Note: One must always try to hear the other side. SIG
Review: #LIFTChange Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free. Reviewed by Ben DeVere.
“Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free” was the fifth event in LIFT’s Change for a Tenner! season, dedicated to exploring ideas around social and political change. We were introduced to eight campaigners who demand change through sometimes bonkers and often beautiful acts in The Yard Theatre, Hackney Wick. Why do they do it? When will they stop? Are they making a point, or do they really believe that a change is going to come?
First up was Ellie Harrison who pointed out that today’s eccentricity is tomorrow’s common sense, and took us through her (really very sensible) campaign to Bring Back British Rail. The most eccentric idea on her menu was of politicians admitting they’d made a mistake. Wessex Regionalist Colin Bex wasn’t very silly either. A very English secessionist, he upped the non-nonsense by reasonably setting out a localist agenda in the name of autonomy and old school common sense. A lovely man with a fine beard, socked feet in sandals and lots of badges. You know the type. Probably a rambler.
Things threatened to get a bit more eccentric when the man who interrupted the boat race in 2012 took the stage with a campaign “for more white middle class men to go to prison”. Trenton Oldfield’s point was that white privilege should be used to cause a stink. He spent six months in Wormwood Scrubs for his prankery but was treated like a hero and bounced back pretty comprehensively with interviews, book deals, job offers etc. Something he pointed out would probably not have happened to a black or Muslim inmate. The prisons are rammed with them, but white middle class people get away with stuff all the time. We should take advantage of that fact. A good point.
The next idea was another simple one – the Basic Income Guarantee Party – from Eric Mutch. An unconditional no strings £11,375 every year for free. If we scrap benefits and pensions and raise tax for everyone to 50%, apparently anyone earning less than 30k would be better off. At first it sounds stupid but the Swiss, who aren’t known for being stupid, are about to take this to a referendum. Immigration might be a problem however, if you start handing huge wads of cash out to everyone.
Then came the naturists courtesy of Andrew Welch (from Britsh Naturism), probably the best example of an outwardly eccentric idea making perfect sense. It’s hard to disagree with any of their points. Violence is everywhere in the media but nudity is still frowned upon or treated with Carry-On contempt, and the connection made between nudity and sex is troublesome. Naked men are viewed with suspicion (especially near schools) but naked women are cheered. The police enforce prejudice rather than law. It is intuitive, it is natural, it does make you feel good, it’s not illegal, but that didn’t mean that anyone got naked when invited, except for one guy who did, and then stood on stage a bit awkwardly for the rest of Andrew’s talk. We applaud nudists like we applaud most activists – from a safe distance. Good for you.
After the break we finally found a loony we could pillory in . Shaun clearly gets off on making people angry with cold logic. Libertarianism’s like anarchism for the wealthy. They’re good at winning arguments but that’s because they’ve sat and practised in the dark by themselves for ages and ages. It’s a lonely cynical rant taken to its conclusion and banded around for kicks. You can’t imagine they have many friends.
Then we were swung 180 degrees by Andy Tullett’s Focallocal campaign. Free hugs, bubbles, community pillow fights, open skill sharing, community food gardens, theatre projects for prostitutes and other fringe groups – he’s that guy, the shamelessly positive ‘why not’ character you secretly envy. Giving everything away without any particular agenda. Andy is a great reminder that it doesn’t really matter what you do to make the world better, just do stuff, anything, just do anything. Stop whining about it and paint a massive gay rainbow on the street, blow bubbles, give your neighbour a hug and a sandwich, give shit away. Everyone probably felt better (and also secretly worse) about themselves after his talk.
The campaign for the Greater London National Park was the final idea given up by Daniel Ellison – a ‘guerrilla geographer’. Again, this was an initially weird idea that ended up making a lot of sense. It was only unusual because it’s new. No one has done this before. London could be the world’s first National Park City, and do something we used to take pride in – develop a brave new idea and then sell it to the rest of the world. It would change the way people think about planning and architecture and funnel money from the centre to the fringes. Daniel walked through all the woods from Croydon in the south to Barnet in the north during half term and saw or heard ZERO children. 48% of London is green space but we seem to have no connection to it. This is the one idea I’m happy to plug directly – you can find the campaign on Change.org. Get to it.
Some details on the final events:
This State of Independence Shall Be (Weds, June 25, at Wilton’s Music Hall) investigates “the art of declaring independence…featuring micronations, communes and subterranean living”, hosted by Hammer and Tongue’s Michelle Madsen and Sam Berkson, and including Lise Autogena, resident of Denmark’s experimental community Cristiania.
The Change For a Tenner! Finale (Thurs, June 26, at Shoreditch Town Hall) takes the form of a “revolutionary gameshow” in which the audience decide the rules and allocate the box office takings to a cause (or anti-cause) of their choice.
Change for a Tenner! is curated by Charlie Tims, Shelagh Wright and Peter Jenkinson. Producing Assistant Alicia Graf. Commissioned by LIFT and supported by Festivals in Transition – Global City Local, Imagine 2020, and House on Fire networks, with support of the Culture Programme of the European Union.
LIFT commissioned Run-Riot to report on the Change for a Tenner! series.