It is a battle cry but not one that is steeped in any political agenda, it is an urge to remember that once upon a time we cared for all in society, for it used to be that a whole village was responsible for the upbringing of a single child, the care of one is the care of all. Yet somehow we have become beleaguered, convinced that it is the right thing to do to ignore all the bad aspects of society, to not care about the homeless, the sick, those we perceive to be living a life of feckless abandon; it is a society that is on a tightrope, precariously balancing between keeping head held high and toeing the line eagerly signposted by many politicians or falling into the void themselves.
There is always hope, it is fundamental to our survival, we cannot continue on this road of destruction, we should and must conquer the evil creeping in, we must allow ourselves to feel compassion and understanding that what may happen to one today, could possibly happen to us tomorrow.
Coming up with the We Shall Overcome in Liverpool, and which has been taken on by many others in the various other towns and cities putting on music was the initial brain child of a local music fan, a woman of absolute substance and to whom what she saw move stealthily into the streets, into the houses of her beloved city made her realise that something can be done to help those to whom the Saturday night out of town reveller might step over, might miss in the shadows. Val Colvin is that woman of substance, proud of her city; full of passionate conviction and one to whom We Shall Overcome has become a personal motto.
The nine day long showcasing of music for various charities is one that Val Colvin and her dedicated team have spent months organising. The inaugural We Shall Overcome in 2015 has grown, taken root in even more towns and cities throughout the country and for the first time has taken the short hop across to the Isle of Man. With many venues holding events and musicians giving their time and energy to Ms. Colvin’s cause, it is a privilege to be able to catch up with her and talk about We Shall Overcome.
We shall overcome again!
Val: “It has come round again – very, very, quickly and this year we’ve not just called it W.S.O. Liverpool, we’ve added Merseyside onto it as well because we’ve got six events in Birkenhead and the Wirral and we’ve got one in Formby so it’s growing around Merseyside.”
Not just Merseyside, there are other events around the country.
Val: “There are 250 events around the country, in 123 towns and cities, so it’s a big, nationwide thing, there are also two in America and one in France I believe so we’re pushing it further afar, further afield, it’s great!”
You must feel proud to know it’s mushroomed effectively.
Val: “I certainly do, it’s great to see so many people around who are just like me, who want to help people, who can help people and there are lots of people who just want to give a little bit back to society. We want to help people in need, we’ve got some great charities to share with, more grass roots charities who get by on nothing; they raise every penny. There are no grants or anything so we’re helping these charities as well.
This year, we’ve got a diverse range of charities, on the Wirral, we’ve got the Spider Project which is a recovery charity, we’ve got a kid’s charity on the Wirral, we’ve got charity mainly involved with Liverpool street teams based for the homeless and needy at the “Bombed Out Church” – St. Luke’s in Liverpool, we’ve also got Crisis who are benefiting from our arts auction this year. We’ve got a couple of domestic violence charities and we’ve got one that’s really close to my heart, Kids Connect which is run in north Liverpool by a lady who takes children on holiday four times a year, she runs a little charity shop, that’s how she gets all her money so that’s very close to my heart as I’m a children’s nurse.”
You do have that affinity don’t you? Not just with the area but with your professional background, being a nurse, which is the greatest profession!
Val: “When you need a nurse, it’s the greatest profession, when you need a fireman, that’s the greatest profession, we all do our little bit, when I need a reviewer – it’s great! I see a lot of different people from all walks of life as well and we help them on course with our nursing care but my passion is going to listen to a lot of music and I know a lot of musicians and I know a lot of great people in Liverpool.
So this has become an easy thing to do as everyone has said yes, the musicians for our events, the venues, the sound people, the photographers, all the artists who have given us works for the art auction, Adam Partridge who has given a day on the event as he did last year, everyone has said yes. Someone said to me last year, it’s just fantastic, you’re putting on. I said but I’m just cheeky and I ask and I was very naïve about it and it’s all just come together because people always say yes. There are people like me, young and old, middle-aged, who all say yes.”
It’s a wonderful thing that you’ve done and that you’ve managed to achieve it, how does that make you feel? What does it feel like to get to a second year?
Val: “Last year I found it difficult really to find grass roots charities, so we picked some major charities like the Whitechapel Project and food banks and this year, people have come up to me with more and more charities that would like our help, grassroots charities and that saddens me because that means there are obviously more and more people who are needy, homeless. You can see it on the streets of Liverpool, I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to do this, when homelessness is abolished, people don’t have to go to food banks for support, domestic violence victims get their grants and support. I’m sure we could find something to raise money for or just to put on an event for, let’s just do it because we can.
It saddens me deeply that more and more people are struggling and that some parts of society are rejecting other parts of society and people are suffering and there are people who are genuinely suffering out there who can’t feed their families, who can’t pay the rent, got no electricity and it’s very sad.”
It’s all very well sitting out there in the sunshine but you need to look in the shadows.
Val: “You do for sure and you find that people who think people who are homeless are the druggies, alcoholics, they want to be homeless and there are some people who have got into the habit of staying on the streets because it’s their lifestyle but that’s mainly due to mental health issues more than anything. There are a lot of people who end up homeless, there’s the bedroom tax, there’s those who’ve moved back with their parents and they’ve died and they can’t keep on their house, there’s a lot of zero hours contracts, they’ve not been paid this week, they go to the food bank, it could be more or you, it could be anyone, we’re two pay packets away from being homeless.
I work in the N.H.S., it’s becoming more and more privatised, there could be a day in ten year’s time when I won’t have a job and I might struggle. I’m a true believer in goes around, comes around, I’m not looking for help now myself but I’ve had help in the past.”
That’s the thing, if I don’t look after you now, who’s going to look after me later on?
Val: “What’s made my heart grow more and more this year is that I’ve met some fantastic young people who are 16, 17, 18 and they come up and talk to me, they want to help me with the charity and what I say to them is that I know my generation, I’m in my 50s and I say to them I know my generation is safe in your hands because if you are like this when you’re young, you’re going to look after me when I’m old and their children will do the same hopefully and society will get better, things have got to change.”
One last question on that, I know some of the bands that you’ve got on, what are you looking forward to?
Val: “I’m looking forward to them all! There are some bands that I don’t know so I’m looking forward to seeing them, there’s an open mic – so you don’t know who’s going to turn up for that – Ian Prowse’s night. There are lots of people who are my favourites but I’m not going to name just one of them because they’ll all just shout at me! I’m more music in general and I’ll listen to everything and I’ll buy their albums as they are usually struggling musicians with day jobs and they do the music and then come and help me for nothing, some who don’t even know me before, I just think they are fantastic people because they just want to help the same as me.”
Not being from here, I find it interesting from that point of view, that the musicians and artists from Liverpool are quite possibly the most giving that I’ve come across in the whole world, wherever I’ve been.
Val: “I think you’ll find Ian that you are now an honorary Scouser so I don’t think you can get away from that as much as you would like to – I’ll get you a certificate! I think people in Liverpool are just giving all the time and I can tell you that some of the people who have given have nothing and I see them and you can see from where they live or from the way they are, the clothes that they wear and I know you can’t generally judge but you can see that they’ve got nothing but they will give you their last bit of nothing. We’ve had some fantastic art from people who you can see have nothing but give you amazing things, they struggle with their lives with mental health issues, having no money or no jobs but they still give us art and it opens my heart wide. I am brimming with pride as I say they make it all easy for me to do.”
Val, I wish you all the best for all your wonderful events.
Val: “I’m really pleased again that you’ve got involved with us again, you’re doing this for us, it really means a lot – please put this in as it means a lot to us honestly! You better had!”
Ian D. Hall