Booth (Vidal)-Hall

Steve IgnorantIt’s fair to say that Hereford has been crying out for an alternative, do-it-yourself music venue for years. Just over a year ago sister-and-brother team, Willow and Arran Vidal-Hall, moved up from Bristol and took over the Booth Hall.

In 12 months, with the help of other committed people, they have given the live music scene in Hereford a massive shot in the arm.

We sent our intrepid reporter Helen Heckler down to the Booth to catch up with Willow.

HH: How did you end up in Hereford?

WVH: Well to be honest the reason we came to Hereford was the Booth Hall. We had been thinking of starting an alternative venue for many years. We were just checking out possible options, I don’t know how serious we really were but then we drove up to Hereford to see the Booth and kind of just fell in love with the building. And in a moment of madness we just went for it.

How has the first year gone?

Hereford has been so welcoming to us, we feel so lucky. So many people have supported what we have tried to do, even from day one it always felt more like a community project. We had people offering to help with sound and light, come and help build the stage, put on events, decorate, promote and together with all these amazing people I feel like we really have done some amazing things.

We worked out that the Booth must have facilitated over 100 events last year. We just can’t believe it, there’s been an amazing breadth of entertainment and music from blues nights, to heavy punk, rock, metal, reggae, ska and everything else you can think of including circus, dance, theatre and comedy!

What are you plans for the year ahead?

We have amazing plans. We are committed to being open five days a week and we already have a nearly-full calendar of weekend events. To make Thursdays exciting we are offering slots to any charity that wants to run an event; the venue will be free, we will even offer £50 towards making the event happen, and they can take the money on the door.  We are also looking to support local bands and musicians to take events into their own hands. So anyone who wants to run a Thursday event should get in contact. We’re really excited about this as it offers live music more days a week while also supporting the community around us.

What have the highlights been so far?

We have so many amazing highlights from 2016, from small moments like Bekki Cameron playing the guitar and Kieran Graham playing the bagpipes at one of our first open mic nights, to massive moments like Hereford Pride, where we had hundreds of people coming through the gates in support of this amazing event. But overall I cannot express enough how lucky we feel to be here, to be part of this kooky and kind community in Hereford, and what an amazing year we have had.

Division persists among Hereford fans

Hereford FC v Stourport Swifts FC - MFL Cup semi-final second leg - Joel Edwards spraying champagne.

The short life of Hereford FC has been an eventful one: winning the Midlands Premier League and the trip to Wembley have been the highlights so far.

And now last season’s success looks to continue with promotion from the Southern League South & West a forgone conclusion.

The atmosphere in the Meadow End is better than it’s been for many years and the high attendances are a million miles away from the dark days of Agombar–Lonsdale.

The vast majority of Hereford United fans have embraced the new club and see it as a continuation of the one destroyed by David Keyte and the London crooks.

But things aren’t all rosey. On internet forums, in pubs and on the terraces there is continuing disquiet about the current regime at the club.

The idea that a Hereford United phoenix would be fan-owned appeared to be supported by a large section of the Edgar Street faithful. If not 100% then at least 51% fan ownership seemed to be the preferred model for the new club. But that is not where we find ourselves now.

Although supporters do have a voice on the board of directors, the current structure appears to be needlessly complex and lacking transparency.

We at the Heckler were involved in the campaign to oust the previous owners and still support the idea of a fan-owned club.

The current HFC constitution does not allow for 100% fan ownership but nothing is impossible, and our victory in winning back Edgar Street from the hands of crooks is testament to that.

To change things in the boardroom those people grumbling about the current regime need to get organised and start a campaign, independent of HUST. We would happily get behind a push for a true fan-owned club.

But simply moaning on internet forums achieves nothing apart from dividing fans at a time when things are on the up for Hereford FC. Either do something or be quiet.

Let’s be honest, when have we ever had a club board that was transparent and supported by fans? Hill, Turner, Keyte, Agombar or Hale. Clearly some were worse than others but none of them will be missed. Because it’s not about them.

If we have learnt nothing else it is that this club is bigger than any individual or group of owners. The club is us, the supporters, and we have been there since 1924 and will be there for a lot longer too.

Morris dancers branded racist for black face disguise

Morris menMorris dancers were accused of racism last month after they were confronted by shoppers during a performance in Birmingham city centre.

Dancers had blackened their faces in-line with the Border Morris tradition but had to abandon their performance due to continued heckling.

The men explained the practice had nothing to do with racism but was in fact based on a tradition—local to Herefordshire and surrounding areas—of blackening the face with charcoal as a method of disguise that dated back to the 15th century.

Explanations were not enough and the incident caught the attention of regional and national news outlets.

The use of black face make-up by Morris dancers has even been banned by Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

There are, unfortunately, many genuine instances of racism in daily life that need addressing and eradicating. But political correctness on this level is ridiculous and diminishes the seriousness of real discrimination.

County Hospital needs more beds, more staff

County HospitalBosses at the County Hospital called on people to avoid the accident and emergency department in December because of long delays.

And members of the public were again warned of extended A&E waiting in January.

The calls came as the NHS was being put under great strain across the country this winter, with many widely-reported cases of patients having to wait hours in corridors waiting to be seen.

Long delays were also the cause of two deaths at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in January.

The British Red Cross is now frequently working with the NHS to help relieve the strain and called the situation a “humanitarian crisis”.

The staff do their best with what they’re given but Hereford needs more beds, more doctors, more nurses. So does the rest of the country.

How much longer do we have to wait before the government seriously investments in the NHS? How many more people have to die? Our hospitals can’t cope.

Free movement must end

Immigration-1The impact of mass and unrestricted immigration into working class communities was a significant factor in last year’s EU referendum. Yet, despite compelling evidence demonstrating this truth, many left-wingers seem determined to remain with their heads buried firmly in the sand.

EU law provides for free movement of people. It is one of the ‘four freedoms’ enshrined in the rules of the capitalist single market (along with the free movement of goods, services and capital). In other words, workers are categorised not as human beings but explicitly as commodities to be bought and sold like copper and coffee according to the laws of supply and demand.

Naturally, this commodification of workers is very popular with big business, enabling bosses to take advantage of highly-diverse economies by shunting workers across borders and playing them off against each other, thus driving down wages.

This type of social dumping uproots workers and their families, divides communities, and all in the name of greater profits. Social cohesion has been tested like never before along with the increased strain on under funded public services.

Yet, to many on the left, free movement is seen as an advance for working people, to be defended against all comers. For them, it’s a building block to greater class solidarity and another step on the path to their vision of a borderless world. The actual impact on working people, migrant and native, is secondary.

We must of course stand with migrants and challenge any attempt to attach personal blame to them for the failings of government or the actions of unscrupulous employers.
The failure of the left to accept or even discuss the negative aspects to free movement allows the bigotry of right-wingers to take hold in vulnerable communities.

Let’s be clear that refugees fleeing war and persecution should always be welcomed. But we cannot remain in denial on the broader issue of immigration. That’s why we must support an end to free movement for economic migrants. A failure to do so will further damage – and possibly shatter for good – what support still remains for left-wing politics among working class people.

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While recognising that the current economic conditions prevent us from having open borders, we must nonetheless move towards a world where all people can one day move freely. A necessary step in that direction will be the replacement of capitalism with a more cooperative economy and the equalisation of conditions across the world (such vast differences in the standard of living between EU member states has been arguably the number one reason for immigration). Under such a system people will move because they want to and not because poverty compels them to. As a result this will reduce worldwide immigration levels to a relative trickle and allow people to remain with their friends and family in the parts of the world they were born.