As hordes of music fans descend on Glastonbury, hardcore COVID conspiracy theorists are preparing their own festival in the UK, with a lineup drawn exclusively from artists in the “truther” movement.
The three-day “Freedom Music Festival,” will be held in a field near Battle, Sussex, next month, with early-bird tickets selling for £99. The organisers, HOPE Sussex – a hybrid homeschooling and events hub for the COVID conspiracist movement – are billing the concert as a “red-pill event” featuring “performers that aren’t afraid to spread the truth and haven’t let any lure of fame and fortune bend their integrity.”
Headlining the event is Danny Rampling, a pioneering DJ in the UK rave scene, who describes himself as a human rights activist and “sovereign being,” and whose social feeds are full of conspiracist fantasies about COVID, vaccines, 5G and and the globalist “agenda.”
Hosting the main stage will be 90s novelty pop act Right Said Fred, best known for their 1991 hit “I’m Too Sexy,” who have become vocal proponents of COVID trutherism since the pandemic began. The brothers, Fred and Richard Fairbrass, have attended demonstrations and pushed conspiracist misinformation on social media.
Lead singer Richard told VICE World News that his group was involved to support fellow musicians whose careers had been harmed for airing their COVID conspiracist views. While his brother Fred had been a conspiracy theorist even before the pandemic, Richard said he himself had only begun delving into the ideology since the outbreak of coronavirus.
“I didn’t start going down the rabbithole… until I heard the ‘Build Back Better’ mantra repeated several times by several leaders right across the planet,” said Richard, echoing a widespread conspiracist belief that the slogan, adopted by Western governments for their pandemic-recovery programmes, in fact refers to a more sinister plot by so-called globalist elites.
“The minute you hear people like Trudeau or Macron or Johnson or anybody else saying the same three words in their speeches within a week, you know that something is up,” he added.
“You don’t have to be a Cordon Bleu chef to know the fish is off.”
The Freedom Music Festival is being held from the 29th to the 31st of July on the grounds of HOPE Sussex, an educational hub that caters to the homeschooled children of COVID truthers, who have pulled them out of mainstream education to shield them from vaccination drives and what they consider the corrupting influence of normie society. The project’s website advertises nine different tutors providing tuition at HOPE Sussex’s rural setting, “providing a venue where home-educators can connect with private tutors, and have cost-effective access to a wide range of sessions.”
HOPE Sussex – whose founders include a couple previously active in the far-right British National Party (BNP) – has become a major cause celebre for radical COVID conspiracists, many of whom have apparently come to hold broader aspirations for the site as a kind of separatist utopia for the “freedom” movement.
Meanwhile, the project and others like it have aroused concerns that they are facilitating the indoctrination of children into militant conspiracist ideology, within a movement that’s showing signs of deepening radicalisation.
“We would be very concerned if a group were to promote the removal of children from mainstream education because of their false beliefs about the efficacy of vaccinations, or any other pseudoscience,” Robert Cann, education campaigns manager at Humanists UK – a charity which promotes secular humanism and is opposed to pseudoscience and superstition in education – told VICE World News.
HOPE Sussex did not respond to VICE World News requests for comment. But one of the project’s key players outlined the militant conspiracist worldview behind HOPE Sussex during an appearance on the “COVID truther” podcast “We Think Freely” last month.
“All it takes is for people to turn around and say ‘We do not comply’,” said Matt Single, who tutors at HOPE Sussex and whose children who attend classes there.
“We are not jumping through any of your hoops… we are not going to take your fear, we are not complying with any of your madness. This is our land and we’re going to teach how we want to teach, and if you don’t like it, you can take a running jump. We don’t care.”
He said the educational ethos behind the project was “based upon critical thinking.”
“Question all of it – follow the money, follow the propaganda, disassemble it, build it back together again."
Single and his wife, Sadie Single, who is also a tutor at HOPE Sussex, were previously members of the BNP, with the latter a councillor for the far-right party on the Broxtowe Borough Council in Nottinghamshire. Matt Single was convicted in 2009 for leaking the names of about 12,000 party members, along with their addresses and occupations, following a rancorous leadership feud within the party.
Since then, the couple have become active in the COVID truther movement, with Sadie Single filmed grabbing a police officer’s ponytail during a “resistance” protest in London last year.
In response to a request for comment, Matt Single said that he and his wife had renounced their previous far-right political associations. Of the hair-pulling incident, which took place at a protest at which both he and his wife were eventually arrested, Single claimed they had faced “great provocation from the police.”
“Fighting for freedom and truth forms the very core of our ethos at HOPE Sussex,” he said.
The Freedom Music Festival will also feature a tent for musicians to jam throughout the day hosted by Jam for Freedom, an anti-lockdown non-profit for “pro-freedom musicians” that protests government coronavirus restrictions with touring musical concerts and open-air jams. The group, founded by London-based musician Cambel McLaughlin, has received support and funding from two of the biggest musical acts broadly aligned with the freedom movement, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison, both of whom have released anti-lockdown protest tracks.
McLaughlin told a blog earlier this month that Clapton had become aware of his movement while watching a livestream of a “freedom” rally in London in April 2021, which ended with a Jam For Freedom performance in Hyde Park which was broken up by police. He said that Clapton then donated to Jam For Freedom, and gave them a shout-out in the music video for his anti-lockdown track “This Has Gotta Stop”; the co-sign from the English rock legend gave Jam For Freedom unprecedented global attention, and has led to them launching chapters in 12 countries, and booking appearances on Bannon’s War Room, the podcast hosted by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
Also high on the festival lineup is Mark Devlin, another well-known DJ in the UK dance scene who has been a prominent activist in the “resistance,” as the COVID conspiracist movement calls itself. Devlin told VICE World News that he had known since the start of the pandemic that COVID was “a massive scam,” and said that he and fellow members of the “awakened” community were fighting against a sinister globalist agenda run by shadowy elites who were “at the pinnacle of every aspect of human life.”
“We know that COVID was all part of some much wider plan – the Great Reset coming out of the World Economic Forum, and the United Nations Agenda 2030,” he said, repeating familiar conspiracist delusions about the pandemic.
“We’re going to have to resist and put up a fight because we’re dealing with a quite formidable enemy here,” he added. Asked who “the enemy” was, he said: “The so-called elite ruling class – globalists, the deep state, the cabal. These groups and networks that control everything in society from the top down.”
HOPE Sussex has the support of hardline factions of the COVD conspiracist movement – including Alpha Team Assemble, a sovereign citizen-inspired group which has held combat training sessions for militant anti-vax conspiracy theorists. HOPE Sussex is frequently the subject of fundraising efforts within the conspiracist community, including treks across the countryside and a proposed charity boxing night. Influencers in the COVID truther scene frequently call on their supporters to donate to the project, and have livestreamed from its grounds while attending work drives where supporters turn up en masse to build and develop the site.
While launched with an educational focus, the founders of HOPE Sussex say online that their vision for the site has since expanded to see it as a kind of cultural and ideological hub for the COVID truther community: “A place where those who are not willing to acquiesce to stupid rules and who seek the truth can enjoy events and community celebrations with like-minded people.”
Some of the project’s backers describe it in almost cult-like terms, reflecting the separatist urge within the COVID truther community to seal themselves off from what they consider an irredeemably corrupted mainstream. Matt Single, during his recent podcast appearance, said that the pandemic had “done me a massive favour: it’s taken away the people that weren’t really my family, but it’s given me my real family.”
“Behind me outside, I've got 100 people that I regard as brothers and sisters that I never even knew a while ago,” he said. Referring to the supposed elites blamed for orchestrating the pandemic, he said: “Those arrogant monsters never realised what they’ve done for us – they’ve given us the greatest gifts, they’ve opened our eyes, they’ve given us our family.”
Another COVID truther influencer known as Matt – who once led a sovereign citizen mob that tried to forcibly shut down a COVID vaccination clinic under so-called “common law” – expressed a similarly utopian vision for the project, calling on the “resistance” to “fight tooth and nail to make sure HOPE is a success.”
“Can you imagine if we all lived together? If we lived on the same patch, we just worked to survive, to eat, built each other’s homes,” he said in a video posted to Telegram.
“There’s kids free, teaching them how to be decent people, to look after each other, look out for one another and love each other… This is the world that we create. There’s no going back for us.”