Tonight was a benefit organised by No Sweat, and money raised was also going towards Nueva Generacion. This is a collective raising money for a new social centre in Colombia, and they got a chance to take the mic as well as someone from the Colombia Solidarity Campaign, which was pretty interesting.
Descending into the Cross Kings basement, I found it crammed full of chairs and a disproportionate number of older folk wearing blazers. The bar seemed to be doing a roaring trade in wine and fruit juices, not the usual freely-spilled cider, and these were my first clues that this wouldn’t be the kind of No Sweat benefit I was used to. However, the usual good-natured atmosphere ensued.
Hils Barker was supporting, a ditzy lady whose off the wall remarks and wild tangents were pretty endearing. She did a good job of warming us up with her amusing observations of the strange setting for a comedy gig, and got out her guitar to do some impressions of the Kerrang Radio channel.
I was wondering what Mark Thomas was going to pull out of the bag tonight. Much of his subject matter, and the kind of stunts he pulls to highlight issues, come as a shock to the middle-aged, middle-class audience he reaches, but are not so surprising to the activists who rock up of an evening at a Cross Kings benefit. However he managed to come across pretty spectacularly, covering content from his three most recent projects ‘It’s The Economy, Stupid’, ‘Belching Out The Devil’, and ‘Seriously Organised Criminal’, in his trademark speaking-at-a-million-miles-an-hour verbal offensive.
I saw Thomas do his Coke spiel last year at the Latitude Festival, but he managed to keep all of his material completely fresh despite only a few months passing. Some of the funniest quotes of the night came from the reception he got while doing the Coke tour, and his genuine wide-eyed shock at the kind of crap people come out with in an attempt to discredit his work was infectiously hilarious.
Some of the techniques he has been employing in dealing with issues close to his heart are genuinely impressive in their ingenuity, and he left us with the news that his lawyers are looking into the fact that police have discretionary powers over what counts as a protest and what counts as a ‘media moment’. Discoveries like this are working to seize back some of the liberties that have been eroded at an alarming rate over the past few years.
The evening was a good’un, and No Sweat remains one of the most active organisations to be putting stuff on and alerting people to their existence in London at the moment. Roll on the next benefit, which I’m told will be another ska night…