July 4, 2015 by cosmoakacitizensmith
I have given up asking people who speak faultless English where in the UK or USA etc they are from. To a man and woman, they all turn out to be Bulgarian. Many of them have never been to an English-speaking country and have learned watching films and reading books.
We’re in Varna, an eight hour journey from Plovdiv. Johnny and I turn up, shattered from the recent late nights and early starts and we don’t know our arses from our elbows.
We get lost trying to find the venue we are supposed to play, the Solidarity Centre. Varna and some of the surrounding areas have opened themselves up to tourists, especially from the UK, and there are shopping malls and fancy cafes about. We even pass through a place called Sunny Beach, which has been purposely built to cater to British tourists. It is as every bit a vile as it sounds: pubs, clubs and casinos, British-style. We complain about immigrants not integrating, but what do we do when we go abroad??
Fortunately, Eugene, the promoter, picks us up from the station and takes us where we need to go. A French lesson is in progress in the Solidarity Centre. “We also have English classes, and Bulgarian for foreigners too, amongst other things,” Eugene explains, “They are all free, of course.” There are other campaigns that go on there, too, such as a protests against the TTiP that is coming up soon. Some of the activists there have just started a syndicalist union, and recently they supported local rail workers in a dispute with their management. After a huge demo, the management backed down. “It was great!” Eugene enthuses. It sounds like the start of something.
We decide to do the show outside as the weather is so nice. The audience sit on chairs in the pavement and Johnny starts off singing in the road. It is an enthusiastic crowd, and they laugh at the jokes in a lot of Johnny songs. I do my set, and despite it not being a residential area, the police turn up – just as I am doing the bit of the song about the cops showing up in Oi Mush!! You couldn’t make it up!! Half the crowd starts laughing, and the other appears slightly nervous. The cops leave, telling us to go indoors. But there is no way I wasn’t going to do the last verse of Oi Mush under the circumstances! So I did, the crowd joined in, and we all fell about laughing.
After the show, we head to the nearby Sea Garden. Some of us pull benches together and create our own little area in the park. A street drummer rocks up with plastic pots and bits of old drum kit that he places around himself, then one of the women we were with grabs a guitar and starts singing songs. Everyone starts jamming, joining in, drinking beer or some combination of the three. The standard is really good. Eugene and I rant on to reach other about syndicalism and tactics and all sorts. Some of us head to the beach and drink. I could have stayed all night but Johnny and I had to meet our host for the evening.
On the way back, ne of the activists said something interesting. “We were occupied for centuries by the Turks, now we have an economic occupation by the EU and our own Mafia. Before that, we had communism and the Russians. Most of our national heroes are anarchists, but they were killed or crushed when the communist at took over. So you could say we are starting again.”
The next day we get the bus to Istanbul. Our host, Veronica, gets up early with us and walks us to the station. See you on the other side again.