Wednesday night saw a congregation of Oxford descend upon the hidden corners of Jericho and enter into the Holy Land of St. Paul’s, where the derelict, neo-classical walls would bear witness to a night of worship for all things Funk ‘n’ Soul. This night was to be a marker event in OUSU’s homelessness awareness week, raising money for the sadly not-so-well construed Big Issue Foundation. Not only, then, was ‘The BIG Gig’ to provide a whole lot of much needed awareness, but it was to do it in the most eccentric and unorthodox way possible.
The front doors intermittently swayed open and shut as the first early birds broke through the entrance as early as 8:01pm, coaxed to the bar by the fresh scents of pineapple, papaya, apricot brandy and golden rum waiting in suspension, impatient to be blended and shaken for what was soon to become an opulence of Zombies. This charmingly run down lieu of concerts and cocktails is also known as Oxford’s one and only Freud, and with a modestly extravagant disco ball hung against a stained glass Jesus, it simply couldn’t emanate more funk or indeed more soul. Complete with a royally purple Freud DJ altar, the venue was perfectly set for what promised to be one hell of a swell night.
With cocktails flowing and a DJ intro by Andy Meredith throwing us right back to the good times, the guests of Freud prepared themselves for what was to be a good 5 hours of solid groove. Soon to begin the sequence of live bands were the ‘Balloons Ascents’, an alternative Oxford quintet who have maintained their band fidelity for 7 years. They offered their listeners a stream of unending energy, leaving them entranced by vibes that echoed ‘The Verve’ – but a lot fiercer. Next, the 14-piece band ‘Dot’s Funk Odyssey’ (‘DFO’) brought everyone into the swing of funk through a performance involving strip-teasing solos, the cutting of some serious shapes and the company of a dancing crimson butterfly. In the all too surreal moment of the lead electric guitarist being unbuttoned at the crotch by his fellow band members, the audience began to realise they had made the right decision in spending those £6 in the name of charity.
Indeed, moments after they were greeted by an equally masterful 13-piece group going by the name of ‘Garfunkel’, showing us how ‘Crazy in Love’ can work with brass & horn just as gloriously as ‘Very Superstitious’. Before the closing DJ (our very own OUSU president Louis Trup), all were made to turn their gazes to the front end of Freud, where a damn impressive tuba player dressed in a tiger onesie led a parade of prancing brass players in equally mad attire to the stage area – the most beautiful musical chaos was about to commence. Where do your notions of logic lie when you’re staring at the likes of Marius Pontmercy blowing Sax to ‘Sexual Healing’? It seemed as though Freud was slipping further and further into a night of nonsensical genius.
An inevitably cocktail-waved audience breaking into a fusion of partner swing dance and LMFAO-shuffling to a slightly less Motown Elvis Presley; lighting that, despite being set to a tremendously dim amber from the start, seemed to reduce and leave only the shifting traces of candlelight to jive to as the last set beat on; empty martini glasses used for daiquiris and champagne glasses half filled with wine. The night was to end, in true Oxford style, with an efflux of students from the venue feeling sated by the level of debauchery in the air. It had most definitely been a night of the senses, if nothing else.
But this wondrously successful night most importantly achieved something far more lasting. ‘The BIG Gig’ sold tickets to full capacity, raising £1050 for The Big Issue Foundation – an extremely significant amount, given that securing individual donations has been a key problem for the charity for many years. This is due to many being unaware that the money from Big Issue magazine sales does not actually go towards providing the essential services of the foundation itself.
In fact, it is more than likely that you will have seen many Big Issue vendors out and about in Oxford, but a good guess would be that you actually have very little understanding as to how the Big Issue works. The aim of the magazine is to help maintain people’s self respect and thus gain profitable courtesy from others, something that is, unfortunately, necessary for the homeless in the dismissive streets of Oxford. An almost-sufficient salary, however, is not enough.
The lead organizer of ‘The BIG Gig’, Sian Allen (Queens College), tells us: “People’s self-respect can often completely disappear whilst begging on the street, plus there are a lot of needs which the vendors might have that cannot be met simply by earning an income: mental problems, for instance, are very common.”
This is where the Big Issue Foundation comes in; providing services and support to the Big Issue vendors where it is needed. The foundation funds training in business skills, support in moving into housing, opportunities for the vendors to reconnect with their families and provides vital aid in overcoming addictions. This is what makes it a unique organization worth supporting, and the 8pm gig on Wednesday night of 3rd week definitely did its bit: in a ‘Big’ way.
If you want to learn more about The Big Issue Foundation, what went down in OUSU’s Homelesness Awareness Week, or see the BIG Gig’s event page for soon-to-come photos, here are some links for you: