This Saturday evening, Northern Quarter on Wood Street in the town centre plays host to an eclectic line-up of bands and musicians in aid of The Welcome Centre.
Dubbed ‘We Shall Overcome’, the event is inspired by the May Day Festival of Solidarity and has been running since 2015, holding over 1000 gigs around the country and raising an estimated over £500,000 to support people in communities who need help accessing food and clothing due to finding themselves in financial crisis.
The Welcome Centre, based on Lord Street next to Huddersfield Mission, has been running for over 20 years helping to plug the gap where people find themselves in food poverty. These people are in crisis and need urgent help. This can happen worryingly easily, especially with more people living wage to wage. An unexpected bill, a broken-down washing machine, health emergency, job loss, a delay in benefits. All of these events and more can lead someone to not have any money for food at all, and long-term food access issues will likely have dwindled any meagre store cupboard supplies.
Huddersfield trad-folk musician Johnny Campbell is the man behind Saturday’s event. Having been involved with We Shall Overcome events in the past – whether attending, performing or planning – Johnny said: “As we emerge from covid it is absolutely crucial to start these events up again to support the most vulnerable in our society,” and the staggering figures showing the numbers of people attending our local food bank would very much agree.
The pandemic has brought more people than ever to the doors of The Welcome Centre. In 2020, they handed out 10,495 food packs, representing a whopping 200,000 meals; 2021 saw this number rise to 320,062 meals-worth. Each pack is a 7-day food pack, and there’s a big focus on ensuring the food isn’t just there, but that each pack contains a good variety of items that will enable the recipient to make healthy nutritious meals.
“The Welcome Centre has been supported by We Shall Overcome events across Huddersfield and further afield for about 7 years now,” said Emma Greenough who is the Fundraising Manager at the centre. “During that time, demand for our foodbank has risen significantly for many reasons such as changes to the welfare system, inflation, job loss, covid, and more recently the cuts to Universal Credit and the rise in day to day costs.
“Individuals and families find themselves struggling to afford the basics, let alone any additional costs they may face. Although The Welcome Centre and food banks such as ours are not the long-term solutions to this issue, we are here now, doing what we can and supporting more people than ever before. As more adults and children need food and toiletries, the cost to provide that service goes up, and The Welcome Centre is truly grateful for the support from events like We Shall Overcome that are taking place this weekend.”
On the evening, Johnny will be joined by Huddersfield’s own blues maestro Pat Fulgoni, Millie Milner & the Deadnames (making their debut as a band after recently transitioning from a solo act) hailing from Manchester, three poets-turned-rockers known as Bard Company, and more. The decision to fundraise for The Welcome Centre has been fuelled by the results of austerity over the last decade or so: “We know the volunteers at The Welcome Centre do valuable work, often out of sight, plugging the gaps created by sweeping policy changes, resulting in a reduction in income and a higher cost of living. What was uncommon over ten years ago is now so commonplace that 2.5 million people have used food banks since 2020.”
As Fundraising Manager, Emma Greenough is appreciative of the efforts of all involved with the event; “A big thank you to Johnny for organising and for Joe, Kelter and all the other bands supporting the event. Hope you all have a great night!”
“The best way to support our foodbank is to make a financial donation via our website or Facebook donate. Alternatively, we need food items that are in date such as tins of curry, chilli, long-life milk, instant noodles and toothpaste.”
Another way to help is to volunteer. The centre is recruiting volunteers for all sorts of different roles including logistics, warehouse, reception and advice and guidance. If you’d like to find out more about volunteering, click here.
Tickets for Saturday’s gig can be purchased here, whilst donations can be made here.