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ITS A LONG ROAD AND ITS A GOOD CAUSE

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James and Scottish CND

 

“War is just about business”, sang Tim Booth, frontman of indie rock band James, to a crowd of 3,000 at The Corn Exchange in Edinburgh on 24th April. “We’re happy protesters, right Andy” says Tim on stage to the charismatic trumpet player, Andy Diagram, wearing the bold black and white Scottish CND t-shirt. James were supporting the 50th anniversary of Scottish CND on their recent Scottish tour to promote their new album ”Hey Ma” with its anti-war title song and lyrical, compassionate honesty…”Hey Ma, the boys in body bags coming back in pieces”

 

Music has always been one of the main routes on the paths towards peace. Sing, dance, write, protest, imagine, resist, hope, do…..peace is a verb. One of the songs which is part of my autobiographical soundtrack of peace and non violence is “She’s A Star” by James who were one of the most popular bands of the 90’s. Last year they reformed to great acclaim and asked my friend Andy Diagram, one of the original line-up, to rejoin them. In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of Scottish CND, I approached Tim the lead singer with a view to asking them to support this. Thus began the musical adventure in increasing the visibility of Scottish CND and finding new contexts and challenging spaces for the dissemination of information and knowledge about the contemporary situation in Scotland. Perhaps, most importantly, reaching new audiences who are outwith the catchment of trade unions, party politics and the structural social framework of the peace movement. I prepared a formal proposal for the band and the record company with a portfolio of images, information and context for the importance of Scotland. We received support from the SCND council and felt the wind at our back. We sailed into the new year with a definite commitment from the James management and gathered our energies for the April gigs. We had permission to fundraise, have a strategic position for a stall, have a small exhibition of images and to use the name of the band to generate publicity. The group in Edinburgh who gathered together to help at the gig were all James fans or had a deep interest in music and wanted to put our energies into new areas of work using our skills, contacts and doing things for peace through the art forms we love. We collaborated and worked with Aberdeen CND as James were playing there on the 25th April and similar fundraising and promotion of Scottish CND was to happen at the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre. The week before the gig saw a whirlwind of rushed activity; Bruce Kent fi lmed a three minute DVD of his written statement of thanks and support to the band. The band worked on a press release with us and Tim came up with his view on Trident thus, “If Britain insists on arming itself with weapons of mass destruction it seems traditionally underhand to park them all in Scotland”. Parking suggests the idea that they can be removed. A mutual vision. The press release and Bruce Kent statement were placed on the James website through the Fans Forum and received hundreds of hits within a day of posting. We had a highly prominent position for the stall at both gigs, we distributed hundreds of the Peace Chain flyers to fans, a core group group with whom in terms of age or demographic we do not have frequent discussions with nor can assume agreement. This is an exciting fresh challenge to dialogue with people and sharpen our insights into how much knowledge people have and how they feel about nuclear weapons in Scotland. The first generation of James fans, my peer group, are now bringing their children to gigs and we have a chance to speak to the younger generation in a context they respect. Here is a snapshot of questions and comments from the night “Hi, does CND still exist then. Didnae know that, good to see you here”, “No, I didn’t know about the parliament vote in June. What does that mean?”, “What powers do we have within devolution to get rid of Trident and what are the Scottish parliament doing about it,” “Is that right, are the UK’s nuclear weapons all based in Scotland”, “Good to see CND here”, “Whit’s the name of they subs on the Clyde again’’. The Scotland’s For Peace Book was a great success, giving people the chance to express themselves in a simple gesture. We raised approximately £700 from the events. We all enjoyed working together enormously; Mark Ballard, David Ferrard, Lisa Rigby, Rod Watters, Ewan Bain in Edinburgh and Sinde Astraea, Mike Martin, Sally Dickson and Emma Morrison in Aberdeen. Adam Beese and Wolf Konowski were very helpful and transported everything to Aberdeen. We all felt it was a successful venture enhanced by the pleasures of dancing, the odd beer and the warm humanity of the band, with a special thanks to Andy Diagram. It has in true peace fashion generated new musical ideas for the future which we are currently developing in Edinburgh.

Lorna Waite