The Alistair Hullett Tribute Night, organised by the Alistair Hullet Memorial Trust and now in its fourth year, has now become an established institution at Celtic Connections.
Alistair, who sadly died on 28 January 2010, was not only a brilliant singer songwriter but also a serious activist on human rights and justice. His tribute concerts reflect this: don’t they just!
This year’s theme was taken from Alistair’s song ‘Don’t Sign Up For War’ which was based on one of John McLean’s famous quotes during the lead up to the First World War when he encouraged young men to defer from signing up.
The concert started bang on 7.30pm with a brief introduction on the subject matter. The First World War, known as ‘The War To End All Wars’ did not, unfortunately, live up to its name.
The music started with Jimmy Ross accompanied by John Hallam and Findley Napier and a song of Alistair’s that he did not ever record about times getting harder. I could almost hear the man himself at the mic. Their three song set ended with ‘Don’t Sign Up For War’.
The first guest was Penny Stone, a peace activist from Edinburgh. Penny won the first ‘Songs For Social Justice’ competition run by the Memorial Trust in 2011. The song ‘Breaking the Silence’ involves the thoughts of an Israeli soldier in Palestine. She continued with beautifully written songs of Indian women standing against warlike invaders, military drones (named Herons) and school children with the world record for the number of kites in the air at the same time. This lady is one accomplished songwriter!
Tom Leonard, Glasgow poet was next on stage. His performance was a delight to behold. Particular note to ‘The Cesspit And The Sweetie Shop’ (translation – ‘Westminster and Scotland’), a hilarious look at UK and more local politics. Tom has been working on a translation of Brecht’s ‘Mother Courage And Her Children’ to be published later in the year.
Ewan McLennan, acclaimed Scottish singer songwriter, guitarist, winner of the BBC Radio 2 Horizon Award 2011 appeared next opening with Burns’s ‘A Mans A Man’. Ewan was the latest winner of the ‘Songs For Social Justice’ award and rightfully so for his song Joe Glenton about a soldier who refused to return to Afghanistan. Check out the song at http://www.alistairhulett.com. Ewan sailed through a too short set.
After the interval, we were treated to folk legend and a good friend of Alistair’s, Roy Bailey.
A sprightly 78, Roy has not missed any of these tribute nights. (He would be sorely missed if he ever did.) Roy’s performances mix his unique brand of humour, often on the mind becoming absent minded with age, and songs of serious political comment. His first son, ‘I Survived’ concerns a soldier referring his rewards as ‘medals, bloody medals’. Others concerned seventeenth century English ranter Abiezer Coppe, Palestine and immigration. Roy, as always, was a joy to behold.
One further number, ‘I Thought I Had No Voice’ performed by Edinburgh’s Scott Murray brought this show to it’s close.
One suggestion during the concert was that, if a special £2 coin was to be minted for General Kitchener, how about one for John McLean? It’s a thought!