Musicians Against Homelessness is an idea that’s blossomed since Emma Rule, a Cambridgeshire-based PR, came up with it after volunteering with her husband for the charity Crisis.
What she initially thought would be “a local music event [that might] raise 100 quid” to buy some gifts to take to Crisis has grown via social media, and with the backing of former Creation Records boss Alan McGee, into a over 100 festivals and gigs that are taking place across the country in the next few weeks.
“I had this amazing response on Facebook, the status shared absolutely everywhere,” says Rule. “My inbox was full of bands from all over the place saying ‘We’ll do that – which area are you in?’ and I just didn’t know what to do at the time because I hadn’t meant to do that at all.”
Two weeks later she was talking to McGee about doing publicity for one of the bands he’s currently managing when she happened to mention her quandary. “He said just before he signed Oasis he was actually homeless in London with somebody from Primal Scream. Also because he’s from quite a rough area of Glasgow originally he’s been witness to people going through really hard times and he said ‘You can’t just ignore that, you should see if you can do something with that’ and he said ‘If you do I’ll back you all the way’.”
The pair went to see Crisis to discuss putting on a few gigs. “They were thrilled and I set up a page on social media – there was just me at this point,” says Rule. “Applications came in then I realised that we’d need some volunteers to look after this because it was getting bigger and bigger and I couldn’t do it on my own.
“From a lot of people that contacted me I found regional managers across the UK and somehow I found the most amazing people that have stuck with me and done incredible work. Everyone works for free. Alan’s been talking about it and really getting people involved.
Nothing was pre-planned. It didn’t have any staff, didn’t have an office, I just had a Facebook page. We’re now at the point where we’ve got something like 110 festivals and gigs,
“Nothing was pre-planned, it didn’t have any staff, didn’t have an office, I just had a Facebook page. We’re now at the point where we’ve got something like 110 festivals and gigs, quite a lot of them are three-day jobs. We’ve got quite a few well-known names involved. The most important thing isn’t the well-known names, it’s the amount of unsigned, upcoming bands that are on the line-up. The quality is exceptional, we’ve been so lucky and it’s carrying on by the day, I can’t actually keep up with the announcements because they’re coming in one or two by the day still even though we’re about to start the gigs.”
The launch show in Cambridge was followed by a gig featuring John Power and Jay Lewis from Cast at Alan McGee’s Tabernacle pub in Talgarth, Wales.
In Yorkshire and Humberside, NAH regional manager Colin Burr, has helped co-ordinate shows in Leeds, Sheffield, York, Hull and Grimsby. Full details below.
Rule is full of gratitude: “Most of the venues are free, the bands play for nothing, people have just been really incredible and Colin has been fantastic, he’s really done an awful lot.”
The issue of homelessness has been growing since the last economic crisis. From its autumn 2015 count, Crisis estimated there were 3,569 rough sleepers on any one night in England – double the number from autumn 2010.
Rule says: “Through my work with Crisis it’s very much in my face at Christmas every year and it’s always a shock. Every year I think this can’t continue, this can’t be escalating, why is this happening, why aren’t we doing something about it?
“But I know through Crisis and some of people I’ve met there that a lot of people have had a steady job, have been in employment, have been a home owner and they’ve had one or two bits of bad luck, often through no fault of their own, through say a marriage break-up or they’ve become ill and they’ve lost their job, they’ve just gone down the ladder gradually to the point where they’ve got nowhere to go in the end and once you’ve got no address and nobody to help you and no starting points that’s when you’re really in trouble – that’s where Crisis really does come in.
“Crisis is really that first step in finding how to get help and getting back into employment or education. They run Skylight centres across the country where people can go and they can learn new skills, and they can almost learn to socialise again because a lot of people have completely fallen out of society and haven’t got the skills to communicate with people to get themselves sorted.”
Rule says what was “a life-defining moment” for her was an encounter three years ago with a homeless man at a Crisis centre. “He was about 40 years old and wouldn’t come into the shelter to sleep and he wouldn’t communicate with anyone and couldn’t look anyone in the eye, he was just so broken and sad. I sat with him for about three hours and I tried to talk but couldn’t really get anything out of him. Eventually he just broke down, absolutely sobbing and told me a story that he’d never told anyone in his entire life about some horrific things that happened to him in his childhood and as a result of that it had impacted on his whole life up to this point where he daren’t go to sleep where there were other human beings, he daren’t close his eyes in any sort of company, and he’d never told anyone that before so obviously never received help.
“We did get him into the centre, he saw counsellors, he saw doctors that they provide. A little later Crisis put out a promotional video and he was on that video saying what Crisis had done for him had completely changed his life. He had decided that was going to be his last Christmas night ever and he was going to end his life because there was no point to it but he could now feel hope for the future. He’d managed to get this great weight off his mind and been able to tell people and enter into receiving help.
“You don’t always know how successful charities are being or exactly what they’re doing if you’re not involved and that was the moment for me when I thought that is what they can really do and did do for that man and must be doing for thousands of other people every year.”
After its trial first year “that really took us by surprise”, Rule is looking forward to establishing Musicians Against Homelessness as a lasting campaign.
“We’ve had a lot of offers from people who run big festivals, and from large companies,” she says. “We’ve got huge backing from a lot of the rock press, so we’re really well placed to go into next year.
“Because we’ve put together so many really good, solid gigs and involved so many brilliant bands and people I think people will want to come back next year and do it again.”
For more details on Musicians Against Homelessness visit www.facebook.com/mahgigs or Twitter: @MAH_Gigs
Gig list for Yorkshire and Humberside
September 20 – Hull, The Sesh: The Black Delta Movement, DWAS and Team Picture ‘Donations welcome.’
September 23 – Maida Vale, Sheffield: Castellers, Beat The Bandit, The Chessmen. ‘Donation on the door.’
September 23-24 – Spiders Web, Grimsby: Kismet Ryding, Mammal Hum, Tom Tree, Recycling, Sunny & Boo-Boo, Solace, The Brookes, The Lamberts, In Sulks Bark House, August Tides, The Loving Memory, The Resistance, Roxanne & Tom, Rob Boswell, Rickey White, Joel Gladwell and more. https://www.wegottickets.com/event/364768
September 28 – Adelphi, Hull: Waste of Paint. Luuna. The Howl and The Hum http://www.theadelphi.com/events/musicians-against-homelessness/
September 30 – Fibbers, York: Laura Kindelin (Full band), Jimbo Doomface (With band support), Paul Bryce (Founder and lead singer of Rat Catchers Mallets), Lost Trends. http://www.blueskiesam.co.uk
October 1 – Kardomah 94, Hull: Pearls Cab Ride, Happy Endings and Bobby Joyce http://www.wegottickets.com/event/372176
October 8 – RS Bar, Sheffield: The Velcro Teddy Bears, The Incredible Magpie, Stray Scene, Round Are Way, The Trainways, Sabella, The Black Lamps. £5 on the door.
October 13 – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds: The Yalla Yallas, Apollo Junction, The Paisley Royals, Rock Bottom Risers. https://www.musicglue.com/double-denim-live/