Covid Lockdown: Video of My Band The Four Fathers Playing at a Small Party in a London Park That Would Now Be Illegal

23.9.20

A screenshot of The Four Fathers playing in a park in south London on August 29, 2020.

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On the August Bank Holiday weekend, my band The Four Fathers played a largely acoustic set — and then joined other musicians in a jam session — as part of a little party in our local park in south London, parts of which were filmed by our bassist’s daughter, and which now constitute a record of what London looked like five months after the government first declared a lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The party normally takes place in a friend’s house, but this year, because of Covid-19, everyone concerned recognised that even a well-behaved house party wasn’t acceptable at the time, and so the proposal to move it to our local park was suggested instead.

In the earliest days of lockdown, London’s parks were patrolled by the police and local officials to make sure that no one stopped or mingled during their allotted one hour of exercise a day, but, as the peak of the panic passed, parks then became the focal point of human interaction, and while there were some obvious examples of slightly reckless behaviour — parties of young people drinking late into the night, provoking the wrath of the curtain-twitching brigade — for the most part people were aware of social distancing, and were simply trying to balance the need to avoid spreading the virus with an equally important need to socialise.

And so, on Saturday 29th August, from the early afternoon until the early evening, when it started to get cold, around 30 of us in total had a party, with some live music, in our local park. Some young singer-songwriters amongst our children (all now young adults) also sang, and my son Tyler (The Wiz-RD) also performed a technically thrilling and sometimes very funny beatbox set.

Check out the video below, featuring the last verse and chorus of our anti-Brexit anthem, ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)’, and the last half of our live favourite ‘Fighting Injustice’, about the housing crisis, followed by two songs recorded as we jammed with other local musicians — our new ecological call to arms, ‘This Time We Win’, and another rousing version of ‘Fighting Injustice.’

The party — with its food, drink, entertainment and chatter — was the kind of event that provided us all with some much-needed social bonding, and while we were clearly not all masked and obsessed with social distancing, neither were we getting drunk and slobbering all over each other, which, sadly, for emotional extroverts, or those accustomed to liberating their emotions through alcohol, seems to be one of the surest ways to encourage the spread of the virus.

The reason we held our party was not because of a deliberate disregard for the government’s pronouncements; rather, it was because, for many months, we had been meeting in parks and in gardens, and, more recently, at pubs and restaurants (generally, outside, although indoor seating was also available when the government allowed these businesses to reopen). We had also been keeping an eye of the very low infection rates in the borough of Lewisham, and had reached the conclusion that, like the majority of Londoners, our behaviour after the height of lockdown — when everyone pretty much stayed home, only venturing out to the local shops, or for one hour’s exercise a day — was, as we nudged towards what was a tolerably sociable existence, demonstrably safe.

Sadly, however, even by the Bank Holiday weekend this type of event was of dubious legality, because, although it consisted of less than 30 people, as stipulated by the government just a week before, those 30 people were only supposed to be from two households or “bubbles.”

The new legislation included fines of £10,000, which could be imposed on those breaking the rules, but this was clearly designed not to suppress a generally polite outdoor gathering of mostly middle-aged people, but to stop illegal raves, which had taken off all over the country as some young people’s appetites and energy overcame their fear of the virus, and also to stifle rowdy house parties. However, the announcement of the ban and the fines had already put a huge dampener on the social gatherings that had happily been taking place over the summer months, as the virus remained under control.

Note: For a good explanation of the rules, see this Freedom News article.

Since our party, however, a similar gathering is now pretty much unthinkable, as the government has stepped up its ban, prohibiting gatherings of more than six people outdoors, or in other people’s homes — unless, as some wag explained on Twitter, there’s a till involved.

Joking aside, musicians — like the wonderful Sesh Brehs in south London, young jazz musicians who jammed in parks throughout the summer, bringing joy to many people’s lives — can only adjust to his new reality if it means that they are able to perform in venues, as has started to happen. However, with infection rates now on the rise, its remains to be seen if we’re not about to enter a much worse phase of containing this pandemic than we were when the lockdown began easing back in May, with opportunities for live culture even more savagely curtailed than ever.

I hope not, because, as much as I understand the trepidation caused by the current increase in infection rates, it has yet to be demonstrated that the accompanying death rates — which currently, are extremely low — can justify a further return to widespread societal isolation, with all the economic and mental health costs that that brings, rather than a continuation of the social and cultural interactions that millions of us have been practising, for the most part as safely as possible, throughout summer.

If the bans start being imposed again, we need to ask ourselves if the problem is with us, or with a government that encouraged people to go on foreign holidays, that has insisted on sending children back to school, and, until a sudden U-turn yesterday, has also aggressively been telling people to go back to their offices — all of which it has introduced without even having tests available to the majority of people who need them, and without any notion of how to create a functional test and trace system, without which we seem destined to undergo, for the foreseeable future, blanket and largely indiscriminate lockdowns of various kinds that are entirely the fault of our unprecedentedly useless government.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from eight years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to a video of my band The Four Fathers playing at a small party in a park in south London on August 29, 2020, the Bank Holiday weekend.

    Some of you may have already seen this video, but I hope the article is of interest, because it contains my assessment of the changing rules regarding gatherings, which would now make this small party illegal — although whether or not the new ban on gatherings of more than six people is a proportionate response by the government to an increase in infection rates is something that, I believe, needs discussing.

    If venues can continue to feature live music, as has begun to happen, then that is a satisfactory way forward, but if we are to see a ban on all gatherings of more than six people, and venues having to shut because of a second lockdown, then we’re in big, big trouble, because we should not have to live without socialising, and without live culture, when the problem is that the government has failed to adequately provide a way to track and trace infections, meaning that we will be subject to sweeping indiscriminate bans on all kinds of social activity for the foreseeable future.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    In a survey of 2,000 members, the Musicians’ Union found that a third of them “‘are considering abandoning the industry completely’, because of the financial difficulties they face during the pandemic, as performance opportunities are severely curtailed”: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/sep/22/one-third-british-musicians-may-quit-industry-covid-pandemic-dcms-treasury

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    On a brighter note, check out this video of young south east London jazz collective Sesh Brehs jamming at Deptford’s Matchstick Piehouse last Saturday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y35A7n-_kus
    The Sesh Brehs, as mentioned in my article, jammed in parks in south east London throughout the summer, providing many of us with our only live culture throughout the darkest days of lockdown. More on them soon!

  4. Caley says...

    I think your post about the travellers and Margaret Thatcher crushing traditional Industries is relevant to the tyranny in the guise of coronavirus act 2020.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your comment, Caley – although I’m not sure where we are now has any previous historical context, beyond the Tories and their general antipathy towards so many parts of society, as manifested in the party’s ideology since Thatcher.

    This looks to me like a public health crisis that is being very badly mismanaged by an inept government that is massively corrupt and ideologically broken, but I think they’re fundamentally quite incoherent rather than having any plan about how to remake society, as Thatcher did, however destructive that ambition was. Capitalists crippling a capitalist society to prove some sort of point doesn’t really make sense to me.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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