Billy Bragg brings Pussy Riot to Glastonbury

Posted Jun 4, 2015 by Tim Sandle
Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, who is curating the Left Field stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, has invited two members of the Russian band-come-protest movement Pussy Riot to a discussion panel.
Members of  Pussy Riot.
Members of "Pussy Riot."
Glastonbury festival (officially the ‘Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts’) is one of the largest festivals in the world. The big headline artists are the ones that draw the most media attention and television coverage. Live coverage has a combined international audience of 37 million people. However, the festival also features a host of smaller acts, side-shows and "fringe" events. The largest of these alternative offerings is Left Field.
Left Field, as the name suggests, is a bias towards social movements and progressive politics. This year, political discussion includes British trade unionist Mark Serwotka; representatives from SYRIZA and Podemos; and Pussy Riot. There will also be music from the Buzzcocks, Frank Turner and Billy Bragg; and a comedy routine from Phil Jupitus.
The inclusion of members from Pussy Riot has come about through the intervention of Billy Bragg. Bragg has hosted Left Field since 2002. Billy Bragg is a singer-songwriter, known for such albums as ‘Talking To The Taxman About Poetry’, ‘Mr. Love and Justice’ and his most recent offering Tooth and Nail (which was reviewed by Digital Journal.)
Pussy Riot are an all-female punk rock band from Russia. The group was founded in 2011 and the members of the band are interchangeable. The group are best known for staging unauthorised and sometimes provocative “guerrilla performances” in unusual public locations. The ideology espoused in many of the songs performed is feminism and anti-capitalism.
Notoriously some of these impromptu shows have caught the ire of Russian President Vladmir Putin. On February 21, 2012, five members of the group performed in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior, protesting against the Russian government. Later three members of the band were arrested, charged with hooliganism, and given prison terms (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina.) The general reaction from the international media was that these terms were harsh and many public campaigns were initiated to secure an early release, including one run by Amnesty International.
Fitting with the Left Field ethos, Bragg has invited Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina to speak on the stage on Friday 26th June, 2015. This was announced when Bragg tweeted: "Pleased to announce that Nadya and Masha from Pussy Riot will be speaking at Left Field @GlastoFest 1.30pm Friday."
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were released from a Russian prison during 2014 after 21 months. The main focus of their panel discussion is likely to center on the political situation is Russia and the situation faced by women.