Having written for the Post for about a year now, I’ve often wondered how many people read this column. Beyond a few friends and family members who I obviously bribe and given the lack of fan mail, I have been known to echo the latest X-Files movie, ‘I want to believe’ that people are out there. It’s just very hard to do so.
Recently though, I was approached by the organisers of the Kenilworth ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’ (LMHR) festival. What surprised me most was that they had read my Post column and as a consequence, wanted me to open the festival for them. Obviously flattered, I immediately accepted and will now be on stage at midday on Saturday 30th August. What’s worrying me now though is not just what to say, but also what to wear: what does a 40-something non-rock star wear to open a festival when that same 40-something also knows that very few people in the audience will know who he is? Too rock and roll and I run the risk of looking like many in the audience’s dad in the middle of a mid-life crisis: not rock and roll enough and I run the risk of just looking like their dad. Not good either way.
LMHR is a relatively new movement that seeks to bring people together through music by offering a vibrant celebration of our multicultural and multiracial society. Set up in 2002, LMHR was a direct response to what it saw as rising levels of racism as well as the electoral successes of the far-right. To date, it’s shows have been supported by acts such as Ms Dynamite, Babyshambles and Basement Jaxx amongst others.
For all those 40-somethings like myself, LMHR is very much the offspring of the ‘Rock Against Racism’ (RAR) movement from the 1970s. Interestingly and somewhat unknown, it was events in Birmingham that prompted RAR. In August 1976, whilst performing in Birmingham Eric Clapton made a drunken declaration of support for former Conservative minister Enoch Powell: famous for his anti-immigration ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Wolverhampton. Clapton ranted that he felt that England had become overcrowded and that the only way to stop Britain from becoming ‘a black colony’ was to vote for Powell. Sadly, Clapton ended his tirade by repeatedly shouting slogans about keeping Britain ‘white’. On the back of this, RAR grew rapidly and reached its pinnacle in 1988 with an open air concert in London’s East end – neither in Walford nor Albert Square I hasten to add – where 80,000 people watched bands such as The Clash, Buzzcocks, and Steel Pulse uniting against racism and fascism.
Without being disrespectful, I doubt Kenilworth will attract a similar number. Yet whether that audience is 1, 100, 1,000 or more, they will be coming together to unite against what they see as the same threat: the threat from racism and fascism today. Some things never change.
Sadly, there always seems to be a new form of racism waiting to rear its ugly head. Whether that be black and Asian communities in the 1970s, or Muslims and Poles in the noughties, the fact remains that racism, discrimination and prejudice are still out there. Racism – unfortunately – hasn’t gone away despite the valiant efforts of many.
Nor though has the fear of 40-something men making fools of themselves by trying to be ‘too young’, ‘too cool’ or ‘too hip’ (do young people even use this term any more…???). But that – given the context – has little weight in the grander scale of things. Taking the moral high ground then, if you’re at Kenilworth and I look like your dad – either with or without the mid-life crisis – be kind. We’re there to add our voice of dissent against racism, not worry about what I actually look like. Love Music, Hate Racism and don’t worry about the old guys.
More details about the Kenilowrth ‘Love Music, Hate Racism’ festival can be found by clicking here…