There’s a charity gig in town next week and it’s after your wages. Well, 1% of your wages. Have you heard of Be One Percent? Don’t worry if you haven’t, you’ll have heard of its co-founder… he drums for Paul Weller and used to be in The Stands. But he writes great songs himself. Check out this Pilgrim’s progress. By Alan O’Hare.

We’ve all got a favourite joke about drummers. Have you heard the one about Paul Weller’s timekeeper? He’s the ragged haired philanthropist who gives away 1% of his wages every month. It’s a cracker… and gets better each time you tell it, as the tubthumper  in question, Scouser Steve Pilgrim, manages to convince more and more people to do the same thing each month.

“Be One Percent started as a really simple idea to give 1% as a group to poverty alleviation projects,” explains ex-The Stands and sometimes-Cast drummer, Pilgrim. “That was about five years ago and we started with eight people and raised £166 in the first month. Since then our membership has grown to nearly 200 and we’ve given over £250,000 to a variety of poverty alleviation initiatives.” What a fantastic achievement. And it’s happening under your nose, too. Tempted to join in? Pilgrim would call that progress – but how does it work so well? “It’s an effective way of raising money because everyone gives proportionally,” he says. Getting the boss involved hasn’t hurt, either…

It was a blazing hot night in the summer of 2014 and Seel Street was shining in the reflection a million lonely Fred Perry colours… or something. Pilgrim had persuaded Weller, a Be One Percent member on the quiet, to play a club gig in town to raise the profile of his charity group – and perhaps make a few quid into the bargain. It worked: “That show was a truly special event. Paul was so generous, covering all the running costs, that we ended up raising over £20,000 for projects from that one night alone – which is pretty incredible from a club gig! As well as being a member, he’s a big supporter of what we do and it’s great to have someone like that who’s willing to put their name to it.”

It’s an idea that worked so well that Pilgrim and Be One Percent hit upon the idea of producing semi-regular fundraising gigs to take advantage of the musician’s contact list. The first one starred Michael Head and the group have finally got around to announcing a second one, set for next week at Leaf on Bold Street. We got Steve to tell us all about it..

We’ve talked about the PW gig, but the follow-up with Michael Head was great, too…
That was another fantastic evening. I put in the cheeky ask to Michael, same as Paul really, and I think he knew the value of what we’re doing and was up for it. Michael’s gigs sell out fast, particularly in Liverpool, so it was packed and and a really top atmosphere. We had people sign up as Be One Percent members that night, so it was a big win for the charity as well as being a lot fun.

Tell us about what it’s like being involved with Be One Percent…
The best thing about being involved is how much of a difference we can make as a collective of donors. In small but significant ways, we’ve changed the lives of thousands of people.

… and the hardest thing?
Getting people to join. Spreading the word outside of my own network is hard and getting to people who don’t know you often makes the message less effective. We deliberately don’t put emphasis on having a marketing budget, so 100% of donations go to the projects. The cost to the charity, then, is that we grow slowly.

Maybe people can come the gig, have fun and feel inspired to get involved?
We always say that our biggest challenge is finding the next member, someone willing to commit 1% to fight poverty… that’s always the next thing.

Speaking of ‘the next thing’, there are names on this bill that are making tangible progress…
Robert Vincent is building a great reputation and has just got back to town, via London and America. He came by recommendation from a friend, too, so I’m excited to see what he delivers. Nick Ellis is a proper troubadour so you know what to expect there and Rachael Jean Harris has an incredible, gymnastic voice that’s beautiful and heart-breaking at the same time – I’ve enjoyed working with Rachael for years, now, and love everything she does.

It’s a cracking line-up… and you with a band, too! What can we expect?
Our set will be a little more mellow than normal and feature some brand new stuff. There’ll be double bass, drums and harmonies from Rachael.

‘Than normal’… it’s been a while since the great ‘Pixels And Paper’. How’s the new stuff coming along?
I’m in the process of recording an album called ‘Morning Skies’ and (all being well) it’ll be out in March 2017. I’ve been saying ‘my next album will be out next year’ for the last few years, but this time it will be!

You haven’t been idle! Be One Percent, Weller and The Songbook Collective. Tell us about the latter…
The Songbook Collective is Paul’s backing band. The boss was planning to take some time out of touring, so we sat round after a gig one night and came up with the idea of doing some gigs together… without him! We’ve all got our own songs and projects so it was a no brainier really and Paul gave it his blessing. It’s worked out well and, because we’ve played together for so long, it’s been dead easy and lots of fun. We’ve just put an album out and finished a little run of shows. It’s been a good laugh and the response to the album has been positive.

Any last words about Be One Percent?
For the cost of a round of drinks, or a meal out, your money can actually do something life-changing. You honestly don’t notice the 1%. I’d encourage everyone reading this to try giving with us for a few months.

Unplugged For Poverty
with Robert Vincent, Steve Pilgrim Band, Nick Ellis, Rachael Jean Harris

Thursday November 10th 2016, 8pm
Leaf on Bold Street, Liverpool
Get tickets


Pic courtesy Daniel Quesada