NHS rally and gig with The Farm/John Lennon McCullagh and speakers

NHS Rally
Whitworth Park
Sunday 29th Sept 2013

‘Saving the NHS is a moral issue and not just a political issue…’

55 000 people march through Manchester in support of the NHS and the mainstream media doesn’t seem to notice.

In an emotional afternoon in Manchester Park the Justice gang gets to ride again with a gig at the end of the biggest march in Manchester in recent years- protesting against the government flogging off of the NHS. The march went past the Tory party conference but the high walls around the conference meant that the blue ties inside couldn’t see or hear the march which sort of sums up the Tories…

This time, the Justice Gang, they are part of a whole afternoon of speakers and fellow musicians sticking up for the NHS as it gets attacked from every angle by the vultures of greed that run the media and the money makers who want to slice up a health Service that is owned by us and not them and is theoretically not theirs to sell…

Meanwhile while the Justice Gang are back onstage, riding into town to sing for everyone’s supper- with The Farm bringing their anthemic All Together Now to headline an afternoon when the  50 000 strong NHS march- a statement of beautiful intent as the Tory party arrived in Manchester for their party conference and ended in Whitworth Park with a series of speakers and musicians sharing a stage, sharing a platform to make statement about the vile attempt to steal our NHS from us and sell it to the kind of freaks who think that making money from being sick is ok.

‘Huh, you think it’s funny turning sickness into money…’ as Joe Strummer would have sung if he was here- which you kind of known he would have been if he had not been stolen from us.

NHS rally and gig with The Farm/John Lennon McCullagh and speakers

Singing for the NHS is like singing for the 96- rallying the troops, empowering the marchers or creating a powerful emotional moment in the last days of sunshine of the endless summer of 2013 punctuating great rapid speeches fro union leaders like Len McClusky or politicians like Andy Burnham or Coronation Street actrress, Julie Hesmondalgh or writer Owen Jones whose speech is inspiringly brilliant  as is the speech from Frances O’Grady, the first female TUC general secretary and  Leigh MP and Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, as well as the talks from campaigners or workers in the NHS who get the chance to state their case for once.

The Farm cap the afternoon with that aforementioned emotional moment when the Stalybridge brass band joins them for that killer version of All Together Now. The stripped down Farm play acoustic embellished by the powerful brass band.

The power and the beauty of a brass band in full flight is something else and as I stand amongst them in my compere role I am lost in their sound that is part northern and part pure emotion as they blast their brass in their matching blazers whilst the Farm play a great acoustic version of their classic song that could well become the anthem of these causes with its powerful communal message sung against the sea of selfishness down the road.

It’s a great musical moment and would make a great new version of the single but it’s not the only musical highlight of the day- opening band Bolshy are a young ragamuffin band of ska punks from Liverpool who mix ska punk with African music in a highly effective whole- would love to hear more of their stuff.

Also on the bill is 15 year old wonder kid John Lennon Mccullagh who is so assured it’s stunning. With his debut album about to come out on Alan McGee’s new 359 Records label, young John is the potential trump card in McGee’s new musical campaigns.

He takes the stage on his own armed with an acoustic guitar and harmonica- a packet size Bob Dylan with great songs and brilliant lyrics that make him a potential voice of his generation. This is the underrated generation who are far more plugged in than the media would like you to believe and have concerns and now a voice. There are far more teenagers out in this march than there was back in my youth but even then Mccullah is younger.

It’s time to make a decision teenagers- you either let One Direction speak for you or this youthful and sharp Doncaster wonderkid and his fistful of great songs or speak for yourselves…

And it’s great seeing the young singer deliver back to back with the impassioned political speakers- it all fits perfectly.

The NHS is an emotional issue.

It’s so much part of our culture and lives that we have forgotten how important it is.

There is a danger that we sleepwalking into losing one of the things that but the great into great Britain and let Richard Branson or some nameless bloke who owns an island take it over and make money from the sick.

At one end of Manchester’s Oxford Road the Tories are settling into their sumptuous and well-fed arses into their conference seats- that over fed flesh squeezed into the creaking seats for their annual conference in a city that will have nothing to do with them.

Wherever I go people look baffled ‘what are they doing here?’ they say- not so much in hate but in genuine bafflement. The strange site of the ruddy faced David Cameron running into the Midland hotel in Manchester makes Manchester cringe- this is the city of  Peterloo, Suffragettes, Karl Marx, Radical thinking , Tony Wilson, Morrissey, Ian Brown and many, many others- an endless roll call of cultural powerhouses and radical operators- not Tories.

The 50 000 strong march and the stirring rally are the real voice of Manchester and the afternoon is a triumph.

The campaign starts her- there are gigs to organize- a tour to complete- the Justice gang are riding again and this time it’s for the NHS.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Apparently, G4S prevented the national Beeb reporters from really filming the march from the G-mex. However, that should not have prevented them from asking local Beeb for the coverage we got in the local news. Laziness? Or maybe a reflection of the irrelevance in which London regards the rest of the country. After all, it was only a bunch of ‘northerners’ (actually loads of folk came from all over the country). This is blatant regional and political bias. The ‘Westminster bubble’ has been imported to Manchester. Obviously, as far as the ‘bubble’ is concerned, 50,000 ‘ordinary people’ demonstrating against the government is not worthy of a report nationally. This is just a local story.


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