“We’re here to say—as long as we’ve got an ounce of blood in our veins, we won’t stop fighting racism.”
That was the message from current number one act Roll Deep to the crowd of up to 8,000 people at the Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) carnival on May Day in Barnsley.
On top of a huge local turnout more than 20 coaches brought hundreds of people from across Yorkshire and the north west.
These are the areas where last year Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons became the first European Parliament MEPs for the fascist British National Party (BNP).
In that election, more than one in six people in Barnsley—17 percent—voted for the fascists, the highest percentage in the country.
BNP Nazis are now standing for every Barnsley council seat, as well as putting up candidates for parliament.
But they will face a huge fight in Barnsley. Tickets for the carnival completely sold out. Everyone in the town centre seemed to be heading in the same direction last Saturday—towards the gig.
“Things like this never happen around here,” local teenager Amber told Socialist Worker.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve been looking forward to it but I never thought there’d be so many people.”
Chipmunk, The Blackout, Reverend and the Makers, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly and Mumzy Stranger joined Roll Deep at the carnival—plus Neville Staple of The Specials, and the Trojan Sound System.
Local bands including The Rabbits, Gaia and The Delicateers also performed.
Sean of The Blackout told the crowd, “We’re here to have fun. But we’re here for another reason too—to say ‘fuck the BNP!’” That chant was taken up with relish.
Emma, who had come from Wakefield for the day, said, “I’ve come to see Chipmunk, but it’s about stopping the BNP too.
“They’re all over the place in Wakefield. They’re just racists.
“If they had their way, half the bands here today wouldn’t even exist.”
Some 20 pubs, clubs and other venues across the town put on fringe gigs, ranging from alternative indie to old-school jazz, which were packed out with hundreds more music lovers and anti-racists.
Local schoolchildren covered the main carnival site with posters and banners.
It stood just a few hundred metres away from the patch where the BNP do their regular Saturday stalls—and the fascists were there as the carnival got started.
“Suddenly there were hundreds of us walking past them, shouting ‘Nazi, Nazi’ at them,” said Anil, a local school student who has had to pass the stall for years.
“When they saw all of us coming all they could do was shut up and pack up.”
That Saturday there was no place for the Nazis in Barnsley, as young black, white and Asian gig-goers mingled with trade unionists, and local anti-fascist campaigners built links with the next generation of activists.
Kate, a local GMB union rep, said, “It’s so great to see all the young people coming out for something political like this.
“People say there’s apathy but I don’t see any here.
“This is a generation that has grown up side by side with so many different cultures. It gives me hope. They’re the ones who will defeat racism for good.”
There was heavy rain for some of the outdoor carnival, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Thousands stood defiant under umbrellas and rainjackets.
A few times the power cut out, but the audience kept the singing going.
The stage was flanked by massive banners from the NUT and PCS unions, which sponsored the event. Kevin Courtney from the NUT and Hugh Lanning from PCS spoke, saying there was no place for the fascist BNP.
“Love music,” came the call from the stage. “Hate racism!” replied the crowd.
Barnsley trades council was among the local groups backing the event.
Trades council secretary Brian Steele told the crowd, “As trade unionists we stick together and say no to the fascists. Standing here today I am so proud.”
As evening turned into night, the music and cheering could be heard across the town centre.
Anyone who was in Barnsley that day will have picked up the powerful message of unity—that will echo for years to come.
Amy, a year nine school student, was wearing a new Love Music Hate Racism hoodie, said “All my friends are here.
“It can feel like so many people vote BNP, but this shows they’re nothing compared to us.
“Now if anyone says anything racist at school, we’ll know we can stand up to them.
“We’re the future—not the BNP.”