A 17-year-old who ‘couldn’t find Spain on a map’ walked across the Pyrenees to join the Spanish civil war’s freedom fighters. Folk trio the Young’uns explain how Johnny Longstaff’s extraordinary life inspired their latest album

It began nearly four years ago in Clevedon. We were in the North Somerset coastal town to do a gig. After the show, a man approached us. People often do; we love to hear their responses to our songs. The man introduced himself as Duncan and handed us two pieces of paper.

One was a photograph from the 1930s of a scruffy teenager selling newspapers on a street corner. “That’s my dad,” he said. The second was a list. “That’s what he did.” It read like a checklist of working-class struggle in the 20th century. Hunger marches, mass trespasses, the Battle of Cable Street, travelling to Spain to fight against the fascists in the Spanish civil war.

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