Sunday, 29 June 2014

Why do authorities fear public gatherings so much?


We were in Dent. It's lovely place and you should visit - winding cobbled streets, at least three drinking places and it's own brewery in a farm a mile or so up the road. Dent also has an annual beer and music festival, which (as chance would have it) was on this weekend.

So having wandered around the village, paid a brief visit to the festival and generally chilled after our exertions (we'd been for a pleasant walk along the valley), Kathryn and I call into one of the pubs for a drink and a sit. Up to the bar to order a couple of drinks. And to our surprise they're served to us in plastic 'glasses'.

Now I'm absolutely certain that Dent isn't part of some bizarre plastic loving cult. Indeed, I'm pretty certain that the use of plastic glasses is either a requirement of the festival's licence or else the result of many meetings and stern advice from Cumbria's constabulary. Because, as we know, folk festivals in the Cumbrian countryside are places of terror and violence - without these stipulations the festival-goers will resort to glassing eachother in the manner associated with the rougher parts of, say, Glasgow.

It seems to me that these controls - like many others prescribed in the interests of 'safety' - are rather indicative of authority's fear of public gatherings. To give another example, to hold the Cullingworth Gala now requires a licence costing £11 from the Council. It seems that authority cannot countenance any gathering of people taking place without their stamp of approval and the application of a set of pointless controls such as serving beer in plastic skiffs.

The idea that places and spaces in places like Dent and Cullingworth are for people's leisure and pleasure has been replaced with a desire from the police and local council to control, direct and, if not done properly, ban any activity. And especially any activity that might involve drinking, dancing, singing or the playing of musical instruments. Doubly so if the audience might include 'young people'. We are to be treated as infants given a set of instructions on good behaviour by the police and council jobsworths.

For sure, most of the time this isn't a problem - we can put up with booze in plastic glasses - but there is a point at which the costs imposed by officialdom start to put an end to gatherings. Dangerous gatherings like street parties and, but for a last minute intervention, Bradford's annual Boy Scout parade and service are ended because their organisers give up on jumping through hoops and paying out more money on the latest piece of over-the-top crowd management imposed by some bloke from the council.

The police and council fear that these events foment disorder, that all these people gathering together will encourage criminals and that, in some respects, gatherings are merely formalised anti-social behaviour. The authorities would much rather we sat quietly sipping something alcohol free from our plastic skiff - or better still that these inconvenient, even dangerous, events didn't happen in the first place. It's not a vain attempt to silence political dissent but rather an organised endeavour intended to limit and control our pleasure - most often in the supposed interests of 'safer communities' or 'public health'.



Anonymous said...

Sometimes, its just the landlord deciding that he'd rather not have to spend ten to fifteen minutes every hour wandering around the immediate environs wondering where all his sodding glasses have gone.

FrankC said...

That's where the (self) appointed potboy scores. He collects the glasses and gets a beer in return.