This post is not intended to be a comprehensive look at the impact of the latest lockdown and the tiered restrictions that look set to last all the way through until next spring. The focus is on the impact on the venues where we, the working class, used to meet to socialise, listen to music and watch football. Places where we reinforced the bonds between us and expressed our communal identity. All are now under threat.
Looking at the impact of these tiered restrictions on a hospitality industry that’s already reeling, there will be a lot fewer pubs and bars left to meet up in: For Greater Manchester, the latest government announcements could be the end of the traditional British pub. The grassroots live music scene that relies on pubs as venues will be a major casualty of this. As will any form of dance music where many venues also face closure. It’s not just a case of being denied somewhere to meet up and socialise, it’s also being denied access to places where we can express our creativity and joy in living. What this loss means to us is eloquently expressed here by Dr Lisa McKenzie: Using Covid as justification to shut pubs is just another way to suppress Britain’s working class.
As well as meeting up in the pub, another location for an expression of collective identity is your local football club. When we enter tiered restrictions which will last pretty much towards the latter stages of the current football season, there has been some talk of allowing a limited number of fans back into the grounds: 4,000 fans allowed to return to sports events after lockdown, Boris Johnson announces. Clubs in the lowest areas of ‘risk’ in Tier One will be allowed to let in up to 4,000 fans. Those located in the somewhat higher ‘risk’ Tier Two areas will be limited to 2,000 fans. Clubs located in Tier Three areas will have to keep the gates closed to fans. Obviously, for the limited number of fans who are allowed back in, it will not be like any other match they’ve attended in their lives. Under ongoing restrictions, they will have to be physically distanced and there’s unlikely to be much tolerance of singing or shouting. As many fans are already saying, what’s the point of attending a match under these conditions?
A number of clubs in the English Football League (EFL) have already pointed out that if they can’t open up their grounds to the number of fans who normally attend matches within the next month, they will run out of money to keep them going. If the Premier League clubs can’t find the money to keep the EFL clubs going until the 2021/22 season, then a lot of them are in serious trouble. To be honest, the only thing that has probably prevented an EFL football club owner from throwing in the towel and shutting down is that they don’t want to go down in history as the one who set off a domino effect of clubs going bust, effectively collapsing the league. Unless there’s some kind of miracle, this will happen and the social ramifications of this will be significant.
Pubs, clubs, football grounds are the places where our class can meet up and have a good time. A long term consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, lockdowns and tiered restrictions is further atomisation and isolation as working class people lose access to those places. Way back in May of this year, we published this post on the now archived South Essex Heckler: Welcome to your future of controlled misery. This quote from the post predicted the kind of future we thought we’d be facing: “Sure, we’ll be allowed to work and commute because they will still need our labour to keep a drastically re-shaped economy going but they won’t want us socialising, talking and coming up with any ‘ideas’ about how shite things are and what needs to be done about it. Nope, it’s sleep, wake up, commute, work, commute, eat, watch crap TV while drinking at home, sleep…rinse and repeat but above all, comply or face the consequences.” That’s the future that’s now arriving – if we allow it that is…
There’s a puritanical element in this country that seems to revel in the prospect of us not being able to meet up with mates to have a chat, vent our frustrations at how crap things are getting and let off a bit of steam. This element seems to be totally incapable of grasping the impact on our mental health of months of isolation and the lack of face to face contact with each other, let alone physical contact. All they seem to care about is how virtuous they feel while telling the rest of us flawed and imperfect people how we should live our lives. Much of this element can be found on the political left, it’s not just the right that likes a bit of top down authoritarianism: Both Right- and Left-Wing Authoritarianism are linked to support for punitive coronavirus measures.
We take absolutely no pleasure in saying we predicted this all the way back in May. When we made those predictions, we sincerely hoped we were over-hyping the threat and come the latter part of this autumn, we’d be sitting here red faced with embarrassment. Never have we wanted to be more wrong about something than this. We called it right and it has got to the point where we have to state that from what we can see, unless something dramatic and unexpected happens in the next couple of weeks, there’s no going back to the normal we used to know.
The bastards think they have got us where they want us. More isolated and more fearful than ever before. The bonds that bound us together in our humanity have been weakened to be replaced by division, fear and mistrust. The divide and rule merchants have been having a field day setting us at each others throats, in particular, the rows over how real the threat from COVID-19 is and the measures put in place to ‘contain’ it. Rows that are becoming ever more bitter with the emergence of an array of vaccines which we’re being led to believe will supposedly allow us to return to ‘normality’.
Too much damage has been done to make that even possible. The normality we knew, however flawed and imperfect that was, can’t come back because the infrastructure that supported it has been damaged beyond repair. It’s too late to go back. All that’s left is working out how we can rebuild a communal, truly human life on our terms. What the elitist bastards who want us to lead a diminished, atomised and controlled life don’t realise is that they cannot crush the human spirit. They’ll try but we’ll always find a way to fight back.
Socialising is integral to who we are as humans. If we’re denied the opportunity to do that as a result of venue closures, we’ll always find a way to get round that. Without spilling the beans, there are underground music scenes developing in spite of the restrictions the authorities throw at us. The community I live in has proved that working class residents can get together to not only take over a local park but also to build and run a thriving community cafe. One that will come back fighting after all of this is over. There’s nothing in the rulebook to say that we can’t start taking over closed pubs to re-open them as genuine, community focused venues. If the worst comes to the worst, we can squat them to stop the developers getting their grubby mitts on them to stick up yet another poxy apartment block while we work out what we want to do with the venue to open it up to the community.
A growing number of football fans are becoming disenchanted with the direction the game is taking with the emphasis on big money and branding as opposed to community. If as could well happen, the English Football League does collapse, maybe that’s the time that we the fans, take the game back so it belongs to us. When clubs have gone bust, quite often, they’ve come back as phoenix clubs. Newport County, Hereford United, Darlington and AFC Wimbledon are examples of how this can be done. The lower down the league pyramid you go, apart from the disruption to the fixture list, the less impact the lockdowns and tiered restrictions are having. Community focused and owned clubs such as Tilbury, Basildon United and Clapton CFC will continue to find a way through all of the shite. This is where we can start to take the game back so it belongs to us, the people.
The world we knew a year ago has changed dramatically. A lot of what we took for granted has gone and if it does come back, it will be in a form many of us will not recognise, let alone be willing to accept. If we’re honest with ourselves, a lot of the life we knew was us experiencing it as semi-passive consumers. Experiences which were generally pretty enjoyable but in many cases, were done for us as a cash transaction. All too often, we were not involved as active agents in creating them and tailoring them to our needs. Do we really want to go back to that or do we want to move forwards to something a lot better?
When we talk about moving forwards, it has nothing to do with the agenda of the ‘great reset’ as promoted by Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Foundation and ruthlessy dissected by Winter Oak: Klaus Schwab and his great fascist reset. It has everything to do with getting these elitist, technocratic, corporatist bastards off our back once and for all and fighting for a truly human, communal life that’s worth living. This is potentially the best opportunity we’ll ever have to fight for the world we want. We have everything to gain if we step up to the plate, everything to lose if we sit tight and continue to let the bastards roll over us.