Joe Solo to receive 2018 Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award

JoeSoloEACH year the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee presents a Gerrard Winstanley Spade award to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the socialist cause. Previous winners include Tony Benn, Ken Loach, Maxine Peake and Jimmy McGovern. This year the Diggers’ Festival Committee have decided that the socialist singer/ songwriter Joe Solo receive the award. Through his music and dedication to helping others, Joe works tirelessly across the nation and in the Committee’s opinion undoubtedly deserves it.

Joe Solo is an award-winning musician, writer, poet, activist, broadcaster and washing machine engineer from Scarborough. His musical career began in 1987 and has seen him play seven countries either as lynchpin of pop-punk upstarts Lithium Joe or hammering out his unique brand of Folk, Punk and Blues supporting great causes along the way such as the miners, the International Brigade, Hope not Hate and many homeless charities.

On top of releasing fifteen albums since 2004 most inspired by socialist causes, Solo has written books and had them written about him; runs a research project on the Hull Pals Battalions in the First World War; has worked with underprivileged children to help them write their lives in song; hosts a weekly radio show; and still found time to open for the likes of David Rovics, Attila the Stockbroker, Otis Gibbs, Robb Johnson, Edgar Broughton, TV Smith, Paul Simmonds, Emily Portman, Pete Wylie, The Blockheads and Billy Bragg; whilst his songs have been played by John Peel on BBC Radio One, Mike Harding on BBC Radio Two and Tom Robinson on
BBC 6 Music.

In May 2015 Joe helped create WE SHALL OVERCOME, a campaign pushing for a positive response from the music community to the poverty and hardship inflicted on ordinary people by the Government’s austerity program. Since October 2015 the movement has organised more than 700 gigs in 142 towns and cities across 9 countries on 3 continents raising an estimated £350,000 in cash, food, clothing and bedding for those hardest hit. WSO scooped the ‘People’s Choice’ gong at the annual Yorkshire Grassroots Music Awards, and on the back of his efforts The Morning Star named Solo ‘Human Being of the Year’.

In October 2016 Joe was awarded the ‘Outstanding Songwriting’ prize at Yorkshire Gig Guide Grassroots Music Awards for his work on the album ‘Never Be Defeated’ telling the stories of the men and women of Hatfield during the 1984-85 Miner’s Strike; and their song together – ‘Merry Christmas From Hatfield Main’ – raised much-needed cash for a Hardship Fund set up to help those struggling in the former pit communities of South Yorkshire. Just before Christmas 2016 they performed it on stage together with a very special guest, none other than Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

After 30 years of writing and gigging, Joe made his Glastonbury debut in June 2017, taking to the Leftfield stage a skip in his step and a tear in his eye. As he said later: “It only took 30 years! Imagine what I could do in another 30!”

It is with great pride that Wigan Diggers’ Festival Committee awards this years’ Gerrard Winstanley Spade to Joe Solo.

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Another Big Crowd Enjoy 5th Bumper Festival –

Here’s the first batch of photos by Al Balmer, from Saturday’s big do. Despite the showers earlier on, the weather improved throughout the day and the Festival was another resounding success. More photos to follow.

Maxine Peake presented with 2014 ‘Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award’ #WiganDiggersFest

Maxine Peake on receiving the Wigan Diggers’ Festival Award on 07/09/14.

Maxine: “this is better than any Oscar or any BAFTA …..”

On Sunday local award winning actress Maxine Peake, who is currently playing the lead role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, was presented with this year‘s “Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award” presented annually by the Wigan Diggers’ Festival committee.

The accolade is for her “outstanding contribution to the cause of making the Earth a common treasury for all” in the spirit of Winstanley and the Diggers’ movement, and follows on from another recent award to the locally born actor, by Bolton Socialist Club, for her “outstanding contribution to Socialism” in the shape of a Honorary Life Membership of the club.

Appearing on the BBC’s Culture Show last year, Maxine — known for her roles in Silk, Shameless, Dinnerladies and The Village, and who is the holder of a Broadcasting Press Guild Award — spoke of the influence of her grandfather’s left wing politics, and how these helped shape her view of the World.

Last year, she also wrote and performed in a play on Radio 4 about the occupation of Parkside Colliery at Newton-le-Willows by women led by Anne Scargill back in 1994.

Speaking on behalf of the Diggers’ committee, their media spokesperson Stephen Hall said: “Maxine Peake is someone who has remained true to her socialist principles. Despite her growing fame as an actor, she has never lost touch with her working class roots. Instead, she has used her notoriety and work as an actor to speak out against the government’s ‘crippling austerity measures’, and to support protests against them.

“She has also helped in recent years, to revive interest in the annual Peterloo Massacre commemoration event in Manchester, is a Trustee of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, and supports numerous other progressive causes. She even worked as a volunteer and served behind the bar at our second Diggers’ festival” (shown below) Mr Hall said.

Actors James Quinn, John Graham Davies & Maxine Peake serve the first pints of Gerrard Winstanley and Diggers 1649 Ales at the 2nd Wigan Diggers' Festival in 2012

Actors James Quinn, John Graham Davies & Maxine Peake serve the first pints of Gerrard Winstanley and Diggers 1649 Ales at the 2nd Wigan Diggers’ Festival in 2012

“In our view she’s an unsung hero, and a jewel of the British Left, and someone we should all want to treasure as a big asset to the movement for social equality and social justice in this country.

“It’s on this basis, and her absolutely fantastic and much acclaimed reciting of Percy Shelley’s poem “The Masque of Anarchy” (written shortly after the Peterloo Massacre) at last year’s Manchester International Festival, that we decided to present her with our own version of an ‘Oscar’ in the shape of our annual Gerrard Winstanley Spade Award, the first ever one of which we presented to veteran Labour MP Tony Benn last year.

“Sadly, Tony is no longer with us, and is a huge loss. We’re hoping Maxine will be around for very many years to come.” Mr. Hall said.

Coverage in last week’s Wigan Evening Post:

Maxine Peake "Jewel of the Left"

Maxine Peake “Jewel of the British Left”