Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020
Dalkey Literary Awards - 20th June 2020

Bob Geldof takes us from Brexit to total extinction via the Sex Pistols

We’re winding things down with probably the most apt speaker to close this year’s extraordinary festival – Sir Bob Geldof._MCX8357

It’s turned into a nice evening and the Sea Marquee is packed with a couple of rows of people standing at the back.

Bob made headlines recently with his dramatic stand against Brexit which saw him bring a speedboats onto the Thames to stand against Nigel Farage’s ‘outie’ flotilla. They played In With The In Crowd while trying to persuade the fishermen who were with Farage to come over to their side.

David is interviewing him and after introducing him as the man that “gave Irish people hope” he asks Bob to give his views on what’s going on in the UK right now.

“They call it nativism but it’s a harking back to a romantic nationalism. It’s people who want to go back to a national sensibility,” he says.

“They feel that they’ve been left out, and they don’t understand this modern world, and they feel left out by our politicians and rightly so.”

“We must find a way to navigate ourselves around a cusp moment which people will be talking about in 300 years.”

“If the vote was today, Britain leaves, and then Britain becomes the loose thread on the European cardigan,” Bob says


He says that there is an atmosphere worldwide everywhere that is breeding these nationalistic and what he terms dangerous movements. “I travel a lot and those of you who do will know – I have never in my 64 years felt the world so fragile, so fearful.”

“The English are prepared, even if they understand the concept of leaving on Wednesday, they’re willing to say to hell with it. The economic argument against Brexit has been won, but it doesn’t make a difference,” he says.

“Then there is the political thug like Nigel Farage who’s been putting up these billboards that say despicable things. And it speaks to the gut. And people listen to this brilliant mantra of ‘take back control’ – take back control of what?”

David asks him about Trump: “If this model of democracy is supposed to work, then how come we have Donald Trump?”

“Trump is a product of this exact time,” Bob says. “He’s a vulgar, thick, bombastic, egomaniac. The FT put it well when they wrote, ‘America should hope that Trump will drown in vortex of his own vulgarity.'”

There is a fair bit of Bob adulation going on as he peppers everything with characteristic cursing and irreverent anecdotes while sipping on a glass of red wine.

Bob continues to speak about the rise of these nationalist movements and sentiments and why they’ve gained such traction._MCX8361

“It’s a retreat back into something that’s very understandable. It’s ‘good’. We say nationalism and nice middle-class people like us squirm.  But we all feel a sense of place. We like to feel we belong to a place. Nasty people can curdle that feeling.”

Bob talks about why this is a perceived failure of the democratic system. “All political systems are failing because they cannot hope to function with this new economical system. It’s a new economical system that all of us can’t deal with,” Bob says.

“By definition the world wide web demands the cooperation, harmony, communication, and we’re not geared to that right now.”

“I’ve had to deal with Europe a lot with the African stuff. It’s purely dysfunctional. This ain’t working. But we have to make it work.”

Bob is talking about finding it so hard to get celebrities to come out publicly and campaign for things.

“We wanted an event in Glast-IN-bury but no one wanted to do it, they were too scared. Comedians said no, they’d lose their audience. So fucking lose them! Stick by what you think and believe.”

“But we didn’t do that because my good friend Jo Cox was killed. We’re going to do an event in Trafalgar Square for her and her husband Brendan. Brendan and their babies were on the boats with us during the week.”

David is bringing Bob back to how he started, playing music with the Boomtown Rats in 1976 and trying to bring rocknroll to what he saw as a dull phase with no anger or spunk.

“I didn’t go to pubs much. I thought – you talk to high heaven and then all action shuts down at time of close.”

Bob is talking about how he got into music and how he got into the Boomtown Rats. He had been kicked out of Canada and had nothing to do. He’s talking about it was out of boredom and they were all fed up with the music. He’s talking about jumping on stage like rockstars and making fun of  the people who came on sedate and polite. He’s mentioning his heroes like Lou Reed and Brian Ferry.

He’s talking about the anger and noise that came out of that time period, how there was a punk sensibility against so many political and social factors that they internalised, and that just felt good to him.

David his brought him round to 1916 celebrations saying that Bob doesn’t really for that.

“The symbols of 1916. It never did for me. It’s  largely theatrical. It’s kitsch,” Bob says, before going into a long anecdote about a black and white minstrel show done under purple lighting to bring out the white paint “and the dandruff.”



He touches on his love of Yeats, and then even mentions an anecdote of how James Joyce and Padraig Pearse fell out with each other because they couldn’t agree on the Irish translation of the word ‘thunder.’

“When you look at your future at 64 what do you see?” David asks.

Bob says that Woody Allen has a cracker of a line for that question.

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”