Friday, 6 November 2009

Bands Not Playing

That was the witty headline in the local rag last week! The boycott of a local pub by a whole raft of bands and performers made page 3, along with a mugshot of the falsely ingenuous landlord whose deviousness had been at the core of events.

‘Rotherham Acoustic’ is an occasional live music feast devised by Dicky and Mikey the tireless Rawmarsh Mashers, run every quarter or so. It’s a kind of extended open mic. session that issues an invitation to performers in folk and other acoustic traditions right across South Yorkshire and beyond. Contact the Mashers and they’ll oblige you with a spot of 20 minutes to half an hour depending on numbers, in front of a small but attentive and highly appreciative audience. And it goes on all day!

It’s already becoming an institution and there’s been no shortage of keen performers since its inception a couple of years back. (Look up the website if you fancy a turn!). The Monkwood, a sixties estate pub on the edge of ‘Rawmish’ as it’s locally known, had become its regular home.

The session organised for the last Sunday in October was fully booked. One woman was due to travel from somewhere near Newcastle. A couple of days beforehand the Mashers sent round an urgent message. The landlord had agreed to host a BNP meeting on the night the big blob was due to appear on Question Time. Everything was booked; people were travelling; what did folk think? Dicky, who had affiliated the Mashers and Rotherham Acoustic to Folk Against Fascism in the group’s earliest days, urged everyone to phone the pub and make their feelings clear.

Shortly afterwards – another email. Success! The landlord had agreed to cancel the meeting. Folk were quietly cockahoop. A motley bunch of mere singers and performers taking a united stand had rolled back the fascist machine!

Next day, a further email. He was lying. He had allowed the meeting to take place because ‘he couldn’t afford to lose the takings.’ Big mistake lad.

Dicky set off an email discussion group and although I spotted I think one plea for tolerance and free speech the overwhelming tenor of contributions was ‘sorry but count me out.’ No more takings from us at the Monkwood!

During that period Dicky was hurtling around the place looking for alternative premises and thankfully by the Saturday he had clinched it. Hardly a mile across the other side of Rawmish stands the Queens. The email networks were busy getting the message around and in double-quick time the action was complete. Everybody boycotted the original venue and the whole proceedings were transplanted to the Queens where Rotherham Acousticated itself wholeheartedly for several hours.

Regular Sunday afternoon drinkers tapped their feet, joined in odd choruses, or carried on regardless. The woman from Newcastle came. Barnsley folk club members flogged their Folk Against Fascism badges. It was a good do. Well done Mashers.

The clear message of unity, across many musical styles and political starting points, was carried unanimously and occasionally with harmonies, around the community, into the newspapers, and as it happens, well away from the Monkwood’s once ringing till.

Ray Hearne, No Masters