Rotheram explains Hillsborough single

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Steve Rotheram MP; Robbie Williams (copyright Roo Kendall Photography and Nielem Jethwa)

With recording for the Hillsborough charity single now well underway, JMU Journalism spoke exclusively to Walton MP and Hillsborough campaigner, Steve Rotheram, to get his views on the re-release of  ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ and get the inside track on how the project came about.

The song, first released in 1969 by Manchester band The Hollies, was played back in September at an Everton match as part of an emotional tribute to the 96 Liverpool fans that lost their lives at Hillsborough, sparking the idea to re-record the hit.

Organisers hope that the single, which is due to be released on December 17th, will beat X Factor to the Christmas number one, and many bookmakers are tipping them to be successful with the charity song, which will feature the likes of Robbie Williams, with proceeds going to help Hillsborough families with their legal fees.

Mr Rotheram told JMU Journalism: “A group of five of us got together and started thinking about what we could do. Peter Hooton [of The Farm] was the one who actually mentioned the Everton game and the song so we approached The Hollies about re-releasing the single.

“We then got a few acts together and for us it was so poignant get Liverpool artists included in that. About 500 people are involved and I’d say 90%, maybe even more of those 500 are from Liverpool or have got Liverpool associations.”

MP Rotheram said the families have reacted to the idea, but he was keen to stress that bringing in much-needed funds is only part of the story.

He told JMU Journalism: “They [the families] have been very supportive of it. Some people are getting mixed up though, it’s not just a mechanism for raising money, we want to raise the profile of the cause and the injustice that has been done to these families who have been fighting so hard for 23 years and music is the best way to do this.

Walton MP Steve Rotheram speaking during the Hillsborough debate in Parliament

“Music transcends things like politics so hopefully it will open up to people across the world and not just in the country.”

As a Liverpool fan himself, Rotheram is very passionate about the Hillsborough campaign and has faith that those responsible for the disaster will soon be brought to justice.

“I am more confident than I ever have been,” he said. “There is a very long way to go but I know as part of politics, you don’t take anything for granted. The judiciary takes an extreme amount of time but we have got to keep on fighting and I’m certain that what we are doing will lead to better chance of justice being done.”

Back in 2009, ‘The Fields of Anfield Road’ terrace song was adapted and put together by Mr Rotheram to mark the 20th Anniversary of Hillsborough and successfully reached number 14 in the UK singles chart. This year, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ is set to eclipse that achievement.

Rotheram said: “Fields of Anfield Road raised a lot of money for a fantastic cause. However, this is very different. I’m pretty certain it will do better. The enormity of the challenge we are taking on means we need the all the possible support we can get for it to reach number one in time for Christmas. It is a big ask to knock the X Factor single off the top spot but I am confident that we can.”

Sir Paul McCartney, who appeared on the 1989 Hillsborough charity single release of ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’, is among the names rumoured to be joining the fantastic line-up that already includes Take That star Robbie Williams, Paloma Faith and Liverpool’s Rebecca Ferguson.

Sir Paul McCartney © Wikipedia

However, it is still very uncertain if Sir Paul will join the recording.

Rotheram revealed: “We have approached him but his production company are keeping quiet. They don’t want to turn it into the Paul McCartney show. It would be fantastic to have him on board. We do understand, because he must get requests from everyone throughout the world, but it would be nice.”

On encouraging people to purchase the single, Rotheram told JMU Journalism: “I’d ask people to listen to what we are trying to do. You listen to people in pubs who have only got negative things to say, I’d tell them to be positive about it and to go out and buy the single and encourage other people to buy it as well.

“Liverpool is a great city and one thing I am extremely proud of is the way we come together and stand behind our own. I know it will not only sell massively on Merseyside but sell around the country as well.”

About Elisha Storrow, JMU Journalism