Saturday, 31 May 2014

Green issues and music

I managed to get up to the Festival site for two events yesterday. I also found Shelley and Richard's stall there - selling Richard's art and Shelley's scarves, so I made sure I was wearing the scarf she had given me for my birthday! It was lovely, too, to see the workshop where children were making their own stools, with proper woodworking handtools. BBC Radio Wales had a van there, too, with live music outside it, on air. When I passed it was a group of young black women singers, who were very good.
The first event I had tickets to was the Joseph Rotblat Lecture, given this year by Jonathon Porritt. Joseph Rotblat, it turns out, was a nuclear physicist who was involved in the Manhattan Project - and was the only scientist to resign from the project when it became clear that Germany was not developing a nuclear bomb. After the war, he was involved with Pugwash, a group concerned with trying to prevent nuclear proliferation and working for conflict resolution - they're still working today, behind the scenes in war zones like Syria, and between North and South Korea.
Where Joseph Rotblat felt that the most important threat to the planet in his time was nuclear war, today Jonathon Porritt feels the same way about climate change. But he hadn't come to talk about doom and gloom and how screwed the planet is - he's just written a book about how we can have a sustainable future. Looking back from 2050, he looks at all the different technologies that exist now, and can solve the problems that the planet faces. He said that he'd been campaigning for years, but only when he needed to do the research for the book did he sit down to take a good look at the science and technology that exists, and put all the pieces together.
The only weak link in the whole thing is the political will - politicians carrying on with their heads in the sand, as if they don't need to do anything. He said that even the most Republican of states in the US now accept that changes need to be made to deal with what they call "weird weather" (because they don't like to admit that it's climate change). Car companies are now investing heavily in electric and hybrid cars; the cost of solar panels is going down every year, while their efficiency is rising.
During the questions at the end, he was asked about fracking - and said that it was the last spasm of the oil industry, desperately clinging on to the current business model. It can never be a long term solution. He had spoken admiringly of Germany, with all the renewable power being generated there, but agreed with a member of the audience that it had been crazy to shut down the nuclear power plants before the natural end of their lives and make up the difference in power needs by burning brown coal.
Rosie Swales was on stage to interview Jonathon Porritt after his talk, and she said that Hay Festival is almost carbon neutral - the one area they can't be is in transport to the Festival site, especially when people fly in, and there is no real alternative to that at the moment.
I went down to the Festival shop after the talk - but I ended up walking out with one of George Monbiot's books rather than Jonathon Porritt's. I've been meaning to get a copy of Feral, about the "re-wilding" of Britain, for some time, and I couldn't really justify paying £24.99 for a book, no matter how good the talk had been!

In the evening, I went down to the Festival site again to see the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The small Oxfam Moot tent wasn't full, which was a pity, because the music was excellent. I'd been drawn in by the promise of a lute - as it turned out, though, Ben Salfield had brought a strange hybrid of lute and guitar with him, called a lutar. He was joined by Jon Salfield on guitar (he started off as a flamenco guitarist) and Simon Stanton, who was sitting on one of his instruments - basically a tea chest, as first used for musical purposes by sailors in Cadiz. He also had a rain stick and triangle, and various drums, and a black pottery gourd thing from Africa.
They seem to have spent a lot of time touring around the world. Ben talked about writing one piece of music on the balcony of an Italian classical guitarist's flat, with the smell of fresh bread wafting up from the bakery below, while another was written on a tour of Poland, and the title is the motto of Solidarity. They also talked about visiting South America, and a city with the highest murder rate in the world!
It really was a lovely evening, and the applause at the end "was worth the long drive up from Cornwall"!


sandra bell said...

Maybe it is your writing style but you made the Horsemen concert, which I attended too, sound almost twee. In fact the venue was albut full, and the musicians played brilliantly to a more-than appreciative audience. Hay is a stronger festival for events like this and the afro-celt show that followed it round the corner. I talked to the Salfields after, and they were very personable and kind. Those of us who researched them before attending would, with due respect, have had more interesting things to say. The musicians are, after all, rather well known for what they do!

Eigon said...

I didn't intend to make them sound twee! I went along to the concert knowing absolutely nothing about them, and described what I saw and heard. You're right - it was a very appreciative audience, and now I have heard them, I will be looking out for them again, and finding out more.

Ben Salfield said...

Glad you enjoyed the concert! I don't think you made it sound "twee" but it's nice that we aroused such a passionate "defence" from a fan :)

I hope you liked the lutar. My lute is in retirement after being rebuilt for the third time following destruction by a well known German airline beginning with 'L'...

Hay is a great festival, we really loved our time there. Happy blogging x

Eigon said...

Thank you! I hope you're invited back again! And the lutar was very cool.