Engage for Change interview: Lloyd Dobbs & Jodie Scott

21st June 2018 // Local // Interview // Events // Politics

‘Let’s do the interview in Dive,’ suggests Lloyd.

Pave is heaving on a sunny Friday afternoon. The first prolonged sunny spell we’ve had all year, so everyone’s out, so Dive seems like a good idea as it’s shielded from the sun, as afternoon turns into early evening. We’ll get some peace and quiet.

Or so you’d think.

We got more covered than if we’d been at Pave, but between myself, Lloyd and Jodie Scott, on the HU5 thoroughfare that is Princes Ave, there are constant intrusions, not unwanted, but listening through the hour or so, at least half of it is smalltalk with passers-by and well-wishers. The price of infamy. But we got what we needed.

The three of us are here to talk about the Engage For Change festival which Lloyd and Jodie are helping to organise in conjunction with Hull Trades Council. It’s a free music and arts festival, taking place on June 23rd, in Queens Gardens, whose aim is to celebrate community, hope and activism. It will host a number of bands and artists, stalls and influential speakers, and its primary aim is to engage with people, and hopefully inspire them to be active in their respective communities, and bring about change for the greater good.

It’s an inspired idea. The last General Election brought out record numbers of young voters, which is something that can definitely be built on. I ask Lloyd when the seed was planted for the event.

‘Well, from Corbyn’s election in 2015, to Owen Smith’s unsuccessful challenge in 2016, Hull Trades Council and Joe Ritchie put on a hastily-arranged event in the rose bowl in Queens Gardens. Mark Pollard was involved with the infrastructure, and we put a few bands on. Hillbilly Troupe played along with Joe Solo. Russ Litten, Joe Frances and Nikki Osborne gave impassioned speeches, and the turnout was incredible. So, after that, we wanted to do something else. We thought, “if such a quickly-organised event can draw those kind of crowds, then why can’t we do something similar, get more people involved?” We wanted to put something together that was even more organised. Plan it properly, have a longer run-up and make a really decent job of it. We’re in the process of booking bands. Some big local names are confirmed, which we hope to announce soon. We’ll have speakers too. A main stage and a second stage. Make it a proper event. In reality, we’re looking at 20 top acts, regarding singers and bands, hopefully a bar, a speakers’ corner and a debating area.’

All this sounds impressive. So, the idea is basically to draw people in with the music, and have them come away inspired to get involved?

I put this to Jodie Scott, local activist, and supremely passionate speaker, who is heavily involved in organising the event:

‘Despite the fact that I’m 30 years old, that makes me young in the Trade Union Movement; anyone under 40 is considered young. Lloyd’s been considered for Youth Officer for the Trades Council, and he’s pushing 40 (laughs). There’s a general lack of youth involvement in the activist movement and politics in general, so the goal is to get even younger people engaged. By virtue of my age, I’m involved in this event and the theme in general. There’s Aneesa Akbar, who’s just been elected, along with Shane McMurray, as labour councillor for the Central ward. She’s in her mid-20s, so this is a massive step in the right direction, but we want to get more young people involved, shake things up a bit. But it’s not just about young people, it’s about getting more people involved in general.’

Lloyd’s remit as organiser and member of The Trades Council was literally, ‘get more people in general involved, and this festival is a major draw, and a major development in doing this.

‘Jodie’s right, 30 is young to be involved in politics, and the purpose of Engage For Change, is to aim even younger. There’s a load of young people concerned about Palestine, Syria, austerity, and dare I say it, what Russell Brand’s saying. He’s Marmite to some, and some of his rhetoric is a little misguided, but it’s attractive to young people; he’s talking about green issues, exposing people to Naomi Klein books. Then there’s Owen Jones, who also appeals to young people. They listen to these people, so we’re heading in the right direction. We just want to encourage the youth to be more active.

Why do you think young people are more attracted to the left, or at least to fighting social injustice? These are surely the people you’re targeting to become more active.

Lloyd: ‘It’s social media, that’s what’s done it. Momentum is demonised by certain areas of Labour Party as militancy rising again, but it isn’t. It’s caused young people to care about what’s going on. Like we’ve said, Aneesa and Jodie have engaged with community-based activism, they get it, and young people are thinking, “yeah, this is what it’s all about,’ and engage on a day-to-day basis. They’re balancing the ideas we get from the BBC or right-wing press, and they’ve gone for it.’

Jodie: ‘It’s not necessarily all to do with politics, it’s all about community. Realising we are one. The sooner people realise we are one whole community, the better. Hull isn’t united, but we need to be. We all have the same struggles, we’re all the same. As soon as we realise that and work together, not only in Hull, the world will be a better place. If the country was run right, there’d be no need for charity. When I knock on doors for the Labour Party, people are apathetic to Politics, but they are bothered about local issues. Everyone needs to engage in community, and that’s the only way things change.’

I mention to Lloyd that the youth turnout in 2017 was unprecedented, surely that’s a good thing.

‘It’s not so much about reaching out to young people,’ he stresses. ‘It’s about convincing all people who say “I don’t like politics,” when what they mean is they just don’t like politicians. They’re actually really into politics. It’s just nurturing that and making it attractive, tapping into that, and encouraging people to be active. If something is going down on their street, or a particular estate, encourage them to do something about it, collectively. We know many people long for a change in the political landscape locally, nationally and internationally, and we aim to show that change can come through unity; that there is an alternative to the politics of hate and condemnation through offering alternatives’

I notice a big change in political debate, due in no small part to social media. People are more engaged. In times of crisis and when people are personally affected, they tend to be more aware about politics. You can see from arguments on social media. 20 years ago, people wouldn’t be arsed. Because there was no real change to the status quo with New Labour. Now, there is a very real sense of change in the air. This bodes well for what they are trying to achieve with Engage For Change.

Lloyd: ‘Definitely. And we want to keep that momentum going. I want to do it every year in Hull. You get the Miners Gala in Durham, The Left Field at Glastonbury, you had Red Wedge in the 80s, and the national We Shall Overcome movement. We want that in Hull; we’ve got a long history of struggle, going back to 1642, when Sir John Hotham denied King Charles I entry to the city at Beverley Gate, and even further back. We’ve got a long history, so it’s about celebrating that as much as anything. We have a history of dissent. As a local musician who’s heavily involved with the music and political scene in Hull, I can bring the two things together. Music has an element of dissent anyway. We’ve had our City of Culture spot in the limelight, let’s carry it on and do an alternative one. We want to just get people involved. ‘Resilient’ means putting up with something, our aim is to get people to be ‘resistant’ rather than resilient. Challenge injustice, not just put up with it. Just to get involved in whatever capacity, whether it be with politics, or to just become active in local community.’

As a nation, do we put up with things? In recent times, pre-Corbyn at least, or post-Iraq. We complain, but rarely do anything. If my steak’s cold in a restaurant, I’ll complain to my mates, but I won’t confront the waiter. Is this changing, is this a call to arms? Jodie responds in his inimitable passion.

‘Yeah, we should be more like France. When they go on strike, they really go on strike. But we have done in the past. We do have tradition of opposition. The Trade Union movement was spawned from industrial revolution which started in England. So, it’s there, it just needs to be more.’

So, apart from the bands, Jodie, what else can we expect?

Hull City Action for Change are speaking. Many organisations are coming to speak. We’ve got the Fire Brigade Union coming down to speak. We’ve got kids’ events; Women’s Lives Matter want to get involved. Emma Hardy is coming, and I’m beyond proud to say I’ve canvassed for her. She’s one of the best MPs nationally, we properly rate her. We’re trying to get a speaker from Kurdish community, to help people understand their plight. They’re an important part of the community. Talk about the regeneration of Humber Street, but the Kurdish community has breathed life into Spring Bank, which is literally a stone’s throw away. It was dead ten years ago, and now it’s buzzing with activity. It’s incredible. We want to get Preston Road Women’s Centre involved. There’ll be loads going on.’

Lloyd: ‘There’ll be a chance to raise awareness and money. If organisations want to get involved, they’re welcome to come along and try to raise money. Hull Trades Council want to get people together, to celebrate activism, celebrating Trade Unionism, left-wing politics. Hopefully folks will come who are pissed off with what’s going here, there and everywhere, and they’ll come away inspired to do something about it. It’s basically a festival about hope, positivity, and showing everyone the alternatives, rather than highlighting the negatives.’

As 8 o’clock approaches and people are descending on the Ave for their Friday night out, we’re getting distracted, but I put it to Lloyd and Jodie that I think we’ve covered everything about what promises to be a fantastic day out, with a stimulating ideology. It’ll have something for everyone, it’s a family day out, some of Hull’s best bands are already on board, there’ll be a chance to have your voice heard whilst listening to some of the most passionate speakers in the region and beyond.

They agree, and we switch the tape off and head inside for a whisky.

But Jodie has one thing to add:

‘I’d like to finish on a quote,’ he smiles. ‘Ignoring politics is like ignoring water as you drown.’

Succinct. Relevant. And a call to arms to get involved.

Engage for Change will take place on 23rd June in Queens Gardens from 11am to 6pm. Free Entry.

Facebook Event Page Here

Acts already confirmed:

Yasmin Coe
Work in Progress
Rebel Sell
Freak Scene’s tribute to The Clash - "The Crash" (featuring members of Cannibal Animal, Scheißegeld, Vulgarians, Night Flowers, Hospital Fight, and Slim Tubby and the Vitamin Ds)
Quicksilver Kings
Slim Tubby and the Vitamin D's

Many more to follow including a potentially HUGE surprise announcement. Massive if it comes off.

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