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Diary Ongoing radical events are no accident of history

TWO weeks ago today, Levellers Day in Burford was a moving and uplifting celebration of all that is good in our radical tradition, commemorating as it does the three Leveller soldiers executed there for mutiny by Cromwell’s forces during the English Revolution of 1649.
It always brings a wry smile to my face when I hear right-wing working-class Ragged Trousered Philanthropists going on about how they are “proud to be English” and so on. We don’t need kings, queens, wars and flags to be proud of where we come from.

We have our own history and the massed ranks of the Peasants’ Revolt, Levellers, Diggers and Chartists are the English people we should be acclaiming, not some overprivileged accident of birth financed by our taxes.
I was honoured to bring my early music punk band Barnstormer 1649 to the event and play the songs I have written about those momentous times on instruments which would have been used back then.

Well done to John Rees, Cathy Augustine and all those involved in the organisation of a memorable day.
Today I’m performing at another celebration of radical history in another country — the Merthyr Rising Festival, held at Penderyn Square in the centre of the Welsh valley town.

It celebrates the 1831 uprising by miners and other workers against the brutal employment conditions of the times and the pay cuts imposed by the notorious William Crawshay.
The town’s proud boast is that it was during the rising that the red flag was flown for the first time, when neckerchiefs were dipped in the blood of fallen demonstrators and waved as a sign of solidarity and defiance. There will be plenty on show today.
The festival is on until tomorrow night and features, among others, Cast, Sugar Hill Gang & The Furious 5, Black Grape, Neville Staple Band, my great friends Newtown Neurotics and the fantastic Men They Couldn’t Hang.

Their anthemic song Ironmasters about the rising and the slightly later Rebecca Riots is surely Merthyr Rising’s theme tune. If you live nearby do check out the website at
Tomorrow I’m headlining the Poetry Stage at a rather more sedate affair, Mello festival in Worcestershire, and then it is home for the final preparations for Glastonwick, the beer and music festival I have co-run with beer guru Alex Hall for the past 24 years.

It takes place next weekend at Coombes Farm near Lancing in my native West Sussex.
In radical agit-prop band Chumbawamba’s massive and unlikely 1997 hit Tubthumping, lead singer Dunstan assures us that he gets knocked down, he gets up again and no-one’s going to keep him down.

Twenty-two years later, he’s true to his word. He’s broken a rib but he and his excellent new band Interrobang‽— named after the punctuation mark at the end — are still playing.

He may be an anarchist but he gets the inaugural Glastonwick Stakhanovite award for services to socialist culture.
Others on the bill include punk legends Angelic Upstarts, TV Smith and the much younger Wonk Unit, spectacles activist John Hegley, my lovely eccentric friend and sometime double-act partner John Otway and Brighton’s brilliant young female-fronted ska maestros Dakka Skanks.

Tickets are selling fast but some are still available at

 In two weeks’ time I’m cycling 170 miles from Calais to Antwerp raising funds for Brighton & Hove Albion In The Community’s one-to-one football training sessions for people with autism who find it difficult to enjoy the game they love in regular-sized matches. Sponsors welcome at
Busy times. As I write this, it’s election day and, in a minute, I’m going to toddle down to my polling station and vote Labour, as I think everyone should, comrades. Cheers.


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