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How LadBaby’s songs about sausage rolls have shined a light on food poverty

After scoring two Christmas number ones in a row, LadBaby aka Mark Hoyle is hoping for a hat trick. He tells The Big Issue about how we can all help feed families this Christmas and beyond

It’s a feat only managed by The Beatles and the Spice Girls. Now LadBaby, aka Mark Hoyle, is perhaps the most unlikely candidate to join the roster of record breakers.

The 33-year-old who lives in Hemel Hempstead is a vlogger, with millions of followers tuning into his escapades involving his wife Roxanne and two sons, Phoenix aged four, and Kobe, two.

But three years ago, LadBaby decided to try and raise smiles and a bit of cash to help the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, which feed people who can’t afford to put food on the table.

The first chart-topper, a cover of We Built This City (on sausage rolls, obviously) was a smash, followed up by a second last year which even had Stormzy, a rival for the top spot, encouraging fans to back LadBaby’s single.

This year, LadBaby has teamed up again with the Trussell Trust after the most testing years any of us have had. This year’s sausage roll-based parody song? Don’t Stop Me Eatin’ (to the tune of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’).

We caught up with LadBaby/Mark on the day the song was released to talk about the story behind it and what we can all do to help this Christmas

The Big Issue: If you get to number one again that puts you up there with The Beatles and the Spice Girls. How does that feel…?

LadBaby: What an honour to be talked about with musical greats. It’s mad we’re mentioned in the same sentence. But what’s lovely is that hopefully every time they mention us, they mention the charity in that same story. Not only is it LadBaby with number ones, it’s the Trussell Trust. So we keep our fingers crossed.

At The Big Issue, we’ve covered a lot about food poverty in recent years, but in 2020 it became a bigger issue than ever. Are you using sausage rolls as a kind of Trojan horse to raise awareness?

Absolutely. We started doing the songs three years ago when we realised the problems that were faced by so many people in the country. Fourteen million people live below the poverty line. It’s heart-breaking when you see the stats, when you hear that there’s expected to be a food parcel handed out every nine seconds this winter; every 34 seconds there’s going to be a child that gets a food parcel. Everyone’s had a bad year. Everyone’s suffered in own way because of Covid so we’re trying to spread a message of positivity and laughter, raising money at the same time.

What was it that made you release the first single three years ago?

We were aware of the Trussell Trust. My wife Roxanne’s mum volunteered at a Trussell Trust food bank for many years so we’ve always known what they’re about and the situation that a lot of people can find themselves in. And, there was a time, four or so years ago, when we’d just had our first child. We were struggling, you know? We went down to single parent income, we were struggling to put food on the table.

At one point, once our bills have been paid we had about £20 a week for food. We know that worry, when you’re in a supermarket and you’ve not got all the money you would like to feed the family. On our channel, generally we try to make people laugh. It came to Christmas and somebody jokingly said: ‘You should do a song about sausage rolls’. And I thought, I can sing about food and raise money for people that are struggling to eat.

How much have you managed to raise with these songs?

The first song the first year was the equivalent of 70,000 emergency food parcels. The second was more than that. But obviously, the money this year goes not only to food parcels but actually keeping the food banks open. That’s been part of the struggle this year. So we want to raise more than ever before.

Working closely with the Trussell Trust, what have you learned about the seriousness of food poverty in the UK?

I learned that in the first six months of this pandemic, they handed out 1.2 million food parcels. That’s staggering. And it’s terrible that the situation is getting worse. That’s why it’s so important that we shine a light on it. The work of Marcus Rashford this year, has been so important.

There needs to be as many people as possible talking about it and trying to help, and we want to be part of that conversation. We’re a young family. Two in five families have used a food bank. Anyone at any point could find themselves in this situation. I think that’s what’s scary. People can be only a couple of months away from needing a food bank, no matter what their situation is.

What can we do to help?

Most supermarkets now have a basket behind the checkouts with a Trussell Trust or other food bank’s logo on where people can donate food. I don’t think people necessarily see those baskets or know what they’re for. Hopefully, if they’ve watched our video, they might recognise that the next time they’re doing their food shop. That’s something that we can bring awareness to, the little ways that almost everybody could help.

Do you receive messages from your followers about the struggles they have had?

There was one message in particular we got earlier this year that stuck with me. It was from a mother with three children. After buying school uniform for the kids she didn’t have any money. She felt embarrassed and she felt ashamed that she had to reach out to a food bank. But she was totally overwhelmed that within a couple of hours, they turned up with food and it meant that they could eat. And she said, the only reason she knew that service was there was because she had followed us on social media for a few years and was made aware of the Trussell Trust from our songs. We do these silly songs and try and have a laugh, but if it’s helped just one mum put food on the table for three kids then how amazing is that?

So the Trussell Trust and other food banks do great work – but should it be up to them to support people who can’t afford to eat?

You know what, I don’t think food banks should exist. We’re trying to get to the point where people don’t need them, because people shouldn’t need them. It shouldn’t be a problem that anyone faces, young families having to rely on the generosity of other people to help them through.

Do you think Britain has changed in 2020?

I think there’s been a real sense of community this year, especially in lockdown when everybody got to know their neighbours again. That community spirit was back, the claps for the NHS, it was a real coming together. One of the reasons why we chose Don’t Stop Believin’ as a song to cover because we don’t want people to stop believing. Don’t stop believing that things will get better. And next year it will be better. Hopefully, that’s the sentiment we can end 2020 on. Don’t stop believing that things are on the up.

Don’t Stop Me Eatin’ is out now with all proceeds going towards the Trussell Trust’s mission to end the need for food banks in the UK.