Anarchy & activism: The punk devoted to charity

Eagle Spits: photographed by Scott Bradley, Phukin Photos

Samuel Hornsby hears the story of Eagle Spits, the punk rocker who has dedicated himself to helping global street kids.

With tattooed knuckles, a brightly dyed mohawk and facial piercings, there is no doubt that 55-year-old Eagle Spits is a punk. However, he is unique in that he has found a way to blend his love of anarchic rock with charity work and created the Nottingham-based organisation Punk 4 the Homeless. The aim is to put on loud bands and in the process raise money for South American street kids.

“I first got into punk when I was fourteen. One day I walked into my parents living room and Top of the Pops was on and ‘The Stranglers’ were playing. I thought it was totally different from anything else that was happening, and I became a punk on the spot,” Eagle says.

“Punk to me is an attitude rather than a musical format. There have always been there slagging off the government, the state and the police and, for me, there’s no point doing all that if you’re not going to do anything about it. That’s how the slogan came about for the charity: ‘stopping cops killing kids is punk rock.’”

Eagle began working on the cause on his own in 2010 when he wrote to several homelessness charities to find affiliation. Compass Children’s Charity were the only ones to reply.

“There’s 100 million street children in the world. There’s 40 million in Latin America. ‘Compass’, who we work besides, look after kids in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua. That can be anything from street outreach to getting kids reunited with families or into orphanages.

“For an example of what we’ve done with them, we sent a couple of thousand quid a few years ago because there were a group of girls whose only prospects were to go into prostitution. With that money we were able to fund a welding project because that was a valuable skill that would keep them from having to go down that path.”

“We try and capture a ‘solidarity, not charity’ ethos.”

It was a struggle to begin with, but now Eagle has managed to build a team of four other committed team members to help run the cause with additional help from occasional volunteers. Additionally, even though the team has grown over the last decade Eagle can still find difficulties.

“It’s fuckin’ hard work putting on events,” he says.

“There’s always lots and lots of bands that want to play for us but the organisation of it isn’t always easy. There’s always something that’ll go wrong. Also, we haven’t got the finances that a big place has so if something like the P.A. system goes wrong, we have to sort it out ourselves.”

Nonetheless, this grassroots approach is a part of Eagle’s philosophy of life, and there is a love of being involved in the different stages of organisation.

“I consider myself a Christian Anarchist and Anarchism involves a D.I.Y. approach. It gets away from the corporate organisational stuff and tries to escape being involved in any systems of oppression,” Eagle says.

“We try and capture a ‘solidarity, not charity’ ethos. A lot of people are rightfully suspicious of charity because they’ve got CEOs taking lots of money and people don’t know where their money actually goes to. Whereas, with what we do, I think people see exactly where all their money is going.”

As of 2019, in addition to their events supporting the efforts of Compass Children’s Charity, Eagle and Punk 4 the Homeless have also begun supporting a small, independent girls’ orphanage in Sierra Leone.

“When the Ebola crisis hit Sierra Leone a man and his mum and brother took in 73 orphaned girls and they’re living in a four bedroomed house. All the money we send there goes to feeding, clothing, education, and medical bills.

“The money that goes there is more direct because they haven’t got any other external support apart from us. We’ve been a lot more intense on that cause recently. Since we’ve got involved, they’ve even named themselves ‘Hope Orphanage’.”

However, like so many other things, Eagle and his charity were thrown into a state of uncertainty last year when Covid-19 broke and forced closures of indoor events, including the Punk 4 the Homeless gigs that brought in much of the money he would raise.

“During lockdown I thought ‘oh shit, we’re screwed’. I had to think about how the hell we could go forward. We tried the online stuff and luckily that kind of flourished,” he says with bewilderment.

“When we started, we did 55 days straight of events to say ‘look, we’re here still’. It turned out to be very advantageous much to my surprise. In fact, we’ve ended up making more money through the online events than we would from the normal gigs we’d be putting on.”

Though nothing can truly replace the atmosphere and feeling Eagle gets from the live in-person events he would usually be holding, he has embraced the digital platform with two all-day livestream events each month.

“It’s been different doing online events, but a valid experience in itself,” he says as he takes a drag from his cigarette and smiles.

“I don’t know what will happen in the future but I’m not going anywhere.”