Protest spirit revived with new song

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 13:44 23/07/2014
 Chris Baigent
Kay McArthur/Supplied
PROTEST SINGER: Chris Baigent, aka Rivers, will give a debut public performance of his new ’81 Springbok Tour-themed song The Whole World is Watching in Hamilton’s Garden Place tomorrow.

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Garden Place will be the venue for what's being touted as ''a one-off historical performance'' on Friday, when Chris Baigent unveils his new Springbok Tour-inspired song to the world.

The Hamilton musician, who claims to be New Zealand's biggest Bob Dylan fan, will perform The Whole World is Watching at 12.30pm.

The song is his tribute to Hamilton; the protestors who stopped the game at Rugby Park on July 25, 1981; and to Dylan himself.

He is hoping to attract a small crowd to Friday's show to help chant the chorus.

Baigent, who usually goes by the stage name Rivers and performs with the band River's Edge and as one half of the duo Mimi and Rivers - said he considered the Springbok game to be the city's finest moment.

''It seemed appropriate I write about the Hamilton event that made Nelson Mandela feel 'as if the sun had come out'. With [Mandela's] death last year it's more poignant.''

Hamilton was the only city where a rugby game against the Springboks was called off during the 1981 tour.

Five thousand protesters left from Garden Place to make their way to Rugby Park, where a violent and terrifying ordeal awaited them. The 350 protesters who made it into the centre of the rugby field were surrounded by 25,000 angry rugby fans, who threw missiles at them and yelled ''We want rugby'' and ''kill, kill, kill''.

The protesters chanted back ''the whole world is watching'' as the footage was broadcast to South Africa.

That chant was first used in 1968 by Vietnam War protesters outside the Chicago Hilton Hotel, as they were filmed being beaten by police with batons.

The origin of the words aren't certain but many believe they come from the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song When the Ship Comes In from the 1964 album The Times They Are a Changin'.

Dylan performed the song in 1963 at the now-most famous rally for civil rights ever held in the United States, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

At that rally Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and called for an end to racism, in his historic ''I Have a Dream'' speech. Dylan will perform two concerts in the city on August 9 and 10.

In a recent Waikato Times story Hamiltonians mused about what he should do while he was in town.

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Baigent had his own ideas.

''I don't recommend he does the postcard tour of Hamilton. I think he should go to Waikato Museum to see the Fight the Power exhibition about Waikato people's battles for social and political justice. I want Dylan to know something about the spirit of the Hamilton people. That's the Hamilton I'm proud of.

"Dylan always sang about the underdog, and right now, Hamilton's the underdog. But we landed Dylan's concerts so the times are a changin'. It's time to celebrate Hamilton and its people.''

Friday's show won't be the only chance for audiences to hear the song. Mimi and Rivers will perform early Dylan folk songs at Waikato Museum on Sunday, August 3 at 3pm, followed by an evening show at Nivara Lounge at 266 Victoria Street on August 8.

- Waikato Times

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