Free festival fun

Peace symbolI visited Leamington Spa’s annual Peace Festival the other day. Regrettably I didn’t snap any photos of an event which has been running for about 34 years. Anyway, it peed down so they would have been grey, streaky pictures!

On the way there I thought about what peace really means, because it seemed like a good time for reflection. During the event an activist said:

‘Shocking statistic. There are two bullets in the world for every human being on the planet!’

I thought about tracking mine down and buying them! It struck me that peace has to start from within, and to be perfectly honest I don’t always feel like I’ve achieved the kind of Buddhistic calm I imagine world peace needs.

But that’s not it either. I may not feel calm all the time, but I have a measure of inner peace if I choose to sit back, open my mind’s door and chill out. And there’s a vast difference between feeling temporarily waspish and starting a war.

The festival – which spanned two days – is tiny, and I thought it would be unlikely to generate much peace. Certainly, it’s a step in the right direction; but how about holding a series of similar events all over the country to coincide with each other? Link them together with live video feeds and parlay those into a national peace-fest; then I’ll begin to believe.

It’s unlikely to happen. Despite their peaceful protestations most governments seem to thrive on conflict. The UK’s political system may not be directly war-like but it’s definitely adversarial. And the kind of people who rock up to free festivals tend to scare the living bejeezus out of (very often) hyper-conservative and overly assertive locals, who usually club together to have them banned.

So much for the facade we call democracy, because for all we know most people welcome vibrant neighbourhood events with some live music thrown into the mix. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, it’s completely harmless.

But even my lefty mum would be phazed if she saw some dreadlocked crusty shambling along, clutching a can of maxi-strength booze. That’s a stereotype, but they’re often better-than-good people who’ve decided to draw back from mainstream Kulture. After all, what does the mainstream offer to those of us who long for positive change? Once you’ve embraced the so-called ‘underground’ it rapidly becomes your spiritual home.

All that aside, it felt genuinely good to stand in a muddy field (sans wellies) surrounded by what I believe were kindred spirits; even when the weather went mildly septic again. I bought some pottery, had a slice of vegan cake and a cuppa and decided to do it again soon. Preferably with some beer and a lot of folk music.

Festivals have become inseparable from British life, but I think there are privileged factions who resent this and want to exorcise them. Perhaps they are  uncomfortable with the word ‘Free’ and with people who have the energy, will and commitment to apply this concept to society.

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