Ivory Tower: Live coverage of the Laxed-Attitude Festival of research and higher education
Announcer: Now on BBC HE, we go to a field outside of Norwich for the first festival of the summer, Laxed-Attitude.
Mark Presenter: Welcome to sunny Norfolk, to the superspreader event of the year, Laxed-Attitude… Sorry, I’ve just had a memo from the BBC board of governors, it’s not a superspreader event but a test event, as sort of Testival, if you will, as part of a pilot scheme. It is, however, definitely not a pilot event just because Michael Gove wanted to bring his children here for the weekend. Right, let’s find out what’s happening today. We go over to the AstraZeneca stage, where Jo is speaking with education secretary Gavin Williamson.
Jo: Thanks Mark, Gavin it’s great for this festival to be back. It’s such a vibrant atmosphere.
Gavin: It’s great to see so many yoongsters with smiles on their faces.
Gavin: That’s what I said. Seeing yoong peepole like this reminds me of A-level day.
Jo: Do you mean the sense of expectation followed by disappointment and walking about in a daze, then constantly having to ask people what is going on?
Gavin: No, I mean yoong peepole who have worked so hard getting what they deserve.
Jo: The Delta variant?
Gavin: It’s also wonderful that this festival can go ahead because our festivals in this country are the best. Better than the French, the Italians, the Belgians, the Moldovians, the Saudi Arabians…
Jo: I’m not sure the Saudis have many festivals like this, to be honest.
Gavin: They come to our arms fairs.
Jo: Tell me Gavin, what are you looking forward to this weekend?
Gavin: I’m very excited by the set from Wharton and the Wailers. Apparently, a number of people are invited on stage before being cancelled at the last moment by the woke mafia, and James Wharton’s band wails about it in a column in the Telegraph or Spectator.
Jo: Woke Mafia, they are a great young band.
Jo: I saw them in Oxford early this year at Rhodes Must Fall, but I think they are touring the country at the moment. But for some reason they don’t seem to be making any appearances in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. And are you doing anything yourself here, Gavin?
Gavin: I’ll be in the Churchill Tent, making the case for free speech on our university campuses.
Jo: This is the BBC, minister. I have to let our viewers know that other insurance companies are available.
Jo: Don’t be, but we have to adhere to editorial guidelines. Back to you Mark.
Mark: Thanks Jo, Gavin Williamson there, but with so much else on this weekend will anyone be listening to him? No change there then. Anyway, we now have a video message to festivalgoers from prime minister Boris Johnson.
Boris: Festival? Got it, right, testing 1, 2, 3… Festive greetings to everyone. I am afraid that I have to tell you that our unlocking plans for Christmas will have to be pared back… oh, wait, we’ve done that one. What’s this, a festival in Norfolk? OK… Salutations revellers. Boris loves a revel. Unfortunately, I am self-isolating here on the 1,000-acre Chequers estate with swimming pool and tennis courts, and I definitely will not be leaving here for the next ten days. We did, for just a nanosecond, contemplate participation in a pilot scheme, whereby the chancellor and I would be tested daily, but sadly people found out about it and so it was cancelled. Secretly, I’m glad about that because I didn’t fancy having to sit a test every morning with a swotty numbers-box like Rishi. Although maybe he could have slipped me the answers on a bit of paper, like he does during PMQs. Anyway, Carrie isn’t here at the moment; she’s left Wilf with her mother and gone on some kind of green retreat in the countryside. So, it’s just Bozza and his security detail here, and an unmarked car. And I’m definitely not leaving the house. Where did you say this festival this was? Norwich? Well enjoy yourselves everyone, in a very British way. Onwards to victory, two thumbs up. Sorry that was a stage direction, wasn’t supposed to read that.
Mark: Prime minister Boris Johnson there, sad to miss this Testival event. Viewers can now press the red button, where you have a choice of viewing. Dominic Cummings is on the Ayn Rand stage, where he’ll be reading from his new book, Why I’m Right about Everything and Everyone Else is a Stupid Moron, Except Rishi Sunak and Patrick Vallance. While over on the Google stage, former health secretary Matt Hancock is handing out VIP wristbands and busy deleting his private emails about NHS procurement contracts. But let’s get a flavour of this festival, welcoming 40,000 people here this weekend to camp within a centimetre of each other and to mingle openly without social restrictions. We go over to our roving reporter Barry Notsoyounganymore.
Barry: Evening Mark.
Mark: Barry you look dreadful. Have you caught the Rona?
Barry: It’s hard to tell Mark. My daily lateral flow test came up negative.
Barry: But it’s hard to tell the difference between having Covid-19 and spending a night on an air bed with a slow puncture, in a tent pitched on the main thoroughfare, between the toilet block and the bins, and within earshot of a children’s playground. I’ve had about two hours’ sleep Mark and feel as if I’ve been run over by a bus.
Mark: Chin up Barry, just four more nights of that and you’ll be welcoming a positive test for the coronavirus as a blessed relief. Right, I understand that you’ve been speaking to some festivalgoers.
Barry: Yes, here’s what they told me earlier.
[Run interview montage package]
Barry: Hello, can I ask you your name?
Woman: Carrie Johnso… err, Betty… Betty Wristband.
Barry: And what brought you to this event?
Betty: My husband is self-isolating at the moment and I thought why not live it up so I’m here with a few girlfriends and having a really great time.
Barry: Shouldn’t you be self-isolating as well?
Betty: No way, you’ve got to be kidding. Spend ten days locked up with Bori… err with Brain… no, I couldn’t do that. Besides I haven’t been pinged.
Barry: That’s unusual.
Betty: No really, I’ve deleted the app. Who wants that thing going off all the time?
Barry: Excuse me, can I ask you your names?
Mandy: I’m Mandy and this is Mickey.
Barry: Are you in a bubble?
Mickey: That’s what they say about us but honestly, I speak to students all the time. I had a Zoom call with one this week who had been handpicked by their vice-chancellor to represent the entire student body.
Barry: What about you Mandy, what do you want to see this weekend?
Mandy: I’ve come to see Kwasi and the Flat-Cash Settlement.
Barry: Is that a piece of theatre?
Mandy: It certainly will be. We’re also really looking forward to seeing the headlines.
Barry: The big names at this year’s festival?
Mandy: No, the endless front page articles all summer about free speech rows and the A-level results.
Mickey: I’ll be taking a visit to the skills zone.
Barry: That bit of the festival where you can do spoon-whittling and make your own vegan muffins?
Mickey: No, I think it’s called “the North”. We’ve decided that rather than go to university there everyone should be trained to do a worthwhile job, like being a Customs Guard or a Covid Marshall.
Barry: Excuse me, can I ask you your name?
Man: Michael Gov… err… Kevin, Kevin Soundstage, definitely not Michael Gove.
Barry: And have you seen anything good this weekend?
Kevin: I’ve seen the results of the randomised trial of cabinet ministers that means none of them have to self-isolate. I liked that very much. I was also down at the Greensill Capital stage earlier where I saw Rishi and the Freeports.
Barry: An up and coming group, do you think they have a future?
Kevin: Not if I can help it.
[Cut back to live broadcast]
Barry: So, there you have it Mark. A wide variety of opinion from the festival.
Mark: And what are you ready for now?
Barry: My bed?
Mark: I thought you were about to grab some new arrivals to the festival for us and speak to them live.
Barry: OK, whatever… You’ll do, you’ve just arrived, what’s your name?
Man: Boris John… err… not Boris, how about Norris? Norris Family-Camping.
Barry: Tell me Norris, what’s brought you to this year’s festival?
Norris: The unmarked car of my security detail… err, sorry no, I mean the chance to party all night with young people, especially some of those beauties at Conservative Central Office.
Barry: Is that a band?
Norris: What this? It’s definitely not a wedding ring, no. It’s a piercing.
Barry: And are you hoping to see anyone this weekend?
Norris: There is one who works in the communications team… err… sorry, I see what you mean. I’m looking forward to seeing Personal Responsibility—I think they’re going to be huge this summer. They’ll be followed by Fourth Wave and Autumn Lockdown—I think that will also be massive, nearly as big as Red List. Those guys have certainly got a future. I’m looking forward to seeing Chris Whitty’s set—he always brings such lovely nurses.
Barry: Anything else you’re hoping to catch?
Norris: I’ve had it before and been double vaccinated, so hopefully not.
Barry: There you are Mark. Can I sleep now?
Mark: Thanks Barry, go and sleep, or alternatively 5pm is the optimum time of day when the queues to the shower block have died down and all the toilets have been unblocked. Knock yourself out. We are just hearing of some sad news that the Levelling Up stage has collapsed due to subsidence with festival favourites Industrial Strategy last seen sliding back towards London. So, just as our reveller Norris was saying, we are going to go over to the Quarantine stage where the Northern Ireland Protocol has just gone through its latest remix and now Chris Whitty is performing the biggest hit of the year, Next slide please. Enjoy…