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THE WIGAN Diggers’ Festival last Saturday was an absolute triumph. A brilliant celebration of the ideas of Diggers’ leader Gerrard Winstanley, raised in the town, it links his pioneering socialist ideas at the time of the English Revolution of 1649 to the struggles of today.
It was a great honour to bring my band Barnstormer 1649 to take part and to play the songs I have written about that vital period in history to the most appropriate audience possible.
When we arrived the rain was pouring down but we brought the Sussex sun with us and, by the time we took to the stage, the skies had cleared and the golden ball of life was poking through. We had a fantastic reception. Thank you so much to all who were there. I have done an awful lot of gigs but this one was very, very special indeed.
What a line-up. I missed loads because I was busy performing — and selling shedloads of our new CD afterwards — but the bits I saw were great. Former Chumbawamba propagandist Boff Whalley expertly marshalled The Commoners’ Choir as they took us on their own journey through radical history.
Bard Company, three fine local poets, managed to serve up a musical set best described as Half Man Half Biscuit meets the Beastie Boys, especially on their final number, a clarion call to Corbyn supporters wittily entitled You’ve Got To Fight Against The Right Of Your Party!
And then came the power and the glory which is Merry Hell, hugely popular in their home town, serving up a stirring and inspirational set culminating in Bury Me Naked and the truly epic Come On England. They should have been the headliners. I missed the actual headliners, The Blockheads, because I was so angry with the way Merry Hell’s set was cut short and their onstage sound not what it should have been that I went to the pub in disgust. I’ll leave it there.
Gigs continue apace for myself and my band this weekend – three in the West Country – and I have some new instrumental recruits, having just journeyed to deepest Norfolk to purchase a tenor crumhorn, rauschpfeife and rackett from a fellow early-music enthusiast who now plays jazz and is very pleased that his instruments will soon be finding their voices again, albeit in a slightly more punk rock setting than they are used to.
On Friday we're in Calstock on the Cornwall-Devon border and Saturday we play the historic and lovely Highwayman inn in Sourton, Devon, another absolutely fitting environment for our “ancient and modern” music, alongside my friend and punk legend TV Smith. Tomorrow afternoon at 2pm we’re at in the Civil Service Club in Bristol, a fundraiser for Bristol North West Labour Party.
I shall perform my song Bye Bye Banker on Saturday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the demise of Lehmann Brothers and the global collapse of monster capitalism, known euphemistically in mainstream media as “the credit crunch.”
That makes it sound like a bowl of cereal, some kind of strange right-wing economists’ joke — “I’d like credit crunch for Brexit, please.” But it wasn’t a joke. For years the bankers had a free run in the casino, playing with our money, knowing that if they won they took their winnings home and if they lost we’d bail them out.
On September 15, 2008, they lost and we have suffered a decade of austerity as their friends in government cover their debts with our cash.
The scum who caused the crisis get away scot-free, while the poor, the sick, the old and the desperate pay the price. The poverty in our communities, increasing year on year as the cuts bite more and more, causes increasing anger – and the right-wing media, friends of the bankers, chooses scapegoats in our ranks to sow division and divert attention away from the real culprits, the architects of it all.
Make no mistake, the people who boasted about breaking the financial system while enriching themselves — and boast about it they did — should be rotting in jail. I hope I live long enough to see it.
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