Tolpuddle Thoughts Part 1: The Music


Myself, some other Paintbrushers, and a Scotch comrade went camping at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival 2009 last weekend. It was ace.

Tolpuddle is a top notch festival – it takes place in a beautiful rural setting; it has very impressive facilities (i.e. hot showers and toilets that you’re not afraid to use!); and of course it attracts a wonderfully diverse array of loony lefties.

The focus is on the political remembrance. Most people turn up at Tolpuddle on the Sunday for the march and speeches and then head away again.

However, as the festival has become more established over the years it has started hosting more and more musical acts, presumably to distract the socialist, communist, and anarchist campers and prevent them from fighting each other.

Much of the music wasn’t anything to write home about (perhaps the 21st equivalent of that phrase should be ‘to blog about’?). I doubt that anyone goes to Tolpuddle just for the music.

Amongst the biggest musical disappointments, in my opinion, were Trotsky’s Talkin Blues Buro, a band fronted by Marina, aka ‘the Soviet Sweetheart’, who was supposed to sing traditional Marxist music from Georgia.

The name was wacky, but the tunes and lyrics were just a bit tacky.

I’m not even convinced that Marina and her band really were from the Republic of Georgia! I think they may just have been putting on weird accents and singing songs vaguely about communism – which was all very odd.

A verse from one of their numbers went:

Wherever there’s a disaster

You know I get there faster

Than a capitalist can

Cos I’m a Marxist-Leninist man.

Bizarre! Taking into account that they might not have been genuine foreigners then the words seem especially unimpressive.

I insisted on taking us to see Rev Hammer play in the marquee on Sunday. I expected interesting things from Rev Hammer as I know he is buddies with some of my favourite crusty bands (the Levellers and New Model Army) and I’d heard he writes songs about 17th century radical John Lilburne.

Unfortunately the Rev came out with all sorts of soppy stuff dedicated to his wife, which sounded nice enough but wasn’t really what I was looking for at midday on the Sunday. Durbinite described him as a bit pedestrian. We didn’t stay long.

Of mediocre quality were five-piece folk rockers Jigsaw. They were fine, but I only really got excited when they played Levellers and Oysterband covers.

Next best was the Dublin City Workingman’s Band who headlined the Saturday night. Although I don’t really buy into the whole romanto-nationalist view of Irish culture (which country was the only one in Europe where more people volunteered to fight for Franco than for the Republic eh? Eh?!), I will admit that they were entertaining.

Durbinite was not satisfied with the relatively moderate level of fenianism displayed by the band and so had to get his more stridently nationalist kicks with some drunken anarchists afterwards.

An obvious contender for best music from this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival is of course Billy Bragg, who played on Sunday after the march and speeches to a large crowd.

BB was on top form. He played a good mix of songs (‘Sexuality’, ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’, and the essential ‘There is Power in a Union’). His inter-song banter was as articulate and reasonable as ever. Draft that man into Parliament, says I! There are indeed few things better in life than Billy Bragg leading a rendition of The Red Flag.

However, because Billy has already enjoyed enough success and it goes without saying that he was excellent, I’m going to redistribute my musical praise onto Friday night’s headliners: the local band Who’s Afear’d.

They describe themselves as the pride of Dorset’s scrumpy and western scene. I think calling them Dorset nationalist or county chauvinist nutjobs would be more accurate. They were deranged and fantastic!

who's afear'dNever before did I know that there were people in Dorset sincerely angry about the “devestating 1974 ruling that severed Bournemouth’s ties with Dirty Hampshire County and forced the town’s incorporation into the green splendor of Dorset County”.

Who’s Afear’d are revisionists who refuse to accept the boundary changes and still consider Bournemouth to be part of Hampshire. They are very passionate about this.

They are also very frank in their hatred of Hampshire, so considering the fact that I spent many years living near Portsmouth I was understandably slightly concerned for my safety lest they were to whip the crowd up into a Hampshire-hating lynch mob.

But surely the best type of music is that which makes you feel a little bit scared?

I advise you to check out the “badger baitin, ‘ampshire hatin’ toss” that is Who’s Afear’d as they are certainly bound to become the next big thing (in Dorset!).

Here’s Who’s Afear’d proclaiming their love of Dorset:

Here’s an amusing video about their hatred of neighbouring Hampshire county that they’ve obviously put quite a bit of effort into:


So in conclusion, the music was a bit hit and miss, but Billy Bragg was reliably great and Who’s Afear’d were eye-opening. Remember folks: Always look on the bright cider life!


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4 Responses to “Tolpuddle Thoughts Part 1: The Music”

  1. Brady Cell Says:

    Yes i like that opinion…

  2. mrs election Says:

    a truly excellent post!

  3. Paul Says:

    Super! Sounds… erm… “interesting”!

  4. Alun Says:

    Yeah, Hampshire-hating is pretty common in Dorset.

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