Being A Man is a weekend festival consisting of various panel discussions around the theme of masculinity and manhood. It’s the first time that the festival has been run, although its much needed female counterpart Women Of The World (WOW) has been running since 2011 and commences in March 2014. The festival has been put together by Jude Kelly, artistic director at the Southbank and tonight for the festival closer they’re linking music into the debate by bringing together Billy Bragg, Phill Jupitus, Tom Robinson and Akala to discuss their interpretation of manhood illustrated by their music and poetry.
Billy Bragg leads the discussion by talking about men and their relationships with their father. He says that his own father died of cancer at the age of 52 in 1976 and he wrote the song “Tank Park Salute” from his 1991 album “Don’t try this at home” to address this. Phill Jupitus never knew his Dad, having been brought up in a strong matriarchal household, and performs a short angry poem about how much he hates father. Tom Robinson talks about how he grew apart from his father before their eventual reconciliation whilst Akala talks about growing up without his biological Dad and how his stepfather was there as a father figure.
It’s a good format for a discussion, having a lively debate on an aspect of manhood followed by a song or a poem illustrating the point. Inevitably, they also discuss why there should even be a need for such a festival in a patriarchal world where men have huge advantages over women, with Billy Bragg and Akala talking about how working class men are forced to play up to a certain macho role whilst repressing their true feelings.
During the lively debate on the various topics, Billy Bragg sings ‘Handy man blues”, his ode to his own inadequacies at doing DIY around the house whilst Tom Robinson rounds off a lively discussion about sexual politics by performing his classic statement of intent as a gay man “Sing if your glad to be gay”.
They finish off with a rousing group rendition of Tom Robinson’s “2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway” and that caps off an evening of interesting and lively debate. If the previous days’ events were as good as this one then it must have made for an entertaining weekend. An interesting and thought provoking debate to round off what they hope will become an annual event.