Pete Godfrey

Pete Godfrey

Pete Godfrey is a writer and journalist based in the Hebrides. His first poetry collection, Grace Note, is published by Smokestack Books.

Jericho
Wednesday, 12 July 2023 13:33

Jericho

Published in Poetry

Jericho

by Pete Godfrey

On a scraggy patch of land we stake our claim -
this country’s ours, not terrain of the owners -
and string up banners, raise placards that name
a wrong so grievous it has shown us

that the courts of justice are courts of disgrace
with judges so corrupt they take their cue
from whispered briefings designed to erase
all sense of fairness - take a bow, yes you,

Emma Arbuthnot, Vanessa Baraitser,
bewigged and wooden, reeling off your lines,
automatons, the bosses’ howitzer
without a flicker of what’s warm or kind

for the man, distressed, who’s in the dock,
ten times superior to you, fighter for peace
who dared reveal just how the trigger’s cocked
to take out inconvenient souls as they may please -

those troops in thrall to Washington’s command
who’ve trashed Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq,
caused conflagrations, massacres - Assange
alone has cast a light on that:

how in the Middle East (and elsewhere) lives
have been deemed worthless, mere impediments
to looting land, oil, treasure, and the cries
of those who wish to blossom meet indifference

which is why we’re here, Julian, outside the walls,
concrete and drab, that hold you in
and try to imprison the ideas that call
out to humanity, look beneath the skin

of warmongers whose murderous strategy
lies grotesque and exposed, arrayed in blood.
The lights turn red - we leaflet, dash to see
if motorists will share in our disgust

at the outrage perpetrated yards from where they pass.
They sound their horns; the criminals’ names we shout -
Blair, Cameron, Patel and Johnson for a start.
And look: the walls are cardboard - push them now!

The spirit of Victor Jara lives on in Wales
Thursday, 17 March 2022 20:02

The spirit of Victor Jara lives on in Wales

Published in Music

From August 5th to the 7th, Wales will reverberate to the unlikely sounds of Latin American music with a distinctly political twist as the El Sueño Existe festival – ‘The Dream Lives on’ – is celebrated among the green hillsides of Machynlleth (SY20 8ER).

The festival, inspired by the music and political vision of legendary Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara, is back after two years of covid, and has become something of a fixture in the calendar of folk music and progressive ideas. This year’s festival, which runs from August 5th – 7th, features a wealth of musical acts headlined by Lokandes, driving Andean rhythms to get you dancing. Alongside them will be the customary colourful array of Latin dancers and theatre performers, and a wide-ranging series of political and cultural workshops.

Each edition of the festival focuses on specific issues, and this year’s themes are El Salvador, especially the communities who returned from exile after the Civil War to rebuild their lives, and ‘Peace and Climate Justice’.  Workshops will include a focus on human rights in El Salvador, the struggles against polluting gold mining, and the ‘Music for Hope’ youth music project in campesino (peasant farming) communities. 

There is also a resurgence of the Left to celebrate, with recent victories in Bolivia, Peru, Honduras and of course Chile. Jeremy Corbyn will be reporting back to the festival on his recent visit for the Presidential inauguration of former student leader Gabriel Boric. And new for this year is the wholehearted support of the Corbyn Project ‘Peace and Justice’ bringing their energy and radical take on the world to the festival.

Further afield, there’ll be sessions on indigenous resistance to deforestation of the Amazon and the prospects for the return of ‘Lula’ after the dark times of Bolsonaro in Brazil. You’ll also be able to sample Mayan Cosmovisions from pre-Columbus times and celebrate the history of maize (corn on the cob) – the staple that is used for many dishes, from tortillas to the iconic pupusas – filled maize griddle cakes. The festival is also family-friendly, with a full programme of games, stories and activities for children.

The visual arts are always well represented at the festival, and this year we will welcome exhibitions from 2 extraordinary Latin American women painters – Gisella Stapleton who is making waves in the Fine Art world with her portraits of icons and workers, especially women. And Myra Barraza is a renowned artist from El Salvador now resident in the UK, who will be exhibiting works on themes of human rights and social justice, as well as talking about art movements in El Salvador. It’s a feast for the eyes, as well as for the ears – and above all for the Spirit!

With the spotlight on El Salvador, author and academic Adam Feinstein will provide an insight into the country’s 20th century hero poet, Roque Dalton, sadly assassinated by his own comrades for murky reasons in the pre-civil war times. He left behind an extraordinary body of work for us to appreciate.  

El  Sueño Existe attracts a vibrant mix of  Chileans who found a haven in Britain in the 1970s, veterans of solidarity campaigns here, and the younger generations who have inherited the wealth of both Latin American and British cultural traditions. The touchstone is Victor Jara himself, a Communist and passionate supporter of Allende’s government, who was among the thousands of Pinochet’s victims, tortured and savagely murdered at the age of 39 for being a voice of the people. Unlike his tormentors, his legacy has become recognised as being artistically unique – an eloquent testimony of the flagrant injustices in Chilean society, and a call to arms to remedy them. This is the huge task facing the fledgling Government of President Boric.

One of Victor Jara’s musical collaborators, Alejandro Reyes, who came to Britain as an exile, will be among those playing at the festival. Although he describes himself self-effacingly as ‘a relic’, he is more a part of the living history of a cultural inheritance that remains astonishingly robust and all too relevant. But it is a musical tradition that is evolving all the time, with new generations finding their own forms of ‘New Song’. As Victor Jara sang, “Songs which have been brave, will always be New Songs.”

Visitors to the festival can expect the unexpected, whether it is an early morning ceremony to honour ‘Pachamama’ (Mother Nature) or a lyrical poetry performance from Latin American women’s writers’ group ‘Las Juanas’, a Liberation Theology participatory mass, all with a splash of colour and a strong dose of progressive politics. And rumour has it that a soon to be erected ‘statue’ of Christopher Columbus, curtesy of Infamous Community Arts, will meet a suitable end, via the energetic crowd – and some long ropes!

Perhaps the last word should go to one of the Chileans, Idulia, exiled here since 1975 who has attended several El Sueño Existe festivals: “The festival is the one place in Britain where I really feel I belong.” It’s Jeremy Corbyn’s favourite festival, so if you only have spare cash for one festival this summer, make sure it is this one!

Weekend ticket £50/£65/£80 + camping, campervans + programme updates, information on volunteering (8 hrs volunteering for a free weekend ticket) local accommodation etc all via the festival website: www.elsuenoexiste.com