About ten years ago, I was at the Glastonbury Festival. It was a quiet moment between acts and I was just vaguely wandering around.
I spotted the tiny stall alongside the LeftField and meandered over there to peruse the books. There was a tent flap hiding my view of half of the interior, I didn't see who was sitting there until I was right inside.
In a space about six feet by three feet was me and Tony Benn.
He'd been quietly signing books. Not making a big fuss about it, just leaving those autographs in copies of his diaries for the delight of those purchasing them here. As soon as I walked in, he smiled up at me and put down his pen, waiting to see if I would say hello.
I did. It was a gabbled, over-awed affair, but I managed a greeting anyhow.
For about ten or fifteen minutes, it was me and Tony Benn chatting about the world, and the Stop the War campaign. I'd have been content to listen, wide-eyed and slack jawed, as he spoke some monologue to me. But he wasn't having that.
He was interested in what I had to say. He wanted my thoughts. It was a conversation. One initially beset by me solely afraid that I sounded stupid and inarticulate. He put me at my ease so much, that it was more like talking with an old friend.
After a while, the stall volunteer came back with cups of tea for himself and Mr Benn. I shyly asked if they wouldn't mind a picture being taken, me with Tony. They didn't. The lad behind the counter took the photograph, just as others drifted in.
It was crowded now, and I felt that I'd had my time. Tony Benn shook my hand like I mattered, and said goodbye.
I lost my camera that festival. I never got to see the photo taken in the LeftField.
But the bigger loss came today, on March 14th 2014, when his family announced that Tony Benn had died. The above small anecdote might give some insight into why that matters so much.
He was anything but harmless. He inspired, educated and informed so many of us. We now know to carry on his ideals.
In the Tony Benn film, the late, great Mr. Benn suggests that the nation see him as a national treasure...kindly, a gentleman and harmless, He disagrees with the harmless bit and so do I. Thankfully, there's enough of us to spread his message... and his message will not hurt us, but gain even more momentum amongst the younger generation. Look up, right up....Mr Benn might just become the 'most dangerous man in Britain' and it will be so hard to hurt him posthumously!
Hear, hear, and thank you.
Good to see you around again too.
A great tribute to Tony Benn Jo. He was unique in the world of politics - and I doubt if we'll see his like again.
I suppose that was inevitable too. He was lampooned in the right wing press all of his life.
He was. I was watching the Andrew Marr show on Sunday and found out that now publications are starting to slate him.
Thank you very much. I've been pleasantly surprised by how many people who, though not agreeing with his politics, have spoken highly of Tony Benn personally.
He was quite an icon.
I was gutted when I heard the news yesterday. When I did A-Level politics, his name would pop up so much and I ended up researching him in far more detail than I needed to for the exams. I didn't agree with everything that he stood for, but he always seemed like a kind-hearted man who just wanted everyone to be treated equally and fairly. You've done a great job on this, Jo.
Thank you very much. I'd love to read what you had to say too. Mine was very fangirl-y. But then that's easy to do with this particular politician.
Jo, I've only just seen your message on Twitter (Must check notifications more frequently) Yep, I'd be happy to write about Tony Benn, but think you've already done a fine job!