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Archive for the ‘Austerity’ Category

PTDC0001I’ve been planning to have a go at the Bee in the city trail for several weeks now but kept putting it off. While it is possible to download the app and find the bees that way, I opted for one of the maps available from Central Library.

There are quite a lot of bees in and around Central Library as it turns out, both the full size statues and the “little bees”, which are half the size, and have been designed by children across Manchester and Greater Manchester. Each bee has a ‘sponsor’ and a theme, decided on by the artist and sponsor in collaboration.

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I didn’t get to see the Sylvia bee in suffragette colours at the People’s History Museum, but I intend to check her out at a later date. The Bling bee near Mount Street and the Bridgewater hall had a lot of children clustered around it, admiring it’s mirrored coat. Part disco bee, part intricate art. I got as many pictures of the ones I saw as I could but, with it being the tail end of the summer holidays, a lot of families were out bee spotting too and it felt like every time I got close to a bee I’d be mobbed by small children.

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I thoroughly approve of the whole Bee in the city project. I know that some people have reservations, in fact I overheard one of the mums near the Bling bee saying to another visitor that she’d had enough of bees by the time the art trail came round, but that seeing the statues has changed her mind.

Apparently the Bee app has various freebies and promotions attached to it that you can get when you visit and unlock specific bees. I’m guessing it’s done with QR codes, and it’s clearly a gameification technique, but I think of the bee art trail as being akin to a live action version of Pokémon Go anyway, so fair enough.

There will be some who will say that the money spent on Bee in the city could be spent on other things, that instead of traversing the city centre photographing bee statues we could go around photographing rough sleepers, that we’d probably snap as many rough sleepers as bees. I’m not sure what that would achieve but, yes, the numbers of rough sleepers, or homeless as I’d rather say, are extremely high in Manchester. And pretty much everywhere else in the UK at the moment.

Similarly, if the money hadn’t been spent on the public art trail, it’s not like it would have been spent on helping the homeless, or funding the NHS, or extending public transport. Because those things are funded differently.

You can talk of bread and circuses, the opium of the people, distractions from reality, but I only think that this is a valid argument if the phenomena in question is actually so all absorbing and distracting that it has a massive and distorting impact on society. I don’t feel that, however cool they are, the bees are likely to achieve that.

There is the question of sponsorship, of course, which invariably influences the content of the art. For example, one of the bees I saw today has been sponsored by Virgin Trains and has a pendolino theme to it, similarly Sylvia bee was sponsored by UNISON. But I think the stories that the bees help to tell (many discuss climate change and it’s impact on bees, many have ties to Manchester’s cultural, social and political history) cancel that out.

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Each bee has a sign attached to it’s base that advises you as to how to report damage to the bee in question. It seems sad that those signs have to be there but, unfortunately, some of the bees have been damaged. There is a dedicated team of workers who clean and mend the bees.

Similarly, there are signs on the bases advising you not to climb the bees as, to a small child, they do look rather irresistible in that respect. The no climb rule hasn’t stopped people from touching the bees however; I saw a lot of people, children and adults alike, gently patting or stroking bees that they had taken a shine to, and I think it’s a natural response to the art. The bees have very manga ish faces, with big eyes and a noble bearing. Some are quite smiley as well.

I have the map at hand and I intend to return to the fray in September. The bee quest continues.

Bee in the City runs until 23rd September around Manchester.

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I was really, really looking forward to the protest march at the Tory Party conference in Manchester. It’s become a biannual event for me, and I’ve been to the previous three marches here.

I was all set, I had my tiara and I heart MCR t-shirt all ready, but then… I got well and truly felled by a humungous migraine on Friday and have only been feeling more or less well again since this afternoon. Gutted.

Possibly because of the violence in both Catalonia and Marseille, there hasn’t been a mention of the march on the news. But the Manchester Evening News has a gallery and a bit of reporting.

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UoM%20scanned%20documentFollowing on from it’s small-but-perfectly-formed exhibition at the University of Manchester back in July 2016, Dr Sarah Marie Hall and Stef Bradley’s exhibition, Everyday Austerity, will be displayed at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford from 4th February until the 16th March.

If you didn’t see it last year, I heartily recommend that you see it at WCML. It is a very powerful, very inspiring piece of work that needs to be seen.

 

 

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UoM%20scanned%20documentJust over a week ago I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting Everyday Austerity: An Exhibition of Everyday Life in Austerity, a collaboration between Dr Sarah Marie Hall of the University of Manchester and Stef Bradley the zine maker, which was drawn from research compiled by Dr Hall on the subject of family life and austerity.

This was a beautifully executed, simple but effective, exhibition that was both smart and thought provoking, but never, ever miserable.

People think of austerity in simplistic shades of sepia and grey, and in doing so, they miss the complex, technicolour reality of it: It was how the six families were represented that was the really refreshing thing.

Each section of the exhibition made use of written introductions to the families, their own particular situations, and how austerity had affected them. These were set alongside a carefully arranged display box of visual representations – photographs, carrots from an allotment, a recipe for a bulk batch of veggie chilli, a book on how to cope financially in times of austerity, which was due to be flogged on eBay along with old children’s toys to raise funds… There were lists of worries, lists of things to buy that could be afforded that week… and these visual items were equally as powerful, as thoughtfully placed, as evocative, as the notes, and sections of the interviews, which could be listened to on iPod mini’s.

The interviews themselves were frank, honest, candid and refreshing in their neutrality. There was no steering of interviewees towards a particular narrative, no aggressive questioning, because this is research, not journalistic vox pops, and it was part of the patchwork of field work, a long story, not a short, knee jerk story impulsively yanked from the unsuspecting.

We were asked to answer questions regarding our own views of austerity before, during and after viewing the exhibition, the idea being to measure if people’s views changed, and if so, how.  While my own views hadn’t shifted too much, what the exhibition brought home to me was the amount of creativity and ingenuity being brought to bear on the unyielding sanctions and limitations of austerity by those most affected by them. Oh, not in a Blitz Spirit ‘Let’s all pull together’ kind of way, more in a ‘Batten down the hatches, lets work through this bastard’ kind of way.

What this work does is provide a multi faceted, complex picture of austerity in the UK. It is not Benefits Street, but nor is it Das Kapital, it is – in many ways – refreshingly neutral. Which, as a position, is needed.

There are plans to create a zine from the exhibition, using the research, which might seem an odd concept but, in the context of the seismic shifts of perspective zine making has undergone these past ten years or so, with writers and creators increasingly focusing on areas such as psycho-geography, on cities and the writers relationship with the city in which they live, it perhaps isn’t so surprising to find a zine concerned with austerity.

Daniel Defoe’s A Journal Of The Plague Year, George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London… Why not a documentation of the realities of austerity? State of the nation, or kitchen sink, dramas are no longer written. There will be no Love on the dole, or The Manchester Man, nor even no Ruined City, but Everyday Austerity: The Zine will fulfill a similar role. It won’t be done for entertainment, nor will it be done for titillation, or voyeurism, but for knowledge, for education, for remembering, for empathy and understanding.

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