“How do you eat an elephant?”, goes the African proverb. “One bite at a time.” Like a great many people, I find the Big Society agenda is not really my cup of tea. Still, I am sure there are better ways of making my voice heard than donning my Grandad’s tin hat and declaring full-scale war on Nick Clegg. Saturday’s event at MadLab seemed like a good place to start.
The workshop was styled as an “unconference” – a wiki-fied workshop without hiearchical structure – for creative people to get involved, whatever their stripe or background.
By the time I arrived, there were a dozen people gathered around a table, in the middle of a quite intense discussion. It turned out to be an good model in how to stimulate creative exchanges, excellently facilitated by the Chair, Ian Hunter. In attendance were a dozen people who sometimes differed widely in perspectives. There was representation from the trade union and student movements, as well as artists and working people. All of us had stories of how the cuts are affecting us. Our solutions and perspectives differed widely. Some were hard-headed and pragmatic while others brought organisational experience. Mostly, I listened and tried to soak it up.
Tellingly, like the Northern Quarter population itself, the demographic in attendance was mostly white and middle-class. More surprisingly, the vast majority of people – my brother and I excluded – were from outside of Manchester, travelling up from London-based institutions in several cases.
I remember watching a documentary while back on art and social change. The artist – a 1960s luminary – said: “We thought that music could change the world. Of course, we know it can’t now but at the time, we didn’t know.” Can art change the world? That’s a big question – as big a question as the proverbial elephant. What we can do is engage and be pro-active, exchange ideas and seize our democracy by the scruff of the neck. Gil-Scott Heron once said “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, but I find it makes for rather good evening’s viewing! The passionate people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya have shown us how precious a thing our democracy is – a something worth fighting for. Uncut Society and events like it help us set the table at which to eat that elephant. Pass the salt and pepper, please.
- – -
You can see some more photos here.
Written by the talented blogger, Ikem Nzeribe. Thanks so much Ikem!