#JC4PM: political campaigning with (even more) added laughs
Musicians and comedians get behind Jeremy Corbyn in new touring roadshow
If your idea of a big night out is an evening with Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell and Charlotte Church then you've got a treat coming up. If it's not (and who wouldn't find the prospect of a heavy session with the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Valleys' favourite set of pipes totally amazing?), then bear with me. Edinburgh Festival Theatre, a venue not known for its pulling power with the bigger stars of the rock n’roll firmament, will be playing host in March to Jeremy Corbyn’s touring roadshow #JC4PM.
With the aim of recapturing the camaraderie and campaign spirit that defined Corbyn’s touring appearances during the leadership election, the organisers of #JC4PM say they 'aim to spark an exciting cultural movement which will build support for Jeremy and the politics of hope.' So far, it's unclear what form Corbyn’s roadshow – which includes dates in Newcastle, London and Bristol – will take. Given the line-up, something between a concert, a protest rally and a comedy gig appears to be on the cards.
This is not a new trick; Red Wedge, the fundraising vehicle which saw Billy Bragg drag Heaven 17 and the Style Council into the same conference centre lobbies as Neil Kinnock and Robin Cook, is clearly a reference point for #JC4PM. The mix of comedians, campaigners and pop acts is replicated with Bragg appearing alongside Shappi Khorsandi, Sara Pascoe, Brian Eno and Holly Walsh on the bill. Though Kinnock lost the election Red Wedge cemented Bragg's reputation as the foremost activist-musician of the time.
The logic of PR agents and handlers means that pop acts are usually advised against showing their political colours in public. But in many cases, jumping down into the gutter and weighing in among the hacks has benefitted an artists’ fortunes. Charlotte Church has spent a lot of time since her nation’s sweetheart days wrecking and then reforming her reputation. She’s largely left music for activism, throwing shade at red-tops during the Leveson Inquiry, and during the election began to appear quite the firebrand, following up on Question Time appearances at the head of numerous protest marches. If anything, politics has helped rehabilitate Church from her days as the Blue Peter-endorsed face of morality.
Take Kanye West’s I’m-mad-as-hell-and-can't-take-it-anymore moment, when he claimed during a live telethon for the people of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina that George Bush 'doesn’t care about black people'. A decade on, that outburst, as well as paving the way for the ker-azy antics to come ('Imma let you finish' Taylor Swift, the 'Bound 2' music video, declaring his new album the 'best of all time' … ), cemented West's reputation as a maverick. It pulled him out of the crowd of also-ran rappers drifting around in the mid-noughties and established him as the kind of artist who held opinions that you should have opinions about.
Okay, so #JC4PM might not be the kind of youth-drawing, hashtag-dominating event of the century that its organisers had in mind, and artists wading into the party-political mire is still regarded as PR anathema. But the character-creating movers and shakers behind both music and politics value authenticity above all else. The two are closer than they look.
#JC4PM at Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Wed 9 Mar at 7:30pm.