Category Archives: Protest Family

Funky Lol’s Picket Line

Most of our songs are pretty easy to understand, but people sometimes ask about Funky Lol’s Picket Line (from This Band Is Sick). It was written by Steve, but it’s got my name in it. Here’s what it’s all about.

It’s a true story from 5 years ago. I was working at a Further Education college in London. We were on a national strike over extra pension contributions. It meant an effective pay cut of £500-£1000 per year for each of us – worth fighting against.

The college was open from 7am-11pm. We had an uneventful picket line in the morning, when most staff and students would have been going in (few did). The strike continued, but the picket line rota wound down early to allow many of the strikers to attend a union event in central London.

I discovered to my surprise that the local Labour Party were planning to hold a fund-raising dinner in the college’s training restaurant that night, with Shadow Minister Carrie-Anne Slate* as guest speaker. I passed a message to a prominent local Party member, assuming that they would want to postpone the event to support us. His reaction was non-committal. So I went to Labour’s constituency office and rang the bell. I had to speak to an intercom: “Will Carrie-Anne Slate* cross our picket line tonight?” They invited me in and took my details, but did nothing. Later, I was phoned by the local MP’s agent. He had a superior tone and seemed mildly irritated.

Eventually, I began to realise that I’d have no choice but to reassemble the picket line. I made a couple of phone calls, sent texts and started walking up the road to the college. As I was walking, I got a call from the MP, India Empy*. She bent my ear for fully 19 (nineteen) minutes. Whenever I tried to speak, she interrupted with, “No, listen…”

She told me that she had known about the strike a week in advance. She had checked with the Principal of the college (“spoke to the wrong fella”), who doubted that we would continue it into the evening (“said it would be over by tea time”). He was wrong, of course (“you know a strike’s all day when you’re losing a day’s pay”). She hadn’t bothered to check with us. Either we were unimportant to her, or she didn’t want to hear the answer we would have given.

Anyway, she made me an offer: if we let the dinner go ahead, she would invite one of our pickets to cross our picket line. They could then explain to the diners who had crossed our picket line why they shouldn’t have crossed our picket line. Okay, read that again. Got it? Did we accept the offer? As if.

The picket line reconvenes

The picket line reconvenes

The picket was back in place. By now, we had supporters from the local Trades Council, including the impressive Daryl O’Levely*, and from other unions, including current members of the band. We were incredulous at the actions of our local Labour Party – the party formed largely from the trade union movement.

Confusion reigned as some people arrived for the dinner. A small number went inside the college. Niall Gerald*, the former MP for the area, turned up and began to help turn people away. There was no sign of India Empy* or of Carrie-Anne Slate* (I discovered months later that the Party feared a photo of a Shadow Minister crossing a picket line). We eventually found out that what was left of the guests, including Empy* and Slate*, had gone to an Indian restaurant a few miles away to try to salvage the chaos (“better go for a curry instead”).

We had seen off the disgraceful threat to the strike. We disbanded our picket line and went to the pub (“you know this story ends up in the Rose & Crown”).

Those involved in organising the shambles might consider this: they could have postponed the whole thing a week before the event, held it on another night and raised some funds. Instead, they chose the dishonourable path and lost both money and credibility.  And Steve White & The Protest Family gained a dance number.

Lol

*Names changed to protect the innocent.  And the guilty.

Top picture: legalcheek.com.

Protest Family Migration

So, there I was this morning enraged yet again by the unbiased BBC reporting that hearts are hardening to the Syrian refugee crisis, as now 41% of those surveyed thought that we shouldn’t take any more in. No mention of the 59% of people who think that we should definitely be doing a lot more. Even if it’s down from 69% it still looks like a majority to me, but looking at the figures that way clearly doesn’t suit the narrative. (And before we go on to talk about the “M” word, has anyone noticed the complete lack of media coverage of the bombing campaign in Syria since the vote?)

But yes, the “M” word got a repeated airing in the BBC Radio 4 coverage this morning. Migration’s for the birds isn’t it? I thought people were immigrants or emigrés, not migrants. Migrant is a dehumanising term straight out of the bigot’s toolbox. How much easier is it to discriminate against people if you describe them as something that falls short of your definition of people. See also: the way the Nazis described the Jews and the way soldiers are taught to describe the enemy. Charlie Hebdo can fuck off too.

But I’m not here to talk about that.

The talk about travel does remind me that I should be talking about The Protest Family and our upcoming travels. Now maybe if you’re AC/DC or Bruce Springsteen your gigs for the next twelve months are already well mapped out, but if you’re us, maybe less so. What we do know is that we’ll be hitting the road a lot more this year than we have done in previous years, starting with a trip to Glossop next month.

Now Baby Jesus died on Good Friday and rose again on Easter Monday, leaving a very convenient long weekend in between. Easter Sunday might be a re-run of Christmas three months later, tofurkey dinner and board games with the folks, but that does leave you with a whole Easter Saturday to fill, particularly if the football calendar gets switched to the (Good) Friday. Never fear, we shall be performing at Glossop Labour Club with fellow WSO-er Ste Goodall. The Quiet Loner’s Defiance Sessions are gathering some momentum and it promises to be something of an evening.

Talking of Sundays, May the 1st falls on a Sunday this year and it’s Tony Hurrier’s inaugural May Day Festival of Solidarity in Barnsley where we’ll be joined by many of the luminaries of the socialist music scene. We’ve got to get to grips with the workers’ holiday before the Tories turn it into Margaret Thatcher Day or something equally horrid, so hit the streets and celebrate, and if it’s the street that the Polish Club in Barnsley’s in so much the better.

The weekend of the third Sunday in July is of course the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival. Expect the usual Tolpuddle Unplugged shenanigans. More of this later, but also on a Sunday is the Burston Strike School Rally and another opportunity for band selfies in front of trade union banners.

Somewhere between Burston and Bridport we’ll have to squeeze in WSO, Stowfest and somebody’s birthday celebrations, but the fixture computer hasn’t spoken yet so watch this space.

Is that it? Probably not, but do join us around the country and do listen to the news with a critical ear.

S.

 

George of The Jungle

The story of a dragon-slaying Syrian, set to become one of England’s national heroes; it’s patron saint no less. If only he could get past the border guards at Calais.

Released as a video single on YouTube on Sunday 27th December.

It’s here.