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Winston Marshall quits Mumford & Sons after Andy Ngo controversy: ‘It’s been no easy decision’

‘For me to speak about what I’ve learnt to be such a controversial issue will inevitably bring my bandmates more trouble,’ musician says

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 25 June 2021 12:55 BST
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Mumford & Sons play Reading Festival 2015

Mumford & Sons banjoist Winston Marshall has announced that he is leaving the band after 14 years.

The news comes after the 33-year-old was involved in controversy when he tweeted his admiration for a book by controversial right-wing American journalist Andy Ngo.

In a lengthy post on Medium, the musician explained that it had been “no easy decision” as he detailed his time as a founding member of the the British folk-rock group.

“I loved those first tours,” he wrote. “Bouncing off a sweaty stage in an Edinburgh catacomb we then had to get to a gig in Camden by lunch the next day. We couldn’t fit all four of us and Ted’s double-bass into the VW Polo. I think it was Ben who drew the short-straw and had to follow by train with his keyboard. I remember blitzing it down the M6 through the night, the lads asleep beside me.

“We made it but my voice sadly didn’t, completely shot by exhaustion, I had to mime my harmonies. Being in Mumford & Sons was exhilarating.”

Marshall continued by explaining how he had sent Ngo a tweet at the beginning of March to congratulate him on his book, Unmasked, calling it “important’ and its author “a brave man”.

“I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others,” Marshall said. “How wrong I turned out to be.”

Within 24 hours, he said, the moment was trending with “tens of thousands of angry retweets and comments”.

“I failed to foresee that my commenting on a book critical of the Far-Left could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right,” he wrote.

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“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he continued. “Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me ‘fascist’ was ludicrous beyond belief.”

Marshall said that, while he had experienced abuse as a figure in the public eye before, this was “another level”, and was also affecting his friends and bandmates.

“Despite being four individuals we were, in the eyes of the public, a unity. Furthermore it’s our singer’s name on the tin. That name was being dragged through some pretty ugly accusations, as a result of my tweet. The distress brought to them and their families that weekend I regret very much. I remain sincerely sorry for that. Unintentionally, I had pulled them into a divisive and totemic issue.

“Emotions were high. Despite pressure to nix me they invited me to continue with the band. That took courage, particularly in the age of so called ‘cancel culture’,” he wrote. “I made an apology and agreed to take a temporary step back.”

Mumford and Sons performing live (Getty Images for NARAS)

Marshall claimed he was then attacked by “another viral mob”, this time “for the sin of apologising”.

Since then, Marshall continued, he has spent much time “reflecting, reading and listening”.

“For me to speak about what I’ve learnt to be such a controversial issue will inevitably bring my bandmates more trouble. My love, loyalty and accountability to them cannot permit that. I could remain and continue to self-censor but it will erode my sense of integrity. Gnaw my conscience. I’ve already felt that beginning,” he wrote.

“The only way forward for me is to leave the band. I hope in distancing myself from them I am able to speak my mind without them suffering the consequences. I leave with love in my heart and I wish those three boys nothing but the best. I have no doubt that their stars will shine long into the future. I will continue my work with Hong Kong Link Up and I look forward to new creative projects as well as speaking and writing on a variety of issues, challenging as they may be.”

In a post from their own official Twitter account, the band tweeted: “We wish you all the best for the future, Win, and we love you man. M, B & T.”

Marshall co-founded Mumford & Sons in 2007 with singer Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwayne.

They released four albums together, including their 2009 debut Sigh No More, and 2012’s Babel, which won a Grammy for Album of the Year.

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