COUNTY NEWS: Southern Rail protest song goes viral

A video of a Southern protest song performed went viral this weekend, with more than 30,000 views on social media.

Mark Brailsford, Brighton's political satirist and director of the Treason Show, singing the Southern protest song at Brighton station
Mark Brailsford, Brighton's political satirist and director of the Treason Show, singing the Southern protest song at Brighton station

‘Imagine There’s No Southern’ performed by Mark Brailsford at Brighton station had a combined reach of 60,000 on Facebook and Twitter since its release on Friday (April 28).

The parody song is set to the tune of John Lennon’s classic and was inspired by last week’s news that the Department for Transport will be withholding a ‘scathing’ report on Southern Rail until after the election.

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Mark Brailsford, Brighton’s political satirist and director of the Treason Show, teamed up with members of the Association of British Commuters (ABC) to sing a medley of satirical protest songs at Brighton station on the one-year anniversary of the Southern strike.

Association of British Commuters protest at Department for Transport in December (Photograph: Bradley Rees)

He said: “Many of the people who’ve suffered through the Southern Rail crisis felt really disrespected last week. Not only is a snap election being used to avoid other issues, but the withholding of the Gibb report means commuters are also being cheated of the truth after the very serious impact Southern Rail has had on our lives and our region.

“Our Brighton station performance was not about trouble-making – it was born of serious concern about what this government is doing to our railways.”

ABC has spoken out over last week’s news that the government will be holding back the Chris Gibb report - which has already been delayed for four months - until after the general election, because of ‘purdah’: the pre-election period.

Emily Yates, ABC campaigner, said: “For the Department for Transport to now be holding back a vital report on the true responsibility for the Southern Rail crisis is an insult to the thousands of people who’ve suffered through eighteen months of collapsing service.”

Association of British Commuters protest at Department for Transport in December (Photograph: Bradley Rees)

Summer Dean, ABC campaigner, said: “Our collaborations with Mark at recent protests are part of a fantastic trend of Southern Rail satire, created by people who went through the outrageously bad service of 2016. This is not just an expression of our anger at Southern Rail and the Department of Transport. Political satire exists to give a voice to the disempowered; and in the case of Southern Rail, the needs of commuters - and especially disabled passengers - have been ignored.”

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, had also been chasing the ‘dynamite’ report since the New Year, and urging its release. She finally received an answer from rail minister Paul Maynard last week - news that coincided exactly with the one-year anniversary of the strikes.

Mr Maynard said: “The department will not be publishing Chris Gibb’s findings before parliament prorogues, however we intend to publish Chris Gibb’s report in full, with minor redactions to protect commercially sensitive material, and the government’s response, in due course.”

Ms Lucas said in response: “They’ve had this report for well over three months and have simply chosen not to publish it, despite repeated calls for them to put the information on the table.

“Ministers need to explain why they are keeping long-suffering passengers in the dark – no doubt it is because of the Transport Secretary’s complicity and responsibility for the failures that have created our rail nightmare. This is deeply undemocratic and an absolute disgrace.”

Mr Brailsford of The Treason Show teamed up with ABC for the second time after his recent performance at the Rail Access Now protest at London Bridge station, with the disabled and older people’s charity, Transport for All.

He said: “I’d been really affected by some of the stories I’d heard at the Transport for All London Bridge protest the previous week – I knew the problem of disability access was bad, but I hadn’t realised it was that bad. It hadn’t hit home how bad the situation was until I spoke to one wheelchair user who had to climb out of his chair and haul himself onto the train, dragging the wheelchair on behind him. He said that passengers would usually run to help, but the fact remains that he had to start that process himself. It’s beautiful that the public jump in, but that shouldn’t have to be the case - the railways are for everyone.”

Many of the songs are due to be featured in Southern Fail: The Musical, which is on its way to Brighton and Shoreham in June.

Tickets for the Sallis Benney Theatre performance on June 24 can be purchased for £15, here.