Imagine a world where Theresa May ran a very successful election campaign and her strong and stable government has just got stuck in to implementing Brexit & their very well received manifesto… Nope.
Welcome to our reality – the government is in a shambolic and unstable state, being uncomfortably propped up by a nutty right wing Northern Irish minority party. What a time to be alive! However, last weekend a small corner of Somerset gave those of us with our head in our hands, wondering what Mrs May and pals would do next, a much needed lift. A politically charged Glastonbury did its bit to entertain and empower a new engaged left leaning class of voters. Like everyday life in the UK, politics is hard wired into Glastonbury, and let’s hope that never changes. The end of May may not have meant the literal end of May, but the end of June certainly filled us with fresh vigor for what is possible as we look ahead.
The mother of all hangovers that the first morning of Glastonbury usually delivers had an extra sting in its tail back in 2016 when we woke up to news of the shock EU referendum result; it was all anyone could talk about, and this year the state of the nation and the world was still very much as on the agenda as warm cider and the inevitable long drop toilet visit.
The anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigns were as always seen all over older parts of the festival and speakers in the Leftfield, a core part of Glastonbury dedicated to activism, included Billy Bragg and Alison Moyet – both of whom spoke about the current state of the country with genuine passion and humility. Acts like the online video editor CassetteBoy attacked the Conservatives with brutal force during a live DJ performance leaving us crying with laughter and despair in equal measure. Block9 (a hedonistic late night venue) erected bill boards so politically vulgar and amusing, I’m not even sure I can publish photos of them… well, maybe just one or two:
Well deserving charities like Oxfam, Greenpeace and Wateraid are all baked into Glastonbury DNA and they all benefit from generous free publicity and their share of the Glastonbury ticket sales (quite rightly so). But keep in mind that all of these charities have significant political lobbying built into their operations, they all have wants and needs that only politicians can give them.
The most blatant political theme at the festival this year was the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. He spoke to a huge audience at the Pyramid Stage with passion, humility and charisma, not mentioning the Tories or his own party, instead focusing on ideas, the arts and his philosophy – perhaps appealing to his new found younger audience and ensuring coverage on the BBC? Quickly reading viewpoints of this on social media gave me a snapshot of our current state of bias; despite being there and witnessing a very public approval for Corbyn, tweets and blogs quickly lay claim to a “backlash” and dissention, which simply wasn’t seen in reality on site.
Everywhere you went across Worthy Farm you’d be greated with Jezza T-shirts, flags and banners, along with hundreds, if not thousands of people chanting ‘Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn’ to the tune of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. The chant rang out across the site at the oddest of moments (during a Sophie Ellis Bextor show just before her disco anthem, Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer), was probably my biggest surprise chant). There are a number of likely factors for this – a disenfranchised youth looking for a new order, a new home for those who deserted Blair’s new labour government after the Iraq war, middle class guilt, a lack of understanding of what’s really going on and what he really stands for, a significant intake of beer… It’s quite hard to tell exactly, but we do know that no political leader in recent times could hold an audience like Jeremy Corbyn did last weekend, and he’s got momentum that hasn’t been seen in this country for a long time. He came across – for want of a better phrase – ‘Strong and Stable’. He’s a genuine man who has become somewhat of a cult figure, so who knows what might happen over the next few years? But it’s best to keep in mind that politics which focus so heavily on just one individual and their ideas is inspirational and powerful yes, but also a little dangerous. Look at Thatcher, Blair and Trump…
You could go to Glastonbury and hide from the politics and I’m sure some people do, but much like voting, it’s something you need to embrace and be a part of. It’s an integral part of the festival and as long as the Eavis family are in charge, I’m quite sure it always will be this way.