Tally-ho! Countryside stars unite to save the fox-hunters
We’re used to rock stars doing the charity concert thing for famine, Aids, the environment, Amnesty, Greenpeace, Tibet etc. The benefit gig has become a regular fixture on the music calendar and, due to the nature of these events (raising much-needed money/consciousness), there is usually a temporary suspension of the usual critical faculties.
Still, some will persist in arguing that many of these events involve conditions that, even with the best will in the world, no amount of “star-studded casts” can even begin to ameliorate.
There are also more ideologically motivated opponents of benefit concerts. A benefit gig next week, though, should see everyone united in peace, love and harmony.
The Countryside Rocks gig on Saturday, May 19th is about celebrating nature, the countryside and the rural idyll. Already lined up to play the show, which will be staged in the spectacular surrounds of Highclere Castle in Berkshire, are Bryan Ferry and Eric Clapton, to name just two.
What’s wrong with this bucolic picture? Plenty. Countryside Rocks may, on paper, seem to be a sort of neo-hippy, let’s-all-get-back-tonature-and-don’t-forget-the flowers-in-your-hair. But all is not what it seems. Countryside Rocks is a benefit for Countryside Alliance, a political lobby group which was set up in 1998. CA calls itself “an organisation promoting issues relating to the countryside, such as food, farming and country sports”. By “country sports” they mean killing animals.
The Alliance came to prominence when the UK introduced a hunting ban in 2005. Members are vigorous defenders of hunting, especially fox hunting. Their opponents claim that the bit about “promoting issues relating to the countryside” is nonsense and that CA is a single-issue lobby group: they want to bring back hunting.
One of the performers scheduled to play on the day, the renowned pianist and composer Robert Wells, pulled out of the gig after alleging that the CA deceived him.
“I felt that the Countryside Alliance were keeping something from me when they denied that they had anything to do with fox hunting,” Wells told a Swedish newspaper. “I warned them not to mess with me or I’d get really pissed off. As far as I knew, this concert was in support of nature and the countryside and then this crap shows up. That’s when I said that is against my beliefs and I cancelled.”
Animal Aid, an animal rights grouping, has now weighed into the argument, stating that the gig is “a concert promoting the killing of animals for pleasure”. Gosh.
None of this seems to have bothered the other performers on the bill – Ferry, Clapton, Steve Winwood, Steve Harley (you’d sort of expect better from the Cockney Rebel man), Kenney Jones, Rick Wills and Mike d’Abo. They’re all still listed to perform on the day.
In the two main headliners, you’ve got a suave singer who, in a recent interview, opined “the way the Nazis staged themselves and presented themselves, my Lord! I’m talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl and the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags. Just fantastic – really beautiful”, and a famous blues guitarist who once urged his audience to support Enoch Powell. Charming.
All is not lost. Now that Wells has revealed himself to be a pinko bleeding-heart fox-lover, there’s room on the bill for a cameo appearance by Otis Ferry, son of Bryan and House of Commons-storming Countryside Alliance hero.
Stop this tally-ho rock madness now.
Clapton: wily old fox