Sunday, 23 December 2012

A collective sigh of relief

For once, I tuned into Radio 1’s Chart Show earlier this evening to hear – or, rather, see: I was ‘watching the radio’ on the BBC's live stream, which shows how things have moved on since I last tuned in to that particular radio station - who would be crowned Christmas Number 1. To my delight, I witnessed The Justice Collective’s version of The Hollies’ classic 'He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother' take the honour over X Factor winner James Arthur.

The Justice Collective is a group of musicians and celebrities who came together to raise money to pay legal costs for the families of the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy, in which 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives. The group includes Paul Heaton of The Housemartins, Gerry Marsden (Gerry and The Pacemakers), Mick Jones (The Clash), Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze), Eliza Doolittle, Paul McCartney, Paloma Faith, Shane Macgowan, Robbie Williams, and even John Bishop, Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool manager at the time of the horror), Peter Reid (an Everton player at the time) and Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram, who came up with the idea.

It’s the third time in four years that The X Factor have been beaten to the Christmas Number 1 spot, something Simon Cowell took for granted not so long ago. Depressing that a country with the rich music history of the UK ever gave the impression of capitulating to the reality TV show and essentially letting Simon Cowell determine who gets pop music’s most coveted crown, but great to see the tide turning.
Even Paul McCartney couldn't ruin this one

But even more encouraging, I found, was that people with no interest in football and no particular interest in Hillsborough (not to say that they don’t care; just that they hadn't previously been campaigners) united, as did Everton and Liverpool, to make the single in the name of justice. To try and right one of history's biggest ever wrongs. To help the victims' families get the verdict that they deserve. And also that the tens of thousands of people who don't normally buy a record but - if you can get them on board - are crucial to determining the Xmas Number 1 went and bought it. Lots of people tweeting under the #jft96 (justice for the 96) hashtag even admitted to not particularly liking the song but, recognising what a good cause it was for, bought it.

Police officers, journalists and MPs were involved in a disgraceful cover-up, laying the blame with Liverpool fans. On an infamous front page, The Sun claimed that Liverpool supporters not only caused the deaths but picked victims' pockets and attacked and urinated on police officers.
All these claims have since been comprehensively proven wrong, with the original verdicts that the behaviour of Liverpool fans and alcohol consumed prior to the game (since shown to be a modest amount for a leisure event) were 'aggravating factors' recently quashed and a fresh inquest now on the way.

There’s still a long way to go before those families will get the justice that they deserve. Indeed, The Sun (despite being, to this day, boycotted in Liverpool) probably sell as many copies in a day as The Justice Collective have records. It’s a start, though, and a heartwarming story two days before Christmas that gives me hope not only for the future of the British music industry but, more importantly, for the way that Brits will look back at one of the biggest injustices in recent history. It is now almost universally accepted that the original report was not worth the paper it was written on.

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