In March 2020 a lot of people had a shock when the UK went into “lockdown” to curb the spread of Covid-19.
But there was one group of people who felt they already the skills to deal with this way of living.
In May 2020 I facilitated two online meetings of disabled people to talk about how the skills we had learned from being disabled were helping us deal with the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown.
Our stories and words showed that we have many important skills:
- FLEXIBILITY: shifting, changing, adapting, adjusting
- STRENGTH and RESILIENCE: coping, managing, working with limits, persevering, creativity, organising, preparing
- CARE and INTERDEPENDENCE: friendship, connecting, mutual aid, supporting, skill sharing, self care, self worth
We also made each other laugh, and we trusted each other with intimate stories of personal experience. It was a privilege to talk with such amazing people.
Afterwards I made this zine, including contributions from other people. I hope you find it a useful resource for understanding how we see this crisis, and how we live with limits. I hope you find it a helpful contribution to the challenge we all face, of learning to live together in a world where material resources are finite, but care is infinite.
Accessibility: The text is readable by screen reader and all images have descriptions. However some of the articles may not be easy to read if you struggle with literacy.
You can access the zine online here: https://bit.ly/32yT2bA
You can download the zine here: https://bit.ly/31EtIS8
(beware it is 20MB because it has a lot of pictures!)
Chorlton Arts Festival, 21 September 2019
The trees talk!
Communing, communicating, community. Inviting the people of Chorlton to listen to the trees and each other.
Talking with the trees
One month later…
Doing Hope: do-it-yourself!
What is hope? I think it’s a kind of faith in action – and we create hope when we take action. So hope is a renewable energy, and we renew it and relight it in each other, through collective action. We create hope by doing, we need hope to act. Doing Hope is committing to being part of that cycle. See my post on the Quakers’ blog here.
In 2014 I went on a training for activists experiencing burnout at Ecodharma in the mountains of Catalonia. There I began to see that my desire for radical social change and my need to nurture my inner resources are inseparable. As Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Peace in oneself, peace in the world.”
I wanted to find a way to share what I learned with people who might never go up that mountain. I wanted to find a way to enable others to do this for themselves. The Doing Hope workshop, described in this toolkit, is my attempt to do that.
You can download the toolkit as a PDF zine here: Doing Hope toolkit, or as a word document for screen readers here: Doing Hope toolkit for screen readers. If you would like to buy printed copies of the toolkit zine, or discuss facilitation of the workshop – or ask me to run a workshop – contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Much of the work we did was based in The Work that Reconnects, which is proudly ‘open source’ or ‘creative commons’. Doing Hope is an introduction to this wonderful body of work, and my modest contribution to its spread and development.
DemO Manchester 2012
In September 2016 I performed Democracy Outside one more time, in Manchester, as part of Loitering with Intent, a festival of psychogeography and creative intervention in public space.
Debate and discussion was lively – the players I recruited in advance performed superbly, from the heart, ad libbing their way passionately and relentlessly through lively and informed discussions about war, peace, justice, art. Two passersby stopped to join in and stayed to the end. Many more stopped to stare, curious – but apparently nervous.
In the four years since the DemO Tour of 2012 public space has changed. There is more wariness about what happens in public space. There seems to be more self-censorship on the part of citizens. There is a miasma of worry and fear about using public space for non-commercial activity. There is a preference to stand and watch.
I worry for our future.
DemO Manchester 2012
DemO Sheffield 2016
What is a ‘Potentia’? A Potentia is something that might just be possible; that could be within reach; that, maybe, you can get to from here – except that you’ll never get there, because it’s always evolving; dynamic; changeable, malleable; subject to human being and doing. Perhaps a Potentia is a process, not a thing. A way to approach possibilities for the future. A way to be together, talk to each other, create together.
(from the exhibition publication)
This performance was a revival of Democracy Outside on the streets of Sheffield, September 2016, as part of Second Degree Potentias: Start Where You Are, curated by Jane Lawson.
Unfortunately, it rained – a lot, but a few brave citizens, ranging in age from 5 to 50+, conducted a mighty discussion of dictatorship, climate change, human rights, and whether when something goes wrong in a country it is always or only the fault of the government.
DemO Sheffield 2016
photos: T Remiarz
There is only one body: the earth.
A tattoo: 396<. 396 is the highest number of parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached during the year I was born, 1971. The numbers and acronyms of climate change – “ppm”, “CO2” – are too abstract to connect to, they don’t seem relevant or real, and this makes it easy to forget or deny how we have permanently – aggressively, violently – marked the earth body through our human activity. And thus easy to forget or deny how we are, in turn, marked and scarred.
In September 2016 we passed 400ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere – permanently. This is the level that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is the point of no return, of inevitable irreversible climate change.
This action is a part of the Liberate Tate action Birthmark. Read Liberate Tate’s statement on the announcement that Tate will no longer take BP sponsorship.
DemO 2012 Brighton
The DemO 2012 tour took my participatory theatre of politics Democracy Outside to 6 English towns / cities between May and July 2012.
DemO 2012 Leeds
The weather, the crowds, and the debate were diverse to say the least! The experience showed that democratic debate is not expected in public places, but it’s often welcomed nonetheless. In 2012 there seemed to be a real appetite to talk about stuff, to share opinions. There was often a sense of hopefulness – as if by opening up public space and occupying it for discussion we might reach each other. I’d hoped that’s what the project would achieve. I always hoped to revive it one day…
Supported by Grants for the Arts and a wonderful collection of Goddesses of Democracy, radical co-operatives, and activists.
DemO 2012 Manchester
Honest and True tales
Honest and True was an audio installation in the Jury Room at Oxford Town Hall on Christmas Night Light, 2 December 2011.
We talk of ‘courtroom dramas’ and the ‘enactment of laws’, recognising that what goes on in a court room – the attempt to realise justice through legal processes – is performance. This performance is acted out by individuals, each one acting from their own set of beliefs, assumptions, prejudices, desires, privileges, and fears. These internal discourses are rarely openly acknowledged, much less expressed, but they form the core materials from which the scripts of each courtroom drama are written.
This is especially true for jurors – the amateur actors in the courtroom drama, prized for their ordinariness, non-professional, but hopefully never unprofessional. Any one of us can be a juror. For after all, what is justice but just us?
This piece is a collection of reflections on jury service by ordinary people, knitted together into one reflection, forcing us to face the universal nature of the issues we each grapple with as we pass judgement on each other in our communities, as we attempt to live in justice and harmony with one another. Played through 12 headsets arranged around the table in the Jury Room, the piece invited audiences to re-enact the process of reflecting as though serving on a jury.
Christmas Night Light is a project of OVADA Oxfordshire Visual Arts Agency.
This work was inspired in part by the paper ‘What Assumptions about Human Behaviour Underlie Asylum Judgements’, Gleeson, Herlihy & Turner 2010, an investigation into the assumptions that inform the judgements made by judges in the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.
For kit, many thanks to the lovely Duncan at Silentnoizevents.com
Grantham House, Cranham Street, Jericho
The largest single creative project I’ve undertaken. It was all about community. Which has the same root (‘communis’) as the word ‘communicate’. And after all, what is community but the ever-renewing creation of our local world through the relationships we build and maintain with each other? Through undertaking this project I found I had established and put down roots more deeply than I thought I could, and I felt the itching in my nomad’s feet subside somewhat. Perhaps because the project was not in my own community, and as artist and facilitator I found myself in the role I feel most comfortable in: sort-of-outsider, enabler, facilitator, happily sitting with my own ambivalence.
The project is archived here: http://openingtheheartofjericho.wordpress.com/
A downloadable booklet is on its way…
origami for peace
Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day.
This year, Lockheed Martin, the second biggest arms manufacturer in the world, and one of the contractors at my local atomic weapons establishment, Aldermaston AWE, has the contract to deliver the 2011 UK Census. As a long-time peace and anti-nuclear campaigner, my conscience will not permit me to collude with Lockheed Martins’ public relations department in trying to make this manufacturer of weapons of war look like a nice corporate citizen with a friendly civic face. So this is my response.