Reflections on our performance at Newcastle's 'Evening with Jeremy Corbyn' election campaign rally, Tyne Theatre - 18th August 2015
When the news first reached me that we had been asked to open the Newcastle evening with Jeremy Corbyn, I almost couldn’t believei8 it. I have been a close follower of Corbyn and his quest for a fairer, more humane country and have been uplifted by the amount of support he has been gaining, especially with the younger generations, so to learn NESS were going to be opening and closing the event was a beautiful surprise. All 1,100 tickets for the event had been taken in just 4 hours of being released, so the theatre was literally packed to the rafters. As we sound checked on stage before the event, I remember looking out at the large empty theatre in front of me and thinking ‘oh dear, this is going to be scary’. When the time came and we were given the nod to go on stage, the theatre was so buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm that I totally forgot I was supposed to be nervous, and just embraced the energy of the room. Standing shoulder to shoulder with my fellow comrades singing the words of past social movements, the words that are still so relevant today, was rousing to say the least. I think you’d have to be cold-blooded not to be stirred by signing ‘they’ll tremble at our voices, when they hear these verses sung, for this union makes us strong’ with 1,100 people singing back. We sang our heart and souls out on stage, and it felt like change was not only possible but inevitable. Last night saw the mark of something special in Newcastle’s Tyne theatre, something that we had the absolute pride and joy of being a part of. After a year of working together as a choir it seems fitting that we should interrupt our summer break with such an awesome display of socialism in action.
September 2015 - Amy Swan
It must be over 30 years since I attended a political meeting
anything like the Jeremy Corbyn rally at the Tyne Theatre. Not since the days of the miners’ strike have I felt the same power and collective enthusiasm that you could feel from the thousand or
more who filled the theatre.
It was a great privilege for our choir, the North East
Socialist Singers, to be on stage to set the scene as the “warm up act”. Despite our nerves it seemed to go well. We also had the pleasure to close the event with the Red Flag.
There were a number of speakers while Corbyn addressed the 500 overflow meeting outside in the rain. Davy Hopper, President of Durham NUM, gave the best speech I have
heard him deliver. His heartfelt anger brought a justified spontaneous standing ovation. Laura Pidcock, Labour Councillor in Northumberland and Anti- Racism education worker, was warm and funny
and the pick of the other speakers. Then it was time for the contender for the labour leadership to come on stage. He was relaxed, clear and despite speaking already many times that day, he
sounded fresh, positive and enthusiastic for the struggle ahead. He gave a powerful political message about the destructive nature of austerity and the need for change. Those Tories and others
saying a Corbyn election will cast Labour into 20 years of oblivion are missing the growing popular mood among young people and others for change. No wonder the ruling establishment, and their
media thought control, are desperate to undermine Corbyn and cast him as a mad left wing fanatic. But listen to him speak in moderate, thoughtful language about the state of Britain and global
events and you soon realise it is those posh boys currently running the country who are the real mad fanatics.
September 2015 - Keith Hodgson
After many very busy weeks of recording, rehearsing and performing and a well earned Easter break, last night we met at the Mining Institute. Our recent energies have been focused on various
projects, such as 'The Seam' album and Journey to Justice and tonight we began our latest foray... this time into mining
As part of the Under the Fields of Heaton Festival, we are hosting an event on June 24th; an evening of mining song, at which Johnny Handle, Benny Graham and Gareth Davies-Jones shall be performing. Tonight we began learning and arranging Alex Glasgow's 'Close the Coalhouse Door' and Johnny Handle's brilliant 'The Banner Song'. With only two weeks before we debut our new material at Spinney on May 2nd, the choir were focused, enthused (and sounding rather wonderful) ...
15th April 2015 - Bethany Elen Coyle
...and so we sang, with great passion our arrangement of 'Ella's Song', a song written by Sweet Honey in The Rock, lyrics taken verbatim from a speech given by US Civil Right's activist Ella Baker. NESS sang this during the Journey to Justice exhibition launch on April 4th joined by members of the wonderful Kingsmeadow Community Choir. As we sang, our voices filled the Great Hall of the Discovery Museum!
Today NESS shone and sang with such spirit, such pride, such beauty. So impressive was their performance that a trade union organiser asked if she could use our arrangement of ‘Solidarity Forever’ – our arrangement of words, affectionately borrowed and reworked from numerous ‘little red songbooks’ and other socialist song collections, set to my friend Dave Camlin’s wonderful musical arrangement. I am immensely proud to be (as they affectionately/jokingly call me!) their ‘leader’ of this wonderful collective; to call this eclectic cohort my comrades.
"We who believe in freedom cannot rest" - and so we shall go on...
4th April 2015 - Bethany Elen Coyle
Tomorrow is the big
day! After months of planning, creating, organising and evolving the
Journey to Justice exhibition opens in Newcastle, launching a month long cultural programme! It's been an incredible, unforgettable journey...
NESS's involvement with Journey to Justice began last summer when a friend forwarded on an email she had received, a call out for community musicians to get involved with a crowd funding project. I learned that a voluntary human rights organisation was raising funds to create an exhibition and that if the wonderful idea came to fruition it would pilot in Newcastle and go on to tour the UK.
I have always been passionate about human rights and social justice so I responded immediately.
On July 23rd 2014, a group of singers and musicians met on the South Bank in London whilst in Newcastle, NESS met in the Mining Institute Library (see photo above) to sing for social justice! Very much in our infancy, it was only our 6th week of meeting. Joined by friends and supporters, including Professor Brian Ward, NESS sang 8 songs as we were warmed by the sunlight streaming through the beautiful stained glass windows into the library. We had set up Skype to capture the event and in the hope that we would be able to see our fellow musicians, many miles away. Unfortunately at the last minute we had a tech-meltdown (best laid plans, ehy?!) however we managed to communicate via telephone to coordinate our performances and we joined our London friends in singing our arrangement of 'Solidarity Forever'!
The crowd funding was a huge success and the exhibition was installed today at the Discovery Museum.
The music and art of social justice and protest is a core theme of Journey to Justice and music plays an integral part in the exhibition. The Journey to Justice Jukebox plays songs that were especially researched and chosen to represent music of the US Civil Rights Movement era, and other political movements These with many songs sang in protest, during marches. Following an invitation from Journey to Justice, on 25th March NESS joined another choir I lead; Kingsmeadow Community Choir to record music for the Journey to Justice exhibition! (see photograph, right)
You can hear our voices on the Journey to Justice Jukebox singing 'This Little Light of Mine', 'Oh Freedom' and 'We Shall Overcome' (you can also hear these songs on our Soundcloud). You can also hear NESS singing 'Solidarity Forever' - the recording made on 23rd July! It seems a beautifully organic progression that NESS; involved from the crowd funding stage of the project, should be a part of the ongoing legacy of the travelling exhibition.
Tomorrow we shall perform alongside KCC at the exhibition's grand launch event at the Discovery Museum...
It promises to be an unforgettable event, an extravaganza of inspirational speakers, music, poetry and film (but then I could be biased...)
3rd April 2015 - Bethany Elen Coyle
For further information about Journey to Justice and full details of our NE pilot program please see: www.journeytojustice.org.uk/projects/footsteps-to-freedom