One year of Jeremy Corbyn’s Music for the Many

One year of Jeremy Corbyn’s Music for the Many

Photographer Emily-Jayne Nolan went down to Moth Club, Hackney to capture the anniversary show of Peace & Justice Project’s campaign to save grassroots music venues.

Inside Hackney’s Moth Club, it’s warm. Not quite sweat dropping off the ceilings warm just yet, but it’s getting there. In the centre of the packed out room, people throw themselves at one another as the pounding drums and driving guitars of Ditz fill the room. Atop one of the booths that line the side of the room, microphone cable trailing high above heads from the stage, lead singer Cal Francis holds court, the melee of limbs and bodies thrown into frenzy as the song reaches a crescendo. As Francis heads back to stage, a drip of sweat lands on my face from the ceiling.

You would perhaps be right for not necessarily associating former Labour leader and Member of Parliament for Islington North Jeremy Corbyn with mosh pits, hardcore and grunge and yet, it is precisely because of the man that hundreds were gathered in the iconic east London venue. For the last year Corbyn’s Peace & Justice Project have been putting on gigs up and down the country as part of their Music for the Many campaign.

Music For The Many was set up to give working class people, as well as people from other marginalised backgrounds, a fair shot in the music industry,” campaign convener and Samuel Sweek tells Huck. “Grassroots music venues are absolutely critical for up-and-coming artists and, without them, we stand to lose an entire generation of talent and creativity to austerity.”

“We're building a movement in defence of live music, creativity and the solidarity the arts can help build.”

Jeremy Corbyn

In 2023, according to Music Venue Trust's 2023 annual report the UK lost 16% (125) of its grassroots music venues. Up to 2 venues per week closed permanently despite increased demand for tickets - but the lasting impact of Covid pandemic, cost of living crisis and soaring operating costs have caused unprecedented difficulties, meaning 38% of grassroots music venues operated at a loss last year.

In the last year, under the banners of both Music for a Many and Music for a Ceasefire (which was launched in the aftermath of the devastating bombing in Gaza by Israel which has seen almost 40,000 dead) the project has hosted 9 gigs. The gigs, in London, Brighton, Sheffield, Liverpool, Margate and Manchester have seen approximately 30 up and coming artists platformed so far with approximately 3,000 tickets sold. There are upcoming gigs at Brighton’s Green Door Store (7th May) and another northern date to be announced soon. Money from the events go into funding the campaign and other peace and social justice campaigns around the UK. Music for a Ceasefire shows have so far raised thousands for humanitarian aid in Gaza.

At Moth Club crowds, who saw performances from Gender Crisis, Moskito, Saint Agnes and Ditz, were due to be addressed by Peace & Justice project founder Jeremy Corbyn but the veteran MP was caught in Parliament voting against the government’s Rwanda Safety Bill. Talking to Huck by email afterwards Corbyn said, “We're building a movement in defence of live music, creativity and the solidarity the arts can help build. Grassroots music venues are absolutely vital for up-and-coming artists in their difficult journey into the music industry - they play a key role in helping musicians develop a following, harness their craft and, ultimately, move into the next stage of their careers. The Music For The Many campaign is standing up for grassroots music venues as a beacon of hope and creativity in our communities."

Sweek added to this, saying “As far as our campaign and grassroots music venues are concerned, whether its this government or next, not taking urgent action will mean the death of many more iconic creative spaces. History and heritage hasn't been enough to save iconic venues like Moles in Bath from going under.

Our campaign isn't about making friends in high office or having the occasional ear of government ministers that, ultimately, have done nothing but spend over a decade reigning terror over some of the most vulnerable people in society whilst letting music venues die at an alarming rate. It's about giving them the choice: do you want to protect these incredible spaces in our communities or not? If you do, here is our solution.”

The campaign government action to protect grassroots music venues in the UK, specifically with the creation of a Grassroots Music Venue Fund to support grassroots music's delicate eco-system. It calls for this fund to be paid for with a small levy on ticket sales at large music venues with corporate sponsors - with safeguards to prevent additional financial implications on customers. Using this model, 50p on each ticket sold at a sellout show at London's O2 Arena could raise £10,000 in one night. That figure, campaigners say, could be the difference between a struggling music venue being able to cover the costs of new equipment and disability access upgrades, or staff redundancies and closure.

Music For The Many started as a campaign to lobby the government for action on grassroots music venues and an entire sector at risk of permanent closure - and continues in this role. Music For A Ceasefire brought together about 2000 artists to call for a permanent ceasefire and raised vital funds for humanitarian aid on the ground in Gaza.

But now, with the devastation in Gaza and the deaths of over 30,000 Palestinians under Israeli siege with British and American bombs, the campaign has taken on a new life in campaigning against the culture-washing of the financiers of war, who are using our creative spaces and cultural institutions like music festivals to wash the blood from their complicit hands. Art Against The Arms Trade is calling on UK festivals to drop Barclays as a sponsor and is working to mobilise fans and artists to clean up our creative spaces - and, so Sweek says, “we won't stop until we win.”

Gaza was a key focus of Monday’s event, with headliners Ditz creating a specific Palestine flag merch with all proceeds going to Medical Aid for Palestine. As the night wound down, and crowds came together for one final mosh, chants of Free, Free Palestine echoed out across the glittery arches of the venue.

Photographyer Emily-Jayne Nolan was there to capture all the action.

Find out more about Music for the Many here.

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