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Anti-Austerity Movement We Shall Overcome Brings Music and Poetry to Notts

2 October 17 words: Tamsin Parnell

Musicians and poets are joining forces this week for a long weekend of charity gigs in and around Nottingham. Under the national banner of the anti-austerity movement, We Shall Overcome, they’re bringing you a stellar weekend of local talent. In return, they’re asking you to dig deep and donate to help vital support services stay afloat…

Last year in the East Midlands, Trussell Trust foodbanks gave out 55,572 three-day emergency food supplies. The number of requests had risen by 7,000 in a year.

The problem with numbers like these is that they’re easy to read in the abstract, to forget that they represent real people struggling to put hot dinners on the table each week. For Peter Yeandle and Lytisha Tunbridge, two of the Nottingham coordinators of We Shall Overcome, it’s time to face the reality behind the numbers and do something practical to help.

Together, they’ve coordinated four days of poetry, drama and music gigs over the first weekend in October. Donations at all six events will go directly to services in the city that support people in need, from those who are street homeless to families who can’t afford to feed their kids.

“I used to work in social housing and saw first-hand the effects that cuts were having,” Lytisha explains. “I saw people losing their homes, needing food banks, and struggling because of the stress of their everyday lives. I wanted to do something to help.” As a Nottingham-based poet with a knack for organisation, coordinating a weekend of creative gigs seemed like a good place to start.

The decision to hold the gigs in October was made by the national We Shall Overcome spearheaders. Peter explains why it’s significant: “As the weather changes, sleeping out on the streets gets a whole lot rougher. There’s also a greater demand on food banks in autumn.” He hopes people will donate enough to help prevent food banks running out of supplies, and to make sure people sleeping on the streets are still supported when the crisp air starts to bite.

The line-up they’ve put together is impressive. Echoing the political spirit at the heart of We Shall Overcome, it’s all tied together with social commentary.

The events kick off on Thursday 5 October with Food for Thought, an evening of song, drama and poetry at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio. There’ll be a performance about the NHS from Bread and Roses theatre company, a ground-breaking piece by Andy Szpuk called Austerity Café, and feminist songs of revolution from women’s a cappella group, Rosa’s Lovely Daughters. Tickets are £10, and all proceeds go to St Ann’s and Sneinton Food Store.

On the same night, musicians are coming together at the Nelson and Railway pub in Kimberley. You can expect a relaxed night of folk music from the likes of Paul Carbuncle, The Strawberry Jammers and Bill Kerry III.

For Bill, the night is about "raising awareness for equality and fairness". He sees the gig as a platform for helping others: “I can’t be a politician, I can’t write books on poverty, but I can contribute in this small way.”

Donations for Kimberley Sessions will go to Framework, a charity that helps rough sleepers find safe accommodation.

Local poet, Rachel Joy, is performing at the Acoustic Punx and Poets event on Friday 6 October over at the Sumac Centre. The night is in aid of The Friary drop-in in West Bridgford, where Rachel works part-time. Through her job, she’s seen the life-changing support that local services provide for those in need.

“At the day service I provide at The Friary, we welcome between fifteen and twenty street homeless people who have a shower and get their sleeping bags washed,” she explains. The centre also helps local families who’re struggling to put hot dinners on the table or can’t afford school uniforms.

The Friary doesn’t receive government funding, so despite the desperate need for its work, it still struggles to find resources. Right now, there’s a shortage of men’s trainers. If you’ve got a pair lying around, there’ll be a donation box at the fundraiser.

“A lot of my poetry is about homelessness, being disenfranchised or on the edge of society,” Rachel explains. “We Shall Overcome is about having a voice and acknowledging aloud the problems that society faces. That’s what we’re doing on the Friday.”

There’s a big buzz around their events at the Hockley Hustle on Sunday 8 October too. They’ve got an all-day event over at the Lord Roberts pub, with music from a whole range of genres, including Fat Digester and Marc Block.

Then, from 3pm - 5pm, they’re hosting a word and music jam session in Emmanuel House, a not-for-profit organisation that’s been supporting vulnerable adults in Nottingham since 1976. The charity will receive all proceeds from the afternoon.

Emmanuel House has already benefited from the efforts of the We Shall Overcome team. Last year, volunteers delivered £100 to the centre in person. “When we took the money in, we were told how rare it is for them to receive donations like that, yet it’s massively helpful,” Rachel says.

It’s not just the organisations that are grateful for your donations. Peter tells me of a “heart-quivering moment” last year, when a woman who’d been helped by Emmanuel House turned up at a fundraiser with socks from Poundland. She didn’t have the money to spare, but wanted to give something back.

There’s a lesson to be learnt from her gift. When you’re on the streets, it’s best to wear a thin pair of socks and cover them with a thicker pair to keep your feet warm. “You catch that layer of air, and that’s the difference between keeping and losing your toes, between being uncomfortable and being in pain,” Peter explains.

It’s a moving story, but also a reminder that we can all afford to give something. What we do give, no matter how small, will be appreciated

Most of us don’t think twice about spending a couple of quid on a coffee. We’ve probably all got food we could offer to someone who needs it, too. If we all donated to a We Shall Overcome event this October, imagine how much good we could do for our city. In exchange for a night of entertainment, we’d know that someone on our streets could soon have somewhere warm to stay, or a local family could have a proper dinner on the table.

We Shall Overcome runs hundreds of events up and down the country to help support those suffering under austerity.

We Shall Overcome Weekend 2017 runs from Friday 6 - Sunday 8 October 2017.

We Shall Overcome on Facebook


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