Glastonbury 2011: Strummerville

Strummerville music charity returns to Glastonbury to host another round of campfire sessions, bringing revellers a mix of new talent and some established names.

Located in its usual spot by the Joe Strummer memory stone in the Unfair Ground, Strummerville will be burning a campfire all weekend long, showcasing the best that the charity’s music roster has to offer.

Every night, emerging acts will have the chance to play alongside some as-yet-unnamed bands on the Strummerville stage by the campfire.

The late Joe Strummer, founder member, guitarist and vocalist in The Clash, first set up camp backstage at Glastonbury years ago. The nightly assembly was soon dubbed Strummerville, and turned into a word-of-mouth institution.

Since Strummer’s death in 2002, the camp has been maintained by the Strummerville charity.

The charity was formed by Strummer’s family, and works to support songwriters both in the UK and abroad. It has launched projects all over the world, including Africa, Latin America and the US, to grant those in impoverished areas access to music.

Earlier this week, M caught up with Trish Whelan, who runs the charity. She was already down at Worthy Farm, knee-deep in mud…

What’s it looking like down there today?
Really bloody muddy, actually! But we got most of our setting up done on Tuesday when the sun was shining. Our stage is up, our bar has been set up, our fire pit has been dug out and our wood is here. We’re good, and now we’re trying to save the land! We started the prep on Saturday.

How do you arrange the Strummerville Glastonbury campfire sessions, is it quite ad hoc?
We’re pretty organised in the chaos really. We have five bands a night, on the hour from 10pm until 2am. Realistically, we aim to showcase the cream of our crop. We’ve got 387 bands on our DIY profile, so the cream of our crop are the best ones, simple as that.

The ones that are doing well and will attract a big crowd?
Yeh, it’s a really great showcase for them because we’ve got so many guest performers who come and share the stage with them. It’s really inspiring for them. Whoever is going to play before [the secret headliner] on Saturday will have a really great experience. It will really help their profile.

Do you have a fixed line-up? Have you announced any of the headline acts yet?
No we don’t announce anything until the morning of, and then it goes up on our chalk board. We’ve got some great headliners planned though, like The Kings Blues and Emmy the Great.

What makes Glastonbury so unique?
I’ve just walked from one end to the other, and there are just so many things that make it so amazing. It’s just not comparable to any other festival on the planet. It’s so magical and diverse. I think the whole thing has come from such an open heart. People are so nice and friendly. Human nature and human spirit have really come to the fore and people are so nice to each other.

When did the Strummerville charity sessions start up at Glastonbury?
Joe Strummer had his campfire here for years – he always hosted a huge campfire at the festival. After he passed away and the family set up the charity, Michael Eavis put an amazing memory stone in place for him. We burn the campfire by the memory stone. He died in 2002 and then in 2003 the charity began running the campfire.

Strummerville is a registered charity and you are all about helping aspiring musicians. What projects do you run that feed into the campfire sessions?
We do quite a lot. We work with FairTunes and funded them to open a recording studio in Bogota. We worked with Support After Murder and Manslaughter up in Merseyside, and we funded the making of an anti-knife crime record and video. Support After Murder and Manslaughter is a charity set up by mums who had all lost at least one child to murder in Merseyside. That was a really positive experience for those kids.

We support Jail Guitar Doors, which is Billy Bragg’s initiative to bring guitars into prisons for people who are rehabilitating. That was a nice project to work on. We’re also putting a music room into an orphanage in Malawi in August.

Your work is really far-reaching…
Yes. We’ve funded quite a few communities in Africa, where we’ve set them up with a full PA van and all of that. We are also working with some people in Detroit. The city has been completely fucked after the collapse of the motor industry. We are opening a Strummerville room there. And we’re opening a rehearsal room at the Roundhouse in London, where kids can rehearse for a pound an hour. We have two rooms at the Oh Yeah music centre in the cathedral quarter of Belfast, where people can rehearse for free. And we have a rehearsal room down at our HQ under the Westway, where bands can rehearse for free as well.

So far this year, we’ve given bursaries to 46 bands to go and record.

Organisations like yours are becoming increasingly important, in light of recent cuts to arts funding…
Especially for the people we support – we don’t get any funding from the Arts Council or others because we don’t fit in with all that bureaucracy.

Do you have any tips for upcoming songwriters who are disadvantaged or who are unable to access the funding they might need?
I suppose they should just try to concentrate on making great music – that’s where it all starts. Make the best that you can. It can be quite easy now to make a good record without lots of money. We endorse a DIY approach, so build your fan base, get on top of your social media, get out on the road, play as much as you can, but ultimately, focus on making the best record that you can. It’s also about speaking to people, that’s how you can get access.

In related news, look out for our Brave New Funding World feature, coming to M online next week.

Download the free Strummerville Songs for the Summer album here. CDs of the album will be given away free at the Strummerville campfire at Glastonbury.

The line-up so far:
Tonight, Friday 24 June
20:00 Narasirato, watch their Glastonbury rehearsal here
22:00 Emmy the Great
23:00 The King Blues
00:00 Gentleman’s Dub Club
01:00 Sound of Rum
02:00 Beans on Toast

Last night, Thursday 23 June
22:00 Bastille
23:00 The Joker & the Thief, watch the official video for single I Do Too here
00:00 Benjamin Folke Thomas
01:00 The Treetop Flyers
02:00 Molotov Jukebox

On Saturday 25 June M online will announce Strummerville’s weekend headline act, who will hit the campfire that night.