Since September 11 2001, the actions of the British and American governments have been dominated by the need, one might even say a mania, for security.
This paranoia is hugely overblown, our chances of becoming victims of terrorism tiny. Yet, we are all victims in losing our ‘essential liberties’, with new anti-terror legislation (and the mentality that goes with it) reducing our freedoms and abolishing safeguards against arbitrary injustice.
This goes far beyond the confines of Guantanamo Bay, it’s here in the UK with 28- or 90-day detention without charge, ‘control orders’, national identity cards, new stop-and-search powers and the demonisation of anyone with a brown skin.
It even extends to the Big Green Gathering (BGG), a five day family camping event combining education on sustainable lifestyles with entertainment. The disproportionate security provisions we had to put in place this year to get our licence approved by Mendip District Council have caused a financial crisis, threatening to kill off the event.
The BGG is not a terrorist target. It is a very peaceful event, full of peaceful people enjoying themselves in the summer sunshine and exercising their traditional liberties of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and expression. In 14 years of virtually trouble-free operation it has built a reputation as probably the most family-friendly event on the summer festival circuit.
The licensing process this year has been a nightmare. The costs of
satisfying the security concerns of over £200,000 were forced on us just a few weeks before the event. We had set the ticket price the previous November on the assumption costs would be no more than £100,000. A figure considered adequate because of our good record on health and safety and the recommendation by the previous police inspector that the Big Green Gathering did not needed policing.
Sadly, this year we have a new police inspector with a completely different attitude. He seems to have absorbed the antiterrorist vocabulary, with an often-repeated insistence on the need for us to “target-harden” our event. Demanding additional security measures, including extra security patrols, watchtowers and steel shield fencing.
The associated costs left us with a shortfall of around £75,000 on this year’s event – about 10% of our total annual turnover. When added to a similar deficit over the past two years we may be forced out of business, unless an emergency rescue appeal can save us.
Last year the government’s new Licensing Act came into effect and the BGG needed a licence for the first time since its inception in 1994, pushing up costs for security personnel by around 50% (about £80,000).
The new Licensing Act was designed for pubs and clubs, now applies to anywhere music is played or entertainment performed. Even places serving tea or coffee after 11pm. The government has admitted its had a disastrous effect on many outdoor events but says they have no plans to amend it.
We were not alone. There is a growing list of long-established events which have not taken place this year because of the increases imposed by the new licensing regime.
Combined with the security paranoia and control-freak mentality fostered by the ‘war on terror’, it is potentially ruinous to the Big Green Gathering. We do not want to make the BGG unpleasant and financially unviable by turning our site into a fortress.
The steel fortress and security provisions of the Glastonbury Festival site should not become the model for smaller, more laid-back events which have neither the security problems to justify it nor the financial resources to pay for it. The 2005 Licensing Act, as it relates to festivals and outdoor events is in urgent need of amendment-surely an issue worth a letter to your MP?
Otherwise, as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security.’
If you can help rescue the Big Green Gathering, please send donations to the BGG Rescue Fund, The Old Clinic, 10 St John’s Square, Glastonbury BA6 9LJ www.big-green-gathering.com
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant