#GreenFests Highlights: Honey-bee-lujah!

20th August 2014

“Yeah I’m a joke preacher, but do you think I’m not serious?”

Reverend Billy, along with his black-and-gold adorned Stop Shopping Choir, tour the world raising the roof with exuberant songs on the imminent ‘Shopocalypse’ and highlighting the role of big corporations, leading to an unsustainable social, economic and environmental global system. Summer Festivals Production Assistant, Catriona Patterson, was privy to an exorcism of consumerism at Reverend Billy’s Honey-Bee-Lujah! at the closing night of the Forest Fringe on Sunday evening.

As the ‘Fringe of the Fringe’, Forest Fringe Festival, came to a close on August 17th, the activist performance group intermingled music with a ‘sermon’ on reduced consumerism, pro-environmental behaviour and the plight of the threatened honey bee population.

‘Deforestation plus poisoned pollination/ time greedy escalation equals planet devastation’

Reverend Billy, as the Elvis-comparable, evangelistic preacher, leads the audience-congregation within the affirmative traditions of revival meetings, and frequently throughout the audience participated when desired, with the religiously-themed commitments of ‘amen’, ‘awoman’ and ‘praise-bee’. In appropriating this religious style to communicate issues of sustainability, Reverend Billy appeals for the faith and commitment associated with traditional preaching, and mobilises a community: “the Church of Stop Shopping”, regardless of alternative religious beliefs. Programmes are referred to as the ‘Order of Service’ and feature ‘sermons’ on affecting the capitalist system.

Although the Forest Fringe performance displayed a temporarily reduced choir from the New York-based 50-strong grouping, the well-established collective showcased a variety of songs, written by the members, some of which originated for the Occupy movements of 2012. This activist sentiment rings clear throughout the performance, although the focus is shifted to the protection of the honey bee population: natural pollinators which support agriculture and biodiversity. The audience ‘learnt the truth’ about the unique behavioural habits of honeybees and their place in food chain. In the style of the choir too, each element of the environmentalist call-to-action was characterised in Christian doctrine: Monsanto, the agribusiness corporation much-criticised for its pesticide policies was demonised as the ‘Devil’, and blamed for the demise of the bee species.

Most remarkable about this production was the sheer enthusiasm: the energy and passion of the performers were at times almost unbelievable, and this was echoed by the audience, who drove a spontaneous encore and a standing ovation. Fuelled by such revival meetings, the congregation of Reverend Billy will inevitably keep on growing.

Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir performed “Honeybeelujah!” as part of the Forest Fringe 16 & 17 August 2014 at Out of the Blue Drill Hall, a Green Arts Venue. 

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