Captain Ska on "Liar Liar"

An interview with the campaigning musician who hopes to be Christmas No. 1.

Captain Ska is a musician from Camberwell in London whose anti-cuts single "Liar Liar", which launched on Monday, is a contender for this year's Christmas No. 1. Since the video went online at the beginning of October it has run up over 128,000 youtube hits and attracted comment from the Observer and the BBC.

Is the "Liar Liar" refrain in your song directed at Nick Clegg?

The song is anti-coalition and anti-cuts. Clegg is dreadful but likewise so are Cameron and Osborne. The whole idea of the cuts is totally wrong.

Is making political music a new thing for you?

It's new. I'm a freelance musician and have been writing songs with a slight political edge for awhile but this is the first time I felt really angry and that's why I decided to get involved.

Have you thought about the effect you want to have with the song or is it just an outlet for your frustrations?

I'm really angry and think that other people should be too. My initial thought was to have an outlet for some of my frustrations but now the song seems to have taken a life of its own. I wasn't at the protest on Thursday but my song was.

What do you think about what Nick Clegg's comments referring to opponents of raised tuition fees as "dreamers"?

That's outrageous, absolutely outrageous. Clegg is a liar. He's obviously been waiting for a bit of power for awhile. He's got his place in the government. That he can say what he said is outrageous. This is the end of Clegg. It's probably the end of the Liberal Democrats. It will be a very long time before people vote for them ever again.

Do you think the protests will change the political landscape of this country?

They will make a difference, yes. I spoke to someone the other day who was my age in the eighties when the poll tax riots were happening. It wasn't the violence that made a difference; it was the mass mobilisation and general feeling that something was wrong. When you had 5,000 people marching in small provincial towns and local MPs seeing it, that's what made a difference.

It feels to me like nobody is behind these cuts, no one thinks they're being done in the best way, even people on the right seem to think it's being done too quickly. I know there were a couple of Tory abstainers in the vote.

So you're optimistic about the future?

Last week's vote on tuition fees was a disaster but I don't see this government lasting much longer. At some point in the next few months the Liberal Democrats will realise that unless they start to vote against things they're not happy with then they're going to be political history. I don't think the government's going to last much longer and it's really important that we keep up the pressure, especially on Liberal Democrat MPs. They are in a difficult situation and we can put pressure on them to make them think about what they're doing.

You talk a lot about your anger but seem very calm in person.

Well, I think the anger I've got is similar to a lot of people's. You don't have to be screaming and shouting to think that things are wrong. Outlets for anger can come through a lot of things and for me it's through my song writing. Last night, when I saw the vote come in that's possibility the most angry I've felt. I thought "wow this is really happening. We really are ruining the country. It is just happening." I had hoped that more MPs would abstain but they didn't and the vote was passed. So what started as medium amounts of anger, enough to make a track and put together a video has now risen.

I also think that more important than being overtly angry is having your point of view out there. If you can enter the general subconscious with your point of view that this is wrong then you're going to reach more people. You can shout and shout and be heard by 100 people or you can talk moderately and thousands of people will listen and that's what the anti-cuts movement needs.

Proceeds from "Liar Liar" will go to False Economy, Crisis, Disability Alliance and Women's Health Matters

Felipe Araujo
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Hull revisited: What happens when a Brexit stronghold becomes City of Culture?

We report from Hull, to find out if you can replace the kind of nostalgia that led to a Leave vote with cultural investment.

At 75 metres long, the offshore wind turbine blade erected across Queen Victoria Square, in the heart of Hull, is a sculpture intended to mark a new chapter in the city’s history. For the next 12 months, Hull, a city of more than a quarter of a million people in the northeast of England, will be the UK’s City of Culture.

The 28-tonne blade hails from the local Siemens plant. The German technology company employs around 1,000 people in the area, making it Hull’s biggest single employer.

Seen up close in this context – laid dormant in the middle of a town square instead of spinning up in the air generating energy – the structure is meant to remind passersby of a giant sea creature. It is also, I’m told, an allusion to Hull’s rich maritime history.


All photos: Felipe Araujo

Nostalgia is a big thing in this part of the country. At one point, Hull was the UK’s third largest port but technology and privatisation drastically changed that. The battle over cod fishing with Iceland in the waters of the North Sea 40 years ago has also dealt a major blow to a region with a long and proud trawling tradition.

People here still talk about a bygone era when the fishing industry provided jobs for everyone and there was enough money to go around.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country’s new capital of culture is the same city that voted 67 per cent in favour of leaving the EU last June. Its new-found prestige, it seems, is not enough to erase years of neglect by a political class “too busy for commoners like us”, as one resident puts it.

“More than a message to Brussels, it [the Brexit vote] was a message to Westminster,” Paul Leeson-Taylor, a filmmaker born and bred in Hull, tells me. “For the first time in a long time people in Hull felt like they had the chance to change something, and they took it.”

But while speaking to people on the high street and hanging out with locals at the Community Boxing Club in Orchard Park, one of the city’s most deprived areas, there is one word that consistently popped up in conversation – more than any specific policy from Westminster or the much-hated rules “dictated” by Brussels. Foreigners.

According to official figures, Hull’s population is 89.1 per cent white British. Still, immigration is big on people’s minds here.

During my two-day stay in the city, I find myself being the only black person in most places I visit – I’m certainly the only black guy at the boxing club. So when someone begins a sentence with “I’m not racist but…”, I know a tirade on immigrants is about to ensue.

“There are just too many of them,” Nick Beach, an estate agent whose Polish clientele is a big part of his business, tells me as he is about to teach a boxing class to local children. Beach was born in Shepherd’s Bush, in West London, but has been living in Hull for the last 20 years.

“When I go down there these days and go into Westfield shopping centre, it is very rare you get an English person serving you now,” he says. “I just find it disappointing that you go into your capital city and you are a minority there.”

These are the much-discussed “left behind”, a white working-class community that has gained particular prominence in a time of Brexit and Donald Trump. Under economic pressure and facing social change, they want to have their say in running a country they claim to no longer recognise.

For Professor Simon Lee, a senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull, immigration is only a superficial layer when it comes to explaining the resentment I witness here. For him, the loss of the empire 70 years ago is still something that as a country Britain hasn’t come to terms with.

“The reason for us to be together as a United Kingdom has gone, so what is the project?”

As destiny would have it, a foreign company will now play a major role on Hull’s economic future, at least in the short term. In the wake of the Brexit vote, there were widespread fears Siemens would pull out of the region and take its factory elsewhere. With the massive blade looming large in the background, Jason Speedy, director of the blade factory in Hull, assures me that isn’t the case.

“The Brexit decision has made no difference. We have made our investment decision, so Siemens, together with the Association of British Ports, has put in £310m. It’s all full steam ahead.”

As Hull becomes the country’s cultural hub for the next few months, the hope is that its residents stop looking back and start looking forward.

For Professor Lee, though, until there is a complete change in the power structures that run the country, the north-south divide will remain – with or without the EU. “The way you kill nostalgia is to have something new,” he said. “The reason why people here are nostalgic is because there is nothing to replace it with.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.