The Herd puts green ban on coal festival

September 25, 2009

Sydney hip hop act the Herd, famous for politically conscious songs like “77%” and “Burn Down the Parliament”, has gone on strike, refusing to play at a festival sponsored by the coal industry.Sydney hip hop act the Herd, famous for politically conscious songs like "77%" and "Burn Down the Parliament", has gone on strike, refusing to play at a festival sponsored by the coal industry.

Organisers of the Coal to Coast Festival (previously called the "Discover Sarina" festival) on September 18-20 apparently made the ever-so-minor oversight of booking the Herd without mentioning the gig was sponsored by a long list of coal companies.

The Herd (and a bunch of fans) found out about the sponsorship arrangements just a few days before the gig. The band was forced to outline its position to outraged fans on its website.

The statement read: "The Herd were contracted by the Mackay Regional Council to play a local council event … We had no reason to suspect this event was anything other than a day out for the people of Mackay.

'The fact that some of the many sponsors of the event are mining companies was not made clear to us at the time. It came as a complete surprise to us, not least because we are known for our stance on the environment."

The trashy tabloid media were quick to attack the Herd rather than concede that its decision to not play the gig was valid.

The September 18 Mackay Daily Mercury said: "Thousands of teenagers have been given the cold shoulder by … the Herd, which has pulled out of tonight's Coal to Coast Gen XY concert at Sarina showgrounds in protest over the region's coal industry."

The article claimed "a green anti-mining group" had visited the band's website calling the Herd "sell outs" for playing at a festival they saw as being "a front for the mining industry".

Mackay Regional Councillor Dave Perkins, who chaired the festival's organising committee, said it was "absolute rubbish" to claim the festival was a front for the mining industry, and said the committee was "made up of a broad cross-section of the community".

The website of a mining employment agency, which — by a stroke of coincidence — shares the same name as the festival, would appear to contradict Perkins.

A July 1 message on claimed: 'The Coal to Coast Festival was the brainchild of Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal's community relations officer, Andrew Garratt, who saw the need for a festival that showcased aspects of the mining industry."

The Mercury said councillor Perkins thought the Herd bowing to the green group's demands was a "gutless act".

To prove they are not gutless, but people of honour and integrity, the festival organisers have announced their intention to sue the band for ditching the gig, which is surely what those thousands of teenage Herd fans would want.

The scandal highlights the need for better state-funded regional arts and youth entertainment programs so that coal companies (and their friends on councils) can't use events like Coal to Coast to monopolise regional youth entertainment.

Coal companies in areas like Mackay and the Hunter Valley use a comparatively tiny amount of their immense wealth to sponsor sporting teams, family fun days and cultural events to encourage communities to accept of their activities.

As the need for action to stop dangerous climate change becomes more accepted as fact — even among workers in the mining industry — mining companies are going to find it harder to simply buy acceptance of their trade.

A September 17 statement on the Herd's website said the group "would never knowingly get involved in an event that supports the coal industry.

"We believe that alternatives in energy production as well as employment should be prioritised as a matter of urgency. Climate change is the biggest crisis facing the planet. Coal is a major polluter. It's pretty simple."

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