How Glastonbury convinced me that Jeremy Corbyn is Santa Claus
August 2, 2017
This summer I witnessed something outstanding. Jezza rocked up to (a pleasantly dry) Glastonbury. Word spread quickly on the second day that he would make an appearance. Buzz was spreading all around the 900 acre plot of Worthy Farm...like a Labour-coloured fuzzy and big-bottomed bee (basically Ed Balls). Jeremy was on his way. And he had verbal presents galore in his giant political sack* (*inset your own euphemism here). A lot has been written about Corbyn's transformation across the last 18 months, and particularly the last 3 months, when he went from an apparent feckless elf that was here to destroy the Labour party by sprinkling communist fairy dust on the Unions, but all the naysayers were wrong: he isn't a feckless elf (I'm thinking Will Ferrel from the movie Elf - with a British Accent bouncing around with a giant marrow) - he is, in fact, much more than that: he is Santa himself.
I was at Glastonbury this year for two reasons: to run stand up comedy workshops for kids to develop their confidence, initiative and communication skills for the wide world that lies at their feet (one of the world's greatest jobs) and secondly: The Foo Fighters. They are in my favourite band of all time, alongside Led Zeppelin and perhaps AC/DC. I was already excited about rocking out and compost-dumping on Michael Eavis's agricultural Somerset turf, and this was before the word spread of Corbyn's appearance. Apparently he went to Glastonbury when he was a child - his parents taking him along to experience diversity, free speech and the power of music to unify people - which was a key part of his opening for his speech on the Pyramid Stage. Perhaps his every word resonated for me more - for I could not see the man, I could only hear him. Why? Because it was pandemonium. He gathered the biggest mass of people of the entire festival - more than my beloved Foos, more than the irreverent RadioHead (awesome - by the way, and yes they played Creep), and even Ed Sheeran. Some even say it was record for a post-World War II crowd. And speaking of the other kind of record - it was liberal vinyl music to everyone's ears. Trying to get into the Pyramid Stage area to even catch a glimpse of him was nigh-on impossible. A walked turned into a creep which turned into a solid wall of immovable Glastonians. The Silent Disco tent had already experienced its own impromptu and splendid "oh, Jeremy Corbyn" White Stripes outburst before Corbyn's arrival and after he spoke to an approximate crowd of over 100,000 people (in mid-afternoon, I should mention), the Corbyn-twist on Seven Nation Army happened many more times across the 5 days. The White Stripes should sack their PR representatives, and pay the Labour party leader instead. Ironically it was the one song I couldn't stop singing at the festival, and everyone I spoke to was hoping that the secret special guest on the John Peel stage turned out to be The White Stripes - so Corbyn could join them onstage and sing a duet with Stormzy and get everyone chanting. I'd love for Stormzy to wrap the entire Labour 2017 manifesto with White Stripes backing drum and bass (everyone needs a dream).
There is always a lot of craziness of Glasto, and that is why people go - this year's highlight being a completely naked man falling off his friend's shoulders (I'd wash those shoulders) during the Foos and the crowd - realising a giant sweaty (and probably unwashed in days) marrow - decided to let gravity to its work and part to let them man face plant naked into the empty-can-covered grass. He was skinny too - so no natural padding for drugged-up-flag-waving-Gollum. All this perfect chaos, allows one to step back for five days from the regularity and structured to-dos of everyday London life. I wake up at 6.30am in my north London flat - feed the cat, do some stretching (copying him) and then use the best present I've ever got to make my ritualistic morning coffee (look up Aeropress on Youtube). I then turn on the news at 7.00am: BBC News as I pay my license fee and hate Piers Morgan (after hearing him talk shit at the table next to me at the 2016 Festival of Education, with other faeces-spouters). This routine kicks off my day and sets me up for the stresses of touring for public speaking or comedy, and also allows me to ensure I have my daily fix of British politics and whatever Corbyn has been saying or doing (he is my local MP; I'm Islington) but there is something wonderful about being forced out of this structure - for 5 days of living in a tent, searching for signal then realising it is either pointless, then strolling over to The Guardian Tent and getting your news via some OLD-SCHOOL actual reading - of ink, on paper. It's refreshing. This community feel that Glastonbury emanates so well is something society in general could learn a lot from. Yes - it is a primarily middle-class liberal caucasian-swamped festival, but there was some diversity (me included) and everyone is accepted for who they are, how they want to dress and what they want to say. I didn't see a single fight or scuffle, and people shared drinks and got talking to one another before making their merry way. There were people in wheelchairs and on crutches, and I read a Guardian article on day three about how much the festival has developed to make their facilities impressively and admirably catered towards those with so-called 'disabilities' (I've always hated the term). I genuinely think that you could have people in turbans or Burkhas and no one would say a thing. People just get on - whether there's some music to dance to or not. Glastonbury is a city for 5 days. Apparently when it is in full swing, it becomes - for a week or so - the 8th biggest city in the UK. That is incredible. A pop-up liberal utopia where human beings actually talk to each other, listen to each other, and are compassionate? Our non-pop-up cities could learn a lot. And since Corbyn is Santa and he visits all these cities (via their chimneys or cat flaps) each year - like a bearded liberal with a warrant to your property for one night only - I think he has seen the power of Glastonbury, and comparatively what needs to change in the cities and towns and villages across the UK. He is omnipresent, and not just for Christmas. His omnipresentness is 24/7 thanks to a genius Labour social media campaign that provoked (amen) thousands more young people to come out and actually vote - and primarily for everything Glastonbury stands for: outward thinking views, fairness, equality and a willingness to see strength via communities, instead of the Conservative ethos of power and wealth to the individual. Corbyn is Santa because Harriet Harman looks like she could be (with a dash more grey hair and some retro spectacles) Santa's wife. Corbyn is Santa because he is always found wearing red and white. Corbyn is Santa because he is one of the few male politicians slim enough to actually slide down chimneys - and I've not seen his animal-whispering skills but I am convinced her is the only MP this country has that can control a herd of Reindeer. Corbyn is also Santa because the only time I never see him on TV is Christmas Day, and he is Santa because the younger generations love him, and the older people have stopped believing in him and think he is a gimmick that pops up seasonally just to amuse the young.
Some older people (not all) like to ruin the dream by convincing the young as soon as possible that he isn't real and that there's better things to focus on, but young people have moved with the times and are getting tech-savvy to change their futures: they aren't drawing up a wish list up and popping it up the chimney anymore, they're drawing up a cross on a piece of paper and putting it in a ballot box, and making their wish list more vocal via social media. Santa knows something most older generations and adults in general forget: everyone ages - and when we are old and unable to care for ourselves, those youngsters will now not be so young and will be in charge of the country, the economy, our public services and they will be deciding whether to look after us. People often say that the young inherit the world we shape for them but I believe it is the other way around: they will shape the world we live in. The old adage is that government only cares about the people who vote: MPs only focus on policy that will affect their guaranteed posse of voters (which is why they focus on the older demographics: they quite simply vote more). I must admit that I myself was a Corbyn-doubter for over a year, but after hearing his thoughts and words spill out so beautifully into the way people live and love at one of the World's biggest festivals, and proving that compassion and equality does make for better wellbeing for all, I must say that I am now converted. I feel like a kid who stopped believing in Christmas, and then re-discovered the magic and power of it. Corbyn: keep doing your thing; standing alongside Stormzy and Michael Eavis, engaging the youth, reminding us that we've all got a part to play in society, and keeping prodding the Tories on their cuts. I learnt two very important lessons at Glastonbury; cheese and chips really do go together, cider and sambuca really does not, and a compassionate socialist is for life, not just for Christmas.