Working Towards a Common Goal

It’s certainly safe to say that there is a healthy amount of positive talk within the punk community. And while it’s by no means perfect, many people who identify themselves as part of the punk (and wider) scene are strong advocates of the kind of progressive ideals that the Daily Mail like to actively oppose.

However, there is a big difference between talking the talk, and actually getting up off your arse and doing something. Those behind the excellent Common Goals project – Nathan and Jack – are two who fall into the latter category. Through teaming up with bands from across the UK, their hard work has helped raise hundreds of pounds for worthwhile charities. We caught up with Jack to find out how the venture worked.

For people who don’t know – what is Common Goals and how does it work?

Common Goals is a not-for-profit project that works with bands (mostly punk rock) to raise money and awareness for a diverse range of charities.

How it works is that we ask a band to design a t-shirt for us and to choose a charity. We then sell these shirts and donate all the profits to that particular charity. So the more shirts we sell of the band’s design, the more money their charity receives!

When did you start the project and what made you decide to do it?

We launched the project in 2012 but had been planning it for a good while longer. We spent a lot of time applying for funding and grants but were pretty unsuccessful (turns out starting something like this in the middle of a recession is pretty hard). We ended up having to just save up some money and launching it with our own funds.

In terms of why we did it, well, I guess it’s the same reason a lot of punk bands do any sort of activism or fundraising – we want to do something that we feel is worthwhile, and for us that’s helping out others by raising money through these shirts. Even if it’s on a small scale, it is something we are passionate about and we know the donations we make are really greatly received by the charities as they tend to be very small scale organisations that really need public donations.

You have worked with Martha, Great Cynics, The Xcerts, The Cut Ups, The Arteries and ONSIND so far. How do you choose the bands to work with?

It’s pretty simple, firstly we have to be fans of the band (The Xcerts for example of one of my favourite bands) and secondly we have to know that the band fit the ethos and principles of Common Goals. Martha and ONSIND are prime examples of this, you only have to listen to one of their songs to realise that they share a lot of values with us. We know there are bigger bands out there that we could ask to do a shirt, but we want to work with bands we know are going to be fully 100% into the idea of the project and are going to pick a charity that means something to them.

So the bands choose the charities?

Yes – the only influence we have is that we recommend that the charity is relatively small. We had some issues when we launched and tried to donate to a very large charity. After a few discussions with them it turned out that the majority of the donation would just be going on admin costs (and not even admin within the charity) which neither us nor the band were very comfortable with. We ended up working out how to donate directly to a smaller branch of the charity and it all worked out perfectly.

How we currently work is that our initial print run of a design is 50 shirts, this means that if we sell all of them then we have raised £500 for the band’s charity. When we donate these kind of figures to a charity such as Right to Remain (ONSIND’s chosen charity) they are incredibly thankful because with no government funding they are reliant on public donations.

What artists do you work with?

The only artist we have actually chosen to work with is Jamie Morrison from Pale Angels / Arteries. He works as an illustrator under the moniker of GOT VITAMIN C ( and he designed our Common Goals logo. We’ve been friends with Jamie for many years and we are such big fans of his style – it’s very unique and instantly recognisable, so he was the natural choice for us to ask. For the shirt designs the bands get complete freedom of choice for who designs their shirt, so we have had a great range of great artists and illustrators contribute.

What’s your favourite t-shirt so far and why?

The ONSIND shirt was a really great design by an artist called Emma Thacker ( I don’t think we were alone in liking it as it ended up selling out pretty fast.

Are there any other organisations like yours? Do you think the alternative/punk scene is lacking in these kinds of projects?

In America there certainly are. Organisations such as Shirts for a Cure and The Yellow Bird Project do a similar sort of thing and were a big influence for us in thinking about setting up something here in the UK.

In terms of the punk scene lacking these types of projects – I think this is quite a hard question to answer. On the one hand I think our scene has an abundance of people keen to do interesting things, whether that’s benefit shows, or using their music as a platform to raise awareness of issues and to encourage people to think differently. I think that side of things will always be present because of the nature of punk rock and its relationship with protest music and the alternative lifestyle. However, I think there is also a huge pull from the scene for people who just want to meet like-minded people and have a good time at shows. This comes under fire sometimes from the more ‘active’ punks and I don’t think that’s fair. I think that side of punk rock isn’t to be underestimated. I know I didn’t get into the scene to start a project like this, I got into it because I started going to my local music venue in Exeter (The Cavern Club) and I met a group of people who liked similar things to me and I had a great time at the shows. Nowadays I personally want more than that from punk rock, and I love seeing the kind of things going on around the country – from Jon (from The Cut Ups) and his work with the Devon and Cornwall Food Association ( to the brilliant awareness of gender issues that ONSIND and Martha promote, but I don’t think you HAVE to want this to enjoy the music or go to shows. So sure, it would be nice to see more of this type of thing, but I certainly don’t think we are lacking in it, I just think we all have different reasons for getting in to and enjoying punk music, and that’s great!

If you were to expand your project, what would you do?

Me and Nathan are constantly talking about how we would love to expand the project if we had more time; get way more bands involved, spend more time on promoting the project, even just building a proper website (very overdue we know, sorry!). But at the end of the day this is something we both do in our spare time – we both work full time and have various other projects on the go like playing in bands, making music videos, putting on art exhibitions/workshops, etc etc. So at the moment we are just happy to be able to keep up with packing up the orders as they come in!

Who are you looking to work with next? Do you have any new t-shirts in the pipeline?

We actually have a new band and design coming out in the next few months which we will be announcing very soon. I’m sure there will be a competition to go with the launch of the shirt so keep your eyes peeled for that. In terms of future designs, we have another band lined up and the design will go to the printers as soon as it is finished. That’s about as far ahead as we can plan at the moment!

– Andrew Cream

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