Piers Corbyn protests against the lockdown
Artillery Row

Open your third eye

Glastonbury against the machine

Best known these days for its annual pop festival, the ancient town of Glastonbury in Somerset has become perhaps the unlikely epicentre of dissent against the Government’s lockdown.

While the festival site at Pilton nearby is this year given back to grazing cows because of the coronavirus outbreak, the marketplace in the town centre has seen a series of protests against the restrictions imposed in the light of Covid-19.

Small but repeated demonstrations, breaking the Government guidelines on gathering in public and social distancing, have brought police, including mounted officers, out in force.

Geraint Christopher next to Hemp in Avalon

Events have also attracted an unlikely coalition of speakers: Piers Corbyn, the brother of the former Labour leader, who claims the virus is part of an agenda to bring in one world government, mandatory vaccines and a plan to get everyone microchipped; Mike Overd, the ex-paratrooper turned street evangelist, once dubbed ‘the most arrested preacher in Britain’; and Geraint Christopher, the cannabis campaigner, who runs the shop Hemp in Avalon in the town centre.

The traditional Beltane May Day festival, which usually attracts a huge crowd of merrymakers and colourful dancers, was cancelled this year. Instead, there was a rally in support of the ancient right of free assembly. Only a lone flautist in a golden theatrical mask provided any musical accompaniment.

Penalty notices have been issued at demonstrations and those attending have been urged by police to leave to ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’. But on Sunday May 3rd events took a darker turn. Two people were arrested, with police being accused of using unnecessary force on what was a peaceful protest.

Mounted police asked protesters to disperse. Mike Overd ‘the most arrested preacher in Britain’ is centre

Geraint Christopher, speaking on the steps of the ancient Market Cross, was bundled to the ground and arrested while singing the Hawaiian prayer: ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you’, popular in New Age circles.

He was handcuffed and dragged away to an awaiting police van. He was later charged with breaching Covid-19 legislation and a public order offence. A court appearance beckons in June which he says he will contest. Speaking after his arrest, he said he was defending the ‘God-given right to assemble in public’.

A protester with flowers in her hat strokes a police horse

The splits within conservatives over the lockdown are well known but you may be forgiven for imagining the left are all lockdown supporters. Those seen as promoting alternative lifestyles have often sided with the Government and clapped on their doorsteps for the NHS.

The Sunday event, originally organised to celebrate cannabis and billed as the ‘Beltane Bhang Bonanza’, was delayed by a vigilante group of helmeted motorcyclists revving their engines. They claimed those taking part were irresponsible and putting lives at risk. The bikers have been lending their support to the lockdown effort by delivering supplies to people who are ‘shielding’ or ‘isolating’.

But others have seen it as their duty to oppose the strict measures. There has been a political, if not cosmic, realignment.

Geraint Christopher takes to the stage

Health and wellbeing are a major feature of Glastonbury life. The town is renowned as a centre for healing, alternative medicine and spirituality. Visitors come from all over the world to a place variously believed to be on a mystical leyline, the burial place of King Arthur, and where the feet of Jesus walked in ancient times.

The ‘alternative’ types in Glastonbury who are protesting against the lockdown seem to have deviated sharply from the faith shown by many on the left in the ability of government and big tech to solve a crisis. The town council, where the Green Party holds the balance of power, became the first in the country to invoke the so-called ‘precautionary principle’, opposing the deployment of 5G mobile phone technology.

The town considers itself a place of tolerance for alternative lifestyles and a seedbed for emerging perspectives. But the lockdown has divided opinion and brought unaccustomed tension.

Placards at the May Day event carried slogans like ‘End Lockdown Now – Free NHS to save those it’s left behind’, ‘Jail Bill Gates of Hell’ and ‘5G kills your health and freedom’.

Piers Corbyn firmly believes that the sooner the lockdown ends, the sooner lives will be saved. Meanwhile, street preacher Mike Overd, accused the Government of ‘weaponising the NHS’ to create an atmosphere of fear. He told the gathering: “On the back of an agenda of fear we have entered into a police state never seen before in the United Kingdom. We want to come and stand and meet as human beings made in the image of God. The job of the NHS is to save people, not itself.”

This year was going to be the 50th anniversary of the Glastonbury Festival, with Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and Diana Ross all scheduled to appear. But Glastonbury 2020 looks set to be remembered for a very different main stage line-up of Piers Corbyn, Mike Overd and Geraint Christopher. With the police and their very questionable powers being the very dubious support act. Perhaps the pandemic won’t change much in truth, but it’s doing a good job, for some, in showing us how things really are.

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