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Banksy’s Glastonbury stunt is the height of phoney rebellion

So counter-cultural, man. Credit: YouTube

June 30, 2024 - 3:47pm

The two most bourgeois events in the social calendar — London’s Pride parade and Glastonbury — often coincide. This at least gets them both over and done with tout suite, and removes a small but very disproportionately vocal and culturally powerful layer of the upper-middle-class, away from the rest of us for one blissful weekend.

There is always some defining, desperately cringe, spectacle to emerge from these events. It looked like Glastonbury’s entry this year was to be its inauguration of a “lesbian tent” that was actually full of delusional straight blokes. But that, incredible thought it was, was swiftly superseded by Banksy’s boat.

This was an inflatable model of the kind of inflatable dinghy that regularly crosses the English Channel, complete with inflatable kiddies aboard. It was released onto the crowd, which were appreciating the performance by pop group Idles of their song “Danny Nedelko”, a hymn to open borders which contains the lyrics “My blood brother is an immigrant, a beautiful immigrant” and “He’s made of bones, he’s made of blood/He’s made of flesh, he’s made of love/He’s made of you, he’s made of me/Unity!” Stand back, T.S. Eliot.

The kitsch of Banksy and the cringe of Idles are made for each other: luxury goods for luxury beliefs. The group’s singer Joe Talbot then encouraged the crowd to chant “Fuck the King!”, which he called “the new British national anthem”. Edgy stuff, if you’re 12 years old. Talbot is almost 40.

There is always a market for an iteration of this band. In my time we’ve had S*M*A*S*H, Sleaford Mods, Crass, Manic Street Preachers, New Model Army, Reverend & The Makers — by and for angry middle-class boys, and all fairly indistinguishable. There’s always one on the way to replace the previous one — a terrible chain of the pompous and hectoring shouting of vaguely Leftist-sounding clichés, set against a backdrop of metallic bashing. Punk or metal or hardcore techno with all the fun and sex and humour of those genres drained out of them.

Banksy fits in with Idles nicely. For those of us of a certain age, the name is forever connected with Banksy, the love rival of Zammo in mid-Eighties Grange Hill, a youth with a face that you could politely describe as characterful. The actual Banksy is an ex-public schoolboy called Robin Gunningham, a fact which everybody has to pretend they have forgotten. The posh art world values his gruesome “that’ll show Thatcher!” novelty graffiti, because of course it would, and his works have become bankable assets.

I like to think that Banksy is sat back laughing all the way to the bank, soaking these people for the fools that they are, but there remains the disquieting thought that perhaps he really means it, man. Either way, this is the height of phoney rebellion, safely corralled and contained, utterly predictable and pointless — and notable only for its mortifying vacuousness.


Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.

OldRoberts953

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AC Harper
AC Harper
12 days ago

Did anyone try turning the inflatable dinghy around and sending it back as a post ironic comment on the political situation?

Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
12 days ago

The inflatable boat reminds me of Ai Weiwei’s auto portrait in the same posture as the little Syrian boy found dead on the beach, something which was so shallow and insulting to the memory of those who were fleeing civil war. Those ‘artistic’ gestures help nobody.
I actually used to like Banksy but that’s turned me right off.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
12 days ago

I do find it amusing that “bourgeois” now means “performatively left-wing.”

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
12 days ago

The self-deluded narcissism is fascinating. These progressive foot soldiers are blissfully unaware that their luxury beliefs will crush the people who can’t afford to attend the event.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Oh I don’t think they are. Reminds me of minty python. Who is that man? I don’t know but he must be a king; why? He hasn’t got shit all over him.

Paul T
Paul T
11 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Is Minty Python the love-child of Monty Python and the DJ Minty?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

Could well be!

william langdale
william langdale
12 days ago

If you listened/watched the BBC you would think that Glastonbury was the Second Coming,sorry mate,it’s just a gig and an over priced one at that.Download is better,every time.

TM
TM
12 days ago

And now a gig with no discernible character or unique identity. The line up this year included Cindi Lauper, Shania Twain and Avril Lavigne, what the f**k is that?

I suppose it’s main characteristic now is that it costs an absolute f*****g fortune and between the cost, difficulty getting tickets and time it takes get there and back, it’s basically a gig for the privileged, insufferably smug few

stephen k
stephen k
12 days ago

Very well put for the most part. I’ve been suspicions of the sleaford mods for a while. A kind of nagging doubt that won’t go away. They don’t seem to represent the working class that they seem to sound like. It is mind numbing middle class virtue signaling at its most hideous. If only someone had the sense to let the air out of the inflatable. Just need a pin!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
11 days ago
Reply to  stephen k

Jools just needed some token (fake) oiks to leaven the non-stop diet of Coldplay wannabees.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
12 days ago

Apparently Glastonbury has an 8 mile long, 20ft high “border wall” around it…

I know satire died with Kissinger’s Nobel Peace Prize but…lol…

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
12 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

lol. Great comment

D Glover
D Glover
11 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Why can’t we hire the contractor who installs that magnificent fence to put one just like it along the Kent coast?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
11 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

It was resurrected by Barack’s.

Chipoko
Chipoko
11 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

I bet most of the monied Woking Class live in homes surrounded by fences and security – and they don’t allow anyone to enter their gardens willy nilly. Hypocrites!

Katja Sipple
Katja Sipple
11 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Yes, it has a high-security fence designed to keep out undesirables. Not surprising though. Some of the biggest advocates of diversity I know live in very homogeneous and very safe gated communities. One could almost assume they don’t want a diverse community and the associated problems…

william langdale
william langdale
11 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Bearing in mind that the Glastonbury fence is probably the biggest “border wall” in Europe since you know what,why not wait until everyone is inside and then lock it.You could tell them that it is an “anti fascist” fence to keep the bad people out.They could keep all the amenities but only use renewable energy,no fossil fuels and only eat what they can grow or source,nothing with a carbon footprint from abroad.They all believe in “being kind” and I’m sure you can create an economy build on endless workshops covering the decolonisation of clothes pegs,I’m sure it will go just fine but if I was a betting man I’d give it a week and it would make Jonestown look like Disneyland.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
12 days ago

You people are getting very very angry these days. Is it because of the upcoming Tory decimation? The fact that everyone knows that Reform are just a reheated BNP? Or maybe because your cult leader is a fat orange moron?
Whatever it is, you need to stop being so furious all the time!

Peter B
Peter B
12 days ago

Show me some actual evidence that “you people” are angry.
I’m just not feeling it in any of the comments I’ve read so far.
So come on, how about some facts ?

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
11 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Just look at the comments!

E Wyatt
E Wyatt
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes, most people have found it highly entertaining.

Frank Freeman
Frank Freeman
11 days ago

All those ageing gammons who comment on “Unherd” should really watch their blood pressure.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
10 days ago

Well said!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
12 days ago

Yes, those racist plebs for once are no where near us good guys! Never mind f the king; f**k Glastonbury!
I say this with great sadness as I went in the seventies. Cost me nothing and I saw some truly iconic bands. If anyone had spouted luxury politics then, they would have been given a joint and told to shut up and enjoy the music!

Peter B
Peter B
12 days ago

Celebrating people smuggling. Says it all.
The great thing about Glastonbury is that it takes a whole load of people I don’t want to hear from and puts them in a field a long way away from me. While relieving them of large amounts of cash.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
11 days ago

Banksy has always been a phoney. Art for people who don’t like art.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
11 days ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

He has achieved some success, albeit mostly by poking cheap political cartoons in places where they are unexpected. He definitely has a knack for dressing up the quotidian; he’d be better if he did less that is political.

J Dunne
J Dunne
11 days ago

A deliciously scathing article from someone who truly recognises the shallow, phoney narcissism of posh ‘radicals’.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
11 days ago

This is just sour grapes. It’s perfectly reasonable for the Glastonbury crowd to celebrate the arrival of more cheap labour and the consequent increase in profitability of their buy-to-let portfolios.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
11 days ago

All of them safely fenced in and to stop the poor people from entering

R Wright
R Wright
11 days ago

Reminds me of the famous headline, “Man Who Agrees With The Media, Universities, Corporations, And Hollywood Thinks He’s Part Of The Resistance”.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
10 days ago

Are these boats normally full of children then?
The impression I got from my extreme hard far right populist sources was that they were mostly “fighting-age men”.

General Store
General Store
10 days ago

I don’t think he’ll be writing for dr who much longer

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 days ago

It would be a giggle to see a lesbian tent full of trans.
I imagine Terfs are blacklisted or removed at the gate i.e. Gen X women.
That’s Labour’s New Britain before you.