Paul Doherty is a musician, community activist, and the founder of Foodstock; a series of festival-type events where musicians perform to raise money for foodbanks across the community. The Jumble Magazine had a chat with Paul all about Foodstock and the benefits it has as an organisation for musicians and those in need.
What is the goal of foodstock?
The main aim of Foodstock is to raise awareness of the poverty faced by many people within our communities and to support the work of food banks, who provide a vital lifeline to those in need.
Foodstock features musicians of all ages, genres, and backgrounds performing for one cause. Those attending our events enjoy the live music and also hear from guest speakers about the work that food banks do. The price of entry to a foodstock gig is simply an item of non-perishable food. The items donated are handed over to local foodbanks to help them meet the need of their services within the community.
To date we have had events held all over Belfast in places like Conway Mill, The Belfast Barge, and An Cultulann. We have been able to help food banks and organisations across the city with large amounts of food and funds.
Since our first event in August last year I have been inundated with musicians and volunteers asking what they can do to help. It has been incredible to see how people can pull together.
How has the lock down impacted foodstock?
The COVID-19 crisis has put further pressure on food banks; many have had to operate differently and have relied on financial donations to buy food for distribution. In seeing this, we started looking at further ways we could help. We were in the process of putting together a large scale open-air event for the summer, but that has unfortunately had to be postponed. We had to start thinking outside the box.
We soon got to organising an online festival in which musicians perform live from their living rooms directly to audiences at home. The event was a massive success with £870 raised for the likes of the Larder Food Bank in East Belfast, the West Belfast Food Bank, Heartship, South West Belfast Food bank, and St Patrick’s Soup Kitchen. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by people during this time, and I have seen with my own eyes when dropping food off to people’s homes how much it means to them and how grateful they are. As long as there is that need in the community Foodstock will continue to support as much as we possibly can.
Following the success of our first online event word started spreading and more artists got involved. We had a performance from The Bootleg Beatles who have shared a stage with Oasis in the past, as well as Laurence Juber – a member of Paul McCartney’s band Wings back in the 70’s. We have also had some incredible support from local musicians who never fail to bring people in with their talent and enthusiasm. It isn’t lost on me how musicians are struggling through this difficult time as well, so we can’t thank them enough for helping out.
There have been a few moments of these online events that really sum up the spirit of Foodstock, like 71 year old Geraldine Mailey performing outside her home while self-isolating, or 12 year old Cora Harkin. Her parents got in touch to organise her performance and she absolutely stole the show. All of the performances have been incredible and have made people come together (albeit virtually of late) in support of those in need.
What can people expect next from Foodstock?
We will be continuing our Beatles theme up until this weekend. And we have a lot of artists lined up too, both local and international: the very talented Hannah Lynn who has just released a fantastic new single will be performing, from Germany we have a band called Atomic, and we also have Barry Sutton from The La’s (There She Goes) performing a fab four hit. There are so many performances up on our Facebook page for people to enjoy.
How does it feel to know that Foodstock is doing such important work for those in need?
We just hope we can continue to do more in the future. I worked at the West Belfast foodbank for a morning a few weeks ago, and I was taken aback by the dedication and commitment of the volunteers. It is incredible to see how people have pulled together during this difficult time. Food banks are doing a fantastic job and we must continue to support them as best as we can.
Foodtsock also doubles as a benefit for local musicians , are there any NI based artists that have featured on Foodstock that you would recommend to the readers?
All of them! And I mean that. From Folkadelic, Archie, Hannah Lynn, Roisin Erskine, Cora Harkin, Andy Patterson, Conor McCaffrey to The Rising, Revue, Rory Lavelle, Matt Toner, The Dandy Horse, Ri, Cora Kelly, Amity Pax. I could go on! We are blessed with talent in this part of the world, more people should tap into it and when this is all over, go out and enjoy their music in person. I guarantee they will not be disappointed.
We look forward to the day when we will have a large outdoor Foodstock event. I hope all of these guys will join us again for another memorable day, and all for a great cause.
All Foodstock events take place on their Facebook page . Check them out and show some support.
Photos provided by Foodstock
Interview by Sam Dineen