March & April

“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” bell hooks

Kill the Bill/ Stronger On Sundays/ Radical Joy /St Sigfrid’s Way/ Green of Grasses

Spring brought with it a spirit of change; walking through Central London these months felt again like the possibility of turning up to learn from each other was alive. In the wake of the bill to give the police more power to stop peaceful protest many took to the streets to show concern.

Some years ago I heard a friend say that you couldn’t have democracy without protest, it turned something in me and the more I joined them the more I felt a part of voicing inequalities and to my mind, injustices, that were going unspoken. Many historical events were moved on a wave of protest. That it has been given space in Britain is something to be proud of and this bill aims to criminalise the independent nature of their organisation, making it law that they have limitations in terms of time and noise levels. As someone who brings my songs to protests – I can say that in my experience collective music interactions allows for healing and understanding to take place. Without the freedoms to respectfully choose those, our society will become more sick, I have no doubt.

More worryingly I find are some of the laws proposed for travellers: Those choosing to have nomadic lifestyles are now in danger of being fined, along with the new asylum bill it does seems that the Government struggles with diversity.

I wonder what your thoughts are I’d like to know.

Earlier in April, I was invited by my friend, singer, Melissa James (top right) to be a guest on Stronger on Sundays, a gathering to discuss racial justice with the aim to create compassionate community and a space of listening. The theme of this was Being White Awake, the concept of White Awareness, something I’ve been reading for myself the last year. The idea looks at the inherited privilege and the responsibility that comes with that. I sing a song I wrote last year called ‘This Skin’ I can reccomend White Supremecy and Me by Layla Saad and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo places to start. For the evening’s recording in full, visit Melissa’s site.

Another group hosting this month was my friends ar Radical For Hard Times, a project set up by Trebbe Johnson. I’d come to know them through my friend, arts activist, Federico Hewson. The idea is that you offer art to wounded places, so restoring an intention to protect; I think it’s beautiful. During the first lock down I took on a project to record their theme song (below) for the annual gathering and that lead to this, an interview about my involvement with environmental issues here in the uk.

Next month sees my friend Bethany Thomas set off on the 500 mile hike St Sigfrids way. Beth’s story is interesting in that as Vicar’s child she has a calling to both celebrate and challenge the ideas of types of Christianity, something I can very much relate to. The UK based pilgrimage trust asked Beth to plan a route taking in towns from York to Ramsgate to remember St Sigfrid, Bishop of York.

Beth’s journey will also be in the footsteps of women pilgrims of history. St Brigid a favourite I know. I will find out more next time you can follow Beth on Instagram here:

I will be joining the pilgrimage in Barnsley and walking to Sheffield, running an evening folk club mid point at Greave House Farm Trust in Stocksbridge, one of the towns on the list for government hand outs though still it seems it is suffering,

I have been receiving wonderful emails asking to play; I am looking forward to playing with people again!

Lastly, also up north, a dream I had came from reading about land rights disputes that lead the Ramblers.

Around that time Enclosure Rights meant people faced limited access to walking due to the wishes of wealthy land owners: many protested and had stand offs with game hunters and these land ‘owners’ – search (Kinder Scout – the, I think, awesome mass trespass to get an idea) the rights to ramble were secured and groups like the Ramblers grew off the back of these peaceful protests.

The writings, poems and recent hikes I’ve taken got into my dreams I dreamed about a young man who took me walking and in the dream was the phrase ‘Give Me The Green Of Grasses!’ I wrote him this song~ the voice of a farming families son’s passion for walking set in that part of England where those protests took place, below the Pennine Way.

take care ,Joe

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