I was on a kibbutz in August 1996, milking cows at four in the morning and hiding out in our bomb-shelter-turned-bar of an evening, drinking vodka and smoking ‘noblesse’ cigarettes, that constituted the sum total of our weekly purchases, with the 50 shekels we volunteers earnt each month.
Over at Knebworth, not that far away from where I’d grown up in the UK, the most famous band in the world at the time, Oasis, kicked off a two-day concert, attended by 250,000 people.
I watched the documentary, about this historical spectacle, earlier this week, and have spent all morning, so far, transfixed by the album produced from that weekend.
There is a mesmerizing nature to the documentary itself. Not least because it re-kindled, for me, many teenage memories. From the hours sat in my bedroom, live taping off the radio, to the ordeal of dialing up for concert tickets (in an era pre-internet, pre-social media), to the songs themselves – enduring anthems that followed me from school to university, and which give me goosebumps even now.
A year after this concert, Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ administration took office, to a euphoric fanfare of support from huge swathes of the country, speaking out against the long bout of Conservative rule.
Regardless of your political or musical persuasions (Tony Blair’s tenure was fairly topsy turvy, and Blur were a pretty decent band in the 1990s, too) it feels, 26 years on, that the UK is in need of a seminal moment, similar to Oasis‘ Knebworth weekend.
A 2022 version of what that Knebworth concert encapsulated, would do everyone very well at the moment: the regaining of dignity it might kindle, perhaps; the coming together of people, collectively exhausted from another long stretch of Tory reign.
Bring it on.
I’m yet to read anything that points to anything positive that has come from the 2016 Brexit referendum. I do alter my news feeds as much as possible and so, of course, I could find positive commentaries about Brexit out there easily enough.
Thing is, I am not convinced by any of them.
It is from that particular moment, back in the summer of 2016, that I believe today’s current crises have manifested.
A “complete disaster” are the words a dear friend of mine used, only yesterday, when reflecting on the trials and tribulations of living in the UK these last 6 years, as someone originally born in Europe.
Where are the economic gains promised by the Leave Campaign? Where is the accountability, for any of what went down during Brexit, from those politicians responsible, and still in power?
Across today’s glut of online perspectives, it’s not difficult to pluck out reliable data about the UK’s diminishing trade exports last year, or the 1.2 million UK jobs currently not filled. The Government’s recent tax cuts, that led to an ugly fall in the UK’s already compromised and weak currency, and which have hoicked up borrowing costs and will inevitably result in inflation, seem to me to have been well and truly poorly orchestrated. A bit like Cameron’s decision to let the country vote on Brexit.
The stark chasm that exists the UK Government and the UK public is stretched, once again, to breaking point.
In the first episode of the TV show “This England”, recently launched, we see a Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) well and truly out of touch with reality. Johnson is not alone in this, although he’s very often a convenient, and highly plausible, scapegoat.
Personally, I’ve no sense of excitement, no hope, that any of the current UK political parties are anywhere close to the pulse of the mood of the country. Nor do they want to be. Which is, perhaps, part of the issue.
All of which doesn’t mean a change isn’t desperately needed on the part of British politics. The tidal swings between Labour and Tory governments in power is a hopeless prospect, in my opinion. Nor would a decent music concert suddenly iron out all the UK’s economic troubles.
What a music concert, or a movement, or some kind of people’s ‘moment’ in time, would achieve, would be to try and replace the unique identity – for a long time now smothered in a stew of economic and political mush (curated by self-centred politicians who have lost their sense of duty to the public they serve) – of what it means to be British.
Sounds cliched maybe, but that’s exactly what Oasis managed to do that weekend.