Friday, 1 July 2011

In Praise of the Village Fete ? Big Society or Reinforcing the Social Order?

In Praise of Village Fete ? Big Society or Reinforcing the Social Order?
Justin Giggs, Head of Policy and Development at NALC (National Association of Local Councils) has written a thought provoking article entitled "In praise of the village fete" .

He argues that the village fete is part of the "Big Society" and specifically referring to his local Lingfield, Surrey village church fete, states

"village fetes are an excellent spaces for informal local democratic discourse! This means that local people have the chance to grab a few words with their locally elected representatives, be it the local MP, parish or town councillors or even district and county councillors".

Now, while we at Country Standard have no problems with the idea of the"big society", after all organisations such as churches, pensioners groups, trade unions, scouts, girl guides, woodcraft folk are the big society and have been fulfilling that role for many years with limited support and recognition

However, we seriously doubt the contention that that the, generally "incumbent" Tory big wig, who turns up from a neighbouring town to swan around the village fete, seeks out or listens to the plight of those in the village blighted by rural poverty, who put on a brave face at events such as the village fetes as not to stand out.

Does he or she really listen to the parents of sons and daughters who are not present at this years village fete, because they have been forced to move away, because of the lack of affordable houses or transport - Just who does speak up for them.

Does the NFU or Countryside Alliance speak out against rural poverty ?

The Tories certainly don't, Rory Stewart Penrith & Borders was quoted as saying of his rural constituents . "Some areas around here are pretty primitive, people holding up their trousers with bits of twine..." not only was this insulting he went with his Conservative colleagues to scrap the (AWB) the Agricultural minimum wage against, by which many rural jobs were historically bench marked.

Another example is high profile rural Tory MP,
David Davies, who argued recently that the rural poor should be forced to dig trenches for broadband, in a modern version of "chain gangs". Because private companies found paying people to dig trenches would mean rural broadband would be prohibitively expensive for them to entertain.

While Country Standard agrees that many village fetes may well build "community cohesion" and "Big Society" the loss of the local pub, library, bus or WI is probably more vital to a communities well being.

In far too many English villages, the summer fete is still an opportunity to reinforce the established order, where the wealthy hold all the top decision making positions (because of their access to land, money and power), while others wait to be co-opted to make sandwiches or provide the muscle.

The truth is Lingfield (24 miles from London) is primarily a dormitory town in picturesque Surrey. Meanwhile many of our "working" villages are being systematically destroyed, they are becoming as one academic recently reported "soulless, dormitory villages for our large Town's and Cities" - This is a direct result of the policies promoted by the Conservative party, who allegedly represent many rural communities. In the name of the "free market" and cuts in public spending they are destroying rural communities.

For villages to survive outside of the "chocolate box" and "rural idyll" image, Country Standard would contended rural communities need to be more vocal and more willing to stand up and take direct action.

A Poem in West Sussex Voice 1951 on the Village Fete


THE summer season has begun
When Tories all have lots of fun
At Fetes and Garden Parties.
How gracefully they doff their hats
To Squire and Lady as they pass
And bow and scrape (mental fetters)

To Bosses, Brass-hats and their betters
The psychological middle-class
(And every other type of ass)
Are here well represented:

MAIN purpose of such gatherings
Is not the L.S.D. they bring—-
That comes from "Woolton's Millions."
The underlying, cunning scheme
(Things are not always what they seem)
Is to provide a platform where
Their local Champ can "take the air,"
(That word would really read much better,
With "u" not "a" the middle letter!)

PROTECTED thus from awkward questions
He blunders off in all directions
Being all things to all men
He sadly speaks of earlier years
(Observe dear Auntie Fanny's tears)
When meat was strewn in every street
And kids had gold shoes on their feet;
When everyone had lots of money
(Such as the dole?—oh, don't be funny).
And Britain's Empire proudly stood
Imperial Military - (built on mud!)

CHEERED on by all his Blue support
He then indulges in a sport
Known everywhere as "Witch Hunt."
His huntin', shootin', fishin' friends
Go wild with all their Fascist trends
As he denounces (what a twist!)
Some local lad as Communist;
Well, anyway, it makes a change
From the hackneyed Tory range
Which never covered anymore than
Government waste and lack of plan,
Overspending and high taxation
Ruining this wretched nation.
National Savings up the spout—
And Uncle Montmorency's gout!

OH—a word about a guest
Who'd stand out far above the rest.
A gentleman! (most unlike some
Of that Labour Party scum),
Strongly opposed to Revolution
A Tory supporting the Constitution—
Dignity and all that stuff,
Correct behaviour (don't be rough!).
He'd show those common Labour louts
The way a gent acts when he's out.
Upholding majesty and glory
Like a truly true-blue Tory—
In Britain's stately Parliament
He threw a Common Coin—and went!

West Sussex Voice
August 1951