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Glastonbury 2024: Palestine solidarity takes centre stage at the festival

Pop star Dua Lipa and Coldplay's Chris Martin were among the many performers who voiced support for Palestinians at one of the world's largest music festivals
Festival-goers held up Palestinian flags during the Glastonbury festival, one of the world’s largest music festivals, in Somerset, UK (Screengrab/ X)
Festival-goers held up Palestinian flags during the Glastonbury festival, one of the world’s largest music festivals, in Somerset, UK (Screengrab/ X)

Displays of pro-Palestinian support were widespread at this year's Glastonbury festival, where several performers dedicated their songs to Palestinians whilst others drew attention to the scale of devastation in Gaza amid Israel's ongoing assault on the besieged Strip.

Throughout the five-day festival, which ended on Sunday, the red-green-blacks of Palestinian flags and posters brought in by attendees could be seen peppered across the 1,500 acres of farmland in Somerset, England, and were often featured in BBC broadcasts of performances. 

In fact, during her set on 28 June, pop superstar and festival headliner Dua Lipa danced over to one Palestinian flag, forcing the flag into the view of the camera, much to the delight of many viewers.

Several other performers used their metaphorical and literal platforms to voice their support for Palestinians at one of the world's largest music festivals, which is attended by around 200,000 people.

Blur's Damon Albarn, who made a surprise appearance during Bombay Bicycle Club’s set on Friday, asked festivalgoers to cheer if they were "pro-Palestine", saying that there was an "unfair war" in Gaza.

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Irish hip-hop trio Kneecap projected messages onto the background of their set which read, "Over 20,000 children have been murdered by Israel in 9 months." Later during their set, the group, along with their audience, chanted “Free, free Palestine”.

Meanwhile, Lankum, a contemporary Irish folk music group from Dublin, performed a song about Palestine with the country's flag hanging from the drumset. Later, one member of the group said to their audience: “All solidarity and love to the people of Palestine forever.” Another member of the group added: “It's amazing to see so many flags in the audience, people wearing keffiyehs, it's really beautiful to see."

"Good luck to the BBC for editing that one out," the bandmember continued, to laughter and cheers from the audience.

Norwegian singer-songwriter AURORA began her set by dedicating her performance to the children in Palestine, Sudan, Congo and Yemen while raising a placard which read: “No child should be part of war. Ever.”

Many who didn't attend took to social media to express their support for the various shows of solidarity seen throughout the festival.

Nearly 10 months into Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, at least 37,877 Palestinians have been killed. Thousands more are missing and presumed to be dead under the rubble.

A further 86,969 people have been wounded in the same period.

Coldplay receives backlash

The internationally renowned band Coldplay garnered the most attention with their headline slot, which was played on the pyramid stage on Saturday. 

The band brought Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna and Nigerian musician Femi Kuti on stage where they performed Arabesque.

In a speech given towards the end of their set, frontman Chris Martin said, "Thank you for giving us and me restored faith that most humans can gather together very peacefully with all different flags, all different colours, all different genders, sexualities, ages, everything, and just sing and have a good time and ice cream" during "what could be perceived to be a very divided time on Earth."

Yet, the band did receive backlash, when Martin told audience members they could send out "a big Glastonbury love thing" to "anyone", including Israel, Palestine, Myanmar, Ukraine and "peaceful Russians", a statement which was met with accusations of moral neutrality amid ongoing war.

"How is it that you invite a Palestinian artist to your stage and then at the same concert tell the audience they can send love to the state that's murdering Palestinians daily," asked one user on X, formerly Twitter. "How do you even reconcile that?"

"Coldplay r normalising genocide here, intentionally or not," said another. "Zionist reality is so embedded in Chris Martin's psychy [sic]. Notice how he says 'Israel' but 'peaceful Russians'. Why Israel & not peaceful Israelis? Or just Russia as he did with Israel?"

On the flip side, many pro-Israel social media users criticised the widespread show of solidarity with Palestine at the festival.

Users drew parallels to the open-air Nova music festival in Israel where over 360 people were killed during the Hamas-led attack on 7 October. 

“Just imagine if YOU were at the Nova Festival when 364 music lovers lost their lives. They were at a music festival just like YOU,” wrote one social media user. 

Other social media users accused several Glastonbury performers and attendees of "supporting Hamas" and "glorifying terrorism".

Support for Palestine was not the only thing that garnered online attention.

An inflatable life raft holding dummies, which was crowdsurfed through the audience during the punk band Idles’ set, also turned heads.

It was widely believed to symbolise the people crossing the English channel in boats in the hopes of claiming asylum in Britain.  The ruling Conservative party has promised to implement a controversial "stop the boats" policy, which would see the detention and removal of irregular migrants.

"There is awareness raising and then there is creating a spectacle out of something people are forced to do in moments of desperation at a time when state borders make them the most vulnerable. A life raft at Glastonbury isn’t a successful protest (no matter how well intentioned),” wrote one X user.

Others supported it as a "powerful message", or one that encouraged viewers to reflect on a current event.

It was later revealed that street artist and political activist Banksy was behind the stunt, which Home Secretary James Cleverly condemned as a “celebration of loss of life".

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