I was brought up in an atheist household, and thus am largely ambivalent about religion; I know it isn’t for me, though the power of religion is evidently appealing. There is comfort in a higher power, as any football fan will tell you; my faith is based entirely on the belief that every Saturday at 3pm, my beloved Sheffield Wednesday will win. That’s about as close as I get to religion.

That said, I can honestly say nothing will bring me closer to wanting to connect with the Lord above than a Festival of Brexit.

Like all socio-political history, a representation of Brexit will always appear in the arts. Art is the human connection to the world around us. It’s how we collectively share our emotions, our love, our pain, our trauma. It’s what makes us feel alive. So naturally, the problem I have with a Festival of Brexit as a representation of art is that we as a society are still nowhere near to even thinking about a healing stage. It is still deemed problematic to talk about certain things: the impact of Brexit in Leave-voting areas, that the 2019 government cabinet was chosen to appease the hard-leave Prime Minister, and the problem of the Irish border. There is no logical way one can celebrate Brexit or Britain, at this time, without covering over huge unsolved issues.

Art does heal, but only if there is common acceptance that we as people need healing. HBO’s 2019 miniseries Chernobyl is a master class at art speaking to sensitive topics. It highlighted Soviet failures whilst recognising the human cost of such a disaster. This festival will therefore need nuance, and not a blanket celebration of something that will devastate lives. Chief creative officer Martin Green claims the festival ‘has a powerful role to play’ in healing divisions, and that ‘bringing people together isn’t about asking people all to […] believe the same thing. It’s about understanding […] and appreciating each other’s differences and commonalities’. I’d be inclined to agree with him if we, as a country, hadn’t just spent the last four years tearing into each other. Right now, having a festival to celebrate being British, or Brexit itself, is like trying to heal an amputated arm with a big plaster. It’s very nostalgic to believe ‘we’re all in it together’, but the reality is, we absolutely are not. That’s why, for now, appreciating each other’s differences is as silly as a striking miner appreciating his differences with a yuppie in the 80s.

I like the idea. At some point, there does need to be a time to say goodbye, as Bocelli would sing. It would be nice to see something that represents all views on Brexit. Delicately done, the festival genuinely could be something to be proud of. It could be a step forward to admit mistakes were made and that there may be hope of reconciliation. But experience tells me this will only go one way. We are still far away from the group ‘Acceptance’ part of the five stages of grief; the public currently teeter between Anger, Depression and blind-Acceptance, while our leaders do nothing but Bargain between who to blame for their own actions.

Divisions are still too deep. After all, all of the hatred and issues we face have been self-inflicted. This festival will simply appease Leave voters into thinking they have their Britain back, whatever that may mean. Given that dance group Diversity received over 20,000 complaints for their recent Black Lives Matter-themed performance on Britain’s Got Talent, I’d say acknowledgement would be far more useful than a festival focused on celebration and healing.

This is where I return to my religion analogy. Brexit has become like a religion to some, who will keep hold of every last ounce of faith they have regardless of what facts and evidence have been placed before them. A Festival of Brexit could only conceivably be pro-Brexit, in the same way a religious festival would not have any event strictly non-religious. A time to heal, perhaps. A Leave fantasy, definitely.

Featured image source: Pixabay 


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