2,000 Views of The Four Fathers’ Video ‘Grenfell’, Remembering Those Who Died and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Today is 350 days since the defining UK-based horror story of 2017 — the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, in west London, on June 14, 2017, killing 71 people, and leading to the death of a 72nd person this January. You can find profiles of all 72 victims here.

Last summer, I wrote a song about the fire for my band The Four Fathers, lamenting those whose lives were so “needlessly lost”, and calling for those responsible — “those who only count the profit not the human cost” — to be held accountable. We first played it live, at a benefit gig for a housing campaign in Tottenham, in September, recorded it with a German TV crew at the end of October, and released the video in December, and we have continued to play it live across the capital and elsewhere, making a small contribution to the effort to refuse to allow those responsible for the disaster to move on without a serious change in the culture that allowed it to happen. 

That culture — cost-cutting in the search for profits, rather than ensuring the safety of tenants and leaseholders — came from central government, from Kensington and Chelsea Council, from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which had taken over the management of all the borough’s social housing, and from the various contractors involved in the lethal refurbishment of the tower, when its structural integrity was fatally undermined. Read the rest of this entry »

Over 1,200 Views for The Four Fathers’ ‘Grenfell’ Video, Remembering Those Whose Lives Were Lost, and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Last month, at a party of activists in Brooklyn, towards the end of my annual US visit to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the anniversary of its opening (the 16th anniversary of its opening, on January 11), I played ‘Grenfell’, the song I wrote after an entirely preventable inferno consumed Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in west London last June, killing 71 people.

I wasn’t sure how much the small audience of human rights activists knew about it — how much news of distant disasters spreads around the globe, despite the notion that technology has made us all inter-connected — but I realised when introducing it that it was, for me, the defining moment of 2017, and I’m sure my passionate rendition of it helped one small corner of Brooklyn to understand.

I wrote ‘Grenfell’ last summer, as my response to the disaster, and played it with my band The Four Fathers for the first time in September at a benefit gig for campaigners in Tottenham, as part of their opposition to the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a deeply unpleasant proposal by Haringey Council to enter into a £2bn deal with the rapacious international property developers Lendlease (the destroyers of Southwark’s Heygate Estate), which would involve the council transferring all its social housing to the HDV, with the ensuing destruction of entire estates, and their replacement with new private housing, from which most of the existing tenants would almost certainly be excluded. Read the rest of this entry »

Shouts Interview: Andy Worthington of The Four Fathers Discusses the Importance of Protest Music with Halldór Bjarnason

The Four Fathers at Lewisham People's Day, July 2017 (Collaged photo by Dot Young).Check out The Four Fathers’ new album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ here.

Last month, I was delighted to be approached by Halldór Bjarnason, an Icelandic journalist and musician, asking if he could interview me for his website, Shouts: Music from the Rooftops!, which features interviews with musicians who make political music, including Andy White, from Belfast, Yuca Brava, “a political rapcore band from Puerto Rico”, War On Women, a feminist punk band from Baltimore, and Keyz, a 20-year old rapper from Sudan. The interview is here, and is cross-posted below.

As I noted when I posted the link to the interview on Facebook last night, the “questions, about my band The Four Fathers, and my songwriting, were very interesting — about how we got together, why we perform protest music, and whether I think there’s an audience for protest music these days.”

Introducing the interview, Halldór, noting that I am both a journalist and am musician, wrote that journalists have a responsibility to be voices for the voiceless, to hold power to account, and to be “courageous in seeking the truth.” He also noted that “[m]usicians do not bear the same responsibility exactly, although it can be argued they have a powerful voice” that often has an international reach. He also noted that, although some musicians do not manifest a “socially conscious message,” because they believe in creating music based on their emotions, “Others are more explicit in their lyrics or performance and send a strong message of protest out into the ethos in every single song,” adding, “The Four Fathers are of the latter type.”

My thanks to Halldór for taking the time to interview me, and I hope you have time to read the interview, and will check out our music if you haven’t already heard it. Read the rest of this entry »

Grenfell, Six Months On: The Four Fathers’ New Song Remembering Those Who Lost Their Lives and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

A screenshot from the video of The Four Fathers performing 'Grenfell' - with added titles.Before June 14 this year, anyone reflecting on the skyline of London would think about the Shard, the Gherkin, One Canada Square, the ostentatious towers of the face of modern capitalism; on the morning of June 14, however, a new vision of a tower was seared into the nation’s memory — the charred, still-smoking remains of Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential tower block in North Kensington, in west London, consumed in an overnight inferno with the loss of 71 lives.

The Grenfell Tower fire was entirely preventable. Designed so that each flat would be able to withstand fire until the emergency services arrived, the tower’s structural integrity was destroyed when it was given new cladding — through holes made in the body of the tower, through the use of flammable cladding to save money, and through the gaps behind the cladding that facilitated the extraordinarily swift spread of the fire. At every level, it seems clear — central government, local government, the devolved management responsible for Kensington & Chelsea’s social housing, and the various contractors involved in maintenance and refurbishment — safety standards were eroded or done away with completely,

When I wrote about the fire just two days later, I was deeply shocked to discover that the disaster had been foretold by residents in the Grenfell Action Group, who had stated in a post in November 2016, “It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the  KCTMO [Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation], and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of  looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.” Read the rest of this entry »

No Justice at Guantánamo After 250 Days of Trump

Some of the Close Guantanamo supporters who have been photographed in 2017 with posters urging Donald Trump to close the prison.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Yesterday we marked a sad milestone — 250 days since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. Across the spectrum of political life, the disaster that is Donald Trump continues to damage the US at home and to tarnish America’s reputation abroad, and, while there are too many problems to list, certain recent issues stand our for us —the persistence with which Trump continues to try to implement his outrageous Muslim ban, his racist targeting of black sportsmen for what he perceives as their lack of patriotism, and his warmongering against North Korea at the United Nations.

Islamophobia, racism and warmongering are always to be despised when they raise their ugly heads at the highest levels of government, and when it comes to our particular topic of concern — the prison at Guantánamo Bay — these signs from Trump do not bode well for our aim of seeing Guantánamo closed once and for all.

It is true that Trump has not yet managed to do anything stupendously negative regarding Guantánamo, despite threatening to do so. And so, for example, he has not officially rescinded President Obama’s executive order calling for the prison’s closure, and has not sent any new prisoners there, despite very evidently wanting to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Anti-Austerity Song ‘Riot’, Released on Sixth Anniversary of UK Riots

Listen to ‘Riot’ hereA photo of the London riots in August 2011., and watch the live video here.

Exactly six years ago, on August 6, 2011, riots erupted across the UK. The trigger had been the killing, by police, of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in north London the day before, and for the next three days there were riots across the country — the largest riots in modern British history, as 14,000 people took to the streets.

As I wrote back in May, when my band The Four Fathers released our song, ‘Riot’, which was partly inspired by the 2011 riots, “Buildings and vehicles were set on fire, there was widespread looting, and, afterwards, the police systematically hunted down everyone they could find that was involved — particularly through an analysis of CCTV records — and the courts duly delivered punitive sentences as a heavy-handed deterrent.”

I wrote about the riots at the time, in an article entitled, The UK “Riots” and Why the Vile and Disproportionate Response to It Made Me Ashamed to be British, and my song ‘Riot’ followed up on my inability to accept that the British establishment’s response to the riots had been either proportionate or appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday! Have A Listen to The Four Fathers While I’m Away

A comparatively rare sunny interlude at the often rather wet WOMAD 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Dear friends,

It’s that time of year again, when a whole posse of us from south east London head down to Charlton Park in Wiltshire for the WOMAD world music festival, which this year is celebrating its 35th year!

This will be my 16th annual visit, as part of a group of family and friends running children’s workshops, led by my wife Dot. I first went just after our wedding, and have been every year since — in the festival summers of 2004 and 2005, for example, when I launched my books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield at the Glastonbury Festival, and also spoke and sold books at the Big Green Gathering and the Shambala Festival, and in 2007, the first year at Charlton Park, after the move from Reading, when it became a mud bath, and we feared it might not survive.

But this “hardy celebration of music marginalised by the western pop machine”, as the Times describes it, is not so easily destroyed. WOMAD came bouncing back in 2008, having redesigned its place in the landscape of Charlton Park, and it has been thriving ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ at Vinyl Deptford

A screenshot of the video of The Four Fathers playing 'Masters of War' at Vinyl Deptford on April 28, 2017.Today I’m posting the second of three new Four Fathers videos on our YouTube channel — of us playing our cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’, a live favourite — also featured on the CD of our first studio album, ‘Love and War.’ The video was recorded on April 28 at our most recent gig at Vinyl Deptford, a great record shop in London SE8, which has a wonderful little rock and roll basement, and our thanks to Ellen for making the videos.

We’ve played Vinyl many times before, but this was our first time with our new bassist, Mark Quiney, who joined us at the start of the year, and we hope you enjoy it, and will share it if you do.

I would’ve written an original anti-war song myself, but when The Four Fathers started, three years ago, a version of ‘Masters of War’ just fell into place, and it’s such a powerful song, with such direct and compelling lyrics — from Bob Dylan’s early incarnation as a folk singer and a protest singer — that it made me put aside my own notions of writing an anti-war song until last year, when I wrote ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’, the title track of our forthcoming second album, which, as well as dealing with war, also focuses on terrorism, the refugee crisis and the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play ‘Rebel Soldier’ Live at Vinyl Deptford

Andy Worthington, Bren Horstead and Richard Clare of The Four-Fathers playing Vinyl Deptford in December 2016 (Photo: Dot Young).Today I’ve posted the first of three new Four Fathers videos on our YouTube channel — all recorded at our gig at Vinyl Deptford on April 28. Thanks to Ellen for recording the show.

The first of the videos is of our opening number, ‘Rebel Soldier’, an old folk song that I gave a new tune and a reggae rhythm 30 years ago while living in Brixton. At the time I put together band called the Rebel Soldier with my friend Glyn Andrews, who sadly died some years ago, and we sometime used to play with Vivian Weathers, who played bass with Linton Kwesi Johnson — and who, incidentally, taught me some crucially important lessons about the role of the bass in reggae music.

Rebel Soldier’ is one of a handful of songs I wrote — or arranged — in the 1980s that I have been playing with The Four Fathers since we first formed three years ago. Our recording of it is on our first album, ‘Love and War’, released in 2015, as well as another song from that time, ‘City of Dreams’, five new songs, a song written by our guitarist Richard Clare, and two covers. Another song from that time, ‘River Run Dry’, about the end of an affair, will be on our second album , ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ which also features another seven new songs by me, and two by Richard Clare, and which we’re planning to release in the autumn.  Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play ‘Stand Down Theresa’, An Updated Version of The Beat’s ‘Stand Down Margaret’

A screenshot from the video of The Four Fathers playing 'Stand Down Theresa', a version of The Beat's protest classic, 'Stand Down Margaret.'When I was growing up in late 70s Britain, one of the great political anthems of the time — when we were not short of protest music from, to name but a few artists, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Specials — was ‘Stand Down Margaret’ by The Beat, featured on their debut album, ‘I Just Can’t Stop It,’ which was released in 1980. Paired with Prince Buster’s ‘Whine and Grine,’ ‘Stand Down Margaret’ primarily featured a polite but wonderfully poetic and insistent message, asking Margaret Thatcher, who became Prime Minister the year before, to resign. As the song stated:

I see no joy, I see only sorrow
I see no chance of a bright new tomorrow
Stand down Margaret, stand down please
Stand down Margaret

Here’s Dave Wakeling of The Beat talking about the song in 2013 — and about Margaret Thatcher, about whom he said, “Most everything about Margaret Thatcher was pretend … a way for the privileged to secure themselves at the expense of everybody else.” And here’s fabulous footage of The Beat playing their “insurrectionary anthem” on children’s TV. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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