A host of top Hull bands are taking part in a nationwide anti-homelessness campaign backed by the man who discovered Oasis.
Former Creation Records boss Alan McGee, who was himself homeless for a time in his youth – but “too stupid to know it” – is the ambassador for Musicians Against Homelessness, a series of gigs taking place between September 18 to October 9, in aid of the charity Crisis.
Some of East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire’s finest musical talent has rallied to the cause, with the Black Delta Movement, Pearl’s Cab Ride and the Happy Endings among those playing several fundraising gigs in Hull and Grimsby.
McGee is the public face of the initiative, but he is quick to credit its driving force and founder, Emma Rule, a Hertfordshire mother-of-two and PR he first met while managing the Happy Mondays.
“She’s amazing,” said McGee.
“I’d worked with her on bands such as the Happy Mondays but I never knew she had that social conscience. Emma is in her mid-40s, she’s got kids, and she and her husband give up six days every Christmas to help feed the homeless.
“She said to me, ‘I’ve got this idea – do you want to be the spokesman for it?’ I agreed because I get the homeless thing – there’s a terrible stigma attached to it. People think it’s drugs and drinking, and stuff like that, but a lot of the time it’s social displacement, people falling off the radar.”
Musicians Against Homelessness is run along similar lines to the We Shall Overcome model of gigs, with local promoters encouraged to organise events under a national banner, using social media to drum up support and audiences.
McGee acknowledged the fact that the gigs have a dual purpose – raising money for Crisis while also raising the profile of local bands, but the latter is more of a happy coincidence for him.
“For Emma, it’s about giving young bands a chance, and that’s cool – but for me, it’s about raising money for the homeless if I’m honest. It just so happens that it will benefit a lot of young bands. It gives them a focus. There are no musical movements any more, really, and this is as near to a musical movement as you’re going to get. We weren’t trying to create a movement, though; we’re just trying to raise money for the homeless.
“I know quite a lot of people who have been homeless; I’ve been one of them, but I was too stupid to know I was homeless. I came to London when I was 19, and we lived in a squat for six months, but I put it down to part of the adventure of coming to London.”
McGee lays the blame for the rise in homelessness partly at the door of today’s “instant gratification” society. “I managed Happy Mondays, and it took years to get there – nowadays people think you go on TV and you’re a hit overnight. Ultimately, nobody’s being honest with each other. It’s like when you’re at school and you’ve done well, you get given a gold star – nobody ever does shit at anything! Then what happens is you leave school at 16, they put you on sanctions… I don’t think people are prepared for reality. School doesn’t really teach you about life.”
Indeed, McGee said he “made it up as he went along” on his way from the working-class streets of Govan, in Glasgow, to becoming a successful businessman at the helm of Creation, which was worth £80 million at the height of its success.
His status as ‘Oasis guru’ undoubtedly lends credence to the MAH initiative, but McGee insists the work being done at a local level is far better than a faceless national campaign. “We’re not trying to be big. All we can do is publicise things – me, as a rock band manager, you, as a journalist – and make people aware that just because somebody’s homeless doesn’t mean to say they’re stupid, or thick, or a drug addict, or an alcoholic. Maybe the world’s conspired against these people at some point. Maybe their wife kicked them out. Maybe they didn’t get on with their mum and dad.
“I don’t think we can judge anybody. A really stupid string of events can make somebody homeless. All we can do as reasonable human beings (and I don’t think I’m a ‘great’ human being at all, but I’ve got empathy) is simply try to raise awareness, and raise money for Crisis so they can help. It’s more than the fucking Tories are doing!”
You can’t really talk about homelessness in Britain today without mentioning politics. And there’s been rather a lot of that in recent months.
“We’re living in the most right-wing times that I think I’ve ever experienced,” said McGee.
“I don’t know what Theresa May is going to be like. I suspect, ‘same as the old boss’. She’s more capable, but that might not be great if you’re young, working class and poor. And then you’ve got the prospect of Donald Trump, and us not being in the EU. I suspect that was a protest vote, the have-nots against the haves, but you’ve got to accept it – it’s democracy. I voted Remain on the basis that we’re gonna get fucked anyway, but at least let’s get fucked in a way we vaguely understand! Now we’re gonna get fucked in a way that nobody understands!”
A spokesman for Crisis agreed that MAH “comes at an important time”. Ed Tait, director of fundraising, said: “Homelessness is devastating, leaving people vulnerable and isolated. With rough sleeping rising steeply across the UK, unfortunately, our services are all the more important.”
The first MAH gig in Hull will be the Sesh, at the Polar Bear, on Tuesday, September 20, when Team Picture and DWAS join headliners the Black Delta Movement. On Wednesday, September 28, the Adelphi will play host to a Speakeasy special with Emily Moulton, The Howl & The Hum, Luuna and Waste of Paint. And on October 1, the Happy Endings and Bobby Joyce will support Pearl’s Cab Ride at Kardomah94.
Speakeasy organiser Adam Brodie said: “We are delighted to have so many bands wanting to be involved and we can guarantee a very special night at our event. Tickets are on sale at various ticket outlets including We Got Tickets and through the local venues and bands.”
Pearl’s Cab Ride lead singer Lyn Acton said she was proud to be able to help out while doing something she loved. She added: “Homelessness is something that fills me with dread. My home is my sanctuary and without it I can’t imagine what life would like. To not have somewhere that you can walk into and call your home must be unbearable… I know I am lucky to have it and never take it for granted. I find it hard to think that in 2016 there are many, too many, people in the world that don’t have this. So to be able to help in this small way doing something that I love is the least that I can do.”
McGee cited the explosion of the internet and mobile world as one of the reasons there is never likely to be another “Morning Glory moment”. Society and music have become fragmented by the whirlwind of apps that dominate modern life and take up all our time.
He added: “If you’re a busy person you’re lucky if you have an hour a day to yourself. It’s no longer ‘do you listen to Blur or Oasis?’ – they’re all these other things that young kids do, that’s what you’re up against. It’s so niche now. I’m as bad as anybody else for it; I’ve got a new iPhone, and Snapchat, Instagram, the lot.
“I don’t think what we’re doing is going to be monumentally huge, but it’s important. It might grow into something huge in a couple of years, with Emma behind it, and I’ll always be by her side – she’s the real hero of this.”
Visit the Musicians Against Homelessness page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mahgigs