A Raised Fist & A Helping Hand

Syd.31 – WSO Interview #24

syd“I have been homeless. I am doing much better now thanks to all those that took time to help me when I had nothing. The government plans to ruin us and to not care for anyone thats fallen on hard times, well I tell you, hard times can happen to anyone at anytime”

Syd 31 are appearing at MacGuires Pizza Bar in Liverpool on Saturday 3rd October along with The KIRKZ + Luddite Bastard

I’m an industrial punk band, mashing fierce political rage with Prodigy type noises. I have always wanted to represent victims of capitalism. To do this, i took my recording equipment half way up a mountain in Tenerife, high enough that the was less oxygen than usual. Recording screaming vocals in an oxygen deprived environment nearly killed me. But if I don’t sound like I’m Dying, how can I claim to represent anyone?

I have been homeless and I have also been a carer for my ill partner at the time. I am doing much better now,and I guess I’m what you call “successful”. But I made a success because of the people that helped me when I was at my lowest, from help from Foodbanks, to people helping me sort out benefit paperwork and just thanks to all those that took time to help me when I had nothing.

Now more than ever,there are people with ‘nothing’ ruined by a government of venture capitalists. Its all part of the governments plan to ruin us and to not care for anyone thats fallen on hard times, well I tell you, hard times can happen to anyone at anytime!

We have to keep fighting and make sure that there is help for everyone. I’m inspired by people power. The anti austerity movement at the moment is not very organised, in that it is not yet a viable opposition movement, but its early days. I see the passion and the organisation in it all and I’m inspired. The anti austerity movement is starting out with a declaration of ‘No’, and we will win and declare a ‘yes’, yes we can do this and yes we can make changes.

I’m looking forward to working with so many different artists and different styles, No matter what musical background we will all be singing from the same loud songsheet.

Cassandra Fox – The Wimmins’ Institute and Thee Faction WSO Interview #23

cassieWhy should anyone be forced to either go hungry or use a food bank in a country with so much wealth?

Cassandra is playing with Thee Faction and Interrobang?! at the Pipeline, London on 2nd Oct and also involved in the “Loud women” gig along with The WI, Blindness, Argonaut, Emily C Smith (and more) at Silver Bullet, London

I’m the keyboard player in Thee Faction, and at the end of last year I started up a new band, The Wimmins’ Insitute. While I love being in Thee Faction for all its big, passionate noise and rabble-rousing, and getting to play to lots of people, I’m most proud of The WI. We’re all playing instruments that aren’t our first, and we swap between songs, take turns to sing lead, and we all write very different kinds of songs. So we’re learning all the time, while we’re having fun with our friends and spreading a positive message – not unlike another organisation with a similar name to ours! (Although I don’t think they swear quite so much, or sing songs about caesareans.)

Off-stage, I’m a mum of two feral/gorgeous pre-school boys, I’m married to “Babyface” oout of Thee Faction, I sing in South London Choir, and I’m a freelance book editor.

This government is picking off the poor and the weak one by one. Why should anyone be forced to either go hungry or use a food bank in a country with so much wealth? Charity is not what’s needed, but while so many have no other option, we must show solidarity and support the groups that are helping people meet their basic needs.

It’s heartening to see SO many people taking part in the weekend, to send a message of resistance to the divisive c***s in Westminster who would have us believe that our neighbours are our enemies. Let’s make them fear the poor.

I’m hopeful when I see my kids charging about with their mates – oblivious to the wealth or status of their families, the colour of their skin, and only even slightly aware of each other’s sex. That’s how we all started off, so we can all get back to that, I reckon, so long as we continue to charge about together.

Joe Solo – WSO Interview #22

joe“We need a coordinated night all over the country of musical protest. Let’s pick a date.” So we did. And ‘We Shall Overcome’ was born.

Joe needs no introduction. If We Shall Overcome was a band then Joe would be our glorious frontman, with his foot on the monitor and his fist in the air, leading the audience in a sing along. His energy has pushed the movement forward and whilst it has been a collective effort, it’s also fair to say none of this would have happened without Joe.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’ve written and performed my own songs since 1987, either as a solo musician or fronting a band called Lithium Joe. I’ve released 13 Joe Solo albums since 2004, and have two in the making. I host a weekly show on Radio Scarborough, run an on-going project commemorating the lads who died fighting with the Hull Pals in the First World War; I’ve written books and had books written about me….and I mend washing machines to pay the bills. Other than that I’m just a boring old middle-aged man with a wife, two kids and a mortgage.

Tell us how you got involved?

After the election I figured I had two choices- sit around typing bitterness into social media threads, or get up and do something about it. I started casting around for inspiration and posted a quote from a speech made by Clydeside union activist Jimmy Reid in 1971. Stephen Goodall commented on the thread:

“We need a coordinated night all over the country of musical protest. Let’s pick a date.”

So we did. And so ‘We Shall Overcome’ was born. A simple idea, but then the best ones usually are. It was as if it had always been waiting to happen and just needed a little help off the blocks. The reaction has been incredible.
People are just tired of being kicked, tired of the old politics were one side snipes at the other and nothing ever changes. WSO has tapped into a need to make things better, to try and help other people instead of always putting them down and is the embodiment of something I’ve felt for a long time, that it is no use people on the Left sitting in dusty rooms quoting Marx at each other while the Right destroy society as we know it, you have to put away the text books and remember why they were written in the first place- to make the world a fairer and more compassionate place for EVERYONE.

To me WSO is natural politics, an idea that exists not for glory or profit, but simply to help. It is everything I’ve spent my life singing about, why WOULDN’T I want to get involved?

What inspires you or makes you hopeful?

The passion, energy and devotion of others; the words of those who walked this road before us; the selflessness of those with the least to give. Since WSO began I have seen so much unfolding before my eyes and I am inspired daily by the good work done by hundreds of people up and down the country. It fills me full of love and pride that we have played a part in starting something so incredible, and the messages I receive from people we have re-energised, who were down and beaten when those results came in, but who are now back up and at ’em, in turn reignite me.

What are you most looking forward to about October 2-4?

Being on stage and knowing hundreds of other gigs are all fighting the for same cause at exactly the same time will be an incredible feeling. If we can restore the link between music and politics it will go some way to claiming our cultural independence back from those who would prefer to dictate it to us; and who knows, maybe music will be all the stronger for it and start to matter again.

Above all I just want to get WSO over the line, put smiles on thousands of faces, raise enough to get the hardest hit through the worst of the winter, and stand up to the bastards who did this to us. We SHALL overcome. And never forget it.


Stuart Kershaw (OMD) – WSO Interivew #21

KershawStuartStuart Kershaw (Pictured right) is the drummer for OMD. He’s also a successful songwriter, producer, recording engineer and performer with a professional career at the coal face of the international music industry spanning four decades. He tells us how he felt when the Election was lost in May.

What made you want to get involved in We Shall Overcome?

On May 8th 2015 the neoliberal political elite secured their grip on power thanks to the manipulation of their donors, friends, future employers and partners putting pressure and making deals with the Oligarchically controlled right wing media and their control of divisive propoganda disseminated as ‘news’.

My youngest son (11) has Autism. He and his peers are facing a hierarchically enforced kind of Social Darwinism. An experiment designed to shake up the benefit system, the NHS, housing and human rights of the very people in society most in need of the above. Those who are too ill, young, or dying to provide for themselves. These tragic cases who along with ordinary working families are not responsible for the economic crisis they find themselves paying for while the 1000 richest families double their wealth and bankers borrow more money off us all to support their bonuses.

What makes you hopeful?

In 1848 a wave of change burst accross Europe. A hundred years later in the UK the NHS and the welfare state were needed to appease a population of soldiers returning from the war. Millions of Battle hardened men and women were so careworn that the establishment had to concede economic and social necessities and made them basic rights.  The UK government has been trying to claw them back on behalf of the elite ever since. But no more than in the last 5 years.

And We Shall Overcome?

I’m looking forward to kicking some political, social and economic ass!

Neil Duncan-Jordan from The Darwins WSO Interview #20

darwins“Music is empowering, inspirational and has the ability to bring people together.”

Neil has managed to land a We Shall Overcome event in the most iconic of locations – Tolpuddle, home of the Martyrs who helped inspire the Trade Union Movement.

Despite the Tolpuddle Martyrs hailing from Dorset, it’s not the easiest place in which to organise an anti-austerity/anti-cuts/anti-government event – but we’re having a go! We’re getting together a range of local performers who are prepared to make a stand against austerity. Being part of a movement is what it’s all about.

Music is all about the expression of ideas and feelings. The songs I write for The Darwins mix the personal with the political because politics doesn’t operate as an abstract idea – it impacts on us every minute of our lives. Not sure I’m that interesting when I come to think about it!

Music is empowering, inspirational and has the ability to bring people together. The idea of a protest movement of poetry and song taking place all over the country on the same weekend is one of the ways in which we are going to build a social movement that is capable of advocating for the sort of society we would like to see, rather than the one we have at the moment.

The ability of people to bounce back when they’ve been defeated inspires me. I don’t think the way to building a better society is going to come about simply by electing someone once every five years. The need for a mass movement that unites around values of humanity, respect, compassion, equality and the re-distribution of wealth is needed now more than ever. As performers, our task is to advocate as best we can for that to become a reality. By supporting movements for change, backing those that are defending the gains we have won over the decades and offering a vision of what a better society could look like.

Hear the Darwins 

Marvellous Merseyside – WSO Interviews #19

Featuring Robert Vincent, Henry Priestman, Les Glover, Pete Riley, John Jenkins, Iain Till, Denis Parkinson, Lis Garrett, David Nixon

No other city has taken to WSO like Liverpool. The whole city is embracing We Shall Overcome. We have a few words from some of the people taking part in that amazing weekend in Liverpool.

Robert Vincent
I’m a singer songwriter….i’m 6foot6 ish! People say I look like a wookie, I’d say only very slightly though.

Well as soon as I saw the political situation unfold the way it has recently, I knew that people would have to do something to make a difference. So this doesn’t surprise me at all. And I jumped at the chance to be involved.

We Shall overcome has been pretty inspiring. It all happened very quickly and when people need too, they come together. That also gives lots of people hope I would think.

There are always seems to be a great vibe around causes like this, because I think egos and agenda’s are left to one side as musicians and performers. It just generally becomes a great thing to be part of.

Henry Priestman

I’m 60 this year, but having the time of my life, and I believe that, even after 38 years in “The Biz” (and even a few hits – tho’ many many years ago!), my best work is still to come.

The sinking feeling I felt on the day after the Election made me want to get involved. I’ve been inspired by Joe Solo and Val Colvin’s (and others!) enthusiasm for this project, and the way it’s caught fire.

I’m forward to doing a special one-off performance with my best mates Les Glover (aka Loved up Les) and Pete Riley.

Les Glover 

I am currently the singer and guitarist with Henry Priestman (The Christians) I also write songs and have performed all over the country at concerts, on TV and radio, and I see first hand the vast differences between the poor and wealthy. I am old enough to remember Live Aid and the global changes it brought about, maybe we can change something closer to home this time.

We need change and stronger representation and here’s where we start. I feel hopeful when I see people who stand up against bullies, wether they’re in the playground, the head of a school or business, or in Westminster.

I’m hoping to have a great event, hear some great music, but more importantly show solidarity. I’m hoping to raise awareness among the the more prosperous members of our society that austerity measures are hitting the more vulnerable members harder than they could imagine!

Pete Riley

I’m partial to listening to classical music whilst driving…i think its the soothing calming effect it has on me…plus some of the tunes are amazing..! I think “We Shall Overcome” is a great cause, and when the people unite in their defiance of austerity, it will show commitment and power….real power..! What makes me hopeful? The youth…its all about the youth! I’m looking forward to playing music with great folk, for great folk, and having a great time, and whilst doing so hopefully raising awareness for “We Shall Overcome”.

John Jenkins 

I have released a CD called “Intruders” under the name “John Jenkins and That Sure Thing” which featured different Liverpool Singers and due to release the follow up in Autumn called “Honeymoon Hangover” under the production of Scott Poley and guest vocalists of Robert Vincent, Thom Morecroft, Chris Howard, Paul Dunbar, Steve Thompson and Tricia McTeague

It’s been obvious for so many years that the gap between the Rich and Poor is widening with the inequality of the poorer members of society being punished for decisions taken by the richer people in this country, I actually work for the public sector during the day and each department is run by uncaring selfish people who only want to better their own careers rather than do good for the rest of us

I love the idea of a collective voice in a peaceful protest through the arts

Iain Till 

The injustice and self serving careerism which masquerades as Democracy in the present UK, and the outdated system of First past the post which allows an unrepresentative and unelected government to take power. The fact that people in my country are using food banks, and that a class system which is over seen by an elite, un-elected figure head continues to destroy communities and citizens against one another.

I want this to change. I want to use whatever talent i have too help make those changes take place.

I’m inspired by people. People, in the face of adversity, who rally and find energy to start over. Selfless people. Honest people. talented people. And Animals.

We Shall Overcome is about a collective passion for change. And hopefully the changes which it may help to garner.
The comming together of similar minded, progressive and energetic people. And the music too!

Denis Parkinson 

I’m a singer songwriter from Wirral who returned to playing live music a couple of years ago after a long break. Thanks to Facebook a band I was in at school 30 years ago, “Always Caught in Disney”, reformed and we have played in Liverpool and Bulgaria as well. I released my first solo album this year “Liverpool Skyline”. I’m having a lot of fun and have met many lovely people through the music.

WSO seems to be a positive way of making a difference to people who have been disadvantaged by recent political changes. Raising money to help is better than just protesting in my opinion and is more my thing. I’m inspired by people who try to change things to improve the situations of other people who need help.

I’m looking forward to making a difference through playing music and meeting like minded individuals.

Lis Garrett 

I’m on board as a photographer. October 4th will be mine and my husband’s third wedding anniversary. We both work – we’re lucky. We have a roof over our heads and we can afford to spend money without worrying where our next meal will come from. I wanted to give something back to people who aren’t as fortunate as us.

The sheer force of people coming together to make a difference all over the country is astonishing. It makes me hopeful that we can do anything we set our minds to. I’ll be working as a photographer so I will be doing my favourite thing – listening to music and taking photos. I am looking forward to the feeling of togetherness and camaraderie that I know is going to bind us all together.

David Nixon

I consider myself primarily a songwriter who has in recent months found himself playing original songs at various open mic nights around Liverpool, at a number of great friendly venues in the company of John Jenkins and Denis Parkinson. Recently received some local radio play and currently recording some songs featuring Robert Vincent on vocals with plans to record more with me on vocals.

The assault on Health and social care by the government has got emotions running high and the growth of food banks and homeless people just tells you how bad the austerity measures are hurting our neighbours. The strength of feeling may just be encompassed with this musical uprising and I’m glad to be a part of it!

It’s inspiring that the hard work of a few can involve so many to work together to make a difference.

Jamie Bramwell – WSO Interview #18

jamie“We must unite in solidarity to build a society for all not the few, the WSO can and will be that movement that can fight back collectively.”

Jamie Bramwell is a musician, union and labour party activist and one of the original instigators of We Shall Overcome. He tells how it all got started.

How did this all come about?

The morning after the election I don’t recollect feeling as low as I did then. I was out for nearly 24 hrs trying to keep the Tories out, the adrenalin and come down was immense from being so high to so low in a short space of time. It did not feel good but then Stephen Goodall called me and said I have a plan to which I bolted upright and jumped up with excitement. I see it as half time like Liverpool in Istanbul 3-0 down and the WSO members are singing together, united together to defeat this Tory Government and to end the cruelty they bestow on the poorest in society. We must unite in solidarity to build a society for all not the few, the WSO can and will be that movement that can fight back collectively, a movement I’m proud to be a part of.

What’s your political background?

I used to read the Daily Star now I read the Morning Star. I was awoken in 2010 at the age of 34 as a first time delegate to my union UCATT’s national conference. Awoken by workers who didn’t just go to work to look after number one but to stand up and look out for each other against the injustices of workplace practices by the bosses.

I was unfortunately mislead through my working years and my opinions on life where the misguided opinions imposed by right wing press/media that had me lost down the road that so many of the British public have gone down. Thankfully I was rescued by UCATT and The Morning Star, through education and guidance I’m now alive and have been able to use platforms such as the National TUC conference Bournemouth 2013 and Labour Party Conference Manchester 2014 to speak up for workers who have been blacklisted and for the release of the Shrewsbury Picket files. I will be a delegate in September at Labour Party Conference in Brighton where I will proudly wear my WSO T-Shirt and speak to as many anti-austerity people as possible – NO MORE AUSTERITY

What makes you hopeful?

Working class inspirations like the WSO make me feel hopeful. Throughout history we have changed only by uniting people as a movement of working class people, we must take inspiration from history like the Chartists, the suffragettes and as recently as the movement against the Poll tax because only when you stand together and fight together will we win together.KEEP THEM T-SHIRTS, FLIERS and BANNERS FLYING AT FESTIVALS

What are you looking forward to about October 2-4?

Besides the vast amounts of events, food raised, charity money raised and knowing that this simple idea by Stevie Goodall has exploded phenomenally then I’m looking forward to playing again. Since becoming politically active within the trade union movement I have not played as much guitar/mandolin or written as much as I should and it feels like I’ve let myself down musically but you can’t be everywhere all the time, the clock stops for no-one !
The band I played in COALHOUSE are getting back together for the event and who knows perhaps longer, but we will also be putting together by request of Stevie Goodall The Last Bastions Of Morality one of his fathers favourite bands to perform some really old tunes and the Green Manelishi and dedicating them to a great friend and socialist and perhaps biologically in truth the creator of WSO – my friend Barry Goodall RIP