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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 19, 2008
    The difference between art and politics
     
    'The great only look great because we're on our knees', once said Liverpool-Irish trade union leader Jim Larkin. Dick Gaughan quoted him tonight during his set at the Liverpool Working Class Music Festival, to help illustrate the difference between art and politics. 'I'm about to sing a song which says just about the same thing,' Gaughan said, 'except the song has got nine verses... that's the difference between art and politics.'

    Actually art and politics mixed well this evening. Gaughan's committed big songs were complemented by the English whimsy of Leon Rosselson and the liberating bile of Attila The Stockbroker, with local acts Alun Parry and rapper Young Kof completing a very generous bill. Each in their way sing great songs (and in Attila's case, perform great poems) about the lot of ordinary people.

    Inevitably Attila stole the show, with his 'pre-emptive party song' celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher, "Maggots one, Maggie nil, allelujah! Maggots one, Maggie nil, allelujah!". Rosselson's The World Turned Upside Down (popularised by Billy Bragg) focussed us on St George's Hill, site of the utopian Diggers' experiment in egalitarian community and now site of an exclusive golf club and, behind high security gates, the home of Cliff Richard. And Young Kof managed to win over a substantial portion of the mostly folky audience with his charisma, his raps rooted in Liverpool life getting the respect they're due.

    All this, in The New Picket, a venue which boasts a fantastic mural painted by Belfast artists and highlighting Irish people who have influenced the life of Liverpool over the years. Appropriately enough, the central figure of this artwork is Jim Larkin.