Reinstate Nigel Cook Campaign at the BRIT Awards

The Britannia Music awards; showpiece of the multimillion pound music industry in Britain - superstars, supermodels, stylists and fashion critics, and sponsored this year by PolyGram. Stars spilt out of limousines, fans screeched hysterically, the paparazzi called out, cameras snapping. Unexpectedly a chant of 'fight poverty pay' rose from the motley gathering. Mingling with the glitterati of the music world were 200 protesters from the 'Reinstate Nigel Cook' campaign who had arrived to bring their message via megaphones.

Soon protesters had scaled a building dropping a huge banner: 'PolyGram profits from poverty pay', whilst some of us made a run for the entrance armed with leaflets and placards and yelling our demands. We were immediately rugby-tackled by the startled security guards and thrown back behind an ineffective barrier, already preparing for the next run. One protester, the campaign press officer, walked easily up to Cherie Blair and handed her a leaflet. Police reaction to this was delayed and confused, but soon he too was bundled off the red carpet. He reported back: 'we chatted for a good minute or so and she made a promise to look into Nigel's case.'

Chumbawamba's Alice Nutter strolled over with a couple of the Liverpool dockers, recently forced to end a 28-month dispute. If the band won an award the dockers would go up to accept it. Chumbawamba opened the ceremony with their number one single 'Tubthumping', changing the words to a clear and cutting message 'New Labour sold out the dockers just like they'll sell out the rest of us'. With the band's help, a couple of protesters had managed to slip in amongst the 20,000 strong audience. To be there legitimately cost £5,000 a table and £500 a seat. Big Issue reporter Gibby Zobel was there and explained how they escalated the protest 'We grabbed the megaphones and headed for the compere Ben Elton (on stage)'. They never reached him, but the diversion was enough. Danbert Nobacon, Chumbawamba's spikey-haired bass player was off and up on to Mr Prescott's table. In an act of 'drench warfare' the deputy PM was soaked with a bucket of icy water.

The demonstration was a success; the Reinstate Nigel Cook campaign appeared in every national newspaper. During the aftermath, Prescott complained about the distress caused to 'womenfolk' at his table by such 'terrifying behaviour'. How concerned is he about the feminine delicacy of the nearly one million women who earn less than £2.50 per hour? And who paid for his seat, I wonder?

FRFI 142 Apr / May 1998

Helen Yaffe


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