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RARELY has the phrase "poetic justice" had a sweeter or more appropriate application.
Last Friday week, I was on stage at the Bob Crow Education Centre in Doncaster doing a gig for the RMT as part of their summer festival when the news came through that Charles Horton had resigned. Celebrations ensued.
Horton, as long-suffering passengers and railway staff will know, was the boss of Govia Southern, the simultaneously vindictively and totally ineptly run government-backed franchise which Grayling and his minions earmarked to push through the driver-only train legislation so bitterly opposed by the RMT.
His stewardship was characterised by a loathsome combination of slavish kow-towing to government diktat and fetishised free market ideological dogmatism and utter contempt for the people who travel and work on the railway. Disabled people unable to get on trains, workers forced to give up their jobs due to the appalling service, commuters reduced to tears and the chaos of the new timetable the last straw. I live in West Sussex, I know.
It’s not just Horton but the entire management structure which needs to go and the rail system renationalised as soon as possible by an incoming Corbyn government.
From Doncaster’s afternoon gig I headed to the north east. I have had strong links with the area ever since the miners’ strike, having done loads of benefits there back in the day.
Much-missed Durham Miners’ Association general secretary Davey Hopper not only invited me to perform at the Miners’ Gala but booked me as part of the entertainment for the gig held at Easington Colliery Club on the day of Thatcher’s funeral, one I'll never forget.
I started off in Darlington at the Quakerhouse, aptly named since the area, and the football team, celebrate their Quaker heritage. It was a lovely old pub in a historic area of the town and there was a fine and attentive audience. You could have heard a pin drop, but that certainly wasn’t true the following evening when I performed in a narrow alley next to the wonderfully titled Golden Smog micropub in Stockton. It was quite literally street poetry, and most certainly not preaching to the converted, but I won a decidedly non-literary crowd over and had a most enjoyable time.
And then to Sunderland. If Darlington has a proud Quaker history, Sunderland has a proud punk-rock one. The scene there has always been incredibly vibrant, with legendary venues like the Old 29, the Bunker and the Kazbah and bands such as Angelic Upstarts, Leatherface, Red Alert and the legendary Red London, whose first single I produced way back in 1982 and who had reformed especially to support me at a packed Sunday afternoon gig at the Museum Vaults.
They were brilliant, a soulful Clash with fine tunes and great lyrics and singer Patty Smith’s unique and melodic voice has if anything improved over the years. A lovely afternoon and great to see so many old friends again – especially my marra Ronnie Chambers, whose capacity for beer is even greater than mine. He demonstrated that two days running, which left me in a right state by Sunday night. I made the long journey back to Sussex on Monday and have been very restrained all week.
Today, I’m compering the Silk Mill Rally in Derby, an annual event which commemorates one of the first ever attempts in 1833 by organised labour to strike and turn their factories and workshops into worker’s co-ops.
Let’s celebrate our history, folks, we can learn so much from it. See you at Cathedral Green from 11am.
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