A Drop In The Ocean

More than a drop in the ocean

As an extremely young man I rarely got to see Why Don’t You, in which pre-teen Liverpudlians exercised their creative juices and power-packed legs. I rarely got past the opening, sing-along sequence that commanded me to turn off the TV set and do something else instead. A child friendly: “get off your arse!” I usually did. But as I watched the news on Boxing Day, 2004, I felt bewildered, stunned and frozen. I wanted to turn off the TV set and go and do something. Anything. But what could I do? The devastation left by the Tsunami seemed too massive to comprehend. I sat and smoked. In Nottingham, Ste Allen and Steve Pinnock decided they could do something and set about arranging a couple of gigs to raise money. As more people offered their help, a couple of gigs turned into an all-day music festival: A Drop In The Ocean. On Saturday 29th January 2005, barely a month after the tsunami struck, over 250 bands and artists were preparing to play in 27 venues across the city the following day.

A Herculean feat of modern day co-ordination. But despite having everything in place, co-organiser, Al Needham felt far from relaxed. “I was driving around town the night before,” he remembers, “seeing people about and wondering what happens with the festival if no one turns up. We need bodies to turn up, what if no one does? I sat in The Social until 2pm, when it started to fill out. I only saw three bands. The rest of the time I walked from venue to venue, saw it was filled, punched the air and then walked out again. It was madness. At 9pm it was a very nice feeling.” £57,000 had been raised for Tsunami Relief. The organisers looked for a charity that would take the money, use it to help children affected by the tsunami and account for every penny spent, “down to the last screw.” They found the ideal partner in the Family Care Foundation. With the money raised in Nottingham, the charity is building an orphanage in Karankandu, India. The orphanage will look after and nurture 150 children from local fishing villages. More than a drop in the ocean.

Nottingham has the chance to make its second massive drop on June 11th, when the festival returns. Al explains: “After 2005, we got so many emails asking us to do it again that we couldn’t allow it to be a one-off.” However, he realises that the circumstances are slightly different this time. “Last year was a knee jerk reaction to a horrible disaster. This year the challenge is to get people along even though there is no immediate disaster.” 50% of the monies raised at this year’s festival will be donated to the Lord Mayor’s Earthquake Appeal. “After the earthquake there was a lot of compassion fatigue,” states Al. “But it’s an ongoing disaster.” The rest of the funds will be used by the Family Care Foundation to build a shelter in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for child victims of sexual and domestic abuse. “We got a shortlist of six projects from the Family Care Foundation, all of them worthwhile,” says Al. “But the shelter stood out. It’s a very emotive issue. Many people seem to get angry but don’t do much about it. This is a chance to be proactive, feel you’re doing something. Much of the tourism is from the west and the UK, so they must have a bad impression of us. This is an opportunity to give them another chance in life.”

The festival is also a chance to take in Nottingham’s increasingly colourful array of sonic explorers. “The thing about A Drop In The Ocean is that it’s raising money for charity and raising the profile of the music scene, which is under appreciated outside of Nottingham,” comments Al. “And it’s got a very good music scene. Everyone who plays is a local artist; we don’t feel we need special guests. Bands I personally want to see include The Hellset Orchestra, The Magic Heroes and Left Of The Dealer. I’d advise people to have a bit of a dabble, don’t stick to one venue.” Al thanks all of the venues, performers and volunteers contributing to A Drop In The Ocean, 2006 and then concludes with a compelling call: “If people want a yearly event in the summer and we still get support from the venues and bands, then…now it’s up to the people of Nottingham, if you want a yearly event, then you’ve got to come and support it. There’s nothing else like it in the UK, a festival, in the city centre where it’s easy to get from place to place. If people turn out it will be bigger and better than last year.” So. Why don’t you?

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