Over in Left Field: the sound of tub-thumping
Monday 01 July 2002
Corporate sponsorship there may have been at Glastonbury 2002. But in at least one corner of a Somerset field, Tony Benn was doing his rabble-rousing best to uphold the spirit of the radical.
In an impassioned address to a packed tent, the 77-year-old former MP offered living proof that idealism isn't dead among the festival faithful. He had been invited to inaugurate the Left Field, a forum for campaigning politics and action that the organisers hope will become a feature of future festivals.
After a group of trade unionists helped to forge links between Glastonbury and the Mean Fiddler organisation, which is now helping to manage the event, they got in return their own venue on site.
Mark Thomas and Billy Bragg appeared there over the weekend. But it fell to Tony Benn on the final afternoon of the festival to give a radical heart to the proceedings.
While a heavy bass pumped noisily from the nearby jazz stage, the former MP delivered a tub-thumping political narration that could have converted the most cynical.
He admitted he had never been to Glastonbury before – though he had accepted an invitation to return even before the proceedings were over. But he immediately saw its political capital. "We can harness all the energy of the people who come here today to tackle the most serious problems of the human race," he said.
He visited them one after another: unemployment, student loans, failing pensions, lack of trade union rights. He spoke of his wartime National Service. "If we can have full employment in wartime, why can't we have full employment in peacetime?" he said to the acclaim that became routine over the next hour.
He spoke of the burden on students leaving university in debt. "I'm in favour of taxing people who are rich, not people who have got degrees," he said to more applause.
Moving from the young to the old, he recounted how 20,000 pensioners suffered annually from hypothermia and suggested that is what was meant by Cool Britannia. "You die of cold in winter."
Even Europhiles were prepared to applaud the doubts he voiced over controls exercised from Brussels.
His comments rose to a climax in which he spoke of the need for hope. "Hope is the fuel of progress. If you've got hope, there's nothing you can't do. When we start, there's no power can stop us," he said to a standing ovation.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Christmas 2014: The three most intriguing celebrity panto appearances
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track