I was unable to go to #JC4PM in Edinburgh last night as I have responsibilities as a parent at home in west London. I had toyed with the idea of going to Scotland and coming back on the sleeper train (arriving at 7am in Euston), but it takes a heck of a long time to get my daughter ready for school (tights are a particular difficulty at the moment).
It was unfortunate I couldn’t be there as I was hoping to meet Charlotte Church to thank her for supporting the tour and also to get a chance to chat to Jim Monaghan, who is not only a great poet but a community campaigner in Glasgow. I also would have liked to watch Mark Steel, as he was making his first appearance on the tour and is undoubtedly one of the funniest political satirists in the country. The line up was – without hyperbole – one of the best you could possibly see in Edinburgh before August: Jeremy Hardy, Jo Caulfield, Mark Nelson and Barbara Nice were also on the bill.
We (the #JC4PM team) were optimistic that tickets would sell well with such a line up but we found it hard to book a venue and ended up with one of the largest theatres in Scotland. Seeing as we had just started the tour – and we don’t have a massive advertising budget – this was an unrealistic expectation.
It was also unfortunate for us that one of the acts we had booked, Janey Godley, decided to make publicity about being a supporter of the SNP and a JC supporter. We don’t require acts to show a Labour Party membership card or study their views on TTIP to find out if they are suitable, but it was never going to go down well with proud and loyal Labour Party folk who would be a large part of our target audience.
One reporter (who appeared friendly) spoke to me before the event to ask me for a preview and I said that we were not expecting to fill the venue as it was so large. Within hours, he had written that the night was ‘hit by poor sales’ – before it had even started. The same reporter turned up to the event and quoted comedians out of context and alleged that the event was pro-SNP.
It’s clear there are people in the media who oppose Jeremy Corbyn and attack any groups that support his ideas on peace, anti-austerity and an end to top-down politics. It was inevitable that #JC4PM would find itself in the firing line, but despite the opinion of one reporter, most people enjoyed it and it brought progressive-minded people together in a way that no other political rallies do. We also raised money for MND Scotland in the process.
The idea behind #JC4PM was spontaneous. A number of comedians, singers and poets wanted to express support for Jeremy Corbyn. We had no agenda other than to put on gigs to allow people to show their solidarity with Jeremy and all the causes he has spoken up for so courageously for decades. It is in the spirit of Jeremy that we will continue to seek to inspire more people to get engaged in politics – whatever the media says.
Lessons learned from #JC4PM in Edinburgh
- Book venues that seat fewer than 25,000 people.
- Don’t talk to journalists I don’t know on the phone (my brother and his wife are journalists so they’re not all bad).
- Prepare for more anti-Corbyn media and develop a thick skin.