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The pernicious effect of keeping silent when you ought to be screaming and sobbing is explored in Samaritans, the latest track from IDLES, from forthcoming album Joy as an Act of Resistance. But this article isn't exactly about IDLES, the intense alternative five-piece from South-West England. Instead, it’s about a group of their fans who, in the last year, have changed each other's lives and restored their faith in humanity. And if their motto, "All is Love", means something to you, they would like you to join them.

This is a little corner of the virtual universe where only kindness resides. Loving IDLES is the key that opens the door.
— Irene Livadopoulos (AF Gang member)

Freelance photographer Lindsay Melbourne founded Facebook group AF Gang after she got to know the band whilst doing photography on their Brutalism tour in the Spring of 2017. "Not through their choice," she jokes. "I just forced myself on them!"

"You'll absolutely love this band..."

Lindsay had originally been commissioned to go along to the Moth Club in London in March to take live shots of IDLES, having been told that she would "absolutely love this band", to which she thought to herself: "Yeah, I've heard that one before". But of course the rest is history.

 AF Gang co-founder Lindsay Melbourne

AF Gang co-founder Lindsay Melbourne

Not long after, Lindsay met Louise Hughes, when IDLES played Bermondsey Social Club, and they got talking after Lindsay spotted the IDLES tattoo on Louise's finger and asked if she could take a photo of it. "We got on really well and we had both noticed that we'd met a lot of people - people of all ages, but quite a few aged around 30 to 50 - who would all tell the same sort of stories, who all had a shared experience. And it just seemed obvious that we needed to do something."

Lindsay approached IDLES frontman Joe Talbot and asked if it was okay to start the group AF Gang (in case you're wondering, it's pronounced as all one word, to rhyme with Afghan) and to use the subtitle 'All is Love', which is the phrase Joe favours to sign off his own social media posts. "He was incredibly supportive," Lindsay says.

AF Gang has restored my faith in humanity
— Lisa Makinson (AF Gang member)

"It was the month after that I bought my first IDLES tee," recalls Brian Mimpress, one of the four AF Gang administrators "I posted a picture of myself wearing it on Instagram, tagging in IDLES. Lindsey commented on it saying 'come join our group'. I was member number 12."

A little over a year later, Lindsay, Louise, Brian and fellow admin Kirsty Williamson are now responsible for moderating a group with more than 6,000 members.

"Friendships were made..."

"It’s grown into something quite remarkable," says Brian. "For the first six to seven months the group peaked at about 600, maybe one post a day from someone. But we made a point of trying to meet up before shows. It was always just a group of IDLES fans that all felt that same passion.

The first AF Gang meet-up was in Guildford at the Always the Sun festival. I think there were about six of us there in a total crowd of about 40-ish. But friendships were made. We used to get about two to three new members a week. It all changed in February this year when the band started to shout about us, too. We gained about 800 members in a single day."

AF-Gang-Brian-and-Lou.jpg

Idle Hands

AF Gang admins Louise Hughes and Brian Mimpress
Photo: Lindsay Melbourne

"I think everyone that has been hit with the IDLES bat knows that feeling of 'OMG this band are something else', so it was just exciting to talk to other people that felt the same way as you did," continues Brian. "IDLES seem to attract a certain type of person. I'm not going to label anyone - it's difficult to explain, but I think you know what I mean. In a very old interview somewhere Joe said Brutalism [their debut album] is a broken record for broken people; that summed it up for me. I think the feel of the group has just happened. IDLES seem to attract that type of person. Their music and words appeal to you and everyone feels the same and just 'gets' it."

"We're all slightly 'flawed'..."

"I'm a real superfan and I'm involved in a couple of other groups," says Lindsay, "but I hadn't felt part of anything like this since TheLibertines.org, a fan forum that I was involved with - and that was nothing like as big as Facebook - and it was 20 years ago".

"This is an incredible community that the band has created," agrees Brian "and us admins feel honoured to be playing a small part in. Be it in a group chat or in the middle of a pit at a gig, the feeling of support and unity is something quite unique. I've never experienced anything like this before."

idles-samaritans.jpg

Although few details have emerged so far, Lindsay is currently involved in the making of a film in which some of the members of AF Gang have been interviewed, telling their stories.

"Louise says that all the people we met at gigs were always people who were slightly 'flawed'," explains Lindsay, "whether that was through mental health issues or their music taste - everyone was very similar and we just felt like we needed to put these people in one place, so that they could all meet each other and share their experiences together."

There's nothing special about a band having an online fan club. Every artist has its hardcore followers. But in the case of AF Gang, there is something more. Music has brought AF Gang together, but what unites it is not the music, but the togetherness.


Samaritans takes its name from the emotional support charity which for 65 years has been helping people who experience suicidal thoughts - including many men to whom the expression "man up" means expressing their feelings only through anger, violence and self-loathing. Learn more about Samaritans at samaritans.org

Facebook members can join AF Gang here.

IDLES also featured on the Music to Fight Evil playlist in March 2018 with the track Mother.


We asked members of AF Gang to tell us what their community means to them. This is what they said

It’s the only corner of the internet that I feel genuinely free of judgement. We all love IDLES, like similar music and want to find new bands to listen to, but that’s only the foundation to AF Gang - it’s becoming its own culture wherein people are opinionated without being self-righteous, caring without being doormats and genuinely unique without trying too hard. For a long while I was frightened that the world was full of idiots and arseholes... well, it is, but now I know there are at least some people that are trying their damnedest to do something good in the world. AIL.
— Emily Babb
Everyone here understands how special this band is. It’s like we’re all in on some big secret. I can’t put it simply. I’ve never felt this way about a band before. I really loved American punk when I was a kid but the Dead Kennedys and co sang about life in America. IDLES sing about the world I see around me, in a way nobody else has.
Also the fans are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, the love in the room of an IDLES gig is unreal. So diverse too, people of all ages, races and backgrounds. All that to me is what makes them special. Plus their songs slap me in the face every damn time.
— Chris Fay
I thought I was a bit old and world weary to be drawn into a band fan club type thing, but music of Idles and the AF Gang have made me re-appraise my outlook on things, and their consistency to not be just a ‘one hit’ or ‘one album’ wonder has made me buy into the whole package, I mean I even enter conversations with strangers at gigs and festivals now purely based one of us wearing an Idles T-Shirt!
— Phill Bonnetti
It’s more than the band, though, it’s the ethos of understanding that it has evoked. I mean how many people have benefited from all the discussions about mental health and general acceptance?
The best things aside from the music obviously is the lack of judgment and desire to help anyone purely based on a mutual like.
Dark as things are especially this day and age it’s generally a really good healthy place to be.
— Alex King
I echo what others have said: I don’t feel any judgement in this group. I love this community as much as I love the band. I would happily go to an IDLES gig on my own, safe in the knowledge that there will be plenty of AF Gang members to chat to. The excitement that’s evident within the group when new material/information is released is infectious and I love being a part of that x
— Rae Goodwin
Af gang are the hand up when you crash and burn in the pit
— Zenon Michael
You can liken the AF group to that stranger that gives you change for the car park machine when you haven’t got any and didn’t even ask them for it, when it’s the last Rolo in the pack they offer it to you without any hesitation, gives you an extra stamp and a wink on your coffee card when the manager isn’t looking... basically in here when you least expect it a stranger is going to make a kind hearted gesture towards another human being just because. Not for any reward or gain, but just because there are so many genuinely awesome people here that want to connect with like minded people. We all joined here with one thing in common yet we stay for having an abundance of so many other things in common. You can see the kindness in help and advice with mental health, giving away gig tickets and download codes for free, creating group playlists together, discovering new bands, going to gigs on your own and coming out with new gig buddies .... I could go on!
This place is the very definition of kindness and community
— Nicola Jordan
What? This isn’t a group for Black Flag and Fugazi?
— Steve Prior
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About the curator: Jon Ewing

After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.

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