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Straw-hatted activism

It’s the season for outdoor music festivals and Sunday last saw us at Folk by the Oak – a leisurely day long folk festival in Hertfordshire described as ‘boutique’ for those who can’t face the three day extravaganzas of larger events. On this baking day, I was struck by the sea of straw hats that stretched out in front, behind and alongside us some of which were in pristine condition, perhaps newly purchased, whilst other showed signs of many earlier summer campaigns.

Billy Bragg, well known for his left wing views, was in the next to top slot (Amy McDonald if you ask) and the news from the previous week and President Trump’s visit provided him with ample material for his between songs musings. He was speaking by and large to a pretty receptive crowd and at the end of his set the straw hats rose up like a broad squashed haystack to offer their applause.

Billy spoke about cynicism being the great enemy of progress and that this was a people’s construct, not entirely the product of the media, and he challenged his audience to become activists and organisers to change things for the better. His sang Between the Wars and Power in a Union from his back catalogue with their emphasis on working together and fairness, and described his day at the Durham Miners’ Gala the day before.

The thing here is the inspiration that such obvious passion and commitment can engender. Standing up for justice against the odds needs that extra sense of emotional engagement that’s born of experience and learning. So if your church is passionate about social justice issues, for example, can you apply that enthusiasm equally to safeguarding? It’s clear that some find the agenda a challenge and suggest that it takes away the energy for doing other things. But we can change the mood music if enough people take a stand and become activists in their own churches, believing in and living out through what they do, to make our churches keep their hard won safe spaces.

Your straw hat may have seen better days, but hats were definitely the order of the day. They help us to keep cool and avoid getting sunburnt, but a measure of appreciation and eagerness is when you throw your hat in the air! Can we count on your hat in the air to show your commitment to active and well organised safeguarding?

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