The Unity Festival Pt 2 dream team & loot
This was gonna take a big team, so between us we hit up all our cool contacts. We formed a Committee of about 8 or so from various walks of life, which then met in our house, around a table each Tuesday night.
It was made up of Trade Unionists, anti-racism activists, people we knew from the Club etc. & other cool folk, that between us we could get to help & thought would make a top squad.
There were four main strands to it all. Planning the show, doing all the background work to make it happen, delivering it on the day & the really hard bit... Paying for the whole caboodle.
As you can probably imagine, none of them were easy, all required a tonne of graft & this caboodle - was gonna cost vast sums of cash.
First thing was to call up our friend Stephen at the Council, as nothing like this could have happened without his say so. He was down with it, straight on board & hooked us up with Linda from his crew, who was in charge of what we could & couldn’t do.
It takes a massive amount of interaction with loads of departments to stage something like this. It requires a tonne of meetings & there was so much work on, it was daft.
The whole palava basically came down to identifying the people who were down with our cause & getting them on side with it. Having the Council play ball was key & our friends there didn't want racists to dominate the narrative of the city either.
Old Skool Flava
We called in a million & one favours, to get discounts on everything we possibly could. Luckily, we’ve lived our whole lives in the city by the Old Skool values of the favours game, so the Club has done tonnes of them, for loads of different people over the years.
We got all the equipment & staging heavily discounted from our chums at New York Productions.
Then we got our pal Jimmy (who's since become the City Council's Principal Advisor on Events & Culture) who had big event licensing experience, to do all the paperwork with the authorities for us, at mates rates - Old Skool.
We hit up all our conscious artist chums from WHQ, roping in Akala, Ms Dynamite, Panjabi MC, Natty & the Soul Jammers. We even had a kids Steel Band welcoming people into the park, so it was well on & a really dapper line up, to be staging as 100% free to attend.
We wanted all kinds of food to be there so our chum Nina, came on board to organise all the logistical, health & safety & insurance nightmare, for the multitude of stalls & food vendors we had on the day.
WHQ things kicked off by making a chunky first donation & agreed to underwrite the whole thing, meaning (in a worst case scenario) we guaranteed to cover all the potential festival debt.
We just prayed we could cover as much as possible from donations in the run up & on the day. If we couldn’t, WHQ would have to just swallow any shortfall...
We did everything we could to minimise the risk, cranking up our 24/7 in-house WHQ publicity machine & built a real colourful, cool website for it (skills..!!).
In all so much work & frequent all-nighters went into the designing the website caper, it was quite simply ridiculous.
We got great support & fab major donations from all our chums in the Trade Unions, & bucks from of local businesses too, as we all had hustled like crazy.
All the cool anti racist bods we knew, like Show Racism the Red Card & many others pitched in with help & support.
The WHQ crew didn't let us down either & stepped up - like an 80s Jane Fonda...
Through just selling lollies etc. at all our shows for the 6 month run in, squeezing the hustle for all it was worth, over 11K of our total donations came directly from our Club family.
That chums, is a motviated, anti-racist, 'Youth Culture...'
One of the promoters from the 'Exit' crew, just walked up to us one night, said he was down with the cause & handed us a £20 note, straight up. He wasn't some 'rich-kid' or anything...
Just one of us, a Toon grafter & he epitomised the spirit of WHQ customers. Outstanding & we will never forget that.
Needn’t have worried quite so much, as in the end with all the bigger donations, the 6 months in the Club & collection buckets on the day, we were just pennies away from breaking even.
We didn't know that until afterwards though, so it was mad financial pressure, every single day until the finish line.
Things get daft
It’s really hard to focus a big committee, different people often want to see different things happen. Proper, hardcore, genuine, principled political bods (not like daft Boris & baby Donald) as many of our Committee were, are rarely hustlers with game too & sometimes people just didn’t get us.
So daft disagreements often had to be ironed out, one example being in the publicity…
We were creating it all, were hustling every angle & boldly stated ‘bright sunshine guaranteed’ on the flyer. We knew it was cocky & a (not really in the big scheme of things) risk, but we know what works, we wanted people to visualise in advance (what it actually became) 'paradise' - so they would come.
That phrase actually turned out to be prophetic gold dust...
On the day it was so flippin' sunny, it made everyone who'd seen the flyer, feel they were deffo in the right place at the right time & the Unity Festival had somehow mythically made it all happen.
Moral of that story is - if you believe in karma - don't be scared to depend on & use it. Trust your gut & ride that luck.
But working in a committee setting, it’s polite & at times necessary, to run your ideas past the rest of the crew & convince them of your swagger…
The faff we had to get everyone to finally agree with that was monumental, especially as at the time it was chucking down with snow, on a dark Tuesday night, in the middle of December… Ha!
The pressure builds (& builds)
By January 2015 the Unity Festival was still looking pretty impossible to stack up, but still on course to take place…
So as it drew nearer, our intensity in committee meetings to make sure that happened, meant that we even had rucks with Danny at times, but that just gives you an idea of how much of a pressure cooker it all was.
Proper pressure, that we all felt, lived with for 6 months & were strong enough as a group to always overcome, pulling together, ironing out any issues that cropped up & eventually playing really effectively as a crack team, to reach our common goal.