Determined to prove that republicans aren’t meekly hiding away for the occasion, Republic, the UK’s largest lobby group for the abolition of the monarchy, is to hold a counter-celebration on royal wedding day in support of people power and democracy.
Not content to fly the republican flag on its own patch, it will also host a gathering of co‑thinkers from all the large European monarchies (Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden), united in a common drive to rid the continent of their feudal arrangements. If this response to the ‘happy day’ seems a little sober, the ‘Love Republic’ event with DJs and live bands shows that republicans can party with the best of them – albeit without the royalist overtones.
Music can be a powerful medium to convey the anti-monarchist message, but with John Lydon’s disappointingly sycophantic comments in the Sun about the wedding couple, it is clear that a genuine punk antidote is needed. Filling the gap is someone whose politics are a world away from those who, like Republic, want to replace the Queen with a democratically elected head of state. Anarchist, musician and writer Ian Bone – once labelled ‘Britain’s most dangerous man’ by the tabloids – will be making his sentiments loud and clear by releasing a remix of his ‘Better Dead than Wed’ CD on 5 April.
Originally released in 1986 to coincide with Andrew and Fergie’s wedding, he plans a new version with updated lyrics especially for Will and Kate. The song contains many catchy and colourful lyrics about the royals, including:
‘We’ve got a wedding present,
On this we’re very keen,
It’s built to last for frequent use,
It’s called a guillotine.’
Bone is well known for his direct militancy mixed with humour and was a founding member of various anarchist groups, such as Movement Against Monarchy (MAM), which was heavily involved with protests around the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. Gawain, a member of the London-based Whitechapel Anarchist Group, says that they will also be taking to the streets again: ‘We would love to see a return of MAM and have been in talks with other anarchist groups to try to revive the movement in time for the wedding day.’
Anti-royalists in Scotland and Wales also have alternative events planned. The Scottish Socialist Party plans a public rally on the day of the wedding with an array of speakers and musicians yet to be finalised. It also plans to relaunch the Declaration of Carlton Hill event in Edinburgh, which originally took place as an alternative republican celebration to the opening of the Scottish Parliament. The declaration calls for an independent socialist Scotland, free from the ‘hierarchical and anti-democratic institutions of the British state’.
In Wales, the nationalist cultural group Balchder Cymru (Pride of Wales) is planning an alternative five-day celebration called the ‘Escape the Wedding Camp’, at a campsite near Machynlleth in north Wales. It is also considering planning a march through the town on the day of the wedding.
Organiser Adam Phillips explains that this location was chosen as it was the seat of Owain Glyndw^r’s independent Welsh parliament: ‘We are giving people an opportunity to escape the razzle dazzle and media hype. Not everyone will be celebrating this wedding because the taxpayer is footing the bill during a time of recession and cutbacks.’
Indeed, many will be simply outraged by the massive public cost of the wedding, estimated at £20 million.
Then there is the matter of the guest list. Among the usual dignitaries and celebrities will be the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, both of whom have brutally oppressed their own people as they bravely rally for democracy.
George Galloway, among others, has made his feelings clear: ‘The king of Bahrain presides over a dictatorship which cuts down demonstrators, including a two-year-old child. The king of Saudi Arabia rules over an outfit where people are executed on a Friday afternoon and women are not allowed to drive cars or go out without a male relative.
‘What do these despots have to do with a wedding in Britain at the taxpayers’ expense? If the monarchy wants to remain meaningful it has to relate to our society, not a fellowship of despotic kings.’
As the government takes the spending axe to public services, is it not time that we rid ourselves of the most wasteful, archaic and undemocratic institution of all? As Sue Townsend, author and republican campaigner, proposes: ‘Perhaps one day Britons will take a lead from the Egyptians and congregate in Trafalgar Square and march down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace – hopefully without a shot being fired or a taser being employed – to demand that the monarchy be abolished and sent to live among the people.’
The ‘Love Republic’ event takes place from 7:30pm on 29 April at Borough Bar, 10-18 London Bridge Street, London SE1. www.republic.org.uk
This article is part of our series on emerging political movements, made possible with the help of the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust