by The Norwich Radical team
This past year was trying in different ways than the first two of this new decade, but no less keenly felt for that. The pandemic – not over, not yet, probably not for a long time – has whittled down everyone’s immune systems, patience, well-being and welfare. It has also been exploited as a means to pass more authoritarian policies into effect, in the UK and elsewhere.
In our country alone, as our co-editor Rowan Gavin wrote in July, “unelected and corrupt powers continue to wield violence in the name of policing, and continue to roam our streets [as they] regurgitate bigotries that were once only voiced in public by fundamentalists and neo-fascists.” The cost of living, coupled with inflation and profit-mongering, has meant a cold, hungry winter for many.
And yet, Rowan pointed out, we “return every time to the communities of people that resist these cruel forces, today and the next day and the day after.” We return to organise where we can, find reasons to celebrate when we can, and endeavour to have as much fun as we can along the way.
It may seem to have become a refrain, one at risk of being emptied of meaning by its repetition. But like every great lyric there is truth in it, a palpable truth that bears returning to every time: we are better, and we are stronger, when we are united. Be it unions, chosen families, bubbles, polycules, social circles, tribes of two or more; together, we are a force to be reckoned with. Together, we can resist against the solipsism of this age of the fall of capitalism.
A younger generation of activists, of political movers, of speakers and writers and thinkers are rising up through the haze of biased media and party back-patting. Local activism and mutual aid remain a patch to a collapsed infrastructure, and it is one we apply with joy, with anger, and with energy. We keep ourselves safe, and happy, and healthy, together. Each according to their needs, each according to their means, as was and is and will be. Together.
The myth of individual responsibility – for the environment, for politics, for societal change – was cooked up by corporations and administrative powers. United is how we stand a chance, so united we shall stand, and hold accountable those truly responsible for these dark days, these unique times, this constant, debilitating crisis.
They have names and addresses, as a great singer once said. And we are many.
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The Suitcase Storytelling Company are magicians. There is no other way to describe them. On a recent wet and mizzly Sunday afternoon my partner and I took his eight-year-old daughter to a nearby community theatre, expecting to fidget our way through being mildly entertained, but hoping his daughter would enjoy the show. The set consisted of a screen painted with a rudimentary set of train tracks set against mountains in the background. In the foreground, a painted electronic sign indicated we would be transported onto a railway station platform as soon as the show began. A tannoy announcement repeatedly announced that the train was delayed, before politely asking passengers to keep their umbrellas next to them and report any sightings of dragons to train staff.
In the process of putting together our reporting on the far-right presence and pro-LGBTQIA+ counter-protest at Storytime with Auntie Titania in Norwich last Wednesday, we received a number of accounts from people who attended the counter-protest. We were not able to reproduce all of those accounts in our original article, but we believe that they offer valuable insight into the events in question, the strength of LGBTQIA+ solidarity in Norwich, and the lessons that can be taken forward from this action. This article reproduces more of the content of those accounts, with small edits in places for clarity and to maintain anonymity.
Sometimes you go to a gig not quite knowing what to expect. I found out I would be covering The Neutrinos’ recent double-set Norwich Arts Centre show for the Norwich Radical at relatively short notice, and decided on a whim to perpetuate my ignorance of the band’s work until I could hear it live. What I discovered, one December Saturday evening in that beautiful converted church hall, was all the more delightful for my lack of expectation – in fact, I’m not sure that any amount of pre-listening could have quite prepared me for the experience of this show.
Consider this example: Marvel Comics publishes Spider-Man, Sony makes a Spider-Man film or videogame, and your local queer fan-artist sells an art zine or print inspired by that film. There is a cost associated with each of these items: the floppy or trade collected comic; a cinema ticket or streaming subscription; the art print itself. But, there is no ethical consumption. ‘Illegally’ downloading or streaming the film, torrenting or finding a hosting site for the comic, or pirating the zine are all the same act: you are overcoming the monetary gatekeeping of art. With one exception: if you ‘steal’ from Marvel, Sony or any other megacorp you might even be doing some good (with reservations); if you do it to an artist who is trying to pay their bills, you’re an asshole.
Shortly after the 2016 amendments to the assessment of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a cartoon scolding the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) began doing the rounds on social media. In it, a figure sits behind a desk declaring: “If they drown, they need PIP. If they float, they weren’t ill.” whilst a woman is dragged out of the office by her hair. Accompanied by the caption “Conservatives Disability Policy”, the illustration caught a lot of online attention for this comparison of the DWP’s practices to those of the elementally evil Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins. Some found it an absurdly distasteful comparison; others deemed it a justified piece of satirical exaggeration. But as Amie M Marie deftly exposes in her new play Scrounge, the cartoon was barely hyperbolic in its analogy.
Last year, two-tone legends The Specials released an album entitled ‘Protest Songs 1924-2012’. It featured covers of tracks by Bob Marley, Leonard Cohen, Big Bill Broonzy and other legends of protest music – but not one song penned by a British person, despite the band’s Coventry origins. This, UEA Professor John Street tells me, was part of the impetus behind the project Our Subversive Voice: The History and Politics of the English Protest Song.
Europe stands at a crucial juncture; as the pandemic enters its third year without an obvious end in sight, the far-right draws ever closer to the centres of power across the continent, and the very existence of the European Union as we know it faces renewed threats from both East and West of the bloc. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten new emergency measures, lockdowns, and school closures in countries across Europe. The impact of these measures would be keenly felt by a vulnerable Romani population, already beleaguered by police violence, illegal quarantines, and distance learning which denies their children an education. The threat from the far-right, however – already steadily growing over the last decade within European politics – will have several opportunities to move even closer to the hallways of power this year, with potentially dire consequences for the continent’s largest and most marginalised ethnic minority group. In the midst of what could prove to be a tumultuous year for European politics, Europe’s 12 million strong population of Romani people stand to lose out more than most if the political pendulum swings the wrong way.
Following the anti-LGBT protest outside a Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) event in North Walsham library on 2nd August, a new event, titled ‘Storytime with Auntie Titania’ and featuring local drag artist Titania Trust, was scheduled for August 17th at the Millennium Library, Norwich. A counter-protest gathered outside the library on Wednesday ahead of the event to defend the national DQSH initiative and protect attendees from the presence of far-right protestors.
On Saturday 3rd July 2021, Romani man Nevzat Jasharov (pictured above) marched through the streets of Skopje, North Macedonia with his fellow Romani citizens against racialised police brutality. The protest was in response to the death of a Czech Romani man, Stanislav Tomas, who died after police intervention in the Czech town of Teplice. Video footage of the incident showed a police officer kneeling on the back of Stanislav’s neck; scenes disturbingly reminiscent of the police killing of Black American George Floyd in June 2020.
It is difficult not to be polarised on any given topic in the explosively divisive climate we are living through. However, emerging from the sensationalism is an irrefutable objective truth in the high-profile trial, where megastar Johnny Depp is suing his ex-wife, up-and-coming actress Amber Heard, for $50 million over editorial defamation: a clear example of inherent misogyny of the media. Heard penned her self-professed subjective piece in The Washington Post, supportively discussing a ‘Transformative Moment for Women’ during the height of the #MeToo campaign. The article, which was read out during the trial as part of Heard’s opening statement, was intelligently and boldly written, focussing on the actress’ harrowing experience of speaking out as female victim of domestic violence and the progressive change within the industry that she wishes to see. Further to this, there was no mention of Johnny Depp specifically or any of the personal accounts, currently being spewed out in public, due to his bringing her to court.
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