Industry Spotlight: The Joe Strummer Foundation

The Joe Strummer Foundation, has been providing opportunities to musicians and support to projects all over the world, working with them to empower young individuals and communities facing hardship. We spoke to […]

The Joe Strummer Foundation, has been providing opportunities to musicians and support to projects all over the world, working with them to empower young individuals and communities facing hardship. We spoke to Jamie Webb, Charity Coordinator, about his life, his work, and why the The Joe Strummer Foundation mission is so important.

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S] Could you tell me about who you are, what you do, and how you got started in your career?

Jamie: Well, this whole thing with Joe, who sadly passed away in 2004. We wanted to create a network to empower musicians. We’re a small charity, mainly it’s just myself and my partner Steve, our digital guru who works out in Peru! We’re quite global a go-go [laughs]. But we have a great bunch of trustees; Joe family and friends support us so much and we are so thankful. I got into this in about 2007 and it was purely though going to Strummerville events at festivals and hanging out with the organisers by the camp fire.

At this time I was running a live music venue in London, Nambucca on Holloway road. I guess the venue was quite integral to the indie scene back then, we were called ‘North London’s Indie Mecca’. It was such a nucleus for musicians my age and new bands who were just starting out, I got to meet so many people. When I first got involved with Strummerville, I was just helping at the office one day a week. I used to do the DIY charts; we encouraged bands to send in tracks, bios, links to their pages etc and we’d play the bands who’d had the most hits that week. It was a fantastic way for local and smaller bands and artists to get exposure. From there, I just progressed and progressed, until I ended up running it, somehow!

S] Could you tell me your key tips for young people looking to get into running a music organisation?

Jamie] It’s about surrounding yourself with people who aren’t dicks [laughs]. But seriously, likeminded people are very important, people who share your passions and who are in it for the right reasons. You’ve also got to be prepared to face fear and learn from your mistakes. Just make sure you do everything right and thoroughly; don’t cut corners and treat everyone with respect.

S] How do you navigate your way into a music scene, maybe if you don’t have the access to places like London?

J] It’s a very hard thing to do. But nowadays we have the internet, which is great for connecting with people. If you’re putting out music, you can share it online to reach people all over the country and internationally. It’s great to get talking to people and for organising DIY events. Obviously you need the talent and drive to get people to listen, but there are tools you can use. You must persevere and don’t take no for an answer.

S] What would you say the biggest challenges were in your career in terms of running a successful venue?

J] It’s damn hard starting from scratch; you should really convince bands why it will be beneficial for them to play at your venue, you must work on relationships. It’s about people power, you need to build a repour and have good relationships with people. Also, pretend to be confident, confidence is key! Just reach out to as many people as possible, the more connected you are the better.

S] If someone is inspired by TJSF do, how would they get involved with the organisation or support you in other ways?

J] They could get involved with StrummerJam; it’s out global fundraising campaign throughout the month of August. They take place all over the world, they are concerts, busking shows, house gigs, sponsored walks, anything really! It’s about raising money for non-profits in local areas. It’s about utilising music worldwide as a tool to help others. It’s about spreading the word about what we do and how we help young people.

You can put on a gig in your home town and use the Joe Strummer Foundation banner or mention us somehow, that would be an incredible way to get involved, raise awareness, and do something cool for music fans in your area.

S] What would you say your career highlights have been?

J] I’m thrilled to have the job that I do and to be able to do all of these incredible things under Joe’s name. This year, a Joe Strummer team along with Frank Turner went out to Freetown, Sierre Leone, to support a project there we WAYout Arts. It’s been going on since 2012, supporting disadvantaged street youth and chid soldiers. Since the end of the civil war in 2002 there has been a need for a safe location for these kids to overcome the fear and misunderstanding they face, to escape the dangers of street life such as drugs and crime.

We set up a music room there in 2012, where we teach them how to play instruments and how to record music. This year we got to see first-hand the incredible things that these children have been doing, and what our support from the UK can do. One child was taken from his family at 9 years old, he’s been made to kill children his own age, you can image how horrifying that is. We saw the music that he has been making on the equipment that we shipped there, with the training we have supplied; it was intense, exhilarating and inspiring to see him create something that made him feel so positive and happy. We’re going to hopefully go out again later this year. Just talking about it is making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; it’s so incredible to see the changes in their lives and it really stresses our mission, our belief that ‘without people you’re nothing’. We all need to help each other, it’s the most important aspect of humanity.

S] Could you tell me what you’re planning to achieve by the end of the year?

J] More fundraising! We need to fundraise to be able to keep supporting these charities like we do, we want to be able to sustain projects, we hate just doing something once and being unable to go back and support the people we have met and the friends we’ve made. We want to reach new people and build on working with other brands as well, it’s all about expanding our network. Fundraising is very important and we appreciate any of the help we get from others.

To find out more about the incredible work that TJSF do, visit their website http://joestrummerfoundation.org/

You can also donate here http://joestrummerfoundation.org/donate/

Alex Inkley

About Alex Inkley

Since graduating from The University of Leeds, Alex has had stints writing for Champion Up North, Time Out Leeds, and has contributed to the CTR Travel Writing Program. Now a freelance journalist, they enjoy blogging about all things arts + culture related.