The big scheme

This is a social change job application I recently submitted, which was rejected. One of my referees told me I should blog it, so here we go. I’ve been trying to find a way of making something like this happen for years, so if you want to hire me to make this happen, can help or have suggestions for improving it all, contact me. And if you want to help me keep going alone, I have a patreon.

Dear <redacted>,

Firstly I’d like to thank and commend you for offering this role as a remote position. I’m a nomad – I live in a bus in Australia – and find it’s exceedingly rare to find paid roles in this field which don’t require you to stay in one location. Subsequently I’ve been mostly working solo, unpaid, developing ways of bringing creativity and technology together toward progressive social change. Over the last few years I’ve been learning about social change organising, strategising, scheming, testing and delivering various approaches to this. I may well not be the person you seek for this role, but I would like to take the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Should any of it stick, we should talk!

My process
I’m largely a Media Arts Creative Producer by ‘trade’, which for me means that I have ideas and I make them happen. I don’t work exclusively with any one media, community or cause. My process starts with what I need to say, who I need to say it to, then choosing the most suitable format for that combination. From there I can determine who and what is required to bring it to life, where it is best placed to happen, and how I’m going to be able to resource it all (I’m pretty good at fundraising). Once I’ve made it happen I evaluate how it went and progress to the next challenge.

I started living in my bus almost four years ago. Freedom from rent allowed me to follow my heart with less pressure to conform to societal norms. Subsequently I began working on more and more social change focuses, which lead me to realise that making art and making change are almost exactly the same process.

Most of my twenty years working within creative digital culture have been spent encouraging others to build and maintain their own online presence through education programs, initiatives and commissions. One of my central interests has been in helping people to discover their inner geek, empowering them with the skills and confidence to amplify their voice and reach with all the opportunities the internet world promised. These days my pragmatic cynicism has me spending less time on technoevangelising and more time pointing out the risks and threats to our online presence since privacy and net neutrality became the enemy of neoliberalism. The tentative balances between public/private, promotion/protection, signal/noise have me questioning where we are letting ourselves be lead, and what we can do about it. Where my previous works put technology front and centre, my recent work actively demands you switch your mobile device off before engaging with yourself, in a hammock.

In terms of campaign organising I see myself as a relative n00b. Despite growing up in Thatcher’s Britain, marching with the multitudes, and all my years educating artists in maintaining their own rights, I only started becoming actively involved in the back end of organising in the last few years. In that time I’ve observed that while grassroots organising is getting smarter and better equipped to initiate and harness virality, we still sorely lack a greater intra-connection between groups. Partly this can be attributed to a lack of digital literacy, partly to a lack of time available to explore the unknown potential technology can provide when done well. My feeling is that with smarter big picture reflection, research, strategising, training and implementation, we could transform a thousand grassroots siloes into a single decentralised network comprising hundreds of thousands of articulate voices. The beauty of the decentralised network is in its recognition that no one size fits all, yet no one voice or brand speaks alone.

Here’s a ballpark of what I’d like to do, if invited to join your team (with the obvious provisos regarding your own visions and inputs, of course!):

  • Visit you and your teams, wherever they are based, along with representatives of key movements around the globe (e.g. BLM, Occupy, Liberate Tate, Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance/WACA, Standing Rock/DAPL protesters, Voices of the 3% Aboriginal campaigners, amongst many others). Interview them about their people, process, messages and technologies and analyse them using qualitative (anecdotal, case studies) and quantitative (surveys, stats/data) methodologies.
  • Explore existing offerings (such as Network Builder, Loomio, and others) in light of the analysis to see what’s missing and what could be improved upon. (It’s worth noting that Network Builder is currently the most popular campaign platform in AU right now, but I find it to be frustratingly expensive for grassroots movements and is often used more like a blog than its cross-campaign potential could allow).
  • Create collaborations between activists and artists (especially media artists, writers and craftivists), researchers, technologists, educators, health workers/carers, legal minds and scientists to produce training materials for each discipline working with interdisciplinary practice in mind (there’s more on my reasons for singling out these types below).
  • Build on an activist resource (something along the lines of a wiki I started sketching out a while ago,, and a regular physical/online book club meetup for informal info sharing and discussion (again I started a format for this, which feed back into each other and feed in/out to similar online repositories/networks such as Beautiful Trouble, preventing the reinvention of wheels. This is both for knowledge sharing and a support group and could include a series of education programs/discussion sessions in ‘how to disagree pleasantly’, ‘how to check your privilege’, ‘how to motivate occasionals’, ‘how to maintain momentum’, ‘how to lobby’, ‘how to secure your communications’, etc (the kind of things they don’t teach you in school, only with teachers notes so progressive teachers can do exactly that).
  • These findings and outcomes will then become offerings – a touring training, train the trainer and ambassador program – which can be made available for free and delivered to grassroots campaigners (online and in person, wherever they are based) in many languages and from many cultural perspectives (and in whatever media format they prefer), along with a mentoring program and the open source, secure, networking and support group (helping them to better help themselves and each other).
  • Build on these expanding communities to collectively build a vision of the future which isn’t two party politics and explores alternative systems (anarchosyndicalism and The Commons are my personal preference, for the record), with progressive economists (e.g. Richard Denniss in AU) presenting analysis of things like LETS schemes and basic income models.

Target Audience
I should explain that my target audience here are largely the grassroots organisers as I feel those are the people/collectives who do the most risky work, who typically have the least digital literacy, and who need the most help. I don’t believe it’s worth wasting time trying to change the mindset of the masses and their naysayers. I feel the best strategy here is the same as the media arts strategy I have always worked toward: amplify and support the work of those who already ‘get it’; join the dots in decentralised networks so they know they are not alone and can build better network nodes of their own; support them (and let the technology support them) to make more work, better work, and for that work to reach more eyes and ears. A bespoke injection into one group leads to their own expansion, which brings in new audiences, new collaborators, new works, etc etc as a viral loop. In time our niches will inevitably become the new mainstream (something I actually believe has already happened, but we don’t realise it broadly, yet). My secondary target audience are those who are currently sitting awkwardly on fences. They may have always voted conservatively, but their consciences are poking at them; they know instinctively that what is going on around them is wrong, they just don’t know what they can do about it given the entire electoral & governance system has collapsed into a capitalist, self-serving, mess. They can be brought over with the gentle nurturing we used to apply to non-digital natives; find the appropriate reason for them to care and non-threatening actions to get them started and they’ll become their own ambassadors to their own networks.

I read some US research last year which said that around 80% of people believe that change is possible, but that the same amount believed others don’t believe it. I believe we have reached a tipping point, that more people now are ready for change than ever. I believe it will get worse before it gets better (especially for our most vulnerable, First Nations peoples, POC, refugees, etc) but that it will get better… if only we can harness this new acceptance of change, NOW. What we’ve got is a perception problem. This is why I feel my experience within the arts makes so much sense within all this; Artists deal precisely with perception, it’s what we do.

I mentioned collaborations with activists and artists, researchers, technologists, educators, health workers/carers, legal minds and scientists. My reasoning is that all humanities funding is being slashed in UK and AU, and while US funding works differently your workers in these areas face similar challenges. In the age of austerity we are told to drop these ‘hobbies’ and become independently economically viable or sanitise our messages in exchange for unethical sponsorship. This means there’s a huge group of very pissed off, very intelligent, very passionate and hard working individuals just waiting for somewhere to constructively focus that frustration. Let’s give it to them; let’s see how interdisciplinary thinking and action delivered through platform cooperativism can help agitate and amalgamate our collective noise.

Human-centred technologies
In terms of where we host this information/how we run these decentralised networks, I’m not suggesting that we build a new platform (not unless it genuinely is the only way, which right now I don’t). I do however feel we rely far too heavily on corporate platforms which are closed source, proprietary, and offer next to no privacy/protection. If/when Facebook/Twitter choose/are forced to take down those of us who use those platforms, we will have wasted all that time and energy for all concerned, and we’ll have to start rebuilding all over again. We haven’t got time or energies to invest in the unsustainable. Most technology assumes their users are static – the mobile interfaces of today are far more desktop than mobility oriented, sadly. Many campaigners work on the hoof, out on front line locations or with migrant communities whether climate or war induced. We need a return to mobility thinkings, more playfully designed serious interactions and more humanly-oriented interfaces. We need design for time saving and clarity, and full open integration to still enable messages to reach across the myriad of closed platforms (of course including fb/tw).

Everyone is exhausted, damaged, burned out. We have an intolerably high suicide rate within activism, which is hardly surprising. My belief is that we can better use technology, creatively, to change that. We can be smarter, we can connect the dots and multiply actions more humanly, strategically, and with the greatest viral impact at the moment we need it most, as well as better generating, monitoring and maintaining momentum.

My experience
You may be reading this thinking ‘she’s nuts’… and in a way you’d be right. But I’m the right kind of nuts. These ideas might sound unachievable, but I’ve previously pioneered ways of working and thinking that were considered equally unrealistic. Seventeen years ago I trained a community of elderly housing tenants to produce and run their own Internet TV studio (it’s still going today). Around the same time I co-founded and ran an arts organisation which recognised the potential of the technology you carry in your pocket and empowered artists, researchers, educators and businesses to work in the now ubiquitous mobile content sector. Seven years ago I ran a strategic initiative at Australia’s federal arts funding body which challenged the notion of intellectual property rights in the digital age and created a “Geek in Residence” program, designed to enable holistic cultural shifts within arts organisations by subsidising media arts/technologist placements within arts organisations (and which other communities have since adopted). Five years ago I created a statement within my lifestyle choice which rejects the norm and celebrates otherness and humanness in a world fixated on homogeneity and capitalism. This year I managed to use arts funding to run a social change campaign for Boandik Indigenous Peoples. I’ve traversed sectors and continents and am known and trusted to get shit done whether I’m running a $2.4 million dollar budget or bartering (although the latter is my preference). I don’t believe this is impossible. Difficult, yes. Yet another thing to ask of campaigners, most likely, yes. But not impossible.

Personally, I’m done with complying. I’m done with pretending it will all get better if only we’re just patient and play the game. The game is rigged and we – those with hearts full of anguish instead of greed – are the losers, no matter how well we play. As I mentioned, I’ve been building these ideas largely alone, but this isn’t something one person could achieve alone, nor would a single approach be successful for something like this. No matter what I do, what I learn, or with whom I’m collaborating, I am always going to perceive existence through the lens of an educated white British woman. While I’ve never lived in luxury (nor wanted to) I can never entirely deny my privilege. But if I can’t get rid of it I’m damn well going to do whatever I can to use it to improve the lives of others. This vision is where I’ve got to so far. Some of it I have practised with grassroots communities (;, some are things I’d like to explore further. Maybe that’s with you, maybe elsewhere. I’ve tried pitching this to social change fellowships previously and been rejected because my ideas are ‘too big’ or ‘not focusing on one single cause’. As a experimental media artist twenty years ago I received the same responses (even from people who should know better – as with Douglas Rushkoff’s testimonial from the media virus I created for his novel Ecstasy Club in 1997). I was right then and I genuinely believe there’s a lot of good in what I’ve achieved with all this so far. Maybe I’m right this time, too.

Apologies for the extremely long cover letter, but I hope you can appreciate why I felt the need to present it. My CV (one for the arts works and one for social change, sometimes with crossovers) is attached. Should you require references, I have asked <redacted> to respond to requests, but can happily provide contacts for my longer media arts world experiences too.

Wishing you the very best with your selection process, whatever the outcome.
With much admiration and respect for what you do,
Yours sincerely, fee.

rcws – being rowdy in Kingston SE

#homeJames in Kingston SE


I’m parked at the free camp spot on Kingston SE’s foreshore in the South East of South Australia. It’s a really lovely site that’s quiet enough to get some work done (while looking at pretty views) and close enough to the township if you want to stroll in and be more social. The locals are lovely here, so friendly, I always enjoy visiting.

I’m working on a project down here, a campaign to Save Nora Creina‘s pristine coastal conservation area from being turned into a golf course. This is one of many trips I’ve made to the Limestone Coast region, meeting the locals, getting the lay of the land and working with the community on extending their campaign. (more on that to come real soon).

So I’m sitting in #homeJames in my favourite corner of the free camp spot when a car pulls up.
“Hey, enjoying the campsite?”
“Hi! Yeah, I love it here, and always love a free camp, especially one this beautiful.”
“Did you find it on WikiCamps?” [an app where you can add and comment on free camping spots around Australia; invaluable for a nomad]
“Yeah I did, a while ago now but I found it there the first time I was in the area.”
“Did you leave a comment there?”
“No, I haven’t actually. I do sometimes but I haven’t with this one yet.”
“Can you, please? You see, we had someone down here recently who bagged the place.”
“Really? Ugh, some people are just idiots. They expect hot showers and shared kitchens and people to clean up their rubbish wherever they go. If you want those sorts of services you go to ‘proper’ campsites – or a hotel! I prefer this sort myself.”
“Yeah, well, you see this Council is quite rare; they provide this camp spot for free but they also run the caravan park here too. We want to make sure this site remains free, so it would be really useful if you added a comment, you know, to show that was only one negative amongst many positives?”
“Sure! I’d be happy to. And thank you for caring enough to ask.”

We have the usual chat about where I’m from, where I’ve been, what I do, where I’m going next. I tell him about the campaign in Nora Creina. He says “but there’s already a golf course down there, isn’t there?” I agree, there’s one in Robe, another here in Kingston, one in Millicent and Beachport and another development just approved for Kangaroo Island… we chat about the absurdity of personal profits overulling concern for the environment. I tell him that I’m about to publish a survey and website and make a short film about it all (which is what I’m sitting here working on as he drove up).

I wish I had something to give him now so he could contribute and pass it around the town, but it’s not ready yet. So I ask for his email address so I can forward it to him when it’s live. Without hesitation he tells me his address, being careful to spell it all out so I have it down correctly. I ask his name, “Rowdy”, he says. We share a grin appropriate for such a moniker and say our goodbyes. As he leaves I ponder what else about this lovely gentleman lead to the nickname. Maybe I’ll ask him when I send the email.

Thanks Kingston SE. You’ve reinforced my love for this spot. Expect your WikiCamps comment before the end of the day x

Are you sure you want to remove Politics?

screengrab from facebook asking “Are you sure you want to remove Politics?”

screengrab from facebook asking “Are you sure you want to remove Politics?”

Facebook has changed its algorithm, again. Cue critics of change, critics of Facebook, critics of anything-anti-business; especially those businesses which (quite remarkably) are the ones being demoted with this latest shift. Or so it would appear.

“People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content”, their update says. In theory this should be a good thing. In practice it comes only shortly after the rollout of “Topics”, the auto-inserted tagging system. Databasing ‘thought’, shared.

For those like me (who do not want their posts to be neatly commodified into saleable, trendable packages for the benefit of Facebook’s commercial partners) you can remove those tags before hitting ‘publish’. However if you happen to edit your posts (which I frequently do, to correct typos or add extra links or updates) and hit ‘publish’ for the second time, those tags mysteriously, frustratingly, re-appear. There’s no ‘opt out of auto-tagging everything’ option, so I find myself meticulously re-checking every post, even scanning whole pages of posts to check that errant Topics haven’t been added ‘for my convenience’, and removing them when they invariably have.

Last night I noticed something that really concerned me. I’d shared a post, the voice of someone I know from Australia who was at the protests in Dallas. Manal Younus is a powerful spoken word performer and writer. Her post shared her perspective of a day full of so much beauty and love, conflicted with grief and horror. It’s a beautiful read for its humanness, its simplicity, its reveal of abundant togetherness and solidarity in the face of a world driven by hate and fear. But it had the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, so of course Facebook auto-tagged it “Politics”. (Manal also happens to be Muslim; given what came next I’m grateful Facebook does not, yet, auto-tag by religion).

I did what I always do, de-tagged the Topic and hit ‘publish’. Then I realised I’d tagged Manal’s personal profile not her Page and, both respecting her privacy and wanting to help connect those who want more access to her work, I edited it to change the link and hit ‘publish’ once more. The ‘Politics’ tag had re-appeared, so, sighing, I hit ‘edit’ again. I was using my mobile (where I hadn’t noticed this problem before) where this time it seemed I didn’t have access to ‘remove topics’ . Worse, when looking for the ‘remove topics’ link, I saw something I’d never noticed before: an invitation to “Hide posts about Politics from Reallybigroadtrip” (my page).

screengrab from facebook asking if I wanted to “Hide posts about Politics from Reallybigroadtrip” (my page)

screengrab from facebook asking if I wanted to “Hide posts about Politics from Reallybigroadtrip” (my page)

I talk about Politics a lot (“no kidding”, says everyone who’s ever met me). I happen to think everyone should talk about Politics; indeed they do, they just don’t think they do. I talk to a lot of people who say they don’t care about Politics, who say they have no opinion. Yet lean toward the slightest questioning and watch as opinions and values roll out. Politics isn’t cool. We shouldn’t rock the boat. We have it easy, we shouldn’t complain. It’s not ‘our place’ to speak out.

Far too many people have been given the impression that Politics isn’t their domain. It is. It’s everyone’s domain. The thought of excluding all mention of it frankly appals me.

We already know Facebook is an echo chamber. It (and other closed-web platforms) reinforce our bubbles, show us what we should be reading according to where we are, who we know and what we’ve previously liked. This streamlining might make us feel more comfortable but it does nothing to open our eyes to the world outside. Being able to additionally remove all mention of something that Facebook’s algorithm deems “Politics” can only harm us, sanitise us further from seeing through the eyes of ‘otherness’ and the empathy that brings.

My Facebook feeds feature Governmental Politics and creative social change embedded within contexts of art, technology, buslife, intentional communities, natural environments. They include reminders of extreme beauty and harsh truths — often juxtaposed in the same status update. I try not to preach and I’m trying to get better at ‘show don’t tell’, but I often fail — the curse of both privilege and generations of preachers in my ancestry (I’m a begrudging Vicar’s daughter). So if someone doesn’t want to be preached at, even occasionally, even unintentionally, then they’re probably best off not following my social feeds. But when they do, and when there’s art and beauty mentioned alongside the politics of fear and hatred, why should they be denied access to both simply for Facebook asserting the dominance of one?

So much of society’s problem is precisely due to this dominant assertion; otherness is best kept out of sight, out of mind. When reading that invitation to exclude, “Hide posts about Politics from Reallybigroadtrip”, part of me wanted to shout “Seriously? You want to read Reallybigroadtrip but only when there’s no mention of Politics? Then unfollow me, because you won’t see much else” but that would be doing exactly what their invitation intends to — distancing the communication, compounding the problem. I spend much of my time in random conversations with strangers specifically because I want to hear from people with views that are not my own. Of course this comes with difficulties; I don’t enjoy hearing bigotry, but I do want to understand why someone can be bigoted, and the only way that’s possible is by actively conversing with bigots.

I applaud Facebook for changing their algorithm away from preferencing business, but I continue to dislike their commodification of our thoughts and ideas into re-sellable packages. I reject that my thoughts, all thought, are deemed a meagre product in their trends analysis. And I deeply mistrust their intentions when inviting exclusion to entire topics, never mind when those topics are determined by algorithm.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” is the regular mantra delivered in response to the straight/white/male norm. Those who believe they are becoming oppressed have had it all their own way for so long they can no longer even see it for what it is. The monopoly of mainstream media, the homogeneity of TV and Film, and the proliferation of echo chambers do nothing to challenge this norm. It has to be your decision to look beyond. You choose to pull back the curtain, or you comply and accept the status quo.

I believe the only way we are going to get past increasing unrest is by allowing the outside in, by embracing otherness for all its wonder instead of building yet more walls to keep it out. I long for the day when more people see more diversity, more marginalised voices, more otherness. In order for society to heal and move toward a more open and balanced collective harmony, we need to start seeing, start hearing. Doing so loses nothing and gains everything.

So, no, Facebook; I do not want to hide Politics. I do not want Facebook to even offer the hiding of Politics. And I would warmly welcome anyone who has hidden Politics from Reallybigroadtrip, or any other page, to come and talk to me about it. I promise I will listen.

Do read the comments!

"never read the comments" bracelet. image credit: jessamyn west CC: by-nc-sa

“never read the comments” bracelet. image credit: jessamyn west CC: by-nc-sa 

The whole arts sector has #freethearts; peak arts bodies have ArtsPeak; visual artists and visual arts orgs have NAVA; performing arts has the Theatre Network; Majors have AMPAG… but there is NO ONE to represent the needs and concerns of the interdisciplinary, inter-dependent artist in Australia. So a few of us have decided to come together, as The Protagonists, to fill that gap within the sector-wide discussions.

As part of our short-term strategies for a stronger voice for the indies, we’re calling for a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION on JUNE 17th. The idea is for anyone, to do anything, anywhere they like. All we ask is that you share your action with us so that others can join you, or be inspired to create their own. We don’t have time; we don’t have money; we are not organising anything specifically other than collating everyone’s actions; we know how bloody hard it is to do ANYTHING without the security of a regular income; but WE CAN DO THIS!


My action is something I’ve been thinking about doing for ages, originally as an anti-TPP approach, but I’ll see how this one goes and then quite possibly do it again. Or YOU can, coz, yknow, it’s a free country (sort of).

We all know the adage, “Never read the comments!”. It’s what we say whenever there’s a positive article about a niche issue in mainstream media, which we read with delight (‘yay they hear us!’) and then we read the comments (‘UGH’). At which point we want to gouge out our own eyes with our fingernails and slit our throats with a paperknife… because if that’s how the ‘average Australian’ thinks, well, we frankly must deserve the impending annihilation of our species.

BUT WAIT… what if these aren’t the voices of the mainstream? What if they’re the voices of a few people who genuinely don’t understand the issue or who have been brainwashed by haters? What if we actually engaged in open, friendly, dialogue with these people? Couldn’t we, maybe, possibly, actually change their minds and even learn something ourselves in the process?

So here’s the plan:

  1. Register with all mainstream media websites for the day (you should be able to get a trial for free);
  2. Search for all arts commentary within each site and read/respond to every comment that speaks negatively to the arts;
  3. DO: be positive, open, constructive, friendly, and above all, listen. DO NOT: be sarcastic, aggressive, patronising, shouty, or feed the trolls.
  4. Tag each comment with #artprotagonists and the url so readers can see what we’re doing and why.
  5. Screengrab any cool convos and share them with us via our hashtag #artprotagonists, to our Facebook Page, Twitter handle, or our blog. Or if you prefer, email us:

Notes on dealing with trolls:

  1. Don’t. Just don’t.
  2. Not all argumentative/opinionated people on the internet are trolls, many are simply defensive because they’re expecting to have to defend themselves. If you’re not sure whether they are actually a troll or not, I generally go for the ‘three strikes’ rule: If they are argumentative, try responding in a gentle manner that explains you’re simply trying to better understand where they’re coming from. If they can’t provide any semblance of rational, open exchange within three responses: stop all communications with them immediately (no matter how much they attempt to trigger you).
  3. If you have particular trouble and need advice or backup, I’ll be around via @feesable (or any other form of contact) on the day and would be happy to join your convo and provide direct support if needed.
  4. If you don’t know what a troll is, you’re a Very Lucky Human!

So, there’s my action. It’s small but I’m sure will make for a busy day!

What will YOU do? Share your action via our Call to Action page, and above all: have fun!

The Protagonists

Arts, Culture, Politics and Grief

my sign at the rally against the proposed $8.5million cuts to South Australian arts funding "Fund Fresh Arts, Not Old Farts! Art That Thumps, Not Toxic Dumps!"

my sign at the rally against the proposed $8.5million cuts to South Australian arts funding

And so it begins. The bad news rolls in for some, while others breathe a sigh of guarded relief. We all know how fragile things are, for everyone. Fuck.

Arts organisations across the country are finding out this week if they got their four-year funding or not. The next funding round won’t be until 2019, so for (far too) many, that means closure. This is the outcome of last year’s $104.7million Australia Council for the Arts heist by Senator Brandis (a year to the day, pretty much). The entire arts sector has been on tenterhooks ever since — like we needed any additional anxiety to cope with. Hopefully we’ll oust this fuckwit of a government in a couple of months, but even if we did (and even if we got more money for the sector because of it), for many it would be too little, too late. For South Australia, where we have the threat of a further $8.5million cuts looming, this could mark the end of the Festival State… but it’s OK, because we will be saved by Toxic Waste, right? Ugh. No.

Before the trolls come out with “I don’t want my tax dollars wasted on you artist dole bludgers”, let me say this. The problem with these cuts is not that a few plays or exhibitions won’t be happening; it’s about the bigger picture, the long term perspective, the ecosystem. These cuts will leave a big gaping hole where less genuine meaning comes into our lives, even if just on the periphery. Everyone who has ever read a book, listened to music, been to the movies, watched a play or attended a Festival… all those stars you admire, who make you laugh or cry, who you follow on social media to feel a deeper connection to their lives because they MEAN something to you… they all had to start somewhere. Even the ‘high arts’, the swanky “Major Performing Arts” companies (who have mostly remained deathly silent over the last year), even they will notice when their orchestras, ballets, operas and stages fall silent.

Think about the sporting ecosystem. If there were no youth teams today there could be no World Cups of the future. It’s that simple. It’s the kids who won’t get to be part of a youth theatre group, the experimenters who won’t have anywhere to go to find out if their insanity might not actually be golden. We’re suffocating our future for the sake of an offensive drop in the budgetary ocean. And we’re doing it while storing planes we don’t fly and building subs we won’t use, while tax sits rotting in offshore havens. We have the money. We can afford to give ourselves a reasonable, human, existence. And art is a vital part of that existence. Art’s value is long term and meaningful, not short term and economic. We’re killing our souls, just like we’re killing our planet.

Some say that artists have it easy by comparison to, say, those affected by the end of the car manufacturing industry, or the gaping hole of transition required once the mining industry goes down (which it will). We certainly have it easier than the hundreds of asylum seekers locked up in our concentration camps or the Indigenous communities still living in asbestos-ridden homes. And yet our failure to identify arts and culture as a core element of life is one of the reasons we have ended up so commodified and dehumanised in contemporary society. We have lost touch with nature, beauty, pause and reflection. Isn’t it time we recognised that and put the needs of our souls on the same priority level as feeding our bodies and advancing our minds in these upcoming elections? Conversations about art are so often made about money in these times, but that misses the point. Life is about so much more than how much we earn, what car we drive, where we live.

Some say that yes, this is harsh, but it will be good for us in the long term. Necessity is the mother of invention, limit the artist and you lend them wings, yes, all of that for sure. We will rebuild, again, and we will be stronger because of it, again. But this is gonna hurt before it gets better.

So to my friends and colleagues across the country struggling with the rollout of news, please do something for me. Please give yourselves a big fucking hug. You’re all brilliant, strong, resilient motherfuckers, even if you don’t feel that way right now. I have the utmost admiration for all of you and what you do and I am proud to have so many of you in my personal corner of this vast ecosystem. This is shitty, really really really shitty. But you’re cunning little buggers, the lot of you. You’ll either find another way to keep going, or you’ll reinvent. After all, making the beautiful from the blank is what you do. And wow do you do it well.

After you’ve give yourselves (and each other) a hug, regardless of outcome or even your proximity to these announcements, please allow yourselves time to grieve. You may not feel you deserve to, you may feel more sorry for others than you do for yourselves, but we are all in this together — what hurts one, hurts all. Recognise the need to grieve for yourself, for your colleagues, for youth arts and for audiences of the future.

And then get angry, but turn that anger’s focus outward, toward the election. All that creative energy you have exploding within you is perfectly designed to become direct action, small or large. Organise Flash Mobs. Participate in rallies. Lie down on the streets in tutus. Read — and reply to — the comments. Door knock in Tory districts. Get out on the streets and talk to strangers. Ask if their kids enjoy dancing, playing an instrument, art class, circus school, etc etc etc… then remind them that none of that will exist if we allow this neoliberal onslaught to continue. My hope is that even Conservatives might, maybe, possibly, have souls too. Let’s use our creative passion to help them relocate theirs. We don’t need to argue in economic terms, we need to connect in emotional ones.

We can do this. We have to do this.

My deepest love to all of you. Be good to yourselves, we need you. x