The Sound of Public Services

A UNISON trio are balancing their public service jobs with a new role – as rock stars

Dan Hagerty, Scott Williams and Chris ‘Slim’ Morgan are collectively known as The Sandinistas. They all hail from Tredegar in Wales and have known each other for years. Dan’s first impression of Scott wasn’t exactly positive though.

“We met at a battle of the bands competition when we were all younger,” he says. “The first time I saw Scott – am I allowed to swear? ­­– his band were on first and after he finished he kicked the drums all over the stage. And I thought, what a complete knob.”

They’ve since bonded and have played together for years, but nine months ago decided to start a new project and The Sandinistas were born. At the same time Dan’s first baby also entered the world. He named him Noah John Lennon Hagerty. So are The Beatles their influence? Dan says it’s more like The Clash and The Jam “with a pop twist.”

Things have moved quickly over the last nine months. The band produced a song called Ready to Blow, which caught the attention of the music industry and made its way to David Mclean, the manager of Placebo. On an otherwise ordinary Tuesday he Facetimed the band and they played him the song. By the Friday that week he’d flown to Cardiff and they were signing a management deal. They’ve also signed to United Talent agency, a booking agency that works with acts such as Muse and Billy Bragg.

The Sandinistas recently played at the famous South by South West festival in Texas, and they’ve got gigs in Russia and California coming up this year. Things are progressing rapidly for the band. But what do they do when they’re not on stage?

From left: Chris, Scott and Dan

Singer and guitarist Dan works as a performance analyst for Welsh Water. “It’s my job to produce reports for regulators and look at performance measures,” he says.

The band are clearly close and like to tease each other. As Dan explains his job the others say he’s like Chandler from Friends – no one knows what he actually does.

Scott, the drummer also teaches ICT in a school. He says he’s “pretty good with computers” and enjoys teaching all different ages. “I have to adapt my teaching style for children at different stages, which is the most interesting part and the most challenging part at the same time.”

Chris – or ‘Slim’, as the others call him – plays bass but is also a youth worker.

“I work with young people who are on the cusp of anti-social behaviour, or young people who have been thrown out of school or excluded,” he says. He puts transition programmes in place for them, with organisations such as leisure trusts. They’ve also got a music programme that runs in a local studio with a rapper, “which helps them get their thoughts and feelings down and get their self-esteem back up.”

Can Slim rap too, then? “Only at Christmas.”

The name Sandinistas has two origins. It comes from a Clash album, but is also, of course, the Nicaraguan revolutionary movement from the 1930s.

The band themselves have a rebellious streak; one of their songs is inspired by Donald Trump and probably wouldn’t please the US president if he heard it.

They also feel very strongly about the value of public services. They’re proud to be from the home of Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS. Says one: “We all believe strongly in where we’re from and giving back to the community.”

So how do they manage to fit the band around their work?

“Lovely employers,” says Scott, leaning close to the microphone. Dan says he thinks the other two have the support of their employers because they work with young people. “To go away and follow your dream and do something that’s worthwhile is inspiring for young people, and I think their employers recognise that.”

Dan himself has to use up all his annual leave. He laughs. “I haven’t told them about California yet.”