Lynda Walker of the Belfast-based International Brigade Commemoration Committee (IBCC) reports on events in Derry and Belfast on 25 and 26 April to remember the bombing of Gernika…

Joe Solo and Teknopeasant were the stars of two shows that the IBCC organised in Sandinos in Derry and at the Black Box, Belfast. 

The ‘Peace on Earth’ events were held to observe the 87th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika and to begin the May Day celebration of workers’ unity and rebellion against the capitalist society we are imprisoned in. 

Some IBMT members will remember Sandinos when we went there to commemorate the lives of Bob Doyle and Jack Jones in 2009.

Joe Solo and Teknopeasant were a good choice as rebels, conservationists, peace and political activists and outspoken young men – by my standards! 

Teknopeasant, among other things, is an organic ‘small farmer’, who spends his time between Derry and the Sperrin Mountains, along with others protecting the gold that some rapacious people want to ‘liberate’. He led a singing troupe, including Paddy Nash, into County Fermanagh playing the banjo on the country lanes when the G8 misappropriated most of the hotels in the area in order to hold their war games summit in 2013. 

At the Gernika events Teknopeasant sang about protecting the Sperrins, about free Palestine and sang about the bees, asking us not to cut the grass before May! He came straight from the mountains, boots and all, and, figuratively speaking, taking no prisoners.

Joe Solo was very different to Tekno, but they have shared values – hatred of the wealth society, of war in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan, and of poverty. Joe sings mostly his own songs and donates much of his money, working with food banks, anti-war groups, Palestine medical aid and of course the IBMT.

Teknopeasant performing in Derry. Main picture shows Joe Solo on stage in Belfast.

It got quite noisy at times when he asked the audience to join in on the chorus; sometimes it was just one word and other times maybe words in Spanish and Catalan. It was easier when Teknopeasant invited us to join in on the ‘Bee Song”, going ‘bzzz, bzzz,bzzz’.

The event was not top heavy with speakers, though we did have messages from the trade union movement. Derry Trades Council was represented by Ruaidhri O’Sandair. Dooley Harte spoke on behalf of the International Brigade Commemoration Committee about the hundreds of people that were killed on 26 April 1937 in Guernika and the parallel between then and now in Gaza.

Joe had been to Belfast twice before but it was his first time in Derry and he was keen to get a look around the city that appeared in the news so much during ‘The Troubles’ and that also brought forth the first punks.

He didn’t have much time to do that but a taxi driver, Kevin, who lives in Derry and listens to the radio programme that Joe broadcasts in Scarborough heard that he was coming over. Kevin contacted him and offered to take him on a tour of the city. Joe really appreciated his generosity. 

Joe commented on what he saw on his Facebook page:

I am not picking sides here. Looking at it from a class perspective you see how nigh on impossible it would be to think beyond the colours you were born into, and the learned hatreds compounded by the deaths and wounding of family and friends by violence immediately sold to you as your birthright, and a struggle burned into your DNA.

If I have any position on this, it is that same class perspective gives me hope that those wounds heal and that both sides come to see their lives will improve exponentially by working together against the economic forces which keep them at the bottom, while those who sit at the top are only too happy to let old sectarian wounds fester if it helps line their pockets.

The IBCC thanks Aileen, Roisin, Simon Mulheron and the staff in Sandinos and to the staff in the Black Box.

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