Glastonbury

Tony Benn – Last of the Good Guys

It has often been said that we simply don’t have politicians like Tony Benn around now, but in a world dominated by spin and hidden agendas, I don’t think we have many people like him in the whole world anymore. How many people do you know that are  inspiring, principled, eccentric, rebellious without any hidden agenda or ambition?

These days it often feels like governments will bend over backwards to show you how cool they are and down with this kids by telling you their favourite bands or even invite the Blur and Oasis around for tea at Downing Street but all this is nothing but a transparent show to convince the voters how great it is to be part of ‘Cool Britannia’.

Tony Benn was one of those characters, that even if you completely disagreed with his opinions, you could respect him, because he always stuck to his core principles. Honesty and integrity were always paramount, which is an alien concept when thinking of politicians today.

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He also turned up at the Leftfield tent at Glastonbury every year and captivated crowds of all ages, even when in his 80’s he turned up to recharge his mojo, which is something many MP’s could learn from now. There was never an agenda, other than getting people to understand that ultimately we are all the same and we can build a better world together.

Glastonbury Festival’s Michael Eavis said “Tony Benn achieved legendary status in his own lifetime as he fought to improve the lot of the working class people of this country,” said Eavis via Glastonbury’s official Facebook page. “As a politician he presented his arguments in such a way that even his opponents couldn’t resist his charm. We were very privileged to have him starring at the Left Field political forum on so many occasions. His absence this year will be really sad.

Here is a perfect example of Tony Benn in 2008 at Glastonbury, a man in his 80’s but still wanting to make a difference and give the younger members of the audience a quick lesson on the dark side of the media.  “Remember that a frightened, demoralised populace is easier to control”

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Glastonbury 2008

On the April 15th 2008 my 5 year old daughter lost her battle against a nasty childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma. Despite trying to remain positive until the end, I was now left with the realisation that I had lost my little girl forever and turned to music to help me deal with my grief.

A song called Tank Park Salute by Billy Bragg helped me through a difficult time more than I could ever express in this short post and when feeling low one night, I emailed the organisers of the Glastonbury Festival advising that it would mean the world to me if Billy Bragg could sing the song as a tribute to my little girl on Sunday night when he was performing in the Leftfield tent at the festival.

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I thought nothing more about this until the Sunday of the Festival several months later, when my phone rang early in the morning as I was eating my full English Breakfast which was lovingly prepared on our camping stove by my Kerry, as I answered the phone call, I was greeted with a familiar voice from Barking saying “Hi Neil, Its Billy Bragg here and wanted you to know that I will sing Tank Park Salute as a tribute to your little girl tonight if you fancy dropping by

Billy was incredibly nice and we chatted for a good 10 minutes like old friends with no hint of awkwardness at all, for me this encapsulated the very essence of the Glastonbury Festival. All too often people think of music festivals as being big corporate affairs with no heart or soul. However what Michael and Emily Eavis family have built is like nowhere on earth and there is a community of over 170,000 people who quite literally fit the demographic of new born babies to 70 year olds with a common love of music and making a difference.

That Sunday night, I went to see Billy Bragg and with minimum fuss he said this song is for those that have lost someone and subtly changed the lyric.

Some photographs of a summer’s day
A little GIRLS lifetime away
Is all I’ve left of everything we’ve done
Like a pale moon in a sunny sky
Death gazes down as I pass by.

Everyone has a Glastonbury story and being on the front row of the Leftfield tent in 2008 with tears streaming down my face whilst Billy Bragg sang Tank Park Salute is something that I will forever be grateful for and it helped me so much in dealing with the unthinkable, the loss of my little girl.

A few years later, I was waiting at Derby station and who should get out of a cab and walk towards me? It was Billy Bragg and I had the chance to thank him for what he did that night and shake his hand in what I thought was a poetic moment of closure. Imagine my surprise when 8 hours later I returned to Derby station to board a train to Birmingham when I bumped into Billy again. I assured him that I wasn’t stalking him but must admit I was a little spooked by the bizarre coincidence.

Life can be quite bizarre sometimes and I have always thought about posting my story, but I never actually got around to putting it down in writing.

My little girl would have been 10 years old today and my biggest battle is not forgetting her smile, her voice and all those little things that a parent takes for granted so as a thank you to the people that made a Sunday night in Glastonbury very special and as a tribute to my little Princess Samantha on her Birthday I have finally wrote it down.

A massive thank-you to the Eavis family and Billy Bragg for a truly special moment that I will never forget and a big Happy Birthday to my princess in heaven.

As I wiped the tears from my face, I headed to the Pyramid Stage and I will forever remember Richard Ashcroft of the Verve finishing a perfect Glastonbury saying Tomorrow is Monday morning, life is a struggle, doing a job you despise for a boss you despise, we are a slave to money then we die…(before launching into Bittersweet Symphony.

Headliners 

  • Kings of Leon
  • Jay-Z
  • The Verve
  • Neil Diamond, Leonard Cohen (Sunday afternoon legends slot)

Here are a few images and videos of my experience.

 

Glastonbury 2007

For years I dreamed of going to Glastonbury and was determined that I wasn’t going to be one of those people who watch it on the TV every year promising myself that next year will be my year, but ultimately do nothing about it.

So I decided to join the 135,000 people who braved the rain and the mud to watch a lineup including Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, The Killers, The Who and Bjork. The climate-change addressing campaign ‘I Count’ signed up 46% of festival-goers, and provided recycled toilet paper and Bags For Life. Emily Eavis launched her Park Stage on the upper fields, while lower down the site the crowd surged forward to join Iggy and the Stooges on stage.

The site is quite simply huge and I really didn’t know what to expect but thankfully Tort’s Glastonbury guide provided me with everything that I needed to prepare for my dream trip to Worthy Farm.

We arrived in glorious sunshine but unfortunately the rain soon arrived and didn’t go away leaving Worthy Farm looking like a mud bath.  Despite the weather, I was fortunate enough to be at the front for the Arcade Fire, and as a reminder of just how special that moment was, have a sneaky look at the video below which sums up just why I loved it so much.

The weather couldn’t have been any worse, but to be locked away in 1,000 acres of dreams where the rest of the world is put on pause is something that ignited something within, and I will be back next year to re-charge my mojo.

Headliners 

  • Arctic Monkeys
  • The Killers
  • The Who
  • Shirley Bassey (Sunday afternoon legend slot)

Here are a few images and videos of my experience.