Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Folk Against Fascism

The British National Party's manifesto encourages its members to insinuate themselves into the folk and traditional customs and events of Britain. This involves the appropriation of British folk music, customs and culture as a means of spreading their racist policies. They are selling traditional music through their Excalibur merchandising arm, despite the protestations of many of the artists included, who find their policies abhorrent.

The UK folk scene is a welcoming and inclusive one. Folk music and dance is about collaboration, participation, communication and respect. This group is being created to take a stand against the appropriation of folk culture by the BNP. They want to take our music. We will not let them.

From the BNP's Activists and Organisers Handbook:

"Community Activism means our activists getting involved in the affairs of their neighbourhood at all levels...We have had some major successes, for example, with local groups set up to encourage the celebration of St George's Day. Fun activities for children and families which are linked to our Christian heritage - such as Pace Egging in many northern towns - are particularly suitable candidates for revival as popular awareness of the growing power of Islam encourages support for and interest in our own religious and cultural traditions."

More from the Activists and Organisers' Handbook:

"Ideally our units will lead their communities in organising, or at least supporting, cultural events such as St George's Day celebrations (April 23rd). Most regions of the country have cultural events which are unique to that area, or county. For example, Padstow Hobby Horse (sic) in Cornwall, Arbor Tree Day in Shropshire, Garland King Day and the Well Dressing in Derbyshire, the Marshfield Mummers in Wiltshire, the Haxey Hood in Humberside, and countless others.

Some such celebrations, now very popular, have only been revived in recent years - the Hastings Jack in the Green and Whittlesea Straw Bear festivals show just how big such things can get. Why not do some research to see if there's a lost local tradition you can inspire a team of enthusiasts to revive?"

One of the things we need to be particularly aware of is the English Fair Fund. This exists to "give grants to help local community groups celebrate St George's Day."

Another racist organisation, The Steadfast Trust, provides community grants for "English-themed" events and St George's Day celebrations, and has already co-opted folk music within this strategy.

So, you're a folk musician or in a morris side. Someone in your town or village asks you to come and play at their St George's Day festival, and, in the spirit of community, you agree. Later, the BNP or the Steadfast Trust releases a press statement telling of all the wonderful St George's Day festivals it has supported this year, and lists all the artists/dance sides who took part. And there's your name.

Just like the artists who find their music being sold on the Excalibur/BNP website and are powerless to do anything about it, you become part of their marketing strategy, and there's not a lot you can do.

So if you are asked to play at any St George's Day events next year, ask who is supporting them. Find out where the money is coming from. Or, even better, start your own St George's Day event, and make it one that actively welcomes ALL of England's communities. Don't let them win.

Folk Against Fascism

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