Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Levellers Day

Working through these in order as best as I can.

Thanks to our lovely friends, we bought tickets to go with them to the Levellers Day event at Burford, held at Warwick Hall Garden [this is a fixed page so the content may alter at some point in the future]. The event - for those who don't know it - commemorates the murder of three soldiers who refused to go and fight in Ireland under the Cromwell regime. I have to say it was a really great day.

Yes it did have a couple of drizzly moments, but the sun came out at both the start and the end of the march to and from the church, and the rain stayed off the speakers till the last couple of question/comments. Of course, Tony Benn delivered the same speech he has done for the last 30 years - very good, very inspiring, but talk about preaching to the converted - and there was a horrid amount of facile anti-American sentiment that relied on grouping all Americans as a homogenous population with a shared set of attitudes and wealth. I also have to say that despite my own hope for humanity, there was a frustrating tendency for speakers and audience to sound a little like Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks ("Why can't we all just get along?") and no where near enough nuance. Still, whether it was the weather or a general consensus, there wasn't much contention in the discussion, with the audience seemingly accepting the ideas presented. So yes, education is a good thing, I think all agreed. Whether it is entirely adequate to changing the world, I suspect other things have to be in place as well.

UPDATE: Here's a picture of the three speakers, Tony Benn, Salma Yaquoob and Karen Chouhan

Photography by Lisa Rullsenberg: Tony Benn, Salma Yaquoob, and Karen Chouhan at the Burford Levellers Day march, May 2006

Of course I had to go and get food part way through the morning speeches (my appetite is near legendary!), much to the amusement and jealousy of my companions.

I have to say my favourite bit of the day was the march itself.

Photograph by Lisa Rullsenberg: Levellers Day march through Burford, May 2006

This was not least because it culminated in a singing of the Internationale - one of the few pieces guaranteed to have me in tears. There I am, stood there half thinking "god, I hope no one has a camera on me" cos I am singing with tears streaming down my face. It wasn't the only time I felt that way on Saturday. I also got pretty welled up when Leon Rosselson led us all in singing "World Turned Upside Down" (A track I often have blared out of my CD player in the Billy Bragg version).

For lunch we ate in a Burford pub, to the accompaniment of a morris dancer and his guitar (he looked awful familiar though don't know why) He was part of the Cry Havoc Morris group. Anyway, he played a song about the environment - how we're driving the green spaces away - and then went on to do Johnny B Goode (!!yes really!) and Side by Side [scroll - it's an old musical hall song about the woman who takes off her hair, her teeth out etc until the guy is decides to sleep "sleep on the chair, 'cos there was more of her there"]. All in all it was great fun!

As mentioned, in the afternoon Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson did a double act of songs which was very entertaining and very moving. And it was jolly great to sing along to "Be reasonable: and demand the impossible now" (where have I heard that line before?!)

I guess one of my chief problems with the day was the extent to which an idealistic "if only" sentiment ran through discussions of 'what should be done'. Whether or not things should be different, should have BEEN different in order to make the current circumstances better, the point is that things were how they were and no amount of "we should have done/not done X" can change that. I too have a sympathy for believing things MAY, COULD have been different in Iraq if an alphabet's worth of possibilities had been in place [take your pick from no sanctions; Bush Senior having toppled Saddam; challenges to the historically driven attitudes towards the Middle East by the West regarding supporting/not supporting Iraq against Iran, the Taliban against the Russian occupation of Afganistan etc etc]. But the problem is that those WEREN'T the circumstances in place. I don't want to get dragged too far from the (frankly openly superficial) nature of this blog by getting into a debate about what I believe politically, though my support of this and this should give some indication of my broad standpoint. My point is though that there needs to be a certain degree of dealing with the circumstances as they are at any given point, and not JUST proclaiming idealism for how they should have been (I have no problem with idealism's voice being heard, just that you still need to deal with the here and now, the practical details).

Phew, that was a bit ranty.

I'll get back to some more frothy topics shortly...


Billy said...

The World Turned Upside Down was a common song in my childhood years. Which should give you a very good idea as to my parents' political afflictions.

Marie said...

If only we hadn't come out of the trees. That was where it all went wrong.

Matt_c said...

Regarding Utopianism: There's something about being in a large group of likeminded people, singing songs and marching, that - to some extent - suspends rational thought. I don't mean everyone turns stupid - I mean we all 'realise' that world could be so amazing if it was always like this... and wonder why it can't.

It's all very real and very beautiful (whether you're at a rally, in church or up at the front at a Pixies gig). Your post certainly communicates the ambivalence you have towards feeling the hope fpr change and realising the difficulties that entails. The devil's always in the detail. (Which incidentally is my objection to the Euston Manifesto).

[I hope this political comment hasn't further besmirched your superficial reputation.]

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Nah. I think the blog's big enough to cope with an injection of socio-political thinking occasionally...

Darren said...

Leon Rosselson - absolutely wonderful songwriter, not the greatest of singers. :-(

Any sign of the *cough* two SPGBs at the Levellers Day? I like to keep abreast of these matters. ;-)

all the best
- Darren