Monthly Archives: August 2012

Flowers, sandblasting, Burma, Bahrain and Colombia – Day 2 Global Solidarity Summer School 2012

Day 2 started on a much more somber note than out introduction. I had heard about Bahrain in the context of the Arab sprin
last year but have been ignorant of its events since then. Tara o Grady from Bravo (Bahrain rehabilitation anti violence organisation ) gave a heartfelt appeal to our conscience.  Bahrain is a country not too dissimilar to Ireland, except of course for no freedom of expression or association.  The horror stories of what has happened to people protesting the Bahrain regime were sobering.  In the weeks after the much publicised pussy riot court case and their 2 year sentence in Russia for singing an anti state song in a cathedral it
was interesting to hear the story of Ayat Al Qurmuzi who received 1 year for reading a poem against the king. There are Irish businesses in Bahrain and people over here have a chance to let our opposition to brutality be known.

We then went to our respective workshops on Colombia, Burma, Palestine and the clean clothes campaign.  All worthy of their own stories and all appalling to hear about.  The depressing tale of children in Ethiopia who need to fill 18 boxes of flowers before being allowed home from a days work, the morbid story of the settlements and the displacement of people in Palestine, the trials of the Burmese people and the danger facing trade unionists in Colombia were all shared.

We didn’t end on such a negative note and we all set off uplifted in the knowledge that we can all play a small part, be that encouraging action in our unions (stories aplenty of solidarity committees and their achievements in PSEU, IMPACT, UNISON, NIPSA, INTO and SIPTU and the vast sums that have been passed on in solidarity) or even writing a damn letter.  If you feel that the world is perfect then maybe reflect on those well off, if you don,t feel it’s perfect let’s change it eh?


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Ireland’s Oddest Pop Stars Pt1

Michael Landers

I was delighted to see a mention of Michael Landers on the excellent BrandNewRetro site. They have some really great scans of early Irish pop music magazines like Heat and Spotlight. It is always well worth a visit.

In 1971 a new face appeared in the Irish pop charts. He took to the road to bring his youthful stage-presence to the people of Ireland. His first (and only) chat song climbed all the way to number 11. It spent five weeks on the charts. That was appropriate because he was five years old! Michael was the youngest of six children from Kilcullen, county Kildare and according to court records had been performing from the age of three.

His chart song “If I could be a sailor man” featured “Mr Taxman” on the B-side. What taxes young Michael must have had on his mind are anyone’s guess. Hopefully not taxes on the old age pension!

One of his career highlights was a gig at Dublin’s National Stadium in September 1971 where he appeared on the bill with Slim Whitman.

 Part of an ad for a Michael Landers gig in Ballinamore, county Leitrim in Feb 1972.(Note the name Christy Moore on the  bill as well as the fantastic news that the hall was specially heated. That makes me wonder how cold a lot of the ballrooms of Ireland were in the early seventies!

Landers released another two singles on the Ruby label, neither of which charted. Yet the reason his short career was cut short was because of laws preventing children from touring the ballrooms of Ireland. Enter Fine Gael TD Oliver J Flanagan who was well known for his very hostile attitude to certain groups in Irish society. Oliver J expressed outrage about young Michael.

In an extraordinary court case the boy’s father argued that parts of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act was inconsistent with the Irish Constitution.

The Irish Government kept quite a few of the laws they had inherited from the British. One of these was the pre-Independence Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act (1904). This was designed to protect the exploitation of children by making them work in unsuitable conditions. When young Michael went on tour tickets were sold and a few people raised objections. According to court statements in nine months his appearances had earned £2,000. £800 was put away from him, while his career cost £1,200.

The Irish Attorney General refused to rule the Cruelty Act as unconstitutional. He even told the young lad that he was free to perform…just not within the 9 pm – 6 am period outlawed by the act. He also told him that once he reached double digits, age 10, he could become a professional singer with minor restrictions!

He was never heard of again.

Here the question that we can think about arising from this case?

Should we have restrictions on how many hours children can work?

What should those hours be?

And at what age should children be able to work full time?




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Global Solidarity Summer School – day 1

“Knowledge is power and I’m looking forward to bathing in know,edge and spreading it after the weekend” is how ICTU President Eugene McGlone ended his welcome address today at the 4th annual Global solidarity summer school in Wexford.

Eugene’s words came after Minister of State Joe Costello opened the summer school with words about his area of responsibility for trade and development at the department of foreign affairs.  The minister is putting the finishing touches to a white paper for Irish aid which is a result of extensive consultations with civil society in Ireland. Minister Costello spoke about how he intends there to be a summer school for Irish aid in the future. He also spoke on how the trade union movement has a role in bonding society together.  This was a common theme through the afternoon as delegates were poised with the question of how do we make the union movement relevant. One way is through participation in society as a whole and be active in campaigns, campaigns like the one that will replace the millennium development goals which are up in 2015. As Ireland takes on the eu presidency for the first half of 2013 this small country could have influence on what will replace these goals.
The global solidarity summer school had approx 80 people all trying to find ways that they can help make a difference. These people are a starting point, a chance to go back to the wider trade union movement in general and Force change upon it.  Discussions took place around Colombia where one of the Colombian delegation that travelled with an international group this year has been missing since April. There was also talk about Palestine where jack o conor from siptu is on the record as saying “what’s happening in Palestine is the greatest crime to humanity over the past hundred years”.
Roland Munck from dcu posed the question to delegates “what is global solidarity “. Is it just stopping the race to the bottom? is it about decent work for all? is it stopping forced child labour?  Or is it more?  He suggested we can’t look at one country in isolation and that globalisation is not only about capitalism spreading its wings it can be about organised labour too.  It made for a good debate and the question is there more to global solidarity or is it just good to have friends is one that will provoke reaction from all involved in trade union activism. Judith kirton-darling spoke of solidarity being a two way process, where workers in Latin America support their European colleagues in the battle against Austerity
The range of speakers was really impressive, visitors from the TUC in Britain and the wider trade union movement were in attendance.  Judith, as mentioned above, is a member of the ETUC and Jeffrey Vogt was over from the ITUC. There was talk of the Cuban 5 and how Irish trade unions could work with sister unions in the us to get these people freed and allowed to see their families. The diversity of opinion from the floor meant that we could have been talking al night about the inequalities of the world but one thing was for sure the people in attendance on this wet Friday afternoon want to try and engage with the wider trade union movement and society as a whole to see if we can really make this a better and fairer world for all.


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Bands that changed a life – New model army


New model army

It’s almost impossible when thinking or reminiscing about the modellers not to look back on their top of the pops appearance.  Lead singer slade the leveller appeared dressed fashionably in his “only stupid b#####ds use heroin” t-shirt. Confrontational anarcho punks conflict then amended this slogan to proclaim that “only stupid b#####ds sign to emi” and the war was on.

My introduction to nma was way before their emi days. They were on abstract records and had just released their debut 7″, the price.  I read the review in sounds and added them to my list of bands to check out when I next travelled across the water to probe records in Liverpool. A year later I got the never mind the jacksons here the Pollocks album of which they had a song, small town England. This prompted me to actively seek out their vengeance lp and I wasn’t disappointed. vengeance was a regular on my turntable in the mid 80’s. There was an intelligent anger about the band and a sound which was infectious  to me.  Heavy bass lines and incredible drumming led a rhythmic rabble that I couldn’t get enough of. Then I heard they were coming to ireland to play in the tv club, to say I was excited was an understatement.  In a way it became my introduction to putting on gigs yourself as I was felt the admission was expensive, £5 for a poor student was the bulk of my weekly spend. I wrote to the band, I interviewed them for my fanzine and asked directly why it was so dear to see them play. Of course the answer I got back was a reasonable one about costs associated with a gig and all that goes into it, promoters, agents, publicists, all those working on the gig need to get paid.  I felt it was too much and resolved to do my own thing – that eventually morphed into hope promotions and I stepped out of that world of the music industry. 


Nma continued with it and I did follow their progress with interest. Myself and the wild hearted outsider went to see them a few times, travelling to London, Liverpool and other places and meeting the loyal crew that made a modellers gig unique. Clogs, hands in the air at coordinated times and a camaraderie rarely equalled at a music event. This is a special band. 

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Not only boxing at the Stadium

When Rock n Roll came to Ireland! The National Stadium was there!
This is a great one. Front page of the Irish Press, November 19th 1956. It is one of the first, probably the first, rock n roll gig in Southern Ireland. I like the description of the crowd response: “The performances were punctuated by hand-clapping, cheering, whistling and a few boos. Occasionally enthusiasts rose to their feet to demonstrate physically the effects of the music on them.”
Irish Press Monday, November 19, 1956 Page: 1
It is funny to think how many outstanding artists performed at the National Stadium. It was built for boxing, yet from the start it was used as a music venue. Another early gig was by Louis Armstrong in May 1956. In fact he played two sets that day. A matinee gig was added although the reviews suggested it was only half full. Either way it is proof that by the late 1950s jazz had a fairly decent audience in Dublin. His film appearances certainly helped make him a recognisable figure in that era.
wild hearted outsider

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The Olympic Bounce

Lots of the acts featured on the wondrous Olympic opening ceremony have enjoyed huge sales increases this week.
Maybe that is the solution to the decline in music sales…hold the Olympics every week!
65 songs from the top 200 were featured in either the Olympics opening or closing ceremonies. It certainly proves that Mega Events can stimulate sales!
 wild hearted outsider

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Topping the charts is getting easier

Rihanna: Dismal sales take her to the top of the charts.
Quite a few stories this week about how few copies Rihanna shifted of her new album. Yes it got to number 1. The problem is that it sold the fewest copies any number 1 has sold in a single week since accurate records were kept. It sold fewer than 10,000 copies. I’m including a few links to news articles about this.
Interesting from an Irish point of view is that before Rihanna the lowest sales for a number one album were the Cranberries.
According to reports Rihanna plunged to number 8 this week.
This article goes into a deeper analysis of the current state of the industry. Very interesting reading.
the wildhearted outsider

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Gimme Something Better Please

Gimme Something Better – “The Profound, Progressive, and ocassionally pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day”
by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor (Penguin Books)

I love these types of books.  Historical, geographical and telling a punk rock stroy.  Every City has a story and more and more cities have these collections.  The style of writing is similar to John Robbs Death to Trad Rock book, or American Hardcore by Steven Blush.  It consists of quotes from people. The authors must have spent exhaustive hours trying to get eye witness accounts recorded with stories covering nearly a 30 year period.  It must have been an editing nightmare to decide what made it to the cutting room floor.  It is no surprise that to hear that it took 3 years to complete this 489 page book.

As for it’s story – well The title says it all. Even though they are not mentioned on the title this does start at the start.  Punk rock coming to town and bands like the Nuns, Avengers and Crime starting up.  An avenue I quite enjoy is where the book talks about venues.  Punk rock (and music) isn’t just about bands turning up to play.  There’s a whole network of people making things happening, people who may have never touched a guitar in their life. These people are recounting their perspectives here.  Another aspect is the energy, excitment and fear that came from attending punk shows in the 70’s.  You would most certainly be returning from a night out with more marks on you in those early punk days.

As punk rock developed in the Bay Area and people started making things happen for themselves you really get that feeling through quotes from those who made the fanzines, booked the shows, attended the shows and bought the tshirts as well as from band members.

I must admit a slight bias. Back in 1980’s Dublin I used to devour the punk zine maximum Rock’n’Roll, often called the punk rock bible MRR is still in existence today.  It was through MRR that I could find out about all those cities around the world screaming their lungs out.  I have an abiding memory of receiving a reply from Tim Yohannon (RIP) after sending questions for an interview with him, the then editor.  Tim spoke all his answers on to one side of a cassette (anyone remember those) and did a compilation of SF bands on the other side.  That type of inclusion and respect carried through to me for so much of what I did with music. Every month MRR had scene reports and tons of reviews and intrerviews. better still it had addresses where you could write to people.  Some of those interiewed for Gimme Something Better were old penpals of mine. Others were zine wirters of zines I bought regularily or of bands that subsequently played in Dublin.  Through Hope Promotions (and then Hope Collective) I was lucky to be in a postion to provide some assistance to some of the East Bay Bands.  It’s nice to hear how they started up through these pages.

Reading all the accounts it made me want to check out some bands I missed first time round, like the aforementioned Avengers and also to dust down those 7″s of bands like Winona Ryder, Econochrist and Monsula.  It also made me want to revisit those Green Day, Dead Kennedys, Victims Family and Operation Ivy records that haven’t had an airing for me in 2011.  The soundtrack will go on for ever.

My life is better for reading this book- I suggest you root it out and then make it happen in your town.


niall hope

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Pride Parade 2012

“He’s just a stereotype” is what the Specials sang many years ago. I remember the night the Specials first played in Dublin. I remember getting the bus home from town and some rude boys were travelling out to the Stardust to the gig. I was envious but it was a case of too much too young as my parents decided that me as a 13 year old would not be going. Instead I had to content myself with my rude boy badges on my black (and then red) harrington. This was my uniform, my statement to the world. I like the Specials, I like punk rock, it doesn’t matter what you make of it.
Interesting that 21 years on I was to attend a parade of people making a similar statement. It all started when my union conference passed a motion a couple of years ago to participate in Dublins Gay Pride Parade. There was much discussion over this and thankfully the motion passed practically unanimously. Our union would parade in solidarity with members whose sexual preference was for people of the same sex. I had never attended a pride parade (my reason being that I didn’t feel any wish to express my sexuality in public) and didn’t attend with my union colleagues that year, nor the next. However something changed at our conference this year. Firstly I got elected onto the Unions Executive Committee so there is a certain responsibility that goes with that. Secondly it was mentioned that the motion previously passed in regard to parade was in danger of being ignored this year. Turnout from PSEU was very disappointing, in much the same way as people can be hesitant to come out in public, many people are hesitant to be seen to be union activists, especially a public service union. So with that in mind I made it my duty to ensure we would be represented. Many people feel unions are irrelevant in todays society, I would never subscribe to that view but can totally see the reasoning behind it. So much work has been done in this country to better the conditions of the working man and woman and with most improvements in working conditions there is a strong union propping them up. Unions are relevant when people require decent working conditions, when they are looking for pay rises, when dealing with work expectations and leave arrangements. If these hard earned gains are already in place then where’s the relevance? Of course it is there to ensure these conditions aren’t eroded beyond repair. Anyway union talk can come another day (and will). I’m here to talk about pride.

The day of the parade came and we had banded together a dozen assorted folk to go along. As I boarded the bus (going in the opposite direction to that Specials gig 21 years ago) I suddenly became self conscious. “What if people see me on the March….oops parade”? I was thinking, “Would they think I was gay?” And suddenly it seemed to matter. I was amazed at this internal reaction. Of course I reasoned it out with myself but I couldn’t prevent that initial feeleing. I have spent all my adolescent and adult life saying it’s ok to be what you want and do what you feel. Your actions and how you treat others are what count and yet something very simple like walking down O Connell Street in full public view with a bunch of amazing people dressed in some of the most outrageous and colourful costumes you ever will see felt a little uncomfortable. And this is where society comes in, this is where organisations like PSEU and other trade unions can lead the way. it is ok to be gay, it is ok not to be gay. It really doesn’t matter and until society fully accepts this there will continue to be a need to have Pride day.


niall hope

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Euro 2012 – dreaming about you.

Now that was a nice distraction. All discussions around bail-outs and currency and interest rates and EU/IMF were concentrated on events on the football pitch in Poland and Ukraine over the past month. From the kick-off in Poland to the trophy being lifted in Ukraine all European matters revolved around football in my house. My 3 kids were driven to distraction by my demented warblings about the political situation in Ukraine. European history was discussed around whatever game took place. Russia and Poland – let’s talk about Glasnost – England v France – gentle rivalry across the channel – Germany v well anyone really and World War 2 raised its head. And then there was the Spanish – my son’s project on Spain became about Homage to Catalonia and how it was notable that the Spanish team don’t really sing the country’s national anthem (maybe like the Irish rugby team they could make one up……)
But what about the football?? I coach an Under 11’s team and have been drilling into them for the past couple of years the importance of passing the ball and trying to keep possession. Goalkeeper must roll the ball out and players must rotate all positions. If you don’t start a game one week you sure as hell will be starting the following one. It is all about learning the game and how to play as a team for these lads. Of course that means they make mistakes (the best way to learn) and they score less goals than the opposition in some games. But every game they do something worthwhile and it doesn’t involve any mirror image of the way Ireland or England played in the tournament.

How disappointing were the Irish and English national teams? I felt Ireland were going to have a torrid time as the three teams in our group were so superior but I had hoped that we could achieve something notable against them. I suppose we did this, but for all the wrong reasons. Least passes? Ireland, least shots on target? Ireland, most goals conceded? Ireland. Our neighbours across the Sea may have fared better with results (they finished the tournament unbeaten) but their football was awful. It was a worrying trend this season when Chelsea won the Champions League. I am all for the underdog but can’t accept Chelsea being the poor relation of Bayern Munich or Barcelona. They played a bad brand of football and the English national team played like them in the Euros. Thankfully Italy put paid to theat style.

Imagine saying that that about Italy, but they were great to watch – as were Spain. Every pass was a joy for me. I can now prepare for pre-season training with what will be the Under 12’s safe in the knowledge that it is ok to pass, it’ll pay dividends in the end. Stay true..

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