I knew it was going to busy day, especially after a reduced sleep post-gig. It’s always busy in the city centre on a Saturday. But this was more than your average Saturday.
First of all it was the Lord Mayor’s Parade, an annual event with a ‘green’ parade walking one mile around the Princes Quay and Old Town section. This year the theme was ‘Hats Off To The Mayor’, with a competition open to the public to make their own hat.
Up until last year, I had been a part of the parade, walking with a local group of Rainbows. However, our unit has now disbanded and so I watched the groups of participants assemble along Princes Dock Street from the window of Cuckoos, where I ate a delicious lunch with a friend. A pirate ship (which my friend argued was inadequately entitled, as it held only two pirates) was parked directly outside our window, and we were able to see the range of costumes pass us by.
Our lunch consumed, we headed to the bottom of Whitefriargate where Steel Trinity were positioned. They played music to onlookers awaiting their glimpse of the parade, which seemed to have timed itself perfectly with the heavens opening their bulbous clouds.
It didn’t dampen the spirits of any of the participants, even if it did affect the moods of some of the onlookers. There was dancing and singing, musical instruments and puppets, all joyfully playing to the crowds. Some costumes were very well designed for the troublesome British weather: umbrellas transformed into jellyfish and large hats designed to look like other creatures.
While all of this was taking place, there was a demonstration happening in Queens Gardens. An anti-austerity protest.
At 2pm, I headed over to The Warren, a resource centre which opens its doors to young people during weekdays. Saturday 2th June, however, the doors opened to the general public in order to host a special gig in partnership with the anti-austerity demonstration.
I entered as Joe Solo performed a song of revolution to a scattered crowd, some stood and some sat directly before the stage. He song further songs about protest – describing the mining strikes of 30 years ago – and songs in protest – one about a friend who was arrested for setting up a soup kitchen in a disused building. For his song ‘No Pasarán’, he had the crowd get involved. A song about a Hull volunteer who fought against fascists in the Spanish Civil War, the title means ‘They shall not pass’, and when this line was sung during the chorus we were invited to join in, producing a tuneful chant. “It sounds better with your fist in the air,” he told us, highlighting the need for strength in numbers but also representing the non-violent approach to this protest.
He also took time to promote the We Shall Overcome events which, similar to this gig, have no monetary ticket prices. Instead you are invited to bring along donations of tinned and dried foods for the local food banks. A positive reaction to the recent election results, there will be a series of events over the weekend of October 2nd-4th across the country, celebrating music and culture while supporting those affected by the cuts. This was met by the loudest applause of the gig, showing further the solidarity in those gathered.
Next onto the stage was the manager of the Warren with a few words about austerity and how his organisation fits into this. He opened with strong words: “the whole theory of austerity is bullshit.” He stated that it was fantastic to see so many people, young and older, at both the demonstration and the gig, explaining that this is “your future… this is where it begins again” and that we needed to “get angry in a controlled and measured and campaigning way” because “that’s what scares them the most”.
Following him was 12 year-old Eva Davies with her original songs. Not a protest singer like Joe Solo, she was singing about those things which affect teenagers in Britain; opening with a re-telling of Romeo & Juliet did elude to the theme however. The point being made here is that opportunities such as this will become lessened if too many cuts take place. With so many volunteer-run organisations struggling and venues being strangled with legislation, there are fewer chances for someone like Eva to share her talent.
Nothing’s Happening were next onto the stage; a punk band full of political opinions. The crowd – all besides one very young boy who sat right up front – were on their feet for this act. Lead vocalist Casey Stead referred to another punk singer: Jon Lydon, better known as Jonny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, who has quoted in several newspapers for telling everyone to make sure they use their vote and calling Russell Brand a “bumhole” in response to his political “revolution” last October.
Fact: everyone is talking about austerity. Even if they don’t fully understand what it entails, or how it will directly impact them, the idea of it is absurd. Martin Deane, MP for the Green Party in Hull North, spoke further to that which he had said earlier in Queens Gardens at the demonstration. He declared that “austerity is a con” and that “we’re a city of culture, not a city of cuts!” With a view of cuts to libraries and hospitals, not to mention the way education is falling down the plughole of politics, he said that he encouraged everyone present to fight against austerity.
Last to the stage were popular Hull band, LIFE, with Stew Baxter taking to the drums as Rich is unable to perform at the moment. Starting off with their first single ‘Crawling’, they encapsulated the frustration many felt at the election results. Guitarist Mick Sanders declared, “I hope everyone stuck it to the man today,” before they launched into catchy tune ‘Money’ – during which Mez Sanders added to the lyrics “who even likes money anyway?”. Their set was one which could bring the crowds in – a popular local band who are making their name across the UK – but also one which demonstrated the power of political beliefs and in giving words to your opinions and emotions. They performed as they would any gig, but embedded in the lyrics are the political views of these young men living in a torn society.
It was a day to feel accomplished, and a day to feel a part of something. I do what I can for charity, supporting local organisations as I do local bands. I wanted to be there for my students and for the local community and for those who had come together to fight a worthy cause. I managed all of this, though I left feeling that in order to do so I was unable to give myself entirely to any in particular.
This is true of many things. Hull is so alive with activity that it is difficult to attend everything – support everything. But I do my bit, and I hope that others too did their bit on this busy Saturday in Hull city centre.