Now this really is a test of whether you still belong to the good old British old left:
Chris Binding in the Guardian reports enthusiastically about a political/cultural event called ‘Left Field’.
Groups of like-minded people gathering to drink beer and debate the great issues of the day are nothing new. Since the earliest days, dreamers, radicals and revolutionaries alike have gathered and plotted how to change their world. Some even have. And where better than to air radical thoughts in the 21st century than the Glastonbury festival?
Ah yes, the mud, the piss, the hippies. Erm, I can think of a few better places Chris. Tuscany perhaps? A Greek island? Baghdad? Burnley?
Enter LeftField. The initiative made its debut at last year’s festival in a modest way. The LeftField tent provided a place for debate, education and even enlightenment, where people could discuss a range of ideas, and form a voice of protest against unfairness of all kinds.
Ok maybe that still has some sort of appeal, although I must say I prefer my response to unfairness of all kinds to be dressed up a bit more in terms of solutions than ‘forming a voice of protest’ but let’s see who is going to be ‘educating’ and even ‘enlightening’ us in the beer tent…….
Plans for the weekend include a special Joe Strummer tribute session with guest musicians and Clash footage, including previously unseen film of Joe’s last gig, comedy sets will include appearances from Mark Thomas and Mark Steel, and there will be a special appearance by festival favourite Billy Bragg.
I see. Well I like Billy Bragg but I think I certainly can live without a video-tribute to a dead public schoolboy-turned-psuedo-anarcho-punk and as for the SWP’s in-house ‘comedians’, well the only thing Mark Steel has enlightened me about is how sad his audience are if they manage to whoop and cheer at his ultra-left Jim Davidson routine. I think the combination of alcohol and Trot comedy is best not experimented with. But yes, indeed, what about the alcohol?
A separate tent will house a bar serving fairly-traded beer from the Workers Beer Company (happy hour is 6pm-8pm), but if you fancy something rather more exotic, there are radical cocktails available with names like Che Guevara and Lefthook.
Sorry, what decade are we living in? Che Guevara cocktails? I’m sure there will be one with strawberry and vodka called ‘Red Revolution’, and can you guess what ingredients you need to make a ‘Gorgeous George’? And what is fairly-traded beer? Its one pound and forty pence a pint at my working mens club which I find very fair – I bet they can’t beat that at Glastonbury and I doubt they will have pork scratchings either.
But the star of the weekend for many young people will be Tony Benn, whose debut at LeftField last year attracted 2,000 people. The veteran MP has amassed a huge following among young people who have tuned in to his passionate beliefs and commitment to left of centre causes.
Well he is a former MP for a start Chris. He left parliament to “concentrate on politics” which sadly has consisted of slandering Iraqi opposition groups and doing a made-for-tv, soft focus, ‘grandad-to-grandad’ interview with Saddam. But hey, if that makes you hip with the kids…..
Except that the man himself has a different interpretation of why he has struck a chord with the young. “I’ve got Ali G to thank for that,” he said.
Of course, that great moment in television history when a Jewish comedian pretending to be a stereotyped black ‘yoof’ tv presenter duped an ageing former politician into an embarassing fake interview about ‘bitches’ – public service television apparently.
“When I saw the video I realised how hilarious the whole thing was. I think I became sort of cool then.”
Oh dear, Tony, we might have liked your politics once upon a time but politicians really never are ‘cool’. Never. Remember Kinnock in that Tracey Ullman video? But go on then, what is on offer from Comrade Wedgewood-Benn in the beer tent?
Tony Benn will be appearing with his musical partner Roy Bailey in a performance called Writings On The Wall. “I’ll be reading passages from a book I edited containing radical sayings from the last 500 years, and Roy brings in some politically-based songs. I don’t sing myself, you’ll be glad to know.” Last year the pair were given the Best Live Act award by the BBC.
Were they? Does Andrew Sullivan know?
I don’t know about you but I think I’ve failed the test. Joe Strummer, Mark Steel, Che Guevara cocktails, Fair Workers’ Flat Southern Beer and Tony Benn being cool – I don’t think its going to work for me.
Perhaps it is time for an alternative social event for former members of the old left? LeftOut anyone?
We could have a great line up – Alexi Sayle could do the comedy, the CEO of Unilever could provide the nosh, Shakin Stevens and Scritti Politti could do the ‘sounds’, Charlie Whelen and John Reid could do the politics and that’s just with former Communist Party members. Oh yes, we can all play at this eighties nostalgia thing.