It can be difficult to remember when someone like Chris came into your life, when it was always going to feel like you’d known him forever, but actually I do. I’d made a rash promise on the old Leyton Orient message board to post a copy of the newly recorded Brisbane Road free to anyone that wanted one, but in the end I needn’t have worried, only one person got in touch: Chris, posting as ukjazzer and signing off that and many subsequent messages “Best from Sheff”.
He was a lifelong Orient fan, avid music collector and a supporter of The Protest Family from the very early days, appointing himself, at times, both our unofficial manager and official dancer. Who could forget his performance on the dance floor at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival in 2012?
But there was so much more to Chris than his love of music and an east London football club. Despite his sometimes gruff analysis, Chris always put the needs of others first, showing extraordinary generosity when a friend needed a helping hand. He engaged with We Shall Overcome early on as it combined his socialism with his love of live music, both promoting his own shows and supporting many other gigs around the country. Chris was never scared to get involved, whether that was in political groups or organising events (inevitably fundraisers), he would always be ready to lend his time and energy to something that he felt was important.
Chris’ glass was never half empty or half full, it was brim-full or completely empty, whether you were discussing the O’s form or the chances of a Labour government, but what was unshakable was his belief that a better, fairer world was possible if only we all could just see it.
Our thoughts are with Sandra, at this particularly difficult time.
“This is about stopping the Tories killing people. We’ll stop them with a raised fist: in the streets, on demonstrations and by organising in our trade unions, our workplaces and our communities. Tonight we’re going to stop them with a helping hand. All tonight’s acts are playing for free, all the money will go to people on the front line of stopping Tories killing people: a food bank, a soup kitchen, and a charity that supports disabled survivors of abuse and hate crime.”
Picture: Alison Foster
Well, we all needed that after this week: some joy, some solidarity. Never underestimate the healing power of music.