Chris Guiton tries to prise some cultural theory from the feisty, punky, bolshie lefty that is Attila the Stockbroker. Attila manages (if that's the right word) Glastonwick festival. The links to festival info and tickets are: Glastonwick Beer and Music Festival 2017 and Ropetackle Centre/Glastonwick Tickets
Q. Where did the idea of Glastonwick come from?
The idea of Glastonwick came to me in the early 90s. I was performing at lots of music festivals where the beer was always the corporate, overpriced urine of Satan, and going to beer festivals where the entertainment was ALWAYS a f***ing blues band. A f***ing BORING blues band (is there any other kind?) plodding away in the corner singing ‘I woke up this morning....’ WHAT A BLOODY SHAME! IF YOU HADN’T I WOULDN’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS BOLLOCKS!
A light came on in my head. ‘Let’s have a music festival with good beer, and a beer festival with good music’ I thought. I know about music (and poetry, obviously) my mate Alex Hall knows about beer – 22 years later here we are!
Q. Looking at the artists roster, Glastonwick appears to have a strong progressive political element to it. Can you tell us how this came about?
How do you THINK it did? What am I going to put on? DISCO? Hippy Covers bands? Prog rock? :) I’m a stroppy Leftie poet/musician and I travel the country (and the world) doing gigs, often at political events. I meet like-minded people. If they are spiky, irreverant, entertaining and above all WRITE THEIR OWN MATERIAL, I invite them to Glastonwick.
Q. Do you want to tell us a bit about your own political journey?
I’m stroppy, left wing, concerned about other people and about the future of the planet. Always have been. Punk, Rock Against Racism, anti fascist stuff, Miners’ Strike benefits, the 20 year battle to save our football club, Brighton & Hove Albion...culture always to the fore. 3400 gigs in 24 countries. Hundreds of benefits. Earned my living as Attila since 1982.
Q. Who are the people who've influenced you most, as a musician and poet?
THE CLASH and HILAIRE BELLOC.
Q. Brecht famously said, 'Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.' How relevant do you think this is now as we face a continued neoliberal assault on the 'cultural commons', those elements of art and culture that rightly belong to all of us?
It is the best thing anyone has ever said about culture and is 100% true. I put it another way. 'When I talk about cherry blossom in my poetry, I mean boot polish.'
Q. Glastonwick is taking place this year just before one of the most important general elections held in a long time. Its outcome could determine whether we seek to build a fairer society or end up with a plutocracy which benefits only a wealthy elite. Rosa Luxemburg's quote, "Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism." feels very apt! How do you think artist should respond to this challenge?
I give you the title poem of my latest poetry book, published a couple of weeks ago.
by Attila the Stockbroker
9 November 1989:
Fall of the Berlin Wall.
9 November 2015:
‘Election’ of Donald Trump.
Cause and effect.
The ghastly end
to a chain of events
going back to the 80s.
Gorbachev’s brave reforms.
Yeltsin’s kleptocratic gangster-coup.
9/11. Gulf War.
and the rise of the populist Right.
This is a pivotal moment.
In the centenary year
of a Red revolution which shook the world
the Left needs to reclaim its heritage
and move forward.
But in order to do so with clarity
we first have to look back.
Not right back to the beginning.
That path has been well-trodden
by thousands of writers
in millions of words:
the victories and the travesties,
the advances and the betrayals.
I’m going back just 28 years:
to February 1989 in East Berlin.
I was there.
On my four tours of the GDR
between 1986 and 1989
I had watched the East German Left
organize to growing effect
against the fossilized Party leadership
and now, inspired by Gorbachev’s Soviet reforms,
they were openly demanding change.
(I’ll never forget the banners:
‘Mehr Sozialismus, bitte!’)
Of course things couldn’t stay the same.
Gorbachev was right to do what he did.
But he was betrayed.
The good went out with the bad.
The baby with the bathwater.
And the people paid the price.
The Wall fell.
The brave activists of the Left
who brought it down
were swamped by hordes
blinded by Bild Zeitung,
fighting over bananas.
Across Eastern Europe
worlds collapsed overnight.
In many ways they were right to.
Party by all means, we shouted –
but organize as well.
Take control of your own destinies.
Don’t believe the lies of the West.
They promise you exotic travel
but you will have no money to travel
They promise exotic cars
but you will have no money for cars
They will destroy your industries
privatize your futures
and make you paupers in your own lands.
But too few listened.
The cold, cruel masters
of a new world smiled.
It’s the end of history, they said.
Socialism has failed
the red banner has fallen
and now, workers, we are your masters,
all over the world.
We’ll close down. Sack. Downsize. Relocate.
Ship in cheap labour. Outsource. Bring in robots.
Force down wages.
Crush your spirit.
Cast you aside
secure in the knowledge that your champions are dead
and that our pet media mouthpieces
can save us from your wrath
by blaming your fate on others:
and your sacked co-workers
now recast as your enemies -
as scroungers off your taxes.
Slowly the vice tightened:
slowly the penny dropped.
Twenty years on from the fall of the Wall
opinion polls stated
that a majority all over Eastern Europe
(not the liberal elites of course,
laughing into their lattes,
but the forgotten masses
ignored by the world’s media)
believed that their lives were better before 1989.
That what was allowed to go into their mouths
mattered at least as much
as what was allowed to come out of them.
That without economic democracy -
without jobs, healthcare, education, housing -
political democracy was meaningless
and that globalization, free trade
were the enemies of working people everywhere,
East and West.
But the mass Red parties of the European Left
had disappeared in a welter of spineless apology
leaving an open goal
for the populists of the Right.
while we argue amongst ourselves
it is the likes of Trump, Le Pen and Wilders
who try to steal our clothes -
who use progressive-sounding weasel words
to spread the politics of hate.
Elsewhere in the world
the modern secular movements
for liberation and education
slowly collapsed without their Soviet mentors,
leaving a void.
A people still oppressed and poor
searched for their own champions,
their own protectors.
Enter the fundamentalists.
For Trump and Le Pen
read ISIS and the Taliban:
the same weasel words,
the same dead-end reality –
for those young, duped jihadis.
So where do we go from here?
One thing is for sure.
Now as then
the choice is clear.
Socialism or barbarism.
We must reclaim
the territory which the populists have stolen.
This is the challenge.
A hundred years on
from the great stand in Russia
Let’s make another stand.
A modern stand.
A stand against globalization and neoliberalism.
Against nationalism and division.
Against racism and homophobia.
Against fundamentalism and misogyny.
Q. Culture Matters has embarked on some work to develop arts and culture policies in the labour movement which tackle the geographic, class and financial barriers that many working class people face trying to access the arts, as both consumers and performers. What are your thoughts on what a socialist arts and culture policy might look like?
Q. Brexit has divided the Left. Assuming it goes ahead in one form or another, how do you think we best maintain an internationalist perspective and support cultural links with comrades in the EU and more widely?
By carrying on doing exactly what we’re doing now. Here’s another poem.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL BREXIT
(Written on the ferry home, Oct 10 2016)
by Attila the Stockbroker
I’ve just toured with my band Barnstormer
from Dunkirk to Lucerne and back
through France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland
without showing a passport once.
Yes, non-EU Switzerland too –
a little bridge, an empty hut.
In my punk rock youth
how musicians had to carry carnets
for our instruments
when we crossed the Channel -
everything down to the last spare string
painstakingly listed on a pointless green form
checked and stamped at every border
after standing with the truckers in endless queues.
I remember the invasive French customs
- douane, not moeurs -
whose cretinously predictable searches
for non-existent drugs
took the edge off many an otherwise enjoyable tour.
Search the big posh cars
driven by the suits,
I’d always say
after these unimaginative custodians
had finished their fruitless checks:
no-one imports half a ton of heroin
dressed like we are
driving a scruffy transit van
with ‘CLEAN ME’
written in the dirt on one side
‘WE HATE CRYSTAL PALACE’
on the other
a large knob and testicles
adorning the back
and empty beer bottles
rolling around on the floor.
Are we going to have to go through all this again?
Just because Rupert Murdoch
was pissed off by the fact
that no one in Brussels
took a blind bit of notice of him?
Lord give me strength!
Only joking, of course.
Brexit was an informed decision
taken by the British people
after serious consideration
of the established facts
by the rigorous guardians
of the Fourth Estate.
And anyone who suggests anything else
is patronizing and supercilious.
So if in a few years time
a British number plate for a band touring Europe
becomes the equivalent of a plague signal on a door
in medieval times
and I am once again obliged to fill in ridiculous forms
and perhaps even at my advanced age
stand naked in a room
with a gloved finger up my arse
and my foreskin peeled back
as I once did in Calais in the Eighties
I shall hold myself proudly to attention
and celebrate the fact
that I am British
and we have
Chris Guiton is a project manager, writer and Co-managing editor of Culture Matters.