Hay Festival p.1 – Pussy Riot

For my first holiday during my graduate scheme at Midas Public Relations, I decided to go to Hay Festival. Bill Clinton called it the “Woodstock of the Mind” and I needed some peace, love, and great ideas. My friend Hannah said she could come – yay! I booked our campsite, all of the free BBC events we could, and one paid event. Yo – I make $200 a month and I’m living on a couch at my (most WONDERFUL and GRACIOUS FRIENDS THAT I AM EVER THANKFUL FOR) friends’ house- I could only afford one event.

The one event I booked was Nadezhda Tolokonnikova talks to Philippe Sands aka Nadya Tolokno of Pussy Riot. PUSSY RIOT! I fucking love them. I admit I had only heard of them, and their great work, but I imagined at the event, I would learn everything about them and by them time it was over I would become a member. I planned to tell Nadya at the event, or at least ask how I can get more involved.

If you don’t know, Pussy Riot are a punk band that started in Russia who were arrested and sent to jail by Putin because they gave a protest performance in a Moscow cathedral that offended people. But especially Putin. The video of their performance went viral. And while both of them suffered excruciatingly in prison – they became famous. They now use this voice to take down the systems in place, but especially to take down Putin.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 12.58.39 AM

Gosh- I was so excited so we sat right at the front. She came on the stage and read a speech. It was wonderful. It was quite hard at first to understand her accent – she spoke so quickly, too –  but once I did she was inspiring. She mostly gave details about Russia, prison, and how Putin must go. The way she said, “We need to get rid of experts. What have they done for us? They don’t know. And I don’t know either, but I’m trying,” I loved her. She spoke to us like equals.  

When she sat down to speak with Philippe Sands, oh gosh. It was terrible. While some of his questions were nice, he focused too heavily on the philosophers that influenced her ideas and on Putin. He asked her, “Tell us the Top 5 things we should no about Putin.” God – he thinks she’s some young millennial writing listicle bullshit.

Her response was brilliant. “I’m not a big fan of top 5, top 10.” (Watch the video here!) 

 I just wanted her to tell us how to join and talk about her vision. Nothing! Although she did say if their was a Pussy Riot in the UK, she would ask to collaborate with them.

HelloOOO! I am here. I am in the audience! I am readyyyy NadyA!

Then he opened the talk to questions from the audience. It was painful! First, two men asked her if she had read some blahdyblah philosopher, trying to check her references. Then, a woman asked her if she had any female role models. She said Judith Butler, but still – Nadya is a role model! She’s my role model. She is a strong woman who stood by her values and the truth. She was so brave.

I couldn’t wait to tell her at the signing. I wanted to ask the question, “What’s your manifesto or vision, and how can I join?” but I didn’t raise my hand high enough. It would be fine, I would tell her at the book signing.

And then, I was fuming, some man decided to ask, “Are you a young person screaming at a machine that you can’t fix?” She said yes, and I put my hand to my head. Obviously there was a language barrier. She was much more than that.

Philippe Sands decided the best way to end the talk was by saying, “Your book of half a dozen letters were actually really good.”*

download

I cringed. I waited after. Asked a volunteer where the signing was. “Sorry honey, there isn’t one.” She was gone. There was no booksigning. No! No! No! How was I going to tell her? We were supposed to meet and I was going to tell her I was joining Pussy Riot and she would say yes and then we would go out together and party all night long talking about the cause and she and Lil’ Clitty, aka me would write a song together and record it. Then I would move to Canada and join their crew and travel the world performing together.

But, no. There was no signing. And I didn’t feel inspired. I felt angry. So angry I wrote this blog post.

Dear Nadya, if you are reading this now. I am joining Pussy Riot and we will one day be friends. You are my role model. We will change the world.

 

*He was referencing Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj from Verso Books.