hard work, dedication and desire to do something positive in the face of the politics of despair. We have two weapons in our armoury, weapons that those who would oppress us do not possess and do not understand- humanity and compassion. In the face of a media onslaught against the most vulnerable in our communities we want to put those two values back in to the centre of the ring and fight for the soul of this country.
This isn’t about not going down without a fight, this is about not going down at all. Together, We SHALL overcome. Join us.
- Joe Solo is one of the organisers of We Shall Overcome
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