Greta Thunberg urges society to ‘set things right’ in Glastonbury climate speech

Naomi Clarke, PA Entertainment Reporter

Sat, 25 June 2022, 8:49 pm

Greta Thunberg has called on society to take on its “historic responsibility to set things right” with the global climate crisis during her speech at Glastonbury.

Speaking from the Pyramid Stage, the 19-year-old environment activist told the crowd she feels there is still hope for the world to choose a path which is “sustainable” and “leads to a future for everyone”.

Ms Thunberg opened her speech with a stark warning of the current climate situation, saying: “We are in the beginning of a climate and ecological emergency. But the biosphere is not just changing, it is destabilising, it is breaking down.

“The delicately balanced natural patterns and cycles that are a vital part of the systems that sustain life on earth as we know it are being disrupted, and the consequences could be catastrophic.

Glastonbury Festival 2022
Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking on the Pyramid Stage during Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)

“And no, unfortunately, this is not the new normal. This crisis will continue to get worse until we manage to hold the constant destruction of our life-supporting systems, until we prioritise people and planet over profit and greed.”

The activist referenced the rise in CO2 emissions and how “fundamental changes to our societies” were required if the targets of the Paris Agreement were to be met.

Addressing the actions taken by global leaders, Ms Thunberg said: “World leaders have been very busy. They have actively created loopholes and benefited the industries of destructive industries.”

She said she feels society has come to “expect” world leaders to lie, adding: “We should be fighting for people and for nature, but instead we are fighting against those who are set on destroying it.

“Today our political leaders are allowed to say one thing and do the exact opposite. They can claim to be climate leaders, while at the same time expand their nation’s fossil fuel infrastructure.”

However, the climate activist said the situation is not without hope, adding that she feels there is still time to choose a path which is “sustainable” and “leads to a future for everyone”.

The teenager said: “Instead of looking for hope, start creating that hope yourself. We are approaching a precipice, and I would strongly suggest that all of those who have not yet been greenwashed out of our senses stand our ground.

The crowd listens to climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking on the Pyramid Stage during the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset
The crowd listens to climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking on the Pyramid Stage (Yui Mok/PA)

“Do not let them drag us another inch closer to the edge, not one inch. Right here and right now is where we stand our ground.”

Addressing the thousands of festival-goers in the crowd, Ms Thunberg said: “You and I have been given the historic responsibility to set things right.

“We have the unfathomable great opportunity to be alive at the most decisive time in human history. The time has come for us all to tell the story and perhaps even change the ending.

“Together we can still avoid the worst consequences and start to heal the wounds that we have inflicted.

“Together we can do the seemingly impossible. But make no mistake, no-one else is going to do this for us. This is up to us here and now. You and me.”

She finished her speech by leading chants where she said “climate” and got the crowd to respond back by saying “justice”.

Following her speech, Erin Rudkin, a 32-year-old from Manchester, said you could tell the Glastonbury audience was captivated by the speech as you could “hear a pin drop” in the crowd.

She told the PA news agency: “I hope that she can really resonate with a lot of people, that there is some more change off the back of what she has just said because everything she just said is absolutely true.”

Social worker Steve Bradshaw, 40, told PA he feels that Ms Thunberg, who has Asperger’s, is an “incredible role model for the neurodiverse community”.

He added that her comments on climate change are “incredibly empowering” and that it is “important that more people are talking about” the topic.

Ms Thunberg’s speech was followed by a set by pop rock band Haim, with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds taking to the Pyramid Stage after them.

On Saturday evening, Sir Paul McCartney will become Glastonbury Festival’s oldest solo headliner a day after Billie Eilish became the youngest ever solo artist.

Glastonbury Festival 2022
Sir Paul McCartney on stage at Cheese and Grain in Frome, Somerset, the night before his headlining appearance at the Glastonbury Festival (MJ Kim/2022 MPL Communications Ltd/PA)

The former Beatle’s headline show will come exactly a week after he celebrated his 80th birthday and after more than 60 years of making music.

Ahead of his history-making set, Sir Paul delivered a surprise preview performance at an intimate venue in Frome, Somerset, where he played some of his best-known solo material.

The singer previously said that his tour and Glastonbury performance will be full of hits from his time in The Beatles and his later group Wings, as well as some of his most popular solo material.

Sir Paul’s performance is expected to attract an especially large crowd and could rival those of The Rolling Stones in 2013 and Adele in 2016.

Crowds gather outside the Cheese and Grain in Frome, Somerset, to see Sir Paul McCartney perform on Friday
Crowds gather outside the Cheese and Grain in Frome, Somerset, to see Sir Paul McCartney perform on Friday (Connie Evans/PA)

The Stones will spend Saturday performing to tens of thousands of fans at the British Summer Time festival in London’s Hyde Park.

The Pyramid Stage has already hosted an array of talent including Haim, AJ Tracey, Easy Life, Joy Crookes and Les Amazones d’Afrique.

There will also be musical stars across the festival’s multiple stages, with US pop star Olivia Rodrigo and rapper Megan Thee Stallion both playing on the Other Stage.

Mercury-winner Celeste will play the West Holts Stage, with The Hoosiers headlining the Avalon Stage and Jessie Ware closing The Park Stage.

Britain Glastonbury 2022 Day 1
Billie Eilish performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Eilish gave an electrifying headline performance on the Pyramid Stage on Friday to end the first day of performances at Glastonbury.

Her appearance was a landmark moment for the festival as she became Glastonbury’s youngest ever solo headliner.

Michael Eavis says portrait is an ‘achievement for a dairy farmer from Somerset’

Ellie Iorizzo and Connie Evans, PA

Sun, 26 June 2022, 10:38 am

Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis said having a painting of himself displayed at the National Portrait Gallery is “quite an achievement” and “not bad for a typical dairy farmer from Somerset”.

The portrait by English artist Sir Peter Blake, which was unveiled by Jarvis Cocker on Sir Peter’s 90th birthday, will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery when it reopens in 2023.

Eavis told the Glastonbury Free Press that he was “worried” about seeing the portrait for the first time but added Sir Peter “is an old friend of mine”.

The portrait shows Eavis, 86, standing in front of the festival’s famous Pyramid Stage at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, where the festival is being hosted for the first time in three years, following cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The five-day music and arts event is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Speaking of the new portrait, Eavis told the Glastonbury Free Press: “He promised to paint me years ago. So when the National Portrait Gallery asked me for a painting, I rang him up and asked him to do it.

“He came down to the farm a few years ago and got me to stand in front of the Pyramid Stage.

“It’s taken him a while to paint and I began to think he might not finish it. I’m so pleased that he did.

Michael Eavis at Glastonbury by Peter Blake, 2022 (Damian Griffiths, image courtesy of Waddington Custot/PA)
Michael Eavis at Glastonbury by Peter Blake, 2022 (Damian Griffiths, image courtesy of Waddington Custot/PA)

“Sir Stanley Spencer said if the sitter likes the portrait, then it’s not any good.

“It’s quite an achievement isn’t it. Not bad for a typical dairy farmer from Somerset!”

Eavis grew up on Worthy Farm and joined the British Merchant Navy as a young man, but returned to the farm at the age of 19 after the death of his father.

In 1970, 16 years after inheriting the 150-acre dairy farm, Eavis hosted the first Glastonbury Festival, inspired after watching Led Zeppelin perform at the Shepton Mallet Blues Festival.

The festival is now one of the largest greenfield music and performing arts festivals in the world.

The Oldie of the Year Awards
The new portrait by Sir Peter Blake has been unveiled at Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)

Eavis was made a CBE in 2007 as a result of the positive impact he has made through his work.

Fellow music-lover Sir Peter, 90, was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to produce a portrait of Eavis.

The gallery also holds two other portraits created by Sir Peter in its collection – the 1991 screenprint, T for The Beatles, a reprise of his The 1962 Beatles painting, and a double portrait of husband and wife, art dealer Leslie Waddington and antique jewellery expert Clodagh Waddington.

In 2022, Sir Peter was made a CBE for his services to art.

Sir Peter added: “I visited the first Glastonbury in 1970 and have loved the festival ever since, so I was thrilled when the National Portrait Gallery commissioned me to paint Michael’s portrait.

“After receiving the commission, we took Michael for lunch at a fancy West End restaurant. He arrived resplendent in his trademark denim shorts, which stopped the restaurant in its tracks.

“I knew then, that I had to include them in the portrait. I hope my painting encapsulates Michael’s free spirit, joyful energy and love of life.”

‘Back together’: Paul McCartney and John Lennon reunited at Glastonbury Festival

Sun, 26 June 2022, 4:02 am

Paul McCartney and his late band mate John Lennon were reunited at Glastonbury Festival, singing the Beatles hit I’ve Got A Feeling, thanks to the magic of technology.

Sir Paul, who become the oldest solo act to headline at Glastonbury Festival, took to the Pyramid stage 18 years after his last appearance at the Worthy Farm five-day extravaganza.

The former Beatle celebrated his 80th birthday exactly a week ago.

Wearing a Mandarin collar navy jacket – a nod to the band’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era – he stripped down to a waistcoat part way into the set.

Seemingly unshaven and with his hair looking neat, but long in the back, the Liverpool-born singer cut a relaxed figure and was at ease with the crowd throughout the lively performance.

In a set full of surprises, Sir Paul saved the best until last, telling the heaving crowd he would “play live with John on tour”, thanking The Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson who he said had made it technically possible.

Calling it “so special”, he went on: “I know it’s virtual, but there I am singing with John again. We’re back together.”

An emotional Sir Paul sang a duet of I’ve Got A Feeling with Lennon’s remastered vocals, as footage of Lennon was played on the large screens alongside the main stage.

Ahead of an earlier song, Here Today, which Sir Paul described as “in the form of a letter I never got to write to [John]”, he said: “That was a time when you couldn’t say ‘I love you man’, right then when John died. Let’s hear it for John.” His request drew a rapturous and prolonged applause from the audience.

During the ambitious set – which ran to nearly three hours due to encores and multiple special guests – Sir Paul also paid tribute to his two other Beatles bandmates, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

He referenced the band’s creation, telling the crowd: “These four boys got together and formed a band. And they did quite well.” The understatement was not lost on Beatles fans.

Other surprises for the tens of thousands of fans watching the show included special guest appearances from Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl (one of his first performances since losing band member Tyler Hawkins earlier this year) and Bruce Springsteen.

Calling Grohl “a hero”, Sir Paul said the musician “had said he’d come over, and I didn’t believe him. But he showed up”. He went on to tell Grohl, largely considered to be one of the nicest guys in rock: “I love you”.

Springsteen, or “The Boss”, told Sir Paul: “Thank you for having me”, to which Sir Paul replied, “You’re kidding. Thank you for coming.”

Both men sang two songs with Sir Paul, returning to the stage again for the finale of the show.

Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton also got a namecheck, as did Sir Paul’s wife, Nancy Shevell, who he said was “here tonight”.

Dedicating song My Valentine to her, the 2012 black and white video for the track featuring actress Natalie Portman signing the lyrics played on the large stage screens.

Actor Johnny Depp, who recently won his US defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, featured in the video too, reigniting rumours that Sir Paul – who is reportedly close friends with Depp – has supported him throughout his legal fight.

Following Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the former Beatle attracted an especially large crowd appearing to rival those of The Rolling Stones in 2013 and Adele in 2016.

Welcoming his audience, he said: “Oh man, it’s so good to be here. We were supposed to be here three years ago. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to have a great time here tonight”. He then promised fans “old songs, new songs and inbetweeners”. He certainly delivered.

Sir Paul’s performance marks more than 60 years of music-making, with his set including hits from his time in the Beatles and British-American rock band Wings, as well as some of his best-known solo material.

Opening with Can’t Buy Me Love, he treated fans to other crowd pleasers including Love Me Do, Hey Jude and Let It Be.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da got crowds jigging round in circles, Lady Madonna inspired plenty of jumping and Bond theme Live And Let Die offered a little 007 drama to the night.

Sir Paul also showed his support for war-torn Ukraine, waving the country’s blue and yellow flag during his encore.

Sir Paul’s timely flag protest is not the only reminder of Ukraine’s plight, amid Vladimir Putin’s war in the country.

Whereas his last Glastonbury gig saw his fans drenched to the skin during torrential showers, festivalgoers on Saturday night enjoyed bright sun and clement temperatures.

He closed the show with Helter Skelter, a Beatles song that has become intrinsically linked to cult leader and killer Charles Manson.

A global star, who has been a household name for nearly 60 years, it’s likely to be the last time Sir Paul will perform to such a large audience.

It’s a likelihood the crowd appeared to sense, lapping up every moment of the performance and begging the star to return for an encore when his set came to an end.

Glastonbury Festival is belatedly celebrating its 50th anniversary after two enforced fallow years due to the pandemic.

Gen-Z poster girl Billie Eilish took to the Pyramid Stage on Friday night becoming the festival’s youngest ever headliner, and American rapper Kendrick Lamar will close the festival on Sunday.

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg also made a surprise appearance on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday to give a speech about climate change.

Diana Ross will fill the Sunday Teatime Legends slot, following in the footsteps of Kylie, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie and Shirley Bassey.

‘I don’t want it to end’: festival goers’ joy at the return of Glastonbury

Nadia Khomami, Josh Halliday and Sophie Zeldin-O’Neill

Sun, 26 June 2022, 5:52 pm

<img src="–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtjZj13ZWJw/–~B/aD0wO3c9MDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/; alt="<span>Photograph: Matthew Baker/Redferns
Photograph: Matthew Baker/Redferns

It was the song Glastonbury attenders wanted to hear the most. And Motown classic I’m Coming Out seemed a fitting soundtrack to this year’s Glastonbury after the Covid-19 pandemic – which forced the festival to cancel two years in a row.

Diana Ross drew massive crowds on Sunday afternoon as she filled the teatime legends slot on the Pyramid stage – soaring through a set list that also included Aint No Mountain High Enough, Baby Love and Upside Down.

Ross, 78, told the adoring crowd how much it meant to be performing after a difficult three years. She is known for forging a strong connection with her audience and did so on Sunday. Despite widely being referred to as one of the great divas of Motown – and dressed for this show in a draped sequin gown and matching platforms – she was decidedly un-diva-ish, explaining that she likes to be able to see their faces so they can enjoy the music together.

Ross’s audience were among the more than 200,000 people who had flocked to the world’s biggest greenfield festival from Wednesday morning for a star-studded line-up of more than 80 artists including headliners Billie Eilish, Sir Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar.

McCartney delivered an explosive history-making set on Saturday night, as he was joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, and even sang a duet with old Beatles bandmate John Lennon using special effects.

At 80, the oldest ever headliner in Glastonbury history delighted crowds with a string of classics such as Let It Be, Hey Jude and Live and Let Die – just a day after Billie Eilish became the youngest act to top the bill. Meanwhile, Grammy-award winning rapper Lamar’s performance on Sunday night marked his Glastonbury debut.

Surprise speakers this year included climate activist Greta Thunberg, who warned that the world faces “total natural catastrophe”, and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who in a video address urged festival goers to help end the war in Ukraine.

Another theme prevalent this year was the US supreme court’s overturning of a constitutional right to abortion, with condemnation coming from Eilish as well as Phoebe Bridgers, Olivia Rodrigo, Lily Allen and the Idles’ Joe Talbot.

Crowds at the event – which took place on more than 360 hectares (900 acres) of land and featured seven main stages and more than 70 performance spaces – seemed bigger than usual. Though attenders reported more instances of pedestrian congestion – Glastonbury said there was just a 2% rise in paid ticket sales this year (from 135,000 to 138,000.)

Many there viewed the event as a moment of closure after two difficult years of lockdowns and personal losses. Festival goers were even encouraged to write down memories and images of people or situations they wished to let go of to insert into a 40ft high sculpture of a lotus flower, which was due to be burned on Sunday at midnight.

Tom Summerfield, 32, caught a parasite travelling in India five years ago, which left him seriously ill and with severe anxiety about his health. Burning those emotions on a slip of paper would, he said, help him move on: “It’s about not letting it dictate my life any more and letting go.”

Summerfield also said the festival had made him appreciate being around strangers again: “It’s a bubble away from normal life and makes you appreciate people. It’s got a uniqueness which you can’t put your finger on [and] you don’t appreciate until you come.”

His girlfriend, Grace Reohorn, 29, wanted to banish the acute anxiety she feels about missing out on social events. For her, the ceremony was a fitting end to her first Glastonbury: “I’ve loved it. I don’t want it to end.”

While forecasters had predicted a mixture of sunshine and thunderstorms for the weekend, music fans were fortunate to enjoy mostly pleasant weather for the duration of the festival with only brief spells of light rain.

“This was my first Glastonbury for 15 years and it’s clear why it has a reputation for being the best of its kind in the world,” said Rose Llewellyn, a 35-year-old Water Aid volunteer from Warwickshire.

“A lot of people have rightly used this festival to make strong political statements about climate change and other issues people need to have front of mind right now. People’s freedom of expression has been the highlight for me – seeing people from such diverse backgrounds coming together and being who they want to be is amazing. There’s been terrific camaraderie between the visitors and volunteers and an incredibly warm, friendly atmosphere.”

How paranoia over trans rights became catnip for QAnon and the far right

Io Dodds

Sun, 26 June 2022, 5:00 pm

The QAnon movement has splintered since Donald Trump’s electoral defeat (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
The QAnon movement has splintered since Donald Trump’s electoral defeat (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Kyle Chu was sitting in a public library in the San Francisco Bay Area, singing a welcome song to a group of children for a Pride Month book reading, when the fascists walked in.

There were eight to ten of them, recalled Chu, who was in his drag persona as Panda Dulce, shouting “groomer” and”who brought the tr****?”; one man wore a shirt depicting an AK-47 and the slogan “kill your local pedophile”.

“More than two days later, I still feel like I’m in that room,” Chu told Teen Vogue afterwards. “I’ve had trouble sleeping. Everyone’s asking if I’m okay and the answer is I’m not.”

That confrontation on 11 June, which police suspect was organised by the neo-fascist Proud Boys, was only the latest in a spate of attacks, alleged plots, and harassment incidents targeting LGBT+ people in the US over the past few months.

In Idaho, 31 members of the white supremacist Patriot Front militia were charged with conspiring to riot at a Pride event. In Wisconsin, a school investigation into students misgendering a non-binary peer sparked bomb threats that forced the whole school system to close.

In Vermont, a man was arrested after allegedly threatening to murder someone if his daughter encountered a transgender person or a drag queen at her school. In Baltimore, police are investigating an arson that put three people in hospital as a possible anti-LGBT+ hate crime. In Arizona, an anti-mask activist suggested he would “hunt LGBT supporters”, telling followers: “If you support the LGBT agenda, you’re not safe.”

Meanwhile, prominent conservative pundits and a Republican congressman spread hoax claims that the Uvalde school shooter was a trans woman, while the alleged perpetrator of the Buffalo supermarket attack claimed in his manifesto that gender transition was being promoted by Jews to ruin the white race.

These incidents follow months of increasingly heated Republican rhetoric about the alleged threat posed to children by LGBT+ culture, including calls for pro-LGBTQ teachers and parents to be executed. According to the non-profit Trans Formations Project, at least 271 anti-transgender bills have been introduced to state legislatures since the beginning of 2021.

Yet for at least a year beforehand, obsessive hatred for trans and gender non-conforming people has been brewing in the dark online underworld of QAnon, along with numerous other extremist communities connected by similar beliefs and shared social circles.

Experts who monitor anti-trans extremism say the roots of this panic go back further, to a fall-out among radical environmentalist groups in the early 2010s, the rise of “gender critical” feminism in the UK, and a strategic shift by US evangelical Christian groups in the wake of gay marriage – a “perfect storm” of factors that has put outrage about trans rights at the heart of the modern far right.

“I’ve been watching this come together since my starting point of 2017, and even I’m astounded at how quickly things have gotten to this point in the past two years,” says Lee Leveille, a trans researcher and health activist who has extensively documented the origins of what he calls TAnon.

“I imagine that it’s just going to keep escalating, and I’m not sure when exactly we’re going to hit the next phase, because it’s just going too fast… a lot of us are seeing the writing on the wall, and honestly, it’s terrifying.”

‘Every time I think it couldn’t get worse, it does’

The Independent first observed trans issues bubbling up through QAnon and other conspiratorial far-right communities in the first half of 2021, following the movement’s failure to stop the inauguration of President Joe Biden by storming the US Capitol.

As Donald Trump and his most extreme supporters were purged from mainstream social networks, many turned to the private messaging app Telegram, where numerous new channels sprung up for the varied and often fractious cloud of movements and subcultures that adopted Trump as their mascot.

“A man cutting off his genitals and pretending to be a woman is about as satanic as it gets,” said one commenter during an extended discussion about trans rights in a conspiracy-peddling Telegram channel last January.

“Sooooo many elites were trans and we had no idea,” said a QAnon channel in May, alongside a video falsely claiming that influential figures including feminist author Betty Friedan, philosopher Susan Sontag, and Queen Margrethe of Denmark were all “tr*****s”.

A post from a QAnon Telegram channel in May 2021 (Channel author/Io Dodds)
A post from a QAnon Telegram channel in May 2021 (Channel author/Io Dodds)

These were difficult times for QAnon, a cult-like millenarian movement born on the internet message board 4chan in 2017, which has been linked to numerous violent acts and plots. Believing that the world is ruled by a Satanist paedophile cabal, its followers trawled through the internet for signs of this purported mass child abuse, and organised protests cloaked by the innocuous-sounding slogan “save the children”.

Yet the movement’s anonymous prophet, “Q”, had promised that Trump would soon defeat the cabal in a military coup known as the “storm”, which would see leading Democrats arrested and executed. When the prophecy failed, QAnon splintered, and “Q” didn’t post again for 18 months.

Jules Gill-Peterson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies the history of how society treats trans children, and who argued last year that QAnon has had an unacknowledged influence on other anti-trans activism, links the movement’s transphobia boom to the cloud of competing influencers and pundits who inherited its legacy after Q’s disappearance.

“I don’t think the QAnon conspiracy theory had to drift very much to become anti-trans,” she tells The Independent. “This fantasy of a particularly ridiculous idea of widespread child abuse – not the actual kinds of institutional child abuse in our society, but the fantasy – that’s very easily transferable to trans people and to trans youth…

“In a moment when those groups are hyper-visible in the culture, but no one really knows that much about them, it’s not especially surprising to me that QAnon latched there, because it really needed something new.”

A screenshot from a recent Telegram discussion about a family with a transgender child (Channel users/Io Dodds)
A screenshot from a recent Telegram discussion about a family with a transgender child (Channel users/Io Dodds)

By June 2021, trans discussions had become common, appearing in channels for die-hard neo-Nazis, anti-lockdown activists, and British sovereign citizens. One user even claimed to have heard that then British health secretary Matt Hancock “is a trans man, and his missus is a tr****”. Another declared: “Trans agenda is actually social engineering and medical-industrial complex, changing language and biogenetics for transhumanist agenda.”

The fixation has only grown, with transphobic outrage now inescapable across a broad range of Telegram channels. One white supremacist, who regularly inveighs against black people, Jews, and Muslims, has posted the slur “tr****” just as many times as “n*****” since 2020, and the word “transgender” twice as many.

When the far-right MAGA influencer Jack Posobiec shared a positive story about a trans child last week, it drew furious comments accusing the parents of child abuse or calling for them to be arrested.

“Every time I think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does,” says Sara Aniano, a disinformation analyst who has been studying the far right on Instagram and Telegram since 2020.

“Anti-trans discourse has always been present in far-right spaces. Back in 2020, a lot of the discussion was based on paranoia that prominent female figures or celebrities were actually ‘men in disguise’, from Michelle Obama to Victoria’s Secret Angels…

“But recently, far-right groups shifted the conversation to outright demonisation, painting trans individuals as ‘groomers, ‘paedophiles’, or ‘mentally ill’. It is increasingly pervasive.”

Mallory Moore, a researcher with the UK-based Trans Safety Network, says the tendency towards conspiracy theories is now common in British anti-trans movements, from the far-right Family Defence League (styled after the English Defence League) to various “Save the Children” groups to anti-vaccine mothers’ groups.

“I can’t overstate how much far right interest in transphobia has stepped up in the last year,” she added on Twitter on Monday. “The far right have always been transphobic, but it’s not necessarily been a top propaganda priority. Right now it very much is.”

‘Transgenderism is a bridge to making superhumans’

For Lee Leveille, all of this hit close to home, because she had long feared that rising far right interest in trans issues could lead to violence.

Leveille, who uses both male and female pronouns, helped found the Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network (GCCAN) in 2019 to campaign for people who had detransitioned, who often face prejudice and struggle to get proper medical care.

Yet in 2020 he quit GCCAN in protest against its growing overtures to the gender critical (GC) feminist movement, which sees trans rights as a danger to cis women. Leveille’s fear was that detransitioners’ stories were being coopted in order to reduce access to transition healthcare, and in turn by conservatives who share that goal.

Over the past five years, Leveille argues, these causes have increasingly coalesced, with gender critical material serving as ammunition for conservatives, QAnon, and the far right, as well as vice versa.

“Some of the people that I end up monitoring now, who have become major actors in the TAnon sense… I’ve literally met them,” says Leveille, who has since formed a new advocacy group called Health Liberation Now. “Ever since then I’ve been just trying to understand what on Earth has been happening – how I got to this point, how other people I know got to this point, how on Earth it’s scrambled our brains.”

Leveille starts her TAnon timeline in the early 2010s, when many environmentalists in the US Pacific Northwest cut ties with a radical group called Deep Green Resistance (DGR) for excluding trans people. The fallout prompted one DGR associate, Jennifer Bilek, to suspect that dark forces were at work behind the trans rights movement.

“What the hell [was] going on here?” Bilek recalled in an interview with the British radical feminist Janice Williams last February. “Who has the power to get everybody censored around this issue?”

Drawing on previous claims by radical feminists, Bilek concluded that “transgenderism” was a “manufactured medical issue” masquerading as a civil rights movement, funded by big medical and drug companies to “expanding [the] market for changing the human body”.

She named the trans billionaires Jennifer Pritzker, who helped fund a children’s gender clinic in Chicago and other trans programmes, and Martine Rothblatt, an avowed transhumanist who advocates using technology to transcend the limits of the human species – as well as George Soros, and Jon Stryker.

While all have donated money to support trans rights, much of that went to general LGBT+ organisations rather than trans-specific ones. Many trans rights supporters dispute the idea that these figures have been central to the movement, which stretches back decades.

These claims took off. As documented by Christa Peterson, a philosophy PhD student who researches and opposes the gender critical movement, Bilek’s work was widely shared and cited by leading GC feminists, including in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

The names of Rothblatt, Pritzker, Stryker, Soros, and “transhumanism” – a separate movement to trans rights – became common in gender critical arguments. Janice Williams even described Bilek as having “personally and single-handedly revolutionised the way we see gender identity”.

“[Bilek] is a really important figure to understand all this,” says Ari Drennen, director of the LGBT+ programme at Media Matters for America, which monitors anti-LGBT+ hate movements. She says Bilek’s rhetoric has been widely adopted on the right, including by conservative activist Charlie Kirk and conspiracy-mongering shock jock Alex Jones.

Bilek has leaned into the idea of a vast conspiracy promoting “transgenderism” to bring about a new world order. “They control the media, our institutions, our politicians, the indoctrination of our children, the laws being passed, all of it,” she tweeted in 2019.

In her interview with Williams last year, she said: “Transgenderism has nothing to do with human rights. It’s an ad campaign. Big pharma, and the entire medical-industrial complex… this is the groundwork for augmenting human beings.

“You can’t just take our societies as we know them and loop them right into transhuman, like ‘oh! We’re gonna be robots now!’ You gotta build a bridge, so transgenderism is the bridge. They’re planning on making superhumans.”

These ideas proved attractive to white supremacists, who extensively shared Bilek’s writing while drawing attention to the fact that Pritzker, Rothblatt, Soros and Stryker are all Jewish. One publication simply copied one of Bilek’s articles while replacing every instance of the word “white” with “Jewish”.

Throughout 2019 and 2020 QAnon tweets branding the “transgender agenda” as a Satanist paedophile conspiracy, using the hashtag #SaveTheChildren, became more prevalent.

There is no suggestion that feminists who have shared Bilek’s work endorse antisemitism, nor QAnon. But Leveille believes that their embrace of conspiratorial claims about shadowy philanthropists “inevitably opened the door for fusion with QAnon, as we are seeing now”.

Indeed, other conspiracy theories – such as the idea that trans rights are a Trojan horse for paedophilia, or that the trans rights movement has been infiltrated by paedophiles seeking easier access to children – are now routine among more extreme GC supporters.

For her part, Bilek later approvingly shared an article by Keith Woods, an avowed antisemite, that built on her work. “Keith Woods takes this a step further and discusses the intersection of these phenomena with Judaism,” she said. “Don’t miss it. I believe he is onto something!”

Corinna Cohn, one of GCCAN’s board members, confirmed Leveille’s departure to The Independent and indicated that she disagrees with Bilek’s ideas (Bilek has previously denounced GCCAN). “Both Leveille and Bilek are good at gathering facts, but neither is especially strong at assembling those facts into cogent explanations of how the world works,” Cohn said.

Bilek did not respond to a request for comment.

A ‘perfect storm’ of Christians, fascists, and feminists

Throughout this time, evangelical Christians were also mobilising. Their movement had suffered a blow when the Supreme Court declared gay marriage to be guaranteed by the constitution in 2015, and again when a high-profile Republican “bathroom bill” failed in North Carolina in 2016.

State bill HB2, which banned trans people from using public toilets for their gender unless they had changed their birth certificates, triggered protests and corporate boycotts that cost the state economy an estimated $400 million, and was largely repealed the following year.

“The Christian right, which is the largest perpetuator of the legal side of transphobia… tried so many things in 2016, 2017, and 2018,” says Heron Greenesmith, a senior research analyst specialising in anti-LGBT activism at Political Research Associates, which monitors hate movements for left-leaning non-profits. “They tried with [trans high school student] Gavin Grimm and the bathrooms, and that worked a little bit, but there was such a backlash.”

A sign protesting North Carolina’s HB2 law at Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub in Durham, North Carolina, 2016 (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
A sign protesting North Carolina’s HB2 law at Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub in Durham, North Carolina, 2016 (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

However, Greenesmith adds, the evangelical right is “big enough to continually be trying a tonne of different strategies – and when something works, nimble enough and well-funded enough to push their resources behind that successful strategy.”

Hence, in 2017, a Virginia conservative named Meg Kilgannon gave a speech at a major activist conference arguing that social conservatives needed to “focus on gender identity to divide and conquer”. She said that the LGBT+ coalition is “actually fragile”, and that trans people could be split off from the larger cause.

Instead of attacking trans people, or using religious and moralistic language, Kilgannon advocated focusing on policies and ideology – particularly the provision of puberty blockers and hormones to under-18s. She also proposed working across the aisle with feminists.

“QAnoners are largely evangelicals,” says Greenesmith. “There is enough overlap between Proud Boys and 4chan and evangelical young men that when a strategy becomes successful in one area, it will carry over… as transphobia percolates and becomes essential to one community, it will percolate to the others.”

Greenesmith says the momentum appears to have been buoyed by Christian parents who oppose their children’s transitions, who have flocked to online support groups seeking advice or recommendations for conversion therapists.

By the first half of 2021, Leveille was seeing repeated “crossover” between these movements. Neo-fascists and QAnon supporters regularly boosted gender critical writing, while Christian groups wielded disputed research claiming that many trans children actually suffer from a socially transmitted condition called “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD), based on reports by parents recruited from three GC websites.

Conservative campaigners also joined GC activists at a wave of trans health clinics, some of which appear to have been organised by an administrator of Bilek’s Facebook group. In July, gender criticals, Proud Boys, Trump supporters and people with QAnon signs all attended a major demonstration in Los Angeles.

That winter, a Twitter account called Libs of TikTok began to go viral. Founded in April 2021, and rising to prominence throughout the winter, it retweets video clips of LGBT+ people, particularly teachers, often with commentary suggesting they are “grooming” children or enabling child abuse.

In April, The Washington Post unmasked its author as Chaya Raichik, a pro-Trump former real estate agent, reportedly funded by the conservative satirist Seth Dillon and with ties to a Republican Party operative.

Christina Pushaw, the press secretary to Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, said Raichik “opened her eyes” and has interacted with the account at least 138 times. The account has been heavily promoted by Fox News, which Drennen accuses of using Libs of TikTok as a “wire service to generate content”. Bilek has also retweeted the account.

Teachers targeted by Raichik suffer a stream of angry messages and verbal abuse, which she has sometimes explicitly encouraged. She has repeatedly published false news, and reportedly boasted about getting teachers fired. According to Media Matters, the drag events allegedly targeted by the Proud Boys and Patriot Front were both featured on Libs of TikToks beforehand.

Yet just as Trump often took his cues from QAnon, rather than the other way round, Drennen suspects that Fox and Pushaw are only responding to the wider panic now bubbling up through the Republican base.

“In a lot of cases, these conversations are happening, and Fox News is jumping on them because they’re looking for an audience,” she says. “As we saw over and over again through the Trump era, social media makes it possible for the most radical voices to be heard, and rewards that.”

Both Greenesmith and Gill-Peterson see social media as playing a crucial role, allowing lurid ideas to spread rapidly between very different communities. Influencers are under constant pressure to find new content that will electrify their audience, and transphobia has proved extraordinarily electric.

“I think of it is a sort of perfect storm; there’s no single author behind it,” says Gill-Peterson. “A lot of things converged that had been simmering for a while.”

Why trans rights inspire such intense emotions

Why trans people? What is it that makes transgender conspiracies such catnip to so many different movements?

Drennen, Gill-Peterson, and Leveille all emphasised that TAnon draws on anti-LGBT+ themes that stretch back decades or centuries. “Save our children” was the slogan of anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant, while Britain once banned teachers from discussing homosexuality in a positive light for fear that children would be recruited.

“There are immense energy reserves in Western culture to target people who transgress gender boundaries, and sexualise them, and on that basis justify violence against them,” says Gill-Peterson. “QAnon can only exist in the social media era… but it certainly didn’t invent the animus, didn’t invent the hatred.”

A study in 2018 found evidence that people with a high “need for closure” – meaning that they dislike ambiguity and instinctively prefer “order and predictability” – were both more likely to support traditional gender roles and more likely to have transphobic attitudes.

Beyond that, Drennen links TAnon to the large number of closeted trans people who came out during the pandemic. Although it’s hard to know whether there has been any numerical increase, many trans people report that the isolation of lockdown or the prospect of death helped spur them to accept their identity – a phenomenon that some in the community have dubbed “quarantrans”.

“I think we’re seeing something similar to the panic about the number of gay people increasing a few generations back,” says Drennen. “It’s the same type of anxiety, where a community finally feels safe coming out of the shadows, and because of that is misperceived as dramatically increasing in number. People see that dramatic increase and think, incorrectly, that it must be because they’re recruiting children.”

Greenesmith believes that trans paranoia plays on cis people’s own gender issues, which many are taught to suppress and minimise. “Cis people are not awoken to it as much, but we all have gender, and we all feel something about our gender,” they say. “We are all activated all of the time by ‘how do I navigate this to reflect my gender? How do I assert my gender right now? Why does my gender feel bad right now?’”

Leveille, drawing on his history of disability advocacy, adds that TAnon may tap into a deep fear of bodily failure or sickness, similar to conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines containing microchips or rendering people infertile. “People want there to be some degree of inherent healthiness or wealthiness [about our bodies],” she says. “Having any degree of need for outside care or intervention, any form of dependency on a medical system, is inherently viewed as something that needs to be eradicated.”

Anti-vaccine protesters in Georgia, US in March 2021 (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Anti-vaccine protesters in Georgia, US in March 2021 (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Gill-Peterson adds that anxiety about trans children may owe less to gender issues than to society’s ideas about childhood. She argues that the idea that children are incapable of making their own decisions and are effectively the property of their parents, justified by the idea that they are inherently “innocent” and incomplete beings, is a recent and specifically Western invention that forces children into a state of artificial dependence and makes them vulnerable to abuse.

“Unfortunately the truth is that Western culture treats children horrifically,” says Gill-Peterson. “And of course, everyone knows it, but it’s a really disturbing thing to know… that’s where some of these conspiracy theories become so bizarre.

“Not simply because they’re untrue and over-the-top, but because there are actual, real, widespread forms of suffering and harm that children endure every day, which do not elicit that kind of response: the mass incarceration of black and brown children, the impunity with which police murder black children, or the institutionalised sexual assault and abuse of children that happens in places like churches and schools and sports teams, or in the institution of the family itself.”

That, she contends, is also how parents who oppose their children’s transitions can justify sending them to conversion therapists, or how Texas politicians can order that trans children should be taken away from parents who support their transitions.

“[It’s like], ‘I’ll harm my real child to save an imaginary version of them from an imaginary version of harm’,” says Gill-Peterson. “‘I can act on a fantasy of who I think you may become instead of who you really are.’”

What happens next?

Last week, the global conflict tracking non-profit ACLED released data suggesting that anti-LGBT+ mobilisation in the US, including protests and violent attacks, quadrupled between 2020 and 2021, with 2022 on track to be the worst year so far.

“Incidents of political violence targeting the LGBT+ community this year have already exceeded the total number of attacks reported last year,” said ACLED’s report. “So far, at least 22 anti-LGBT+ demonstrations have been reported… however, mobilization is increasingly shifting away from demonstration toward outright political violence.”

Right-wing rhetoric against trans people has grown more violent, with one Republican candidate recently calling for supporters of trans rights to be tried and executed or treason. A conservative pastor said LGBT+ people should be “lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head”.

Nor is the problem confined to the US, with populist and authoritarian movements from Hungary and Poland to Brazil and Colombia claiming to oppose “gender ideology”. In New Zealand, a building housing a support service for young trans people burned down in a suspicious fire, while in Norway two people were killed and more than a dozen injured outside a gay bar in what authorities are investigating as a terrorist attack.

This is exactly what trans researchers have been afraid of. “For several months now I’ve been getting on the phone with reporters and saying that if right wing media and influencers do not turn down the pressure on all this rhetoric, we will see the LGBT+ version of Pizzagate,” says Drennen, referring to the QAnon precursor theory that in 2016 drew a gunman to raid a Washington, DC pizza joint in search of captive children.

“I think we’re past that now. We’re already at Pizzagate. So the question is, what happens next? This is something that I’m very worried is going to continue spreading, and I’m extremely worried is going to lead to LGBTQ people getting murdered.”

Leveille, as a Jewish trans person who lost ancestors in the Holocaust, likewise says: “I am increasingly seeing the signs of targeted acts of eradication. We are already beginning to see signs of pogroms.”

He does not necessarily expect mass killings, but fears trans adults could be systematically forced back into the closet, while trans children could be channelled en masse into conversion therapy. Like many trans people, Leveille would consider that a form of cultural genocide.

In those early discussions on Telegram last year, The Independent found two voices of moderation. One account, now deleted, argued there were “a lot of nice, kind trans people” and urged others not to judge all trans people as one, although she stressed that transition healthcare should never be funded by taxes and that allowing trans people to use their gender’s toilets would “open the door for child molesters”.

That was not extreme enough for others. One person suggested transition care should be banned outright, while another said: “‘Trans men’ don’t exist. They should be referred [to] as ‘mentally diseased subhumans’, because that’s genuinely what they are.”

The second pro-trans Telegram user, in a separate conversation in another channel, asked: “Why is it bad for trans people to use bathrooms in public spaces? I’ve personally have had many experiences where trans women have been in the same bathroom as I and I’ve never felt threatened….

“Another person living their truth doesn’t harm anyone as long as they don’t cause direct physical and emotional harm.”

Nobody else agreed, and that person did not respond to a request for comment.

The Independent is the official publishing partner of Pride in London 2022 and a proud sponsor of NYC Pride

Hardwicke Circus ‘fortunate’ Sir Paul McCartney requested they play Glastonbury

Ellie Iorizzo, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter

Fri, 24 June 2022, 10:36 am

Hardwicke Circus say they feel “very fortunate” to be playing at Glastonbury after Sir Paul McCartney put in a request with festival officials.

The six-piece rock band were squeezed into a Sunday slot on The Rabbit Hole stage after 80-year-old former Beatle Sir Paul heard their music and asked if they could be included in the line-up.

Interviewing brothers Jonny and Tom Foster on BBC Breakfast ahead of their performance, co-host Charlie Stayt said: “This is a story about timing and good luck.

“As recommendations come from music, they don’t come much higher than one from Sir Paul McCartney.”

Drummer Tom said: “I thought my mates had got together to pull a huge prank, but it turns out to be true.”

Frontman Jonny added: “It’s a huge moment for us and I feel like we are ready for Glastonbury. We’ve been playing a lot of gigs, playing in prisons and supporting other bands around the country, and now, with the recommendation of Paul McCartney, we are on our way to Worthy Farm for a great time.”

On the official Glastonbury website, it said: “When a request from Paul McCartney came through to Rabbit Hole HQ to ask if we could fit in a band he is a fan of, the White Rabbit’s ears pricked up.

“A new outfit from Cumbria, Hardwicke Circus are in our opinion going to be enormous.”

It added: “If there is one band not to miss this weekend, it’s these guys. That’s why we have put them conveniently in our 2022 headline slot.”

Tom said the band have worked “really hard” and hope Glastonbury revellers “relate to our songs”.

Jonny added: “Since this news, we’ve had a lot of people around the country, fans connecting with the music, connecting on a very musical level, so it’s been a really positive thing for us that people now are hearing our music, listening to our words, and thinking, ‘Actually, this is a band from the north that’s to be contended with’.

“So, it’s an exciting moment. Glastonbury is one of those ones, when you start playing and pick up that guitar, you learn the undertones to the Beatles and all these songs and you want to play them at Glastonbury. That’s why you do it, and we feel very fortunate for this.”

The pair joked that they had forgotten to pack their wellies and were “very worried”.

Piers Morgan defends Paul McCartney after Glastonbury set criticised for having ‘not enough Beatles hits’

Piers Morgan
 has taken it upon himself to defend music icon Paul McCartney following the latter’s headline set at Glastonbury 2022.

McCartney’s Saturday night set was hailed by many as one of the best the festival had ever hosted. Mark Beaumont described it in The Independent’s review as “far and away the best this writer has seen on the Pyramid stage in 30 years of Glastonburies”.

Nonetheless, some social media users criticised the set for not including enough Beatles hits in the setlist – prompting the former Good Morning Britain host to weigh in.

“Twitter’s moaning Macca ‘didn’t do enough Beatles hits,’” Morgan wrote.

“He played ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’, ‘Love Me Do’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Get Back’, ‘Something’, ‘Let It Be’, and ‘Hey Jude’.

“Those songs alone are 9 of the greatest pop songs ever,” he added. “Twitter… STFU.”

McCartney was seen holding aloft a Ukrainian flag when he took the stage for an encore at his headline set on Saturday.

Getting back: McCartney on stage at Glastonbury (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Getting back: McCartney on stage at Glastonbury (Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

McCartney’s marathon headline slot featured surprise guest appearances from Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen, with the latter joining McCartney for a rendition of “Glory Days”

The ex-Beatle also performed a “duet” alongside his late bandmate John Lennon, using digitally isolated vocals and video footage.

McCartney’s record-breaking Glastonbury set included a tribute to his other late bandmate, George Harrison.

In a five-star review for The Independent, Mark Beaumont wrote: “By the time ‘Live and Let Die’ fills the sky with flames and drama, and ‘Let it Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’ have broken then repaired 100,000 hearts, the show is far and away the best this writer has seen on the Pyramid stage in 30 years of Glastonburies.

A crowd gathers to watch Paul McCartney on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage (AFP via Getty Images)
A crowd gathers to watch Paul McCartney on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage (AFP via Getty Images)

“When Macca returns to duet with the isolated Lennon vocal of ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’, creating the closest to a Beatles reunion we’re ever likely to see and giving Glastonbury all the feelings, it’s probably the best I’ve seen on any stage. […] We’re gonna need a bigger star rating system.”

You can find a round-up of highlights from day four at Glastonbury, including Greta Thunberg’s surpirse apperance and Olivia Rodrigo’s blistering duet with Lily Allen directed at the Supreme Court over the recent Roe v Wade ruling, here.

Duchess Camilla is a vision in electric blue gown – and special accessories

The Duchess of Cornwall looked regal in a bright blue gown as she hosted a dinner in Rwanda with her husband Prince Charles – but did you spot her accessories?

Camilla and Charles were joined by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at the Marriott Hotel on 24 June, and the Duchess ensured she stood out from the crowd in her eye-catching frock. Pictures show the royal wearing a floor-length electric blue gown with sheer lace sleeves, which she teamed with sparkly drop diamond earrings that were just visible beneath her perfectly blow-dried blonde curls.

Breaking up the bold colour of her dress were two important accessories – she wore the Garter Star badge, after being appointed as a Royal Lady of the Order of the Garter back in December, and the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II.

The latter features a small portrait of the Queen surrounded by diamonds and topped by a Tudor crown, placed on top of a pale yellow silk bow. The Queen has privately awarded the honour to members of the royal family – including Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Anne – for their service, and they are normally worn on formal occasions.


The Duchess of Cornwall recycled her Bruce Oldfield Couture dress

For example, Duchess Camilla has previously paired it with a glittering turquoise gown and tiara for a CHOGM Dinner back in 2013.

After Charles posted a photo of the couple at the dinner on their official Instagram account, fans rushed to compliment Camilla’s outfit. “Our beloved Duchess was radiant,” wrote one, and another added: “Camilla looks stunning in that cobalt blue gown. One of her best evening wear looks so far!”


The royal was pictured wearing the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II in 2013

A third remarked: “Camilla looks absolutely fantastic, gorgeous, elegant,” while a fourth penned: “The Duchess looked stunning last night. The Garter Star suits her perfectly.”

The gown is the same one she recently wore for her photoshoot with Vogue to mark her 75th birthday. At the time, she told the magazine that her evening dress by Bruce Oldfield Couture was taken from her own wardrobe.

Shop the look:


Coast embroidered dress, was £179 now £143.19, Debenhams


A similar design in a purple colour was previously available to buy at John Lewis, but it has sadly now sold out. However, royal fans can copy the Duchess’ elegant style with this pretty Coast style, which is currently on sale for £143.19.

Prince Charles gives blessing to Commonwealth countries that sever ties with Royal family

The Prince of Wales speaking during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at the Kigali Convention Centre, Rwanda - REUTERS
The Prince of Wales speaking during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at the Kigali Convention Centre, Rwanda – REUTERS

The Prince of Wales gave his blessing on Friday to Commonwealth countries that want to sever ties with the Royal family, insisting that such change can be made “calmly and without rancour”.

Prince Charles, 73, told prime ministers and presidents gathered for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Kigali, Rwanda, that whether members wanted the Queen as head of state or became a republic was a matter for them alone.

His comments come at a pivotal time with several countries, including Jamaica and Australia, poised to follow Barbados in removing the Queen as head of state.

There are fears that many others will become republics when the Prince becomes King, having maintained ties with the Royal Family only out of respect and loyalty to the Queen.

While there has been no suggestion that members would go on to leave the Commonwealth, there is said to be concern at the palace that such moves will “loosen the ties that bind” and could lead to the long-term collapse of the union.

The Prince of Wales' speech at the Chogm opening ceremony on Friday was his first as the Commonwealth’s future leader - DAN KITWOOD
The Prince of Wales’ speech at the Chogm opening ceremony on Friday was his first as the Commonwealth’s future leader – DAN KITWOOD

It came as the Prince also expressed his deep personal sorrow over the “painful history” of slavery, acknowledging that lessons must be learnt in order for the Commonwealth to move forward.

He told Commonwealth leaders that the roots of the 54-member association “run deep into the most painful period of our history.”

The Prince stopped short of an apology but said he was still learning, and continuing to deepen his own understanding “of slavery’s enduring impact”.

His speech at the Chogm opening ceremony came as new countries with no historic ties to the UK look to join the Commonwealth.

Prince Charles said: “Our Commonwealth family is – and will always remain – a free association of independent self-governing nations.

“We meet and talk as equals, sharing our knowledge and experience for the betterment of all citizens of the Commonwealth – and, indeed, the wider world.”

The Prince of Wales chatting with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda - SIMON MAINA
The Prince of Wales chatting with Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda – SIMON MAINA

He added: “The Commonwealth contains within it, countries that have had constitutional relationships with my family, some that continue to do so, and increasingly those that have had none.

“I want to say clearly, as I have said before, that each member’s constitutional arrangement, as republic or monarchy, is purely a matter for each member country to decide.

“The benefit of long life brings me the experience that arrangements such as these can change, calmly and without rancour.”

Commonwealth ‘uniquely positioned’ to bring positive change

The Prince told delegates at the Kigali Convention Centre that the organisation was “uniquely positioned”  to achieve positive change in the world, particularly on climate change and opportunities for young people.

“To achieve this potential for good, however, and to unlock the power of our common future, we must also acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past,” he added.

“Many of those wrongs belong to an earlier age with different – and, in some ways lesser – values.  By working together, we are building a new and enduring friendship.”

He said that on a recent royal tour to Canada, he and the Duchess of Cornwall were “deeply touched” to meet those engaged in an ongoing process of reconciliation – “indigenous and non-indigenous peoples reflecting honestly and openly on the darkest aspects of history.”

The Prince standing next to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, who also addressed the heads of the Commonwealth - Chris Jackson
The Prince standing next to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, who also addressed the heads of the Commonwealth – Chris Jackson

He went on: “It seems to me that there are lessons in this for our Commonwealth family.  For while we strive together for peace, prosperity and democracy I want to acknowledge that the roots of our contemporary association run deep into the most painful period of our history.

“I cannot describe the depths of my personal sorrow at the suffering of so many, as I continue to deepen my own understanding of slavery’s enduring impact.”

A royal source said the Prince was keen to make a “personal” statement on the issue, having spoken of Britain’s colonial history and the “appalling atrocity of slavery” last November, when Barbados formally became a republic.

The Prince said in a speech in Ghana in November 2018 that “the unimaginable suffering it caused, left an indelible stain on the history of our world.”

In March, the Duke of Cambridge, echoed his father’s words during a tour of the Caribbean, expressing his “profound sorrow” and adding that slavery was “abhorrent.”

The Prince’s speech to Commonwealth leaders was considered an opportunity to “set out his vision” for its future, having been elected the Queen eventual successor as head of the Commonwealth in 2018.

He considers its power to be in its diversity, an aide said, and has been thinking deeply about what its priorities should be and “what it can do collectively, together.”

Prince Charles was also joined by his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at the Chogm opening ceremony - Chris Jackson
Prince Charles was also joined by his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, at the Chogm opening ceremony – Chris Jackson

As 60 per cent of its 2.6 billion population is under 30, he believes it “critical” to ensure young people have the opportunities, training and employment they need.

Members from Canada to the Seychelles are “massively impacted” by climate change and for the Prince to bring businesses to Chogm to discuss potential solutions was “critically important.”

Both the Prince and the Queen have made clear that they believe the Commonwealth can be a “force for good” if all nations work together.

In order to achieve that vision, the Prince understands that the “historic shared past” must be recognised, an aide said.

For him, that meant making a personal statement about his sorrow but also, his continued learning:

“It is recognition that he is listening and learning in order to determine future action.”

Charles Dickens railed against ‘atrocity’ of slave trade in previously unpublished letter

Charles Dickens condemned the slave trade as 'inhuman' and an 'atrocity' in a previously unpublished letter that has been discovered - Hulton Deutsch/Corbis Historical
Charles Dickens condemned the slave trade as ‘inhuman’ and an ‘atrocity’ in a previously unpublished letter that has been discovered – Hulton Deutsch/Corbis Historical

Charles Dickens condemned the slave trade as “inhuman” and an “atrocity” in a previously unpublished letter that has been discovered.

In 1850, he wrote to Captain Joseph Denman, who had served in the Royal Navy’s anti-slavery squadron that patrolled the coast of West Africa, part of the “African Blockade”, whose effectiveness in stopping the transportation of slaves sparked debate at the time.

Addressing him as “My dear Sir,” Dickens told him in no uncertain terms: “You cannot too strongly represent to yourself the horror with which I contemplate that atrocity the Slave Trade, – although I have (I must confess to you) had my doubts of the efficiency of the African Blockade. Of the truth and devotion of those engaged in it, I have never had a grain of distrust.”

He continued: “I am sure we shall agree in denouncing the inhuman traffic with our utmost might.”

The letter’s authenticity has been confirmed by a leading expert, Dr Leon Litvack, principal editor of The Charles Dickens Letters Project, an online resource for his correspondence.

The start of the previously unpublished letter from Charles Dickens
The start of the previously unpublished letter from Charles Dickens

He told The Telegraph that it adds to what we know about Dickens’ attitude to slavery: “There’s great passion in this letter. The language that he uses is striking in its forcefulness.”

He will deliver a paper on it on July 8 at a Dickens conference at City University in London.

The letter was spotted among Denman family papers by Dr Pieter van der Merwe, Greenwich Curator Emeritus of the National Maritime Museum, while conducting unrelated research. It was in a volume of miscellaneous examples from notable people of the time.

As a specialist in Clarkson Stanfield, the marine-artist friend of Dickens, Dr van der Merwe realised its significance: “I suspected it wasn’t known. It’s just serendipity, the art of finding things you’re not looking for.”

He contacted Dr Litvack to whom the Denman family has given permission to publish it on

It is a somewhat topical reminder of just how hard Britain fought to halt the slave trade.

At its peak, the African Blockade involved up to 36 vessels and more than 4,000 men, and was estimated to cost half of all naval spending. They tried to prevent slaving ships from taking boatloads of slaves – shackled together with heavy irons – to Brazil and Cuba primarily, with the Spanish and the Portuguese among the main perpetrators. Such was the traders’ ruthlessness that, in 1831 the Rapids slaver, chased by H.M.S. Fair Rosamund and Black Joke, threw overboard 250 slaves shackled together, who drowned.

The end of the letter that Dickens wrote to Captain Joseph Denman
The end of the letter that Dickens wrote to Captain Joseph Denman

Dr Litvack said that the deterrent force patrolled 2,000 miles of coastline between Cape Verde and Luanda, and facilitated the release of nearly 200,000 slaves, but they were hampered by international laws: “For example, the squadrons could not intercept Portuguese slaving ships if they were sailing south of the equator.”

Denman had joined the Navy in 1823 and, as a lieutenant and commander, served in anti-slavery work. In 1840, while commanding HMS Wanderer, he blockaded the mouth of the Gallinas river – the modern-day border between Liberia and Sierra Leone, a notorious spot for the loading of slaves.

Dr van der Merwe said: “His effectiveness resulted in legal action against him by Spanish slaving interests, in which the British government successfully supported him.”

In his paper, Dr Litvack argues that the time and trouble that Dickens took in approaching Denman reveals his respect for those sailors “who were committed… to the final suppression of slavery”.

Denman may have kept the letter because it reflected his own views. He was a key witness to parliamentary committees and described his experience in various pamphlets: “Every slave ship carries a mass of human beings, obtained by robbery and murder.”

Dickens also wrote to Denman’s father, Lord Denman, the Lord Chief Justice and a prominent abolitionist, who had asked why the author had not expressed a more forceful opinion on the slave trade and criticised his portrayal in Bleak House of Mrs Jellyby, a philanthropist who devotes herself to setting up a mission in Africa while ignoring the poor at home – even though Dickens had intended her as a satirical figure who does not notice that her own family desperately needs her and charity begins at home.

The 'Capture of a Large Slave Ship by H.M.S. Pluto' from 1860
The ‘Capture of a Large Slave Ship by H.M.S. Pluto’ from 1860

In his reply, Dickens wrote: “Because I am not satisfied that the African Blockade advances the great end it is designed to promote.”

Dr Litvack said: “There was some disagreement about the statistics that were being used in the parliamentary reports and Joseph Denman provided counter evidence. After having read these publications, Dickens changes his opinion about the West African squadron.

“It’s on that basis that I’m claiming that, while Dickens had been critical of the squadron, after he’d read Denman’s reports, he was much more sympathetic. This new letter does show he changed his attitudes about the means that were being used to try to halt the slave trade.”

Although Dickens’s masterpieces such as Oliver Twist reflect that he was a tireless campaigner against all forms of social injustice, he has been among targets of the current anti-racism movement. He did, for example, criticise the “melancholy absurdity” of giving African Americans the right to vote.

But Dr Litvack said: “I don’t think he could be considered a racist because there were these prevailing attitudes of the time.”

The new letter provides vital evidence to show that he was a vigorous opponent of slavery.