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Archive for the ‘Political Deconsctruction’ Category

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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On Sunday 20th November the Working Class Movement Library in Salford is hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon around the fight for the right to vote, from Peterloo in 1818 to the lowering of the voting age in 1969.

The event, which is part of UK Parliament Week 2016, takes place at the Library on Sunday 20 November from 10am to 4pm – just bring a laptop and a packed lunch, and we’ll provide the coffee… It’s suitable for adults and young people, particularly for those with experience of editing Wikipedia or knowledge of British political history. The event, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Library/Museum’s joint Collecting Cultures project, is free but advance booking is required via Eventbrite – http://votingforchangewiki.eventbrite.co.uk.

In a more specific context:

The event is being run in conjunction with Manchester Girl Geeks and in partnership with Wikimedia UK. John Lubbock, communications coordinator for Wikimedia UK, said: ‘Wikipedia is only as good as the people who are writing it, and for that reason we spend a lot of effort to engage groups of people who may not have traditionally considered contributing to the Web site. It is estimated that somewhere between 80 and 90% of the editors of English Wikipedia are men, and most of these would be European or North American. For this reason, you get a lot of content on Wikipedia which appeals to slightly geeky niche interests, but far less coverage of the lives of important historical women or the culture of ethnic minority communities. We aim to turn knowledge consumers into producers and authors of a new, engaged culture of knowledge production. So why not join in and help us realise this ambitious vision?’.

Secondly, but equally as importantly, in the shadow of last weeks events in America, and the feeling that the lights are going off not just all over America, but around the world… Hope Not Hate are organising a weekend of action 3rd and 4th December to spread their message in local communities.

If you’d like to help, you can register here: http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/weekend-of-action-2016-12

Post EU Referendum, a number of people (friends and acquaintances of mine , but also some journalists) have compared the vote for Trump to the vote in June for Brexit: The second horseman of the apocalypse has just ridden up, and who is that we see riding towards us on a third horse in the distance? Why, it’s Marine Le Pen…

Britain is experiencing a rise in racism and the far right feels confident and bullish. It is vital that we start providing people with an alternative message. There will be activities across the UK, with different leaflets and messages produced for different areas.

We are living in dark and difficult times but it is precisely at moments like this that we need to redouble our efforts and get organised.

On Sunday, as part of the Louder Than Words music literature festival, I was privileged to see a film made of 1986’s Red Wedge Tour, Days Like These. It was incredibly moving and inspiring and really makes you think… It is time to Get Busy again.

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I should have taken a photo of this… Maybe next week, if it’s still there.

At work, in our admin area, we have a communal fridge, which we have since acquired a set of alphabetic fridge magnets for. When people are loitering by the laminator, waiting for it to warm up, or waiting for the kettle to boil, or for a computer to unknot itself, we sometimes play with the fridge magnets.

Sometimes, when the urge takes us, in the light of upsetting news perhaps, we are moved to create messages in magnetic letters on the communal fridge in an unconscious tribute perhaps to those UK citizens of the 18th and 19th centuries who were moved to scrawl social commentary on walls in chalk.

Earlier this year, we had ‘RIP David Bowie, Lemmy, Alan Rickman’ up on the fridge for a number of weeks.

From Wednesday 9th November, we’ve had a simple one word message:

Doomed

 

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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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Following the outcome of the EU Referendum, I had a conversation with my mum that inspired me to make my first Freedom of Information request. Given the precarious nature of FOI legislation, it was very much a case of “Quick, before whoever the next Prime Minister is scraps it…” because FOI allows both journalists and members of the public to ask awkward questions, and when they get the answers (if they get the answers…), to tell other people about them, who then tell other people, who often then get very very cross… Some stories/campaigns that would have been impossible without FOI would include the expenses scandal and Private Eye’s map of offshore owned property in the UK.

Anyway, my mum spoiled her ballot paper in the referendum by writing “You are all lying” on it, and we wondered how many other people had spoiled the ballot paper. Or, to put it another way, how many people had looked at the paper and decided, for various reasons, not to answer the question.

As it turned out, I needn’t have submitted a FOI request to the Electoral Commission because they were planning to publish the the information anyway on their website.

It makes interesting reading, and has made me realise just how complex the issue is. In the spreadsheet, reasons for rejecting a ballot paper are listed under four different columns, headed respectively:

  • No official mark
  • Voting for both answers
  • Writing or mark
  • Unmarked or void

I’ve tried to add up the total result of rejected ballot’s but lost count a few times. That said, I can definitely say that the answer is either 25,240 or 25,359 as one wards figure of 119 may have been counted once or twice.

So, that’s just over 25,000 people who voted, but didn’t vote Remain or Leave.

Of the four reasons listed above, my mums spoiled ballot paper would fall into number 3. But it was number 2 that intrigued me the most: Voting for both answers.

There was a social media campaign a few days before the vote, urging people who weren’t sure which way to vote to vote Remain. But, that said, voting both ways is another way of saying you weren’t sure.

There were a total of 9,084 people who voted for both answers.

Of those who voted for both answers, the highest number of people voting this way were in Birmingham (311), Brent (157) and Leicester (154), there were also over 100 votes cast this way in each of the following areas:

  • Leeds
  • Bradford
  • Northern Ireland
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Lambeth
  • Ealing

I can’t help but think that these nine thousand and eighty four people have so far been excluded from the often vitriolic debates around voting motivations, post Brexit. No doubt a lot of them are quite pleased about that, but it does mean that there’s a whole dimension to the debate that hasn’t been discussed yet. One that I personally find more interesting than facile smug commentary by London journalists on the population of Blackpool, as heard on Radio 4 recently. That said, the piece on Boston and Brexit in the Economist was a much more intelligent piece.

 

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