Radical Music: 'Boris you're bonkers'

IssueOctober - November 2019
Comment by Penny Stone

This weekend, we found ourselves in the unexpected position of having to demonstrate in the streets to try and preserve parliamentary democracy in our own country.

As a system, it’s far from perfect, but I’m sure most of us agree it’s a lot better than a potential Brexit dictatorship with Johnson at the helm.

Thousands of people gathered in the streets all over the UK to witness their opposition to the closing down of the Westminster parliament.

In Edinburgh, I met a bigger-than-usual proportion of people out for their first demo. I wonder if others found the same?

We were there to make clear to the government that we wouldn’t let this ‘just happen’, but we were also there to show solidarity with our EU passport-holding neighbours.

When the amplified rhetoric of powerful people in government has given false confidence to racists, our visibility as anti-racists is crucial.

One of the songs we sang was ‘Bella Ciao’. Originating during the union-forming work of rice-weeders in northern Italy in the early 20th century, most of us know the Partisan version that became popularised during the Second World War.

‘Bella Ciao’ has become a global anti-fascist anthem, as well as lending it’s oh-so-rousing self to other campaigns for peace and social and environmental justice.

We sang ‘We’ll Stop the Tories’ and ‘We’ll Stop the Coup’, which, it being Scotland, became ‘stop the coo’, and had us all doing highland cow horns every time we sang it.

At the Glasgow demo, I saw some kids had made a ‘stop the coo’ banner as well, so great (silly) minds think alike!

When we sang the ‘we are dancing for peace and freedom’ verse, there were plenty of folk singing and dancing along with us, the sillier the better, and it cheered us all up.

A swiftly-amended marching song from 1980s women’s marches in the US became:

Sisters and brothers,
we’re singing with you,
singing for democracy,
we’re singing with you,
oh singing, singing,
we’re singing with you,
singing for democracy,
we’re singing with you,

as we marched down the High Street.

An inspired verse made up on the spot by one of our Protest in Harmony singers went:

Boris you’re bonkers,
we’re not following you,
we’re marching for democracy,
we’re not following you,
oh bonkers, bonkers,
we’re not following you,
we’re marching for democracy,
we’re not following you.

This verse was requested many times, and brought a smile to everyone’s faces!

When we had sung ourselves hoarse and danced ourselves enough cheer, we closed our singing with the always pertinent Scottish internationalist anthem, The Freedom Come All Ye, acknowledging that ‘… there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin, Through the great glen o’ the warld the day’ (‘… there’s more than a rough wind blowing through the Great Glen of the world today’).

The song also reminds us to ‘… come all ye at hame wi’ Freedom, Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom. In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam, Can find breid, barley-bree and painted room.’

(‘Come all you who love freedom, pay no attention to the prophets of doom, in our house all the children of Adam will be welcomed with food, drink and hospitality).

Topics: Culture
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