by Alena Yakushova

At gigs organised for charity, we find people brought together by music to help those in need

As right-wing extremism is gaining popularity and austerity is catalysing rising inequality, the left is fighting back. Armed not with divisive rhetoric or the exploitation of fear, but with a culture of support and unity, charity and music.

“We see all the problems of the world every single morning when we open our laptops” says Rae Lena, an artist who has played fundraising gigs. “You carry this sense of guilt in not being one of the people who is undergoing that level of stress. If you are able to go out and also do something nice that contributes to someone else’s well being – it’s a double positive.”

Rae sees performing for a good cause as a privilege. “It empowers you. It’s hard when you don’t earn very much money and you don’t have the right degree or training to help in another way, but this is actually something you are able to do.”

Be it playing for free, donating your time or spending some of your going-out budget on a ticket, you’re doing some good. But how much are you really helping?

Ruth Campbell, who works for Edinburgh social outreach organisation Comas, points out the conflicting nature of good-cause-gigs. “Something might raise, let’s say, £500, but if a whole staff team had to spend a couple of weeks organising it, £500 isn’t a very good return on their time”.

Yet, there are definite benefits. Ruth says that “quite often it does bring a different group of people into our premises. They are not always people who would’ve heard about us or what we do.”

Some causes are better known. Glastonbury raises money and awareness for Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid every year. The festival has raised £3.75million over the past three years for these three causes alone, while also supporting a collection of local charities.

Oxfam’s own music festival, Oxjam, has raised over £2.5 million, to date, for the Emergency Fund. The Edinburgh team alone raised over £4,000 last year while putting on the one-day festival in multiple venues across town – that’s the equivalent of selling 3,200 Big Issues.

It’s not just the big, established fundraising festivals that can make a difference though, there is clearly a space for small, individual events. Alastair Chivers has organised one-off gigs for Amnesty International and Cancer Research UK. “I decided to put something on, chose a charity and then asked bands to play. That was a really beneficial experience.” Alastair says that sometimes one-off shows can be more appealing than regular events especially “if it’s something that hasn’t happened in particular areas”.

Edinburgh bursts with things happening around the year that you can get involved in: from big gigs like Oxjam, Leith Late, Hidden Door, to smaller gigs organised by determined individuals. It’s amazing what you can do by just gathering some people together, and turning up the music.