“At the minute it seems like everyone we care about is in real trouble because of cuts.”
Organiser at The Station Hotel Ashton-Under-Lyne
What event are you involved in?
Ashton-Under-Lyne, We Shall Overcome – 6 days of bands, Musos, Artists, Bikers, Family, Ales -Weds 30th Sept to Mon 5th October 2015 – it’s going to be LOUD!
Originally we planned to do a day, but it sort of grew and became two or three days and now finally up to six days with bands, musicians, artists , bikes, beer & good mates -nearly 50 artists/bands over 6 days. We have now included a wrap party on the Monday, we have seven nominated charities and good causes that will really help those hardest hit and we have stalls on the all dayers that will let other charities and groups raise awareness and volunteers too.
What made you want to get involved?
I wanted to help the people I love that are suffering such real hardship and make a positive statement that enough is enough. Musicians are so often willing to step up when people are in real need – this is an amazing chance to make music so loud across the whole of the UK that we give the people who are being so seriously harmed by these cuts a real voice and also help the charities, food banks and groups that are going to very seriously have to save lives if this doesn’t alter.
I suppose in summary, I wanted to get involved because music bridges so many gaps and at grass roots level tends to thrive even more stubbornly when the times are toughest. I wanted to share in the event and help as many people as possible and be part of this amazing national community, plus Joe Solo’s enthusiasm and passion is incedibly contagious – the guy’s an absolute genius!
Tell us something about how austerity is affecting people in Ashton-Under-Lyne?
We are a community pub and a real family here so we do tend to get involved a lot with charities, but at the minute it seems like everyone we care about is in real trouble. I am having to make up food parcels for people who have such bad mental health issues they sometimes can’t leave home – they miss appointments, get sanctioned and often have no dedicated key worker because of cuts.
This year we raised the money to get a lad who had survived many years of awful abuse off the streets – we let him stop at the pub for a couple of nights when it was freezing and then ended up getting him a flat, everyone got furniture together and he’s now safe and part of the family. I have so many people I care about struggling, not getting therapy or counselling because of cuts, not being able to eat every day because they make sure their kids are fed first.
A friend who was facing eviction because of the bedroom tax killed himself – a wonderful musician silenced by hateful policies. I have elderly people being threatened with bailiffs because of council tax arrears. I have a friend who put himself through detox to beat a drink problem and he completed it successfully three months ago – now he is in bits every day because he hasn’t had the CBT that should have given him support afterwards. I have people coming to me in tears for debt advice (used to be a debt counsellor too) because they are on zero hour contracts and had hardly any work for a month.
I have another two friends who have made genuine attempts to end it all in the last three months because they have lost all hope. I am helping them and we are getting there step by step, but I’m getting so very tired it terrifies me that I might drop the ball and we will lose someone else.
I understand one of your gigs is going to be something very special indeed?
Something really incredible happened – every Thursday we have a music group for people with mental health problems and some really serious learning difficulties. They get kicked about every which way and they have such a tough time of it – but they have the biggest hearts in the world and they just LOVE playing. It’s all percussion really and I have some musos that come and jam for them to play to. They all love this little bit of performing and the music really matters to them, you know?
The best thing in their whole week is coming here on a Thursday for 2 hours and being accepted, welcome, loved and treated like we treat all our mates- nobody sneering, pointing, judging or looking the other way. They asked if they could be part of this and I said we would be incredibly proud if they would. So now a bunch of people who have sod all, are going to play their hearts out and have not a jam, but their first ever “proper gig”. I wish you could see what this has given them, I could cry…..they are holding their heads up and they are so bloody proud. I’m going to do them their own posters, give them a rider and treat them like stars for the night, cos you know what, they really are. I am so, so proud of them and I love them to bits – this wasn’t the point of WSO, but it’s a wonderful thing that happened along the way.
What inspires you or makes you hopeful?
I reckon we are going to own a huge chunk of the grass roots music community regardless of how many big venues join up. The charities we are nominating are absolutely over the moon and I have got so many people sharing the event already – it’s spreading!
There is so much extra growing out of it – we have other community groups coming and putting stalls here, free of charge of course, and they can then let people know what they are doing too – and we are just one little pub. I think a lot more people are weighing this up and will end up getting involved – and I also really think the ones that don’t will kick themselves afterwards…..this has got a soul now, it’s going to be incredible.
What are you most looking forward to about October 2-4?
All of it! Seeing everyone come together to sing out a protest that can’t not be heard and that is generating concrete help for people – but if I am really honest it has to be the Thursday HeadJam that is the most incredible one of them all for me.
But I will admit to hoping that we get to the wrap party having pulled the whole thing off and with loads to hand over to the charities – firmly looking forward to sitting round a fire in our beer garden with my team here and having a pint of tea!