The Crematorium and Other Stories

Crikey, no-one’s posted on here in months!

In fact, the last post was a Tolpuddle preview.

I think it’s fair to say, looking back on it now that we had an amazing Tolpuddle performing as Maddy Carty & The Protest Family and as Workers Playtime, plus the almost-part-of-the-Tolpuddle furniture Unplugged session, and obligatory selfies with Jeremy Corbyn. I was going to write something about Tolpuddle Unplugged. In fact I still might, but suffice to say that every year I worry that it’s going to be a disaster, and every year it’s the opposite. I might have even figured out how it works, or at least I think so. The premise is ridiculous: Run a stage at a small but popular festival with no budget, no acts or amplification. Where do you start? Well, give it to a couple of chancers from an East London folk/punk band who’s main talent appears to be making friends, and chuck them into a field full of like-minded people who’ve stepped out of the struggle for the weekend to enjoy each other’s company while imagining a better, fairer world. It seems to work somehow.

Paul Rutland
Tolpuddle Unplugged: I think I know which side they’re all on.

The band has, though, been quiet since the summer, some of it planned and some unplanned. In a fallow year for Protest Family albums, you may have expected a solo effort from me, along the lines of somethingweirdgoingoninmyhead or Check Your Stereo. Well, the new songs are coming, a bit slower maybe, but there’s some work on it’s way that I’m already quite proud of, even before the rest of the band get their mucky paws on it and work their magic. You might have got some titbits from social media when I’ve got impatient and stuck myself in front of a live camera, or on YouTube where I’ve parked some sketches of songs where they’re easy for Doug, Lol and Russ to find, or if you’ve caught me giving some songs a run-out on my solo travels.

The Crematorium is of course the most immediately pressing message to get out there, but the song’s not going to go away, anymore than the Justice4Grenfell campaign will. We did knock up a terrific version of it for Tolpuddle with Robb Johnson on lead guitar and Maddy Carty’s amazing backing vocals, but the regular Protest Family line-up’s version is yet to be unveiled. Expect to hear it on November 14th at Ye Olde Rose & Crown as we raise money for striking workers at Whipps Cross Hospital.

Although The Death of Facts has been around since I played it at Punk 4 The Homeless in Nottingham last year, it’s not on the band’s radar yet, but I think it will be eventually. What is coming up soon (see above for when soon is) are Protest Family versions of Supersonic (using supersonic passenger flight to demonstrate that progress isn’t linear) and Han Solo (using the films of Harrison Ford to talk about consent. A chat that the actual Harrison Ford could’ve done with, by all accounts).

There’s enough love out there for If The Queen Had a Hammer that I think there will be a band version of it and, although I’m yet to share it with them, I think there’s a future for my song about Frank Turner (cheekily titled Thatcher Fucked The Kids) too. However my Blue Labour anthem Flag, Faith, Family & Fried Chicken may well fall by the wayside. It’s funny, true (look them up) and in the Protest Family style, but I think I’m tiring of it before it’s crossed the finish line. Maybe a new arrangement will give it a new lease of life. We’ll see.

Also queuing up to hit your ears is a Steve White/Russ Chandler collaboration called Winter of Discontent. Featuring Shakespeare’s Richard III re-cast as a trade union leader in the dying months of the Callaghan government, it’s the first time that I’ve put anything out there in iambic pentameter. The song will feature on a winter-themed compilation with a worldwide distribution deal* very soon. I’ll point you in the right direction when it comes out.

So, there’s songs, there’s big ideas, but maybe a lack of a vehicle to get them to you. Yes, gigs are a little thin on the ground but we do have a cunning plan or two, so (WATCH THIS SPACE).

Steve

 

*Everybody with an internet connection and an upload button’s got one.

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Maddy Carty & The Protest Family

We first met Maddy Carty about two years ago.  We were both playing for the Show Culture Some Love campaign.  The Family were struck by her remarkable, strong yet vulnerable voice and sophisticated modern soul-based songs.  We immediately suggested her to play at the Matchwomen’s Festival a few months later.

During a rehearsal (yes, we do rehearse), we were trying Right To Strike (from Drums Ruin Everything).  It didn’t sound quite right.  Someone suggested that it might sound good with a female voice doing harmony, like… Maddy Carty.  We warmed to the idea that she might play keyboards on it too.  A few days later, she agreed.  More than that, she really wanted to perform Have I Got News For You with us.  By the time we met up, she was playing on four songs.  She joined us on stage at the Matchwomen’s Festival in July – and it was fun.  We did it again at the Leytonstone Festival the following week. A couple of months later, Steve and Maddy did a couple of songs together in central London.

Madd y and Steve Paul Rutland mod
Steve and Maddy  (Pic: Paul Rutland)

Meanwhile, a new movement had been brewing.  It was We Shall Overcome: hundreds of gigs across the country on the same weekend, protesting against austerity, and raising money and collecting food for those hardest hit by it.  We wanted to do something special for that – but what?  Well, who else would we call?  So in October, Maddy Protest joined us for our entire set at the Rose & Crown for Walthamstow Folk’s contribution to the weekend.  It was a great night with an enthusiastic crowd, but…

Discussing it afterwards, we felt that something was a bit off.  Was it Doug’s socks?  No, not this time.  It boiled down to this: we had used Maddy as a piano player and a backing vocalist.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  She’s fine as a piano player.  She’s fine as a backing vocalist.  But she’s got so much more.  She was easily the best singer present on stage that night (sorry, Doug), but her terrific voice was always in the background.  Also, she’s a very strong songwriter, but we played none of her songs at all.  She was happy to play that night, but on reflection it seemed to us to be a bit of an insult to her talents.

Fast forward to 2016.  We had a better idea: how about having Maddy join us properly for a one-off gig?  This time, she could back us on some of our songs – and we would back her on some of hers.  But she let us down badly, pointing out that she was getting married on the day that we’d planned for the performance. How selfish can you get?

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Marriage: selfish

Now it’s 2017 (check your phone if you don’t believe me) and we’ve forgiven her for that snub.  It’s finally going to happen.  On Sunday 16th July at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival in Dorset, Maddy Carty & The Protest Family will take to the stage.  It’s going to be different.  Come and join us.

Lol

(Main pic: Thee Faction)

Sliding Doors

 

 

My name is Doug and I am a Leyton Orient fan .

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a confession or something I am ashamed of. This is something that I shout from the rooftops , like all Orient fans .

Us Orient fans are used to ridicule from fans of richer clubs, some of whom think a crisis is when their team has not made the later stages of the European Championships (whatever they are) . NO, I am an Orient fan and proud. Here is a club that apart from one season in the toppermost of the poppermost league has always struggled against its more successful neighbours.

Steve and my goodself

I saw my first Orient game in 1969 with my Dad. Orient got a pretty uneventful 1-1 draw with Torquay. My Dad and I would go to about one or two games a year until the mid 70’s when I started to come to games on a regular basis with school mates . That is where regular football started for a lot of us, with mates.

To be honest, over the years the socialising has been more fun than the football , but that is not really the point. It’s a bit like waiting for a bus (no not THAT analogy) you have been waiting so long for the bus to come that you cannot leave the bus stop in case the bus finally comes along. (This analogy too has its problems as most stops have those electric thingys that tell you when the next bus comes along , but that is progress. Anyway, I digress). It’s like waiting for a win or a side that we can have confidence in. I used to go to Arsenal as a teenager one week and Orient the next week. A win at Arsenal was expected no matter who they played and the fans left in relief (they probably still do).At Orient a win is greeted with delight as it is not expected, it is hoped for and so the pleasure is more .

Lol giving it some (err) Lol 

I recently said at a LOFT meeting that the people you meet in life is comparable to the film Sliding Doors . Without Orient, mine and other fans lives would have been different .

I had personal issues in 2009 and it was my Orient family that got me through it with support and love. In 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and again it was my Orient friends that I turned to for support, love and encouragement.

Without Orient, I would not have met my wonderful and supportive wife Sarah, because we met at a wedding of an Orient fan.

Leyton Orient truly is more than a football club. It’s a common thread running through all our lives, binding us together.

The Protest Family would not exist without Orient . The original line up of Myself , Lol  Steve and Rory, met through following the Os.

It’s only a quid

There is a story to tell on how this band got together and that will be for another time , but being in The Protest Family has opened more doors (or is it a train carriage, beginning to regret the Sliding Doors analogy now) to new friendships and experiences that I am eternally grateful for.

In 2000 myself and a few other Os fans thought about starting some kind of fans group as we felt that our voices were not being heard in the game but specifically at the Orient. The more we looked into it the more we found that there was an appetite among fans all over the country for the same thing. At this very time, an organisation was being formed called Supporters Direct, under the leadership of the wonderful Brian Lomax, that would be an umbrella for all Trusts .

With their advice and guidance we were one of the very first trusts launched in 2001. Now the Trust movement has moved not just beyond football but beyond the UK. As the song says we were ‘In the right place , at the right time’

I am one of two founder members that have been on the LOFT (Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust) Board since the start and I have been Chair since 2002. It remains something I am very passionate about, as the rest of the Protest Family will tell you, especially on long car journeys .

LOFT formed to give fan’s a voice in the running of OUR football club, be a critical friend to the OUR club and to be there in case of a crisis.

And that is where we find ourselves at this very moment
LOFT have launched a Regeneration Fund , details here savetheorient.com

If you are reading this before Saturday 1st April you can see us with Brighton fan Attila The Stockbroker who offered his help to the Save The Orient campaign as soon as he heard about it and local legend (and Brentford fan) Graham Larkbey. Details here https://www.facebook.com/events/353102875087017
best to keep an eye on our Facebook page for availability

If you are reading this after Saturday 1st April, you missed a great gig

Solidarity brothers and sisters (HAST)

Doug Protest

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A picture of fellow LOFT member Russ ,in case he feels left out

 

That Round-Up That They Do Every Year

routenoteCrikey, what a year: Brexit, Trump, Corbyn and the coups, Syria, the destruction of The Jungle, Theresa May. If you’re a political band of any description you’d better be able to say that you know a song about some of that, and yes we do.

Like it’s predecessor, Protest For Dummies was two years in the making but hopefully it sounds like it might all have been written yesterday, opening as it does with a song about the royal family just as the government announced nearly £400 million pounds worth of public money heading towards repairs to Buckingham Palace. No space or resources for refugees, but millions of pounds to spend on all those empty rooms? Yeah, we might’ve mentioned that.

As political commentators talk up our post-truth, fake news existence and the world experiences an alarming rise in right-wing populism, there’s work to do for the likes of the Protest Family. If the facts don’t matter any more how do you challenge popular opinion or widely held beliefs? Well maybe if you can make the facts rhyme, dress them up with a chorus and mandolins and stuff, then maybe, just maybe people will be humming the truth on their way to work before they realise they’re supposed to have a post-fact reaction to the news.

The hard bit as ever is to get your work into the hands and ears of a wider audience and not just the folk who already share your point of view, hence our decision this time round to distribute the album more widely online, including on Amazon and iTunes. I’ve always avoided the big players before, didn’t want the purity of our art tainted by doing business with them and I’d have felt a bit of a hypocrite doing so, but I’ve been convinced (by the others mainly) that it’s part of reaching as many people as we can, and maybe placing songs about tax justice on an arch tax-dodger’s website is exactly the kind of subversive act that we should be engaged in. Mind you, the bonus track is only on the CD or on downloads from the band’s Bandcamp page, so there’s still a little reward for taking your ethics record shopping with you.

Obviously there’s nothing new about challenging the world we live in through song, as I was reminded listening to Tom Robinson sing Power In The Darkness at the Reminiscences of Rock Against Racism  book launch at Conway Hall in December. It was an extraordinarily powerful song then and it remains so now. Roger Huddle and Red Saunders’ book tells an extraordinary tale too, through the stories of some of the people that were there, including Tom of course. Did I mention that he borrowed my guitar?

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And only one cover version all year.

But never mind Tom (unless you want to drop him a line about listening to Protest For Dummies), what did we do in 2016? Well 46% of our gigs last year were outside the M25 and only 15% were in Waltham Forest (and they were less than a month apart). 15% of last year’s shows were in Hertfordshire and another 15% were in Derbyshire. Nearly 8% featured Jeremy Corbyn on the supporting line-up, but none of those were in Waltham Forest, Hertfordshire or Derbyshire. 15% of appearances were at Labour clubs and 23% were at festivals. (How I’ve got this far without a Venn diagram, I don’t know). 23% were in July and 15% in venues beginning with C….oh, enough.

Anyway, we had a nice time and hopefully made the world a better place by a percentage point or at least a bit of one.

2017? Who knows? It looks like there’s some strike benefits on the horizon and that’s no surprise. There is a surprise planned for July, but more of that later, and otherwise? Well as one reviewer put it, we’re alive and kicking, and definitely kicking.

Happy New Year!

Steve

Rocking against racism

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In 1976, in the middle of a rise in moronic nationalism and outright racism led by the National Front, Eric Clapton delivered a horrific, racist rant on stage in Birmingham. Walthamstow lad Roger Huddle and three pals wrote to the NME in disgust. They did far more than that, though – with the same letter, they launched Rock Against Racism.

Within a couple of years it had grown from a few pub gigs to huge events across the country. In 1978, there was a crowd of over 80,000 to see The Clash, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Sham 69, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band at Victoria Park in Hackney, east London. The crucial point was that vulnerable young people could see their heroes backing anti-racism – this was a serious youth culture response to the boneheads. The National Front shrank and splintered.

Roger Huddle and fellow founder Red Saunders have edited a book about Rock Against Racism to be published on 5th December. It’s not simply their view of what happened, but a mix of memories and ideas from a range of people, famous, little known and maybe even infamous.

Memories of the past?  Yes, but here’s the thing: the same ‘blame the wrong people’ ideas are growing today. They’re in small groups of nationalist knuckle-draggers, of course, but now… well, they’re lurking in UKIP. They’re lurking in speeches by the Conservative Prime Minister. They’re given airtime via a French fascist leader on a prestigious BBC political interview programme. And, as if we could forget, racism was a key part of the election strategy of the incoming President of the USA.

Anyone who’s even vaguely progressive has some tough battles ahead – that’s for certain. But we can all learn something from the successes of the past. That’s why we’re looking forward to this book.

In fact, we’re honoured to have been asked to do a few songs at the launch. It’s at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square in central London on 5th December. It’s free, but you’ll need to book a place if you’re coming. Folk punk against racism? You bet.

Lol

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Half a century

Our Steve turns 50 (fifty) this week.  It’s a difficult age.  It’s a time when you really, really have to accept that you’re never going to play for England (or even Holland), never going to come up with a coherent Theory Of Everything, never going to the Moon.   (Some of us still haven’t got over that last one.)

He wasn’t always a songwriter.  He only started this nonsense in earnest about 10 years ago.  Since then, Steve’s written songs about all sorts: broken hearts, socialism, police violence, tax dodgers, clownish politicians, fast food, racism, Santa, merchant bankers, picket lines, UKIP, revolution, resistance, cancer, refugees, fox hunting, truth, gluten, death, swearing, cycling, a fizzy drinks company, the misappropriation of language, Hank Marvin, anarchy, monarchy, gentrification, Walthamstow, Chingford, Leyton, Orient, Leyton Orient, health & safety legislation,  piracy (arrrrrrhh!!) and even, rarely, about himself.  Yes, we know a song about that.  Sometimes you think that the songs are too simple to work.  But they usually do.

When I first saw Steve perform live, he was solo (or with Chris Da Lipz), handing out buttered chunks of home-made bread at gigs.  Me and Doug joined up with him in 2009 and what soon became The Family has been on an adventure ever since.  We’ve played in the east, west, south and north of the country and in Northern Ireland.  We’ve had Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn as support acts.  We’ve performed with an ex-Sex Pistol.  We’ve had talents as diverse as Louise Distras, Attila The Stockbroker and Maddy Carty playing on stage with us.  Yes, we’ve argued, fallen out, sulked and fallen back in again.  Most of that happened in one row about a count-in.

We’ll start recording our third studio album soon, and once again all of the songs will be written by Steve.  The rest of us chip in musical bits and pieces and even the occasional word, but they’re his songs.

So you’re all invited to come and join us in celebration on Saturday night at What’s Cookin’ in Leytonstone.  Watch the bands.  Raise a glass to our bandmate – our mate – Steve, who in his personal, professional and musical lives strives to make things a bit better for other people.  And most of all, sing his songs along with us.  See you there.steves-birthday-bash-whats-cookin-oct-2016

Lol

 

Burston At The Seams

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Hardwork

Alright, so Burston’s the scene of the longest running strike in this country’s history. The Burston tale is one of militant teachers, nasty bosses, a pantomime villain power-hungry preacher, the kids showing extraordinary solidarity and mettle, and the trade union cavalry charging over the hill to save the day. You might have bought a brick at Brisbane Road but Tolstoy sponsored one in the Strike School.

 

The sun shone on this year’s rally, the queues for selfies with Corbyn were long*, the ones at the bar appealingly shorter and we had a great time despite me breaking a string AGAIN. It was great fun too to join Attila the Stockbroker at the end as invited** backing singers on Prince Harry’s Knob. I’m not sure he was expecting the harmonies.

The Corbynmania thing’s a bit weird. We’re all behind JC for obvious reasons but it’s odd seeing him whisked in by car and surrounded by pink-jacketed Unite stewards when you’re used to seeing him just turn up on the bus with everybody else.

I did write about him recently, so if you’re thinking about writing a song about how the whole of the mainstream press, all of the BBC’s politics department and most of his own party appear to be against him despite his enormous public popularity, in the style of Kent Walton commentating on tag-team wrestling, to a country and western themed sound track, don’t worry I’ve got you covered. I even used a line from Tag Team Time in a Facebook status update about Jeremy’s late addition to the Strike School Rally’s line-up of speakers.

You’ll get to hear Tag Team Time (plus our tribute to the Punk Waltham Forest tributes) if you manage to get along to our StowFest gig next week.

Failing that, Lol and I are out being pop-up folk-punks at a Corbyn-supporting show at Nambucca on Wednesday, I’m in Nottingham on October 7th and then it’s all systems go for my birthday bash on October 15th.

So, see you out there somewhere.

Steve

* We didn’t get one, we’ll have to settle for my picture with John McDonnell from the Redbridge Momentum meeting.

** We’ve done it uninvited loads of times.