by / September 14th, 2009 /

Love Music Hate Racism

The Love Music Hate Racism campaign was set up in the UK in 2002, with the aid of Unite Against Fascism and the Anti Nazi League, to combat the rise of political parties such as the BNP. Inspired by the 1970s movement Rock Against Racism, it launched with a special gig in Manchester featuring Doves and Ms Dynamite and has gone on to host various events across the country and work with artists such as Badly Drawn Boy, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly and Morrissey. A nationwide Irish wing of the organisation launched this year and State is delighted to be working on a number of projects with them, kicking off with a live gig at the Purty Loft this Friday.

To mark this we spoke to LMHR’s Kurt Nikolaisen about the organisation and why it’s so important.

How did you personally come to get involved with LMHR?

Well, I was completely unaware that there was a BNP in existence in the UK until a few friends mentioned it late last year.The idea that there is a legal political party spreading hate across the UK who also have a base in Northern Ireland and have tried to stir up trouble here in Dublin is really alarming. I suppose a lot of people seem to think ”ah well, its not our problem…we don’t have any parties like that here in Ireland…” but in fact we do, although I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of naming them. All I’ll say is that this party got 600 first preference votes in that last local elections. That could be 600 families that believe lies like ‘immigrants are taking all our jobs’ and ‘refugees and asylum seekers get housing quicker than an Irish person or family’. I wanted to get active and felt that there was a need for a broad anti-racism campaign here in Ireland and LMHR was the perfect campaign for me to get involved in. Plus,I’ve had all kinds of racist remarks thrown at me though the years. Its quite funny when I reply in Irish and in the thickest Cork accent I can muster.

How did LMHR Ireland come about?

LMHR Ireland has been there for years. There have been a couple of groups up North that have been putting on gigs for quite a while, doing great work up there and even helping get people out on the streets to protest against the attacks on the Roma families. That’s the aim of LMHR campaigns, not just for people to come to the gigs but to get out there on the streets and show that racism will not be accepted on our society. They had their own LMHR festival up there which was huge success. Cork, Galway and Dublin have had LMHR gigs too but there wasn’t any kind of national campaign so to speak. I contacted the people that were putting on these events and basically talked to them about creating a national LMHR Ireland in the same vein as the original UK campaign. Everyone thought it was the right thing to do, so we did it.

What has the response of the Irish music industry been like?

I’m really surprised to be honest. I won’t name any names but we really have not got the support we thought we would get. I mean,all a person has to do is google Love Music Hate Racism and you can see the kind of support the UK Campaign gets – Doves, Basement Jaxx, Pete Doherty, David Grey. Maybe people want to see if it works first before they put their name on it, maybe they don’t think racism is a problem in Ireland. I’m not really sure about the logic of that one. Tell that to the taxi drivers that get abused constantly or the families in Tallaght that have had dead animals put through their letter boxes. Or the families in the North that were attacked and as a result left the country. There is a strong undercurrent of racism in this country and if people want to turn a blind eye to it and pretend that Ireland perfect well, that’s just silly isn’t it??

We were invited to Electric Picnic this year and it was a great success. If I was to list every person who is involved in the Irish campaign it would take up the whole page, so all I’ll say is that there is a lot of good people involved in small and large parts from all walks of life. There are thousands of members of the public that have shaken our hands, added their contact details to our database and joined our websites. The power is with them, so even if the industry has been slow to start the public haven’t and that’s the absolute key to the success of the campaign. Also, we have recieved a lot of emails from up and coming bands who are dying to get involved.

Are Irish people too blasé about racism here?

You can’t generalise really. Some are laid back and don’t see the problem with a few jokes here and there. Others are not so laid back and would like to punch me in the face when I back up immigrants who work here. In fact,I recently did some work for a friend on a building site and nearly got in a fist fight with another site worker because I disagreed with his point that “foreign workers work for less. If they weren’t here,the employers would have to pay better wages because we won’t work for that kind of money.” At first I thought he was joking. I tried arguing the point with him,and nearly won him over when he pulled the ‘are you even Irish’ card.

I’ve talked to people on the street here and they say ”Racism? Sure there’s no racism in Ireland. Why would people be racist? That’s just stupid”. In a way, it’s great to hear that but quite disturbing in another. Pavee Point Media Monitor is a great source for news, so if anyone thinks there’s no racism in Ireland,have a look at that site. So yes and no is your answer.

How big a problem is it?

With little gangs running around Dublin singing anti-Jewish songs, the BNP having their main call centre in Belfast, a racist party getting 600 first preference votes in Dublin elections…it’s a big problem. But something like this only becomes a problem when it affects the individual and unless people are shown that it is a problem, it’ll go ignored.The point is we have to stop it before it gets any worse.

Has the economic downturn made it worse?

Of course it has. People are desperate out there, they are angry. The government have let them down, the unions have let them down. They want to vent their frustrations and at times like these racism and fascism thrive. All it takes is one person to start knocking on doors and saying “90 per cent of all new jobs went to foreigners last year” or “asylum seekers are draining this country dry” and soon there will be enough people in one area that believe it to start their own little faction. Did you know refugees and asylum seekers get less then €20 a week to live on? And that’s if they are adults. Children get around €10. They dont get ‘socializing money’, they don’t get ‘housed quicker that the Irish’. Iif you want real facts go to Integrating Ireland (who have also been a great help to LMHR Ireland) and they have some facts that will change the urban legends and lies that are whispered around this country.

Some people have the attitude that a person should only get aid from the Irish government if they are Irish. Well, some of these people come from countries where there is no government,no social welfare and some people have no hope of living past 25. This country may be in financial meltdown but we have no idea how good we have it, even in these times. Ask yourself, how would you like to be treated if you were in their shoes? 30 years ago in the UK it was No Blacks,No Dogs,No Irish and there are more than a lot of people around who can tell stories of what it was like going over to England looking for work.

How can music help?

People look up to musicians. They imitate and follow everything they say or do. Music is a seriously powerful universal language. Music is fun. Gigs are fun. Festivals are fun. We were at Electric Picnic and the vibe was unbelievable. I didn’t feel like I was in Ireland at all to be honest – apart from the rain, the mud and the empty cans of Dutch Gold. We felt like there was a little of every culture on earth at that festival, that’s the way it should be. Music is a good way of getting to the masses. It’s one of the most valuable things on this planet. People respond to it. That’s why the Sight & Awareness campaign is something fun that people can easily get involved in and enjoy doing. When you’ve got a bunch of people in a crowd or on a stage all with different skin tones and different accents, it sends a strong message.’Many people who suffer racist attacks feel completely alone. In fact some feel that they can not even report it to the Gardi because they feel that they wont do anything about it. It’s a way of bringing people together. Simple as that. Love Music, Hate Racism. Does exactly what it says on the tin!

What do you specifically want to achieve in this country?

The Anti Racism Network have launched a campaign to see that that BNP call centre in Northern Ireland is shut down. You can go to our website to read the open letter calling on people to unite across the 32 counties and have this call centre shut down. People must remember that racism and fascism is not just limited to one area and one country. That’s the kind of attitude that lets it spread. So please go to the website and read the letter. Don’t forget that the BNP claim to represent people from a ‘Celtic’ background – don’t let them represent you. Also people need to get involved in the Sight and Awareness campaign. There is no point in a bunch of us going around the country saying “Hey!! There was a racist attack in Dublin and we are here to tell you about it” and put on a gig. People have to campaign on their own issues so …

Go to the website www.lmhrireland.com
Register your details
Report and racist attacks – no matter how big or small
Form your own LMHR groups (or get involved in an existing one) and put on your own events in your own areas.

The success of the campaign rests with the members of the public that support it, so go on. Get involved! Love Music Hate Racism Ireland!

State.ie presents a Love Music Hate Racism fundraiser at the Purty Loft in Dun Laoghaire (Monkstown DART) on Friday 18th September featuring Saving J, Sweet Jane Unplugged, Little Green Cars and DJs Love Action. Tickets are €7, doors at 8pm.

We want more bands, artists and DJs to get involved – email info@state.ie now…..