WILL STONE reports on the radical heart of Glastonbury
IT WAS good to see Glastonbury founder and organiser Michael Eavis getting his priorities right at this year’s festival. He opened the Left Field stage with a fitting tribute to the late Labour veteran Tony Benn, describing him as a “fantastic fellow” who “did what was right.”
Benn, who died in March, was a regular speaker at the only space at Glastonbury dedicated to left-wing debate and he roused the crowds with his inspiring speeches right up until last year.
“How can we replace him?” asked Eavis as he designated the Left Field tower, originally built in 2004 by GMB steelworkers fighting against closure of the Appledore Shipyard in Devon, the Benn Tower of Strength.
The tower is one of the most distinctive meeting points, right in the heart of the site, complete with star on top. It and the Left Field stage are the last reminders of where Glastonbury’s roots lie — it was once co-organised by CND in the 1980s.
The short answer to Eavis’s question is that Benn can’t be replaced but there’s no reason why others shouldn’t pick up the baton and continue the fight.
One of them is actress, comedian and campaigner Francesca Martinez, who did Benn proud in a speech during a panel debate about left alternatives.
Ever since launching her War On Welfare campaign in 2012 against government disability cuts, Martinez has been a force to be reckoned with.
Describing the three main political parties as “in the pockets of corporate interests,” she highlighted to an attentive crowd the dire need for politicians to show courage and start putting the interests of ordinary people first.
She returned later to perform stand-up, the other comedy slots at the the festival being taken by Robin Ince and Mark Steel.
There were workshops hosted by UK Uncut on direct action, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone in a panel discussion about the impending general election and what Labour needs to do to win and blogger Jack Monroe highlighting how foodbanks have become yet another ideological target for the Tories frustrated at the unwanted publicity caused by their own policies.
Metallica (pictured) may have rocked the main stage with a hilarious introductory video with the band dressed in bear suits shooting fox hunters off their horse backs — a brilliantly cheeky reference to criticism over their choice as headliners because singer James Hetfield appeared in a US television series about bear hunting.
But the fact is that without stages like Left Field the festival would become closer to what Bruce Dickenson, the lead singer of those other metal legends Iron Maiden, described as “the most bourgeois thing on the planet.”