Winter 2012/13 Newsletter/Blog

Posted Dec 15, 2012

Winter 2012

 I know I said in the last one that I was going to call the Newsletter a blog in future but I just can’t get away from the Newsletter title. I’ve sort of got used to it and this new computer lingo doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like the text language – very inventive and I suppose “cool” but I like old fashion words! So I’m afraid we’re stuck with Newsletter! Sorry to those of you who text like mad and feel at home with the emerging computer patoise.

The Anti Capitalist shows are going well and we’ve now recorded many of the songs we’ve used and/or no doubt will use. I think there are eleven of us. We are, in alphabetical order: Frankie Armstrong, Roy Bailey, Robb Johnson, Reem Kelani, Sandra Kerr, Grace Petrie, Leon Rosselson, Janet Russell, Ian Saville (socialist magician!), Peggy Seeger and Jim Woodland. We are a Collective. That is, no one is “our leader” we try to organise stuff as it comes via whomsoever it comes (posh grammar or what?)

For example, Janet Russell came up with the imminent concert at the Square Chapel in Halifax (Nov 8) and Sandra Kerr the concert in Newcastle (Nov 23).  I don’t know who proposed the Sheffield concert on November 24th? However, if you’re within reasonable distance of Sheffield, it would be good to see you. The point is, it doesn’t matter. If you know one or more of us and would like to organise a Roadshow concert in your town – then just approach that person and it’ll probably happen!  I don’t have a complete programme of concerts but they can be found on <> .

I managed a trip to Edinburgh a week or so ago, to meet up with David Ferrard – before he flies off to Mexico and sunshine. Lucky beggar! We managed a couple of days and nights mainly talking, eating (at wonderful restaurants) and sleeping. Actually, there’s not much else to do in Edinburgh out of Festival time.  That’s probably the wrong thing to say – so I apologise. I could of course simply delete the sentence but I can’t bring myself to pretend I didn’t make the unforgiveable observation! I’ll apologise to my Scottish friends at Celtic Connections next January (that’s if they’ll still engage me!!!??)  Jeeezus! Maybe I should delete it? 

Moving on….

I don’t think I mentioned my going to Ireland, to the Cork Festival in October last year? No? I thought not!  My good friend John MaGuire runs the Children’s events within the festival and persuaded the programmers that I be invited to contribute to both the children’s concert in Cork Central Library and then, in the evening in the main  (adult?) body of the festival programme. Both were really enjoyable concerts. The children’s one especially, because it is a joy to see and hear the kids join in with the choruses and the signing I try to introduce. I like to express it thus: I want them to talk with their hands and listen with their eyes! Good eh? I like that way of expressing it. Now, I’m no expert but I taught myself a little, enough to sustain a children’s concert in between the songs.  Children learn really quickly and I’m convinced that if we could get this mode of communication into the school curriculum it would really revolutionise children’s views of those children, with either speech or hearing disabilities. These children would no longer feel excluded because their friends could communicate with them and hence include them and indeed, everyone. How long would it be before adults and children alike could communicate with each other!?  By way of unintended consequences, it would be much quieter when the grandchildren get together, for instance in our front room or at any children’s party….…. “….Aaaagggh! Here! Under the kids! I’m not waving, I’m …….!”

I first met John Maguire during my time as an academic and external examiner at University College, Cork. John was Professor of Politics and had a course on the degree programme I was associated with.  I discovered he was a poet and wrote wonderful stories in rhyme that children, his own and now his grandchildren, love. I have included some of John’s poems on each of my three children’s CDs. I’m told they’re really popular with children and parents alike. I certainly love them. I still smile at the “Irritating Poem”, the wonderfully inclusive “People” or the gripping story of “My Pet Dragon”.

Just a short while ago, maybe a couple of weekends, I was invited to the Welly Folk Club in Wolviston (nr Bellingham) on Teeside. Wow! What a great evening. I was amazed by the singing. Everyone who contributed a song to the gig was fantastic. Very traditionally oriented, some quite beautiful songs were sung. The Wilson boys are resident singers and offered one song. Where do they get that volume from!? Ken Wilson invited me, I’m grateful to him and indeed to all at the club. They received me with such generosity. We had a great evening and I left feeling really ‘high’ – that’s adrenalin I guess – it certainly was nothing else – not even alcohol! So much so, I couldn’t get to sleep for ages! Wonderful.

The following morning I was off to Castle Carrick in Cumbria, to my friend Richard Johnstone’s 60th birthday party.  I was introduced to a number of his friends who were up for the celebrations. We all had a great weekend. I was looked after so well by Richard and his partner, Stew. Richard is the main mover and shaker behind the Music on the Marr Festival in the village. He kindly invited me this year and he told me he’s in touch with Alan (my agent) about returning next year! So next July I hope to be back, visiting (if not before!) It’s a great little festival by the way. If you’re up for something to do on the w/end of July 20th then it’s well worth a visit! Check the dates at <>

I have been so fortunate to have met and made close and life-long friends from within this worldwide community. I feel proud and happy to be part of it. I’ve been so fortunate to have travelled the world. People everywhere are wonderful. How do we manage to get ourselves into such dreadful situations where ordinary young men and women have to give up their lives to go and fight in some country with young men and women who wish for nothing more than to make friends, maybe settle down with someone, look for somewhere to live, to work and maybe have children and raise a family …. all the same things those other kids are likewise seeking. They have no intrinsic interest in fighting each other. I know, I know, Tom Paine said it all so much better! Sorry but who decides who our enemies are? I remember something Utah Phillips once said to me, it went something like: “I have learned that I would never in my life abdicate to somebody else, my right and my ability to decide who the enemy is.”  I won’t argue with that. I think I’ve told you how I came to meet Utah… No, you don’t know? You’ll have to wait for the autobiography. I’ve got that far and although I’ve stalled a bit, I will try to pick it up again as soon as I can find the inspiration!   I will continue to miss that wise and lovely man to the day …….. well, for as long as I am able.

So…. enough. Back to the Newsletter/Blog.   

The year is closing around us, it’s dark and cold and I’m so happy just sitting at home! What a wimp I hear you murmur…. Well I don’t care. So There!

            However, there are a few things I still have to do that I’m looking forward to… Yes I am. I can still get out you know  … I’m not helpless. So, there are a few Anti Cap concerts before the end of the year and I’m going to Manchester in December to sing for a Woodcraft Folk event. Looking forward to that. Should be fun. Have look at my “Live Dates” on the web site, <www,>.

            Both families are coming to us for Christmas Day and I love it! Yes I do, Kit. Yes I do, David! It’s just noisy and everyone seems to talk at once and I know I run off into my study at times but I do come back. I love ALL of them, the noisy ones, the quiet ones (Oh - there aren’t any of the latter!), the running-around-the-house-ones and well… just all my wonderful FAMILY. Maddy Prior and John Kirkpatrick will be playing, full blast (if Val has anything to do with it) the Prosecco will flow and we’ll all be exhausted by bedtime! How can I, an atheist so enjoy the Winter Solstice in such Victorian, even medieval fashion? I can’t defend myself – I just love the party and ‘family-ness’ of it.

 So, have yourself a wonderful solstice whichever way you want, as long as no one gets hurt.  Thank you for your continuing support and affection. I am so aware, energised and grateful for it.

 There are two traditions: one of hierarchy, order and discipline and another of equality, freedom and justice. I know where I stand, and I’m certain you do! In some distant and future time, the names of Cameron, Osborne or Clegg will not be remembered but those who stood for our tradition will. Tony Benn stands in that long line of honourable dissenters that includes Tom Paine, Gerrard Winstanley, Watt Tyler and so many more!

Peace  and love 


Sheffield,   November 5th 2012