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.

What Would Sonja Pedersen Do?

Writing this after an amazing gig at The Wanstead Tap with Attila The Stockbroker and Janine Booth.
I do not believe in God or Karma or any of that other whacky stuff, so I will put all of this down to coincidence. But nice coincidence.

In 2010 on this weekend, we played a packed gig with Mr Stockbroker at the much missed Plough in Wood Street , Walthamstow.

We managed to get Attila to play with us thanks to the O’s having a home game against his beloved Brighton. Brighton got a lucky 1-1 draw on the day so we were all happy.

Sadly for us, the idea of playing against them now is a pipe dream , thanks to mismanagement by the powers that be at LOFC BUT WE ARE NOT HERE TO TALK ABOUT THAT!!

A year ago this weekend three of the Protest Family (clue, the one who plays the spoons was absent) went to Centre Parcs Longleat for Sonja Pedersen’s (Beryl T Peril) wake. The difference being that Sonja was still alive against all odds. That is how Sonja rolled .

I often go on about the time we played Derry and how defining that weekend was, but last year’s bash surpassed that.

We got there at about 1pm to be greeted with beer, wine and food and we set up our equipment. We started playing from that moment and apart from toilet and pizza breaks continued until God knows when (I am thinking it was about 3am the next morning).

The place was buzzing, apart from us there was also Paddy Nash and Diane Greer from the amazing Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas, Les Black and Grace Petrie. This was all in a really packed chalet in Centre Parcs. For me, the highlights were us all doing The Band’s The Weight and all of that lot playing while I sang Billy Braggs To Have And to Have Not.

So (I dislike sentences that start with SO, but still) it came to pass that last night’s gig happened to have many people from far and wide that were at Centre Parcs a year ago this weekend. Nothing was arranged , it just happened . Synchronicity as The Police sang (although I prefer Invisible Sun).

It was nice to see people who I last saw at Sonja’s funeral in a different  atmosphere. Sonja is in all of our hearts and will continue to be so.

A word about last night’s gig. Attila was as Attila is. Great fun , but behind that, giving his audience food for thought. You must also catch Janine Booth. She is getting better and better with each gig that I see her. She gets the balance right between her humour and seriousness in her poetry.

And a word for The Wanstead Tap. It is a great place with great people running it with great ales.

Doug Protest

Solidarity brothers and Sisters ( I always say that)

2015

From picket lines to private parties, it’s been an interesting year for the Protest Family. Gigs for workers on indefinite strike at both Lambeth College and the National Gallery turned into celebrations at the successful conclusion of their disputes; UCU members fighting off new contracts for existing staff and the National Gallery strikers winning on all of their demands except privatisation of the gallery, including re-instatement of their union rep Candy Unwin.

Singing Bad Day For Bojo over and over again outside Leytonstone station may not have halted the tide of Boris Johnson’s ticket office closures but an early start on the RMT/ASLEF picket line did see the network brought to a standstill along with the mayor’s plans to push through the introduction of the Night Tube. We all want the tube to run all night, let’s hope that now we can have it safely, and delivered by workers whose work/life balance is protected by well-negotiated contracts.

Both private parties were wakes, one for a comrade who was already dead, the other for the woman who stuck around long enough to have two living wakes a year apart and one more Tolpuddle Festival than she thought she was going to get. We lost Sonja in September, a great friend, an indefatigable campaigner and a great advocate of the band. She badgered Billy Bragg ceaselessly on our behalf and the ultimate fruits of her labour may yet still be to be seen.

Festival sound engineers ranged from the nonchalant to the point of not caring in Plumstead to the brilliantly professional at Rhythms Of The World in Hitchin to the absolutely nothing is too much trouble of Matt from Wilding Sound in Walthamstow who helped us out so much at this year’s Matchwomen’s Festival. Festival weather had its ups and downs too, glorious sunshine in Canning Town but an absolute soaking for our audience in Hitchin who were at least treated to the rain stopping by the end of our set.

Two gigs at The Sov this year (one unplugged) was bettered by three We Shall Overcome gigs. Well for me and Doug at least, as we provided the opening entertainment at We Shall Overcome What’s Cookin’ on the band’s day off between gigs at the Bread & Roses and Ye Olde Rose & Crown. That’ll make three gigs at the Leytonstone Ex-Servicemen’s Club too if you count that one along with An Evening Of Radical Entertainment for the Leytonstone Festival in July and the Christmas What’s Cookin’ show with Graham Larkbey & The Escape Committee.

How we got the whole of The Protest Family, The Escape Committee and former member Rory on stage for the encore at What’s Cookin’ I’ll never know. However my favourite stage invader this year has to be Attila The Stockbroker who joined us on fiddle at this year’s Stowfest gig and exclaimed “I wish I’d thought of that” from the side of the stage during George of The Jungle so loud that the whole room heard. We even got him to play Sean Thornton with us.

We’ve got high hopes for George of The Jungle now that we’ve got a recording and accompanying video for it, but we’re wide-eyed naifs in the world of Getting Your Thing To Go Viral. We’re sharing it with everyone we can think of, but we don’t have industry chums or influential pals and we’re dubious about the ethics of the whole world of plugging, not that we have a budget anyway. So it’s a wing and a prayer, a lot of hard work behind the scenes with little idea of it’s value, and a We’ll See. Pay Your Tax got a few thousand views on YouTube quite early on then came to a massive standstill. Who knows what George of The Jungle will do?

But this is supposed to be a round-up of our year. Unplugged at The Sov might have been unplanned, but this was the year that we found our unplugged voice. It’s how we rehearse, but we’d not really pulled it off successfully until last year’s birthday party. This year the unplugged Family’s had a few outings: Show Culture Some Love at Congress House, Hove Folk Club, and of course on the picket line. It’s been very rewarding to do and it’s definitely another string to our bow.

So, more unplugged in 2016, more gigs out of town (watch out Glossop!) and more banjo (maybe). There’s a new album in us too, we’ve nearly got all the songs. Hopefully we’ll do that next year too.

Steve