FEATURE: Steve Pledger’s Five Favourites for the The People, Pits & Politics Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The People, Pits & Politics Festival is a multi-venue, multi-speaker/performer, multi-day event which takes place across the centre of Durham on Thursday 12th, Friday 13th and Sunday 15th July.

The Durham Miners’ Gala has been running since 1871 and is the largest Labour Movement event in Western Europe. Every year, the Gala takes place in July bringing speakers and performers from both the political and cultural arenas. It’s a fantastic day: last year, 200,000 people came to hear Jeremy Corbyn and other speakers, see the banners march, and have a great day out. This year there’s also a vibrant political Festival in the two days leading up to the big day designed to help build a legacy that extends beyond Gala day. The organisers have secured a remarkable line-up including music, comedy, poetry and film contributors such as Billy Bragg, Joe Solo, Steve Pledger, Richard Gainger, Gem Andrews, Sam Slatcher, Mark Steel, Jane Burn, Paul Summers, Deidre O’Neill and Mike Wayne, Ken Loach and many others. 

As well as the cultural element of the Festival, it also brings together the very best in community organisers, political trainers and alternative media to empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Taking part are journalist Paul Mason, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and many, many others.

Full details of all the speakers, performers and associated activities can be found at www.pppfestival.com, where you can also buy tickets, of which limited numbers remain so don’t miss out! It’s set to be a very special weekend all-round.

Below is a selection of some of the music and more that’s happening across the Festival.

1). Protest! (Friday, 8pm, Durham Town Hall) Solidarity comes from the heart as well as the head, and music reaches people in ways that arguments can’t. A fantastic line up of folk & protest songs, headlined by none other than Billy Bragg himself! There will also be sets from award-winning singer/songwriter Steve Pledger and the prolific and highly respected Richard Grainger. 

2.) Songs and Struggle: .(Thursday, 8pm, Durham Student Theatre) Music charged with political passion and the desire for something better with three great alternative folk singers: Gem Andrews, Sam Slatcher and Joe Solo.

3). Arise! (Friday 8pm Durham Student Theatre) An evening of poetry and song. Nine strong & varied working-class voices from the North East of England. This event includes the launch of ‘arise!’, a new pamphlet-length poem by Paul Summers commissioned by Culture Matters for the Durham Miners’ Gala.

Poets taking part include Jane Burn (Poet & illustrator), Julie Hogg Poet, (performer & teacher), Joan Johnston (Poet & performer), Mandy Maxwell (Poet, performer & organiser), Paul Summers (Northumbrian poet, performer & literary activist), Rob Walton (Writer, performer & teacher), Andy Willoughby (Poet, performer & literary activist).

This event also includes gifted singers Nev Clay and Bugman (Ryan Siddal). Also, taking place at Sanctuary 21 on Thursday at 8pm is People, Pits & Poetry: Poetry & stories from local performers.

4). Sing-along-a-socialism: (Friday, 6pm, Durham Town Hall) Do you know all the words to Solidarity Forever? The Red Flag? The Internationale? Really, all the verses? The North East Socialist Singers and choir leader Bethany Elen Coyle will run an interactive singing session for everyone, no matter how tone deaf. This will be so much fun! (Friday, 6pm, Durham Town Hall)

5). Comedy Night: (Thursday, 8pm, Durham Town Hall) Probably including a lot of satire! As with music, much truth can be conveyed through this medium and some of the finest proponents of political comedy will be on hand to prove the point. The fantastic Mark Steel is heading the bill, along with John Scott of Sod the Tories, and other local comedians. 

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