Solidarity in Europe
Coming from Britain, of course it is a challenging time to be talking about solidarity in Europe. Even before Covid-19, as a society we seemed to be facing inward and putting up borders rather than looking at how best to collaborate.
Within our society, people seem to be pulling in different directions, in opposition to each other. So the developing culture is not one of solidarity but on of individualism, opposition, mistrust and difference.
So for me that is the challenge...not to take sides but to find a radical middle ground that connects people rather than enhances divisions. To develop a culture from the bottom-up that encourages solidarity through development of the commons and common purpose.
And my contribution?
My work as an activist has always focused on developing and creating third spaces or spaces between people: between neighbourhoods; in public space; between people of different ages; using the airwaves and the digital space; between different cultures; between classes.
I am media-agnostic: I will work with any form of art that feels appropriate to create the desired space: to achieve creativity with purpose.
And my real interest is in training others; is finding ways and pathways for others interested in developing the art of creating and holding the space between.
A long time ago, on a project I was running in a mental health hospital, we asked for feedback on some work we had created in the shared space on one of the wards. We printed some special postcards for people to write their responses. Most people wrote things about what they liked, how they had been involved, or what they would change. But one postcard just had the following words written on it:
"Be open-minded, supportive, creative and brave."
I have no idea who wrote it, why they wrote it, or whether it was something particular to the work we were doing or just general advice.
But it has always stayed with me and I feel that I have grown into it over the years...the combination of qualities seem to be the key for me. To support but to be brave; to be creative but open...
How would I like to collaborate...
I am interested in learning, in comparing, in challenge and inspiration, in creating spaces between. To promote solidarity we need to live solidarity.
I am Co-Director of Heads Together Productions; a community arts organisation based in Leeds in the North of England. I run Chapel FM: a thriving community arts centre in East Leeds; and “UNION: The Northern School for Creativity and Activism”: a coaching programme for emerging community artists and social activists across the north of England,