WE SHALL OVERCOME!

Oct 6-8 2017. A raised fist and a helping hand.

And….the Aftermath.

WSO 8

That is Stephen Goodall. Back on 8th May in the wake of the General Election we were discussing what we could do in response. He said:

“What we need is a night all over the country of musical protest. Let’s pick a date.”

WSO Bar 1

This is Tony Wright. He is the frontman of a band called The Hurriers. He picked that date. In fact he picked a weekend. Last weekend. Oct 2/3/4…..he also named it ‘WE SHALL OVERCOME’. So now we had the idea and a name and Tony’s bandmate Jez Walman supplied THIS:

We Shall Overcome logo

We Shall Overcome logo

our logo. We now had an idea, a weekend and a badge. What we needed was some brains to put it all together and make it work.

WSO Bagthorpe

In the centre there looking SHARP in red is Matt Hill AKA Quiet Loner. He had the brains. He made this website. He helped us plot and plan. Matt, Tony and Ste were ably encouraged and assisted by THIS man, the puppeteer, not the puppet:

Ste and Jamie

That’s Jamie Bramwell. His tireless efforts behind the scenes and constant stream of ideas and suggestions powered us forward laying the foundations which hundreds of you built on until we had made something historic. Oh yeah, almost forgot:

WSO Dunscroft

There’s me too…..Joe Solo…..the big gob in the middle.

WE ONLY WENT AND DID IT!!!

Five months of plotting and scheming, provoking and cajoling resulted in the biggest festival of music and politics the world has ever seen, and YOU were a part of it. Over the weekend there were 250 events in 123 towns in 8 countries on 3 continents and each made the whole stronger and brought communities together, united in the joy of a shared task, that of helping those suffering most under austerity, those driven to food banks by DWP sanctions or poverty wages, and those unfortunate enough to find themselves sleeping on the streets and staring down the barrel of a long cruel winter.

We didn’t want to put a Children In Need-esque total on it because we felt the community spirit and solidarity were equally as important and you can’t put a price on that, but we think given what we know went on out there that a ballpark figure of £100,000 worth of cash, food and clothing is a likely one. That is a lot of help, and while it may not BEAT austerity, it can certainly black its eyes and kick its shins.

But money and food alas run out. Thankfully the most telling result of our weekend has been the outpouring of compassion and community spirit echoed in post after post on social media from the four corners of the UK.

“I didn’t think people cared any more, I thought I was alone in thinking what is happening is wrong. Now I see that there are thousands of people like me, and I won’t forget that.”

Those were the words of one lady I met on my travels over the weekend. Everywhere I went people were slapping my back, shaking my hand, hugging me, and I took it all on behalf of the thousands of volunteers in all those venues making magic happen and protesting at the same time as they pulled together, living up to our promise of being a raised fist and a helping hand.

People everywhere brought their own skills to the party from musicians to artists, from Radical History tours to food collections outside Goodison Park as Everton hosted the Merseyside Derby; and in doing so created the biggest festival of music, politics and community solidarity there has ever been. Next year we make it a full week. Next year we come back bigger, bolder and better.

We run October 3rd to October 9th.

‪#‎WSOW16 ‬is coming.

I’ll leave you with the words of a young homeless man forced out of Manchester by officials who didn’t want him littering the streets during the Tory Party conference, he was helped by volunteers in Ashton-under-Lyne and wept quietly when told of what WSO was doing. His message was as simple as it was stark:

“Thank you for seeing us.”

We see you.

We know protesting isn’t enough. We know we must not repeat the mistakes of the past and allow divisions and petty squabbling to defeat us and blind us to the human tragedy we face. We must unite against our common enemy. We must defeat the poverty AND the politics which create it. We can only do that together.

And if we stick together, we SHALL overcome.

THANK YOU to each and everyone who contributed, from the musicians and artists to the promoters and sound engineers; to all the audiences, contributors and social media sharers. Everyone who helped in any small way is an equal part of the whole.

WE DID IT.

And next year, we do it again, and again until we need to do it no more.

Til then.

Joe x

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