- 16 Sep 19
There were many memorable moments at this year’s Electric Picnic, with the magnificent Florence Welch leading the way. Plus: the denigration of Ash Sarkar.
So I am slumped on the sofa like Jacob Rees-Mogg on the Commons front bench, in front of the television, catching up on Coronation Street, indulging scattery memory of stars ascending the burnished skies of Stradbally in the County Laois.
Florence, not so much a star as a goddess come among us, a swirl of blurred loveliness afloat across the stage, flame hair whipped and wild, head tilted just so, alluring, tantalising, pirouetting with poetical abandon, and yet withal, demure, gentle, fragile, sweet, ‘Dog Days Are Over’ an uplifting anthem for our uneasy world.
Christine and the Queens, svelte and glistering, coated in viscous sensuality, rough-handled hither and yon by an ensemble of gymnast dancers writhing close to S&M, wide smile on mischievous face, coquettish shirt shrugged off in sly show of provocation, perfect body for the mind to touch.
TOUTs rip-roaring into Rankins Wood, zillion-decibel serrated riffs a serious threat to an encircling compression, heads bopping so vigorously I checked the ground for skittering skulls before heading off. Hozier from contemplative to angry to exultant, plus he called out my name, admittedly in a long litany of other unsorrowful individuals, but still, way things are, you got to take any moment of magic that comes your way.
Brittany Howard, ex-lead singer and guitarist with Alabama Shakes, also with Bermuda Triangle, likewise with Thunderbitch and, for all I know, a rake of other musical congregations from the three corners of the misshapen earth, a spellbinding preacher-woman calling out her gospel truth.
Cronin, Aftermath and harbinger of better times ahead, late night in a Mindfield tent curated by Marty Mulligan from Mullingar, mastermind of an unfeasible 37 sets across the weekend. “Cooler than a refrigerated polar bear,” this mag once pronounced of Cronin, mysteriously.
Elma Orkestra and Ryan Vail, blissfully Bordering along the Brexit line, sounds and airs that give delight and hurt not shimmying up from deep within, counselling not to be afraid as the future rumbles close. ‘Borderlands’ is a breakthrough to god-knows-where, to a land unknown but bound to be better than boorish Johnston’s lurid dream of Britland green and pleasant.
And 317 other acts (approx.) in addition that I didn’t manage to make it to, old age and overload of weed decelerating time.
A grand weekend altogether, away from the worst of the material world, an upsurge of collective joy to overwhelm all aches and angsts and refuel us for the fray that’s set to engulf us at any moment.
Next up was programme one of BBC2’s three-part series on The Rise Of The Nazis.
The Beeb has taken another shellacking for allowing a supporter of the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel to appear in the opening episode.
Powerful voices urge us to believe that opposition to antisemitism from supporters of Palestinian freedom amounts to a contradiction in terms. Antipathy towards Israel for its occupation of almost all of historic Palestine is accounted antisemitic. So, then, goodwill towards Palestinians equates to hatred of Jews.
A Jew who stands up for Palestinians must be “self-hating.” A Jew who distances herself from Zionist doctrine – that God gave all of Palestine/Israel to the Jews to be held forever in trust to heaven and that no other people can ever lay title to the land – can be nothing other than a blasphemer.
Ash Sarkar isn’t Jewish. She spoke in defence of two people accused of antisemitism for having spray-painted one of the remaining pieces of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall with “Free Gaza and Palestine, liberate all ghettos.” The words on the wall were “not antisemitic… They are anti-racist,” Sarkar declared.
Historian Sir Simon Schama tweeted that he was “horrified” at her inclusion in the series. “Really appalling.” Fellow historian Simon Sebag Montefiore suggested that Sarkar’s inclusion had “undermined an otherwise admirable history programme.”
A member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews confessed himself “shaking with rage and fury that the BBC2 programme… features Ash Sarkar who defended a woman who graffitied the Warsaw Ghetto. If this isn’t a slap in the face for Jews I don’t know what is!”
A roll-call of public figures and columnists echoed the sentiment. This wasn’t a trickle of criticism but a torrent of abuse.
Sarkar is a lecturer in global politics at Anglia Ruskin University. She is a communist and an expert on the emergence and development of European communist parties. Her contribution to the programme didn’t mention Israel or Palestine.
The BBC defended itself: “Ash Sarkar’s… contribution to the series is solely to illuminate the context and perspective of Ernst Thälmann, the leader of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) from 1925 to 1933, who died in a concentration camp in 1944.”
Nothing that wasn’t within her professional field. Not a mention of the Middle East. But she HAD said something about the Middle East of which conservative historians and pro-Israel commentators disapproved – and that was enough to spark calls for her banishment from speaking on television about the role and politics of a man who had perished in a concentration camp for his anti-Nazi stance.
The point of the roar against anyone who can be (mis)represented as antisemitic is to discredit critics of Israel. The fact that this tactic has entered the mainstream is a dismaying sign of the destruction of language in the service of oppression.