To be honest I am not really a fan of big open air music events. I loved them when I was young, but now I am a bit long in the tooth I don’t exactly get excited at the thought of getting baked by the sun or soaked by the rain whilst being pushed around in a crush of bodies at the front just to get a good view of some peacock of a rock musician who probably can’t even play guitar as well as I can (and I don’t play all that well). I am not a fan of burgers, alcohol, or chemical toilets either.
However, my friend Annette was very enthusiastic, and as I had never been to a Labour event before, it seemed as good a place to start as any, and so I duly bought my ticket and a ticket for the free coach from Reading. The biggest draw for me was the chance to see Jeremy Corbyn speak.
It was an early start, especially as I was so worried about missing the coach that Annette and I and her son Chris got to Savacentre about an hour early.
As we walked from the coach park to the venue, the first sign that we were now in Corbynville was a stream of earnest young people exorting us to sign petitions or to buy leftie magazines. I began to feel exited to be surrounded by so many people who evidently shared my world view. Where I live, wearing a “TORIES OUT” T-shirt is liable to provoke angry abuse or at least some very disapproving looks. I felt like I had come home.
The venue, White Hart Lane, was obviously designed with a much bigger crowd in mind, but for a brand new event having to compete with established summer festivals, there was a perfectly respectable sized crowd. To call the event a “flop” next to photographs of the place when the gates had only just opened, was so dishonest. But nothing more than we have come to expect from the mainstream media.
I love music and so I was glued to the main stage for the entire day. There were lots of other events going on in massive marquees but I didn’t venture into those at all so I really can’t comment. The bands and musicians were all, without exception, really worth the trip. The MC (whose name I can’t find out, I’m sorry!) entertained us in between bands with songs about the NHS and how much we need socialism. There were videos too, with strong and moving messages in the same vein.
There was only one stage and the techies were absolutely brilliant the way they got everything ready again so fast for the next band. It was a very professional and seamless day music-wise with not one technical hitch. Jermaine Jackman came on first when people were still arriving and I didn’t see him really because I was more into getting my bearings and finding the loos. Rae Morris pinged around the stage like a little pixie in a red leather jacket with “LABOUR OF LOVE” emblazoned across the back. Then Eddie Izzard ambled onto the stage to do a line check and rambled on about …something? Dinosaurs and ice cream? I hoped he would come back on again laterand say something funny but he didn’t. I love him though.
Sam Fender is like Paul Weller in his younger days and he’s definitely going to be HUGE. Then Owen Jones, someone who liked Corbyn and then didn’t like him and then did like him. Perhaps associating with Guardian hacks does that to a person. Declan McKenna was … er … very young. I’m sorry but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Justin Bieber, especially when he had a hissy fit over an imagined guitar problem, but he seemed to have quite a following of fans at the front who went bananas everytime he moved, and his music was OK, if a bit bubblegum for my taste.
Glen Matlock, ex Sex Pistol, did a great acoustic set, and then came my favourite band of the day, Magic Numbers. I liked them so much that I bought all three of their albums. Melodic rock with beautiful harmony vocals and fantastic west coast guitar sounds, and unusually, melodica. I believe the band consists of two married couples, like Abba, but they are much much better than Abba! Check them out!
And then – fanfare of trumpets! – the moment we had all been waiting for – Mr Corbynhimself, introduced by John McDonnell. Twenty minutes before he was due to come on, the area by the stage began to become crowded, and of course, we sang the “Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn!” thing. It was so moving. I felt that I was at last part of something that really mattered. Jeremy told us a story about a man from Chile, a friend of his, who used to sing protest songs, and his hands were broken to prevent him playing the guitar. Jeremy was moved to tears. He is such a genuine, warm, honest and compassionate person and when he is Prime Minister, this country will be a great place to live.
And then … Reverend and the Makers! Boogie woogie blues and pop rock which was very singalong and they went down a storm.
And finally, Clean Bandit, one of my son’s favourite bands. I am sure you know them – Rockabye and all that. In slinky silver outfits they commanded the stage with such musical proficiency it’s hard to believe how young they are. Just fantastic!
And that was it! Was it a flop? Hell, NO! I liked it so much, I bought a t-shirt.
The most amazing thing of all was the calm but funloving atmosphere. I did not hear a single cross word all day, even though the beer and wine was flowing freely. To see the little children dancing around in their Corbyn T-shirts was an absolute joy.
I have heard Labour Live 2018 described as a “one off”. I sincerely hope that it will be an annual event, because I would certainly love to go every year. It was a long and tiring day for an old lady, but it made me feel that I am finally really a part of the ever growing,warm, strong, and optimistic family that is the Labour Party