Mayday, Mayday! Barnsley Show they Love Music and Hate Racism.
Counterfeit ventures into deepest Barnsley Town Centre to meet local musicians/promoters/activists Ben Woodhouse and Sharon Stacey, to discuss one of Barnsley’s first major music festivals, Love Music Hate Racism.
Sat in the beer garden enjoying their roll-ups, Ben and Sharon give Counterfeit the full story about Love Music Hate Racism carnival in Barnsley, which takes place on Saturday 1st May at County Way Car Park (classy) and headlined by legendary Brum-rockers UB40, Sheffield-socio-political-popsters Reverend and the Makers and UK Hip Hop Champion, Chipmunk.
The pair are jointly organising one of the biggest music festival’s Barnsley’s ever seen, all in the aid of promoting diversity through the love of music. But why Barnsley and why now I hear you ask?
Increasing globalisation and the recent economic downturn has heightened people’s insecurities. This has led to a resurgence of right wing politics, with extremist organisations seeking to prey on the insecurities of vulnerable people. Couple the increase in fears over shortages of jobs and housing, with the general demise of working class institutions and traditions, and you have an alienated and insecure working class. Barnsley is a case in point.
Along with the decline of the steel industry and the closure of coal mines in South Yorkshire, came the crumbling of institutions such as Working Men’s and Miners Welfare Clubs, as well as the decaying of traditions, such as brass bands, trade unionism.
“I thought this festival would be a good idea because there must be loads like me who haven’t been reached”
Working people feel isolated and don’t know where to turn. They feel that they can no longer rely upon the old institutions or traditions for support and that modern day politicians from the mainstream parties have let them down. This vulnerability and insecurity leaves them susceptible to listening to and voting for right wing nationalist parties, such as the BNP, who offer quick-fix and no-nonsense solutions to their concerns.
Parties such as the BNP in Barnsley often appear like Old Labour, talking up a return to the good old days of nationalised industries, trade unions and most importantly pride in their town, county and country. However, they also stand for a complete halt on immigration, the return of people who are not of British origin abroad and the return of women to their rightful roles- at home in the kitchen being a wife and mother. Combine this national pride with racial purity and the disempowerment of women and you realise how dangerous the BNP really are; a Nazi party in our own backyard.
Concerned by the rise of Nazi politics in their home town and shocked by the election of Yorkshire’s first BNP European Member of Parliament last May, Ben and Sharon decided it was time for action.
As well as being in her band, The Delicateers, Sharon is also a music teacher and helps run the Love Music Hate Racism club night. Ben is an equally busy man, playing in his band, The Rabbits, running the Burn Down the Disco club night and being a father. Ben explains how it all started.
“Burn Down the Disco had been going for a few months now, and Sharon spoke to me about putting on these nights. So we started a Love Music Hate Racism night last February, running for one night every month.”
Ben didn’t know much about the issues surrounding Love Music Hate Racism before, but apparently “learnt loads” from Sharon and learnt “1000% more about politics and whats going on over the past year, than ever before.
Sharon has been campaigning on diversity issues since she was 16 and began to get involved in Love Music Hate Racism last year, which is when she met Ben.
Since running the club nights, on the third Friday of every month at Lucorum, the pair got involved in organising a Love Music Hate Racism festival in Barnsley, similar to other such big gigs across the country, most recently in Stoke and Wolverhampton. The festival also chimes echoes of 1978’s Rock Against Racism.
Both Sharon and Ben hope this festival, planned for Saturday May 1st, will open local people’s minds to the issues of diversity and social cohesion and counter nonsense Nazi myths. ”I thought this festival would be a good idea because there must be loads like me who haven’t been reached and never paid attention [to political issues] before. I was naive and had to get it brought to my doorstep before I started noticing,” confesses Ben.
“The May 1st festival will be a positive stance,” declares Sharon, “We haven’t struggled getting the local musicians now we’re established in the town.”
One of the major supporters of the festival has been Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council. “We’ve had some great support from the council and we’rer really grateful for that,” admits Ben. “They’re helping to fund the festival under the banner of social cohesion,” states Sharon, “Hopefully it will establish a tradition in Barnsley.”
“Barnsley Council have given us a day a month for three months, in the town centre, to publicise the Love Music Hate Racism event and tell people what its about, which started from February,” adds Sharon.
“We’ve been handing out leaflets and playing live music, mainly local acoustic acts, to build up the carnival atmosphere in the town centre in the run up to the event in May,” Sharon explains. The town centre stall has been attracting some interest, with more and more people asking about the event on May 1st. “There’s a good interest,” confirms Sharon,” People want to know what the craic is.”
Counterfeit must make readers aware of the positive prominence of such a stall within Barnsley Town Centre, in light of the fact the BNP also hold a stall there. So as well as promoting the event, the Love Music Hate Racism stall will probably do a lot to promote diversity and counteract the negative Nazi vibes around the Town Centre.
Having an Elvis impersonator play for the public always goes down well too.
But it won’t be just Elvis-tribute-acts on Love Music Hate Racism’s Carnival, oh no, it will be headlined by UB40, Reverend and the Makers and Chipmunk and local acts King Blue, Rolo Tomassi, Gaia, Sharon’s band Delicateers and Ben’s band The Rabbits, to name a few.
There will also be a fringe event between 1-3.30pm on the day, in the run-up to the main stage opening at 4pm. True to one of the town’s remaining traditions, there will be plenty of pubs taking part in the event, with at least 20 fringe pubs to choose from and Love Music Hate Racism fringe group, Folk Against Fascism, will also be playing some of England’s finest folk music at a marquee in town.
And the fun don’t stop when the party’s over, as many of the venues will carry on partying into the night, all in the aid of social cohesion of course. In fact, Counterfeit favourite and local lad Matt Abbot, one half of Skint & Demoralised, will be performing at the Official Love Music Hate Racism After-party at Lucorum, where it’s hoped the festival’s main headliners will also perform.
So that’s around 20 different venues enjoy and celebrate diversity with music and booze during the May Day carnival.
Sharon tells Counterfeit how “very Barnsley” the last Love Music Hate Racism event was in the town. “We had a brass band, a group called ‘Brassed Off Against Racism’ play down at the Civic Centre. We got an amazing turnout, with over 100 people turning up.” Counterfeit loves colliery bands- there’s nowt like ‘em
Sharon and Ben believe Barnsley knows how to party and that the Love Music Hate Racism carnival on Saturday May the 1st will not only be a big success, but will make the town proud