Philip Mudge, our Volunteering Quality Officer (or Guardian Of The Code to some of you…) has let his imagination get the better of him and has come up with his rather own unique history of Comhlámh over the past 40 years.
Regular readers of my blog may have been disappointed at its lack of appearance over the past couple of weeks, but much excitement has engulfed the Comhlámh office as we celebrated our 40th anniversary with President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin. Those of you unfamiliar with the rich tapestry that is Comhlámh may not be aware of the significant milestones from 1975 until today, and so this may be of interest.
Comhlámh was formed in 1975, influenced by the raw power of Springsteen’s Thunder Road and as a statement of dissatisfaction with the over serious progressive rock characterised by excessive guitar solos symbolic of the decadence of the developed world. Within 12 months the embryonic punk scene in London showed the influence of Comhlámh with the Sex Pistols (I don’t wanna) Holiday in the Sun seen by most commentators of the day as a clear statement against volunteer tourism and a precursor to the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice. In 1978 inspired by Abba, Comhlámh Take a Chance and the launch of Comhlámh News from which most of the information contained in this report has been collected.
In 1981 Comhlámh News reports refugees fleeing from “intolerable situations”. It is widely believed that the Human League’s Christmas smash hit Don’t you want me by the is a clear demand to the countries of what was then the European Community to open borders to those fleeing persecution, while the Police’ Roxanne is now commonly acknowledged to be a thoughtful and insightful reflection on the connection between people trafficking and forced prostitution.
In 1982, The Smiths What difference Does It Make? Inspired the Comhlámh Coffee Campaign which pioneered the fair trade movement in Ireland and influenced long time Comhlámh supporter Michael D Higgins in 1984 to launch his presidential campaign and tap into the youth vote at the Bob Dylan concert at Slane Castle.
The Times They Are A Changing says Bob and Comhlámh members join the Dunnes Stores workers on the pickets lines in an anti- apartheid protest brought to International Attention by Euan MacColl in his 1988 follow up to Dirty Old Town, Ten Young Women And One Young Man.
Meanwhile Comhlámh continues to question the impact of travel from the developed world to the global south publishing Cecil Rajendra’s poem Tourists. Members of the British new wave/ dance band New Order acknowledge that their 1983 track Blue Monday was written with specific reference to US president Reagan’s visit to Ireland and was kept in the charts until his visit had taken place, becoming the biggest selling 12 inch single of all time.
In 1985, Comhlámh’s Readers Digest of Subversive Literature motivates a washed out (or unwashed) Irish pop singer to change the world and “Give us the *****ing Money” inspires Freddy Mercury to redefine stadium rock at the Wembley Live Aid concert, while three years later with the universal dominance of Enya’s Watermark, World music is defined as only coming from Donegal. Comhlámh members, bewildered and let down by the lack of internationalism of the Bhundu Boys, The Wailers and Kana Bongo Man resolve never to listen to Kwasa Kwasa again and play I Should Be So Lucky continuously on repeat throughout July, August and September.
In 1989 Comhlámh members join anti-nuclear protests in Scotland and The Stone Roses gain their first appearance on Top of the Pops with She bangs the Drums: their tribute to Deirdre Cantwell. A year later these protesters stand in solidarity with football supporters looking for assistance from Comhlámh with their social welfare rights.
In 1991 Comhlámh joins forces with Kermit, Burt ‘n Ernie and Big Bird to bring Democracy Street to the Irish televisions while castigating Albert Reynolds’ government for its poor record on International Aid commitments(http://bit.ly/1Y3SO43 ). Practices in the International NGO community were also called into question when Gary Barlow stated that It Only takes a Minute to work for equality within before demanding it from others in 1992 with Celine Dion and various styles of euro-pop high in the charts, Comhlámh bucks the trend with a critical look at the Maastricht Treaty, before, confident that Things Can Only Get Better Comhlámh marks its coming of age by taking on the UN in 1993.
And so ends the first twenty years of Comhlámh. My next blog will cover Comhlámh’s role in Brit Pop, Riverdance, the rise of Rap as a respected art form and Mark Cumming’s secret life as an X Factor judge before giving it all up to become head of Comhlámh.