Not Alice’s Adventures In Dismaland

dismaland main

This week I went to Dismaland. Dismaland mushroomed on the site of the derelict Tropicana lido in Weston-Super-Mare about a month ago, bamboozling almost everyone. No-one knew it was coming, no-one knew what it was.

It turned out to be a ghoulish ‘Bemusement Park’ conceived and executed by elusive street artist Banksy. Part art installation, part fun fair, part indictment of empathy-crushing consumer-capitalism – ‘a festival of art, amusements, and entry-level anarchism’, as the PR spiel puts it, bringing together the work of 58 artists from around the globe – it became one of the world’s most talked-about visitor attractions overnight.

Usually I’ve got no interest in art, but it was on my doorstop and only cost £3 to get in, so I decided to go. Probably unsurprisingly, given that I’m a bleak-humoured anti-capitalist who thinks Western societies have been lobotomised by consumer culture and tragically insulated from the suffering of their fellow human beings, I quite liked it. Continue reading “Not Alice’s Adventures In Dismaland”

Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study

Wells
Wells

Further banging on about Defensive Voting. Which, come to think of it, is probably just tactical voting with a specific political purpose in mind – namely stalling neoliberalism through the Westminster infrastructure long enough to nail together some kind of radical left-wing alternative outside of it (there was an excellent bit of analysis published by Counterfire this week which came to similar conclusions). And this time, we’re looking at it in relation to a conveniently local real-world example.

Wells in Somerset is one of the most marginal constituencies in the country. It also happens to be the next one over from ours.

Most constituencies are ‘safe’ – the people living in them reliably vote for the same party in election after election, and that party easily wins by a mile. Yeovil, for example, has been Lib Dem for over thirty years (well, technically, it was Liberal from 1983 to 1992, then Lib Dem ever since). At the last election, Lib Dem candidate David Laws got 31,000 votes, 13,000 more than the next placed candidate.

As such, safe seats don’t really matter. The ones that do matter are the marginal ones, the swing seats as they’re often known – constituencies like Wells that are much more likely to change hands. These are the places that will decide who’s in government this time next year. Continue reading “Defensive Voting: A West Country Case Study”

Oh My Lover (PJ Harvey)

The other day, we met a musical contemporary, and, it transpired, ex-squeeze of Bridport-born alt-rock high priestess and one-time Somerset-resident PJ Harvey. For some reason, we were visiting Yeovil in the company of a hard-left Labour councillor who’d also had a (less intimate) brush with Polly Jean back in the day, session musicianing on a track by her first band Automatic Dlamini in a past life as a pub rock guitarist. Continue reading “Oh My Lover (PJ Harvey)”

It’s Flooding: Moral sickness and the Daily Mail school of mob psychology

somerset floods
The famously low-lying Somerset Levels haven’t mixed especially well with nigh-on two months of sustained heavy rainfall.

The worst hit settlements have been gutted by floodwater, and hundreds of people have been evacuated. Prospects for the future look grim – and not just because the rain shows no sign of letting up.

The bill for repairing extensively water-damaged homes and replacing destroyed household appliances looks set to run into the tens of thousands of pounds, and if the big insurers prove as compassionate as usual, stricken residents could be left paying for most if not all of the reconstruction themselves. That’s on top of the emotional hammer-blow of seeing your home suddenly and unexpectedly ripped apart before your eyes, along with the kind of sentimentally valuable bits and pieces you care a lot more about losing than your microwave.

It’s a horrible predicament for anyone to find themselves in. That doesn’t stop The Daily Mail’s campaign to suspend Britain’s foreign aid commitments and divert the funds to flooded parts of the South-West being morally sick. Continue reading “It’s Flooding: Moral sickness and the Daily Mail school of mob psychology”

It’s Flooding: Austerity Bites In Sodden Somerset

Moorland
Moorland

It’s not stopped raining in Somerset for about a solid month. Arbitrarily, Bem Towers happens to be up a reasonably steep slope, water runs downhill, and thus our books, pot-plants and stacks of David Bowie CDs remain nice and dry. A few miles down the road in the villages of Moorland and Burrowbridge, though, people are dealing with a level of devastation you don’t often see in First World countries.

It’s quite inconvenient for the government. Ministers have been relying on the worst effects of their budget butchery not being felt for years, giving them time to finish the job then bail out into lucrative post-political careers on the boards of big private companies before people start brandishing pitchforks. Continue reading “It’s Flooding: Austerity Bites In Sodden Somerset”

Ooh ‘eck It’s Glastonbury Again (And It’s Probably Sold Out)

Michael Eavis at the Glastonbury Festival
Michael Eavis at the Glastonbury Festival

Practically everything that can be said about Glastonbury selling out, going to the dogs, being slowly but inexorably gentrified or infiltrated by well-heeled hipsters in luxury tepees already has been. The Bemolution isn’t especially qualified to add anything, having never got round to going. This is despite being based within twenty minutes’ drive of Worthy Farm for over twenty years. If the wind’s blowing in the right direction and the crowds are particularly euphoric you can just about hear them from the Bemolutionary hill-fort.

What we do know is that our favourite music shop proprietor and all-round gentlebloke Adrian had been going for thirty years before reluctantly deciding he couldn’t afford it any more. That’s as much down to the slow strangulation of niche independent retailers as any sort of hard-heartedness from Michael Eavis, but the fact that Adrian didn’t seem especially fussed when the time came was more telling. Continue reading “Ooh ‘eck It’s Glastonbury Again (And It’s Probably Sold Out)”

March of the Kippers

ukippersBarely dented by accusations of extremism, UKIP’s highest profile County campaign in history saw the mainstream parties shunted aside by the purple juggernaut.

Here in the eternally green, pleasant and Blue-or-Yellow-ruled West Country, a gruelling night of ballot-box overturning revealed astounding levels of support for United Kingdom Independence Party, Britain’s foremost catch-all protest party of wax-jacketed xenophobes.

Nationally, UKIP have just pulled off the biggest jump in support any fourth party has achieved in over half a century. At the last County elections in 2009, eight UKIP councillors were elected. Yesterday, they got 147. Of all the votes cast in 34 separate elections across England, nearly a quarter went to UKIP. In Somerset, they leapt from nowhere to secure three seats. Continue reading “March of the Kippers”

Forehead! versus the Democratic Process

Occasionally, Forehead! brushes up against the local big-wigs of representative democracy. Faced with an immovable District Council that’s openly disdainful towards a large swathe of its electorate, we’re left wearily appealing to a higher political power for help.

To recap: not only does the prospect of a 60,000 sq ft Tescos loom grimly on the horizon, but the Council now wants to sell one of our few remaining scraps of public green space to accommodate it. It’s a field with a play area in it, conveniently situated at the centre of town next to the waste ground where the swimming pool used to be. Tescos want the pool site, and the green.

And it’s from this situation that we turned to our MP for back up. The gentleman in question is a bluff shire Tory, a former army officer and a member of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group. He likes to present himself as an irrepressible backbench maverick often found engaged in blazing rows with David Cameron. In actual fact, he’s among the staunchest of Party loyalists. Among the townsfolk, he’s seen as a bit of a joke. Continue reading “Forehead! versus the Democratic Process”

Forehead!

Furthering the Bemolution in a portakabin, with raffle-breaks

When The Bemolution is back in the West Country, we’re involved in a local campaign group. It originally came together in late 2009 – council proposals to shut and demolish a popular town-centre swimming pool rallied a wide array of fitness fanatics, disabled swimmers, political activists, trade unionists, and previously apolitical concerned citizens, all angry at the nonchalance with which our elected officials were willing to close a much-loved, much-used public amenity. 

Out of this angry mulch, something more permanent coalesced. The result was a multi-purpose campaigning pressure group that convenes fortnightly in a glorified portakabin in the train station car park, holding meetings that are a bizarre fusion of feisty politics and village-fete gentility, kind of like a Socialist Workers branch meeting attended by the cast of Last Of The Summer Wine. Continue reading “Forehead!”