Making history …

Not only Stormzy, but also gender parity – Dave Randall looks back at Glastonbury and forward to the Lambeth Country Show

Stormy on stage @davidcourtphotography
@davidcourtphotography

Most reviews of the Glastonbury festival rightly focused on the stunning South London takeover of the Pyramid Stage on Friday night courtesy of Stormzy.

It was a bold and brilliantly executed performance. It demanded recognition not only of the talent, creativity and ambition of young people in our area, and of the UK hip hop/grime scene as a whole, but also the ongoing struggles against racism, austerity and a lack of opportunities.

Stormzy, at the age of 25, is the first Black British solo artist to take the Glastonbury headline slot. Some reviewers have somewhat complacently presented this as evidence of how far the country has progressed.

Stormzy himself underlined how much further we have yet to go. A consistent champion of the Justice4Grenfell campaign and critic of prime minister May, he used the Glastonbury performance to take aim at Boris Johnson, encouraging the vast crowd to chant ‘F**K BORIS’.

In a tweet, Jeremy Corbyn commented: “The performance was political, iconic and the ballet was beautifully powerful. It won’t just go down in Glastonbury history – it’ll go down in our country’s cultural history.”

A less well reported aspect of Glasto 2019 is that the festival’s line up nearly achieved gender parity. Sure enough, many of my highlights were performances by female artists from around the world.

Mali’s Fatoumata Diawara played a masterful set on the West Holts stage which paid tribute to Fela Kuti and Nina Simone. Later on the same stage Janelle Monáe and her excellent all women of colour band tore up the highlight slot.

Over on the Other Stage Little Simz underlined why she is one of the UK’s most exciting new artists and rising Jamaican reggae star Koffee got the whole of The Park bouncing and feeling blessed.

Our own Lambeth Country Show, which takes place in Brockwell Park on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July, is a little further from gender parity, but we will be treated to a performance by one of the pioneering female legends of reggae, Dawn Penn (inset). She told me about her fondness for Brixton and said that, rain or shine, the Lambeth Country Show is her cup of tea.

As a child growing up in Kingston Jamaica, Penn studied classical music and would also drop into Studio One to lay down vocals on rocksteady singles produced by the likes of Prince Buster and Coxsone Dodd, the latter of whom was responsible for an early version of a tune called You Don’t Love Me recorded in 1967. A re-recording of that same song some 25 years later delivered Penn chart success in the USA and Europe and a #1 hit in Jamaica. You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No) has since been sampled or covered by Kano, Hexstatic, Jae Millz, 311, Ghostface Killah, Mims, Eve featuring Stephen Marley and Damian Marley.

Penn appears at the Lambeth Country Show as a guest of London based reggae group Royal Sounds who open the main stage at 1.45pm on Sunday. She assures me that her signature song will be on the setlist, and adds that, as a long-term vegetarian and lover of plant based food, she’ll probably wander up the hill after the show to inspect the produce of the Lambeth Horticultural Society.

Why not follow Dawn Penn’s lead and take time to explore the Lambeth Country Show. As well as the fantastic main stage acts there are numerous community music organisations, orchestras, choirs and bands to enjoy as well as campaigns including Love Music Hate Racism to support. See what interests you, have a chat and find out how you can get involved.

Dave Randall is a musician and author of Sound System: The Political Power of Music.

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