Inspired by Shane’s revelation that he has a Shona dictionary to assist with Bhundu Boys nominations, and a reminiscent mood caused by turning 50 last month, my thoughts wander to 25 years ago this month, half my lifetime, when I was Students’ Union President at the Cranfield Institute of Technology. Where the *#~* is Cranfield ?!? may well be your first thought.
Well, it’s between Bedford and Milton Keynes, near junction 14 of the M1. It was an airfield, then an aeronautical institute, then a university proudly calling itself an Institute of Technology, and since I was there has given in and calls itself a University. The Students’ Union was a small group of us trying to promote social life and student welfare on an isolated campus dedicated to profitable selling of technology and learning.
My predecessor had revived, surprisingly and successfully, the tradition of the Graduation Ball, and we were not a team to shirk a challenge. We had no hesitation in dedicating ourselves to seeking out the best music and comedy we could afford. And so it was that the Bhundu Boys, on a roll that had already won the love of John Peel and Andy Kershaw, and would lead to supporting Madonna at Wembley, came to play the Stafford Cripps Building, below the library, on the Cranfield campus. An audience of graduating engineers, managers, biotechnologists, families and friends took to the floor and, like every other audience on that tour, danced with a rare sense of freedom and joy. Though they told us we were the only audience dressed in suits and ballgowns.
Just for TFD, and to show the strange co-incidence of connections, I’ve added another photo from that night: Pete Lockwood was there with a great local ‘covers’ act, Milton Keynes (I like to think) legends Eddie and Badgers Soul Band. He went from there to play Breton folk music with the Cock and Bull Band, who recommenders might know from TFD’s occasional nominations. She lived next door to the band’s Jean Pierre Rasle and used to, I believe, call dances at their local gigs and ceilidhs.
Back to the Bhundu Boys – ToffeeBoy has already paid tribute to them and their 1986 album, Shabini,in a ‘Spill post from 2010 and has kindly provided the tune for my post. Much has changed over 25 years – for example, the library was very proud to be part of a strange thing called the Joint Academic Network, or JANET, which could send new-fangled electronic messages to other academic libraries. However, then as now, we have a government ignorant of the message of the album’s last track, Wenhamo Haaneti: ‘Poor men never rest – the poor work night and day – or starve’.