A whole jar of Oxjam – A reflection

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Ten minutes ago, I was sat in the confines of the smallest bedroom in the world, screaming ‘‘Oh my GOSH, what is my life, and why?!’’ This sort of outburst happens more than is probably normal for a healthy twenty-two year-old with, what I have been reassured is an active and fun existence. Luckily, there is a reason why I was wailing and scratching at the walls – it’s not something I do for the sake of it- I’m not THAT neurotic.
The fact is, for the past month, I’ve not stopped doing stuff and I suppose I’m on a bit of a comedown from all the stuff I’ve been doing. So, here I am, propped up in bed with anaglypta under my fingernails as I begin to type automatically – like a medium might do if she was tuning into another realm – in an effort to divulge exactly what sort of ‘stuff’ I’ve been doing.
For the whole of October, Oxjam consumed me. The celebration of Macclesfield’s independent music scene dominated five out of the seven evenings of my week, for a month.  For whatever reason, saying ‘‘yes, you can rely on me to get to the pub on time and take all the photos and film some of the bands, and Yes I can even write the occasional feature and do some radio interviews. That is not a problem, I’m good at all of that’’ daunted me far more than it should have, and I won’t bore you about how nervous I was at the Swan with Two Necks on the opening night of Oxjam, but rest-assured I was bricking-it.

Over the course of October, that feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know the type that makes you want to eat and throw-up almost simultaneously?  Well that went away gradually with every gig I photo’d and recorded, with every musician I interviewed (including former Stone Roses guitarist Aziz Ibrahim!) and with every pint I swilled around my thirsty pallet. The anxiety I experienced on that first evening at the Swan has been replaced by foaming lunacy and I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not.

You see, I’m not a person who is prone to wax-lyrical about many things, but being part of  the biggest local music festival ever to have gripped the handles of my hometown, filled me with that warm fuzzy feeling I’d sometimes heard about, but never experienced. If you combine music with mates, add a wee nip of alcohol and garnish with charity – which remained at the heart of everything Oxjam in Macclesfield did- you’ve come-up with the closest thing Macc can offer to the Elixir of Life- be jealous alchemists everywhere!
Oxjam is something I’m sure nearly every person in Macc knows all about, but just in case you’ve been barred from nearly all of the pubs in town since the middle of September, I suppose it’s only fair that I should inform you naughty people, too.

Back in 2006, a very charitably person who I assume worked for Oxfam, had the brilliant idea of using music to raise awareness and money to help fight poverty worldwide. Oxjam is celebrated in towns and cities up and down the country, with a savvy individual who usually works in broadcast or web design becoming that town’s ‘Gig Maker’.

Introducing yourself by saying ‘‘hello, I’m a Gig Maker’’ might seem like a cool thing to do, or a good way of chatting up that person you’ve had your eye on since this time last year, but as I’m sure Mike Chisholm would agree- it’s not that glamorous. For Mike, it involved reintroducing himself to every local musician he’d ever met and then convincing them to be free for the majority of a whole calendar month. Once the Gig Maker has befriended everyone who’s ever glanced their fingers against a guitar string, it’s time to ring-around the all the pubs and clubs in that town. Now, I’ve heard that Macc has an illegal amount of watering-holes, I’m not saying this is true, but there has to be quite a few of these places knocking about for a rumour like that to start. I’m just trying to give you some kind of insight into how much effort must have gone in to making Oxjam in Macclesfield the success that it was. I know my endeavours to convince you that Oxjam- Macc was amazing are in vain, because you were there, I saw you.
In case I mistook you for someone else, there are some links below that will take you back a few weeks to some of the gigs that I recorded. I recorded every gig, but the editing process is one that is long and arduous and is also something that Mike is responsible for, not me.

The Oxjam team wants to thank everyone who played a part in making Macc’s biggest music festival something to really be proud of. The musicians, the landlords and ladies, the people who distributed Oxjam leaflets, all of the facebookers who shared and liked the posts and pictures- a big, big thank you. The hardest high-five goes to all the people who came to the gigs, supported the local musicians, and most importantly, donated the change from their beer money- a massive thank you to all of you drunk, but very generous guys and girls. You lot raised over £1000 for Oxfam, and in-light of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, your money couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
I’m going to wash my hands and try and the wallpaper out from under my bloodied fingernails now, until next year, so long…farewell…

To watch Relay D’Verb play at Ronnies, click here

By Issy Allison

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