Dance musicians host homeless fundraiser

Clubbing event to run across three nights

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With Christmas just around the corner and temperatures plummeting, the coming months are especially challenging for rough sleepers and those in temporary accommodation. In an attempt to offer support, an international network of dance music DJs, promoters, and club staff are running a weekend-long fundraising festival online and in real life, using venues from northern England to southern Australia.

Beats for Beds will run across multiple locations and timezones from the afternoon of Friday 17 December to the early hours of Monday 20 December, kicking off at Melbourne institution Revolver. The action will then move to Manchester’s Carlton Club, where local luminaries Mr Scruff and Ruff Dug will play back to back for the first time ever.

Nightlife resumed

Saturday 18 December sees the focus shift to Werkhaus in London, headlined by Justin Robertson and Dombrance, while Sunday 19 December centres on Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, where names including PBR Streetgang and A Certain Ratio Soundsystem will spin records. Sets broadcast from Mexico and Canada will also feature. Those unable to attend in person can tune in via Beats for Beds on Mixcloud and donate via the organisation’s GoFundMe page.

Proceeds from the British sets will go directly to the homeless charity Shelter, and the format expands on a similar initiative that ran last year under the banner Shelter Me. A UK-only project, it was held mid-December at the beginning of the national winter lockdown, meaning organisers were limited to digital-only events, although all artists played inside physical venues, with their performances broadcast in real time. With nightlife in England, Scotland, and Wales now resumed, the team responsible have opted to build on the success of 2020’s edition by running live streams from in-person parties.

Continual stream

“I seemed to end up with a lot of penpals over lockdown last year, people I’d never met but was communicating with regularly,” said Beats for Beds’ Ed Tomlinson, a London-based DJ who been involved in club culture for more than two decades. “From that, me and John Paynter, who lives in Leeds, decided to launch Shelter Me, and we raised about £13,000 through donations to the stream.

“This year we thought let’s do it bigger, and now we’re allowed back out we wanted to try and do it with actual events. Essentially, it’s going to be a continual stream from Friday lunch to the early hours of Monday morning.”

According to Shelter, in 2019 there were an estimated 280,000 homeless people in England, and Tomlinson feels it’s unacceptable that this is part of society.

“We should be looking after the most vulnerable people,” he said. “I know the UK government has pledged to end rough sleeping by 2024, but I don’t think that’s really on the horizon. They don’t have a great history of sticking to their promises, so I don’t think we are going to see much change in the near future.”

Ralph Lawson, long-standing resident DJ at legendary Leeds party Back To Basics and founder of the record label 20:20 Vision, is one of the artists recently added to the line-up for the Yorkshire-based section of Beats for Beds. He said he has noticed a visible increase in homelessness during the pandemic, and stressed that those struggling to find accommodation need all the assistance available on a local and national level as winter sets in. Some 59 homeless people died across Yorkshire in 2020, 11 of whom were in Leeds.

“What we are seeing first hand in the city are semi-permanent camps set up in parks and green spaces, which show that this is not a temporary isolated issue for a few individuals,” said Lawson. “Large numbers of people are stuck without the basic foundation that most of us take for granted – a home.

“There are significant groups of people who believe politics should be kept out of music entirely and clubs should be pure escapism, but it is increasingly difficult to maintain a neutral position when there are such glaring inequalities to tackle in the world right here, right now. Music and musicians can be a powerful force.”

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