Almost three years ago, deep in the heart of the BBC, Glenn Tilbrook was preparing to perform with Squeeze on The Andrew Marr Show.

Sitting on the coach, ready to listen, was former Prime Minster of Great Britain, David Cameron. At the last minute Glenn changed the lyrics of ‘Cradle To The Grave’ (hit single from the band’s 15th studio album), to sing: “I grew up in council housing, part of what made Britain great. There are some here who are hell-bent, on the destruction of the welfare state.”

Not just a political Machiavellian who reels off soundbites and headlines, Glenn has made an effort to inform himself, and it’s how he came across the Trussell Trust – the charity he is supporting on Squeeze’s current tour, which calls in at the New Theatre, Oxford, tonight.

It’s clear to see in the way he talks about it that, for him, this is a new raison d’être.

“I watched a programme about food banks, and it really stayed with me,” he says.

“The grinding desperation of people who don’t have enough food to put on the table for their kids. Anyone can end up in that situation and I’m ashamed that in 2019 our politicians can’t come up with a better solution.”

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The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of over 420 food banks across the UK. In 2017-2018, 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies were provided to people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year.

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“I just wanted to help the Trussell Trust and what they do with coordinating collections and distribution. It’s just a very practical solution to a heart-breaking problem.”

As with his show at the city’s St John the Evangelist earlier this year, audience members will be able to donate non-perishable foods and other essential items at all venues, which will then be delivered to a local food bank.

Glenn has also released a solo acoustic EP to raise money.

“I wanted it to be really stripped back and just me singing and playing because I’ve never really done that before,” he says.

He admits to being excited at the prospect of trying new things out on the road. “We’ve had something of a renaissance in the last few years, and look forward to this continuing, as we will play a set of songs that are both new, contemporary and as innovative as people have come to expect from us, along with the old beauties,” he says.

Glenn is quick to admit that food banks, however good, are not the definitive answer to a larger crisis.

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“I think there’s a demonisation of poor people that’s been going on too long, where they somehow seem as spongers if they don’t have enough money,” he says.

“I grew up in council housing and my parents can remember when being poor was an awful stigma. You had no help from the government, and we seem to be gradually wending our way back to that position.”

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Is there a sense of apathy?

“Maybe apathy on the part of people that let this sort of thing happen, but I don’t think its political apathy,” he pauses. “I think it’s sort of an agenda – not to create poverty, but poverty is the by-product of a totally free market society.”

There’s a point to be made, that while some of Squeeze’s later records have been extremely politically charged (tunes like A&E and Rough Ride from 2017’s The Knowledge’ are a call to arms for the country’s welfare departments), their early records are just as poignant.

“I think the politics of songs like Labelled With Love and Up The Junction were more personal, but coming from a similar place. Honestly, Up The Junction could be a Trussell Trust story you know?”

In an age of virtue signalling, Squeeze are putting their money where their mouths are, and singing for not just their own supper.

Squeeze play the New Theatre Oxford tonight (Friday).

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