Mumford & Sons frontman Marcus Mumford’s speech from when he accepted the Steinbeck Award on behalf of the band has been made available online.
Read more: The Roots Of…Mumford & Sons
The prestigious award was established in 1996, and is given annually to a writer, thinker, artist or activist who embodies the “empathetic spirit and values” of John Steinbeck, author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.
Mumford & Sons received the prize back in September at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall, in a ceremony that featured the band in conversation and an acoustic performance.
The decision to award the band with the prize was based in part on their ‘Gentleman of The Road’ fund, which was established in 2006 and supports global and local charities fighting for social justice.
Accepting the award on behalf of the band, Marcus Mumford’s touching acceptance speech has now been made available online for the first time.
During the speech Marcus touched upon the Grenfell Tower tragedy. He explained how Mumford & Sons started the band in the same neighbourhood as the Lancaster West Estate high-rise where 72 people died in a fire in June 2017. He revealed that he still lived in the area at the time and volunteered with members of the community after the tragedy struck.
“While we were recording in London, a high-rise tower block in the neighbourhood in which we started the band, and in which I still lived, burned to the ground, killing 72 of our actual neighbours,” he said. “I could see the tower burning from my apartment nearby and went down to volunteer like everyone in our community did.”
He then discussed the aftermath of the fire and how residents were “failed by both market and state.”
“But what became clear, in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, is that there was an endemic problem of voicelessness in this part of our community,” he said. “Or, rather, the voices of the marginalised were left unheard. Right on the doorstep of the famously wealthy Notting Hill, Grenfell Tower was occupied by residents all too often failed by both market and state.”
Watch Marcus Mumford’s impassioned speech below:
Elsewhere, he discussed his role as an ambassador for War Child UK and Children in Conflict US, recalling his first trip to Jerusalem.
“I have been privileged enough to visit communities on multiple trips to Gaza and Jerusalem, Iraq and Jordan, and to the Central African Republic,” he said. “By listening to the people of those places, we have borne witness to the work being done to support children in conflict, which the Gentlemen of the Road Fund now supports wholeheartedly.
“On my first trip to Jerusalem I met a mother who had lost her son who told me: ‘Please, just listen. Don’t try to fix anything while you’re here, like everyone does. Because when you listen to my story you bring dignity to my humanity.’ Those words stay with me wherever I go, because words are vital.”
You can read the full speech here.
The folk-rock giants will headline the Madrid festival on July 10, with Royal Blood acting as their immediate support.
Other acts announced today include Shura, The Last Internationale, Waxahatchee, The Chats, Loraine James, Leiti Sene, Pabst, Hunter & The Bear, Spielbergs and Maria Guadana.