Reflections on We Love: Wood Green Feb 2020-Feb 2021

Written by Hannah Cassidy-Matthews BAHons/MA
Edited by Rick Melling
Approx. 8 Min read

After a year of serious heartbreak on so many levels, I met Elijah Light– our podcast producer and sound developer. In terms of my moving to a new area, the timing was ideal for our paths to cross and moreover for us both to collaborate on something creatively regenerative. 2020 brought many personal losses and individual gains, these were also reflected at a global level… Separations and disputes between nations, industries, and groups… though for Elijah and I, a seed of realisation came to fruition. We were not alone in feeling apathetic. As two artists sharing similarly community development-based modes of thought, we wanted to provide new perspectives, arising from the current paradigm shifts emerging within both our communities and the wider world. It became imperative for us to speak with other community artists. Did we all feel alike about the impact of Covid-19 on our livelihoods? If so, how could we team up to support each other and our careers?

The mission took to a rocky start – I was pushed back for requesting unfunded help to develop the We Love Wood Green promotion video on a local forum. We observed the local community required the progression of unity and solidarity (gentrification affecting housing costs in the area alongside separation through numerous quarantine isolation periods). It shook me to hear a response to the call out requesting a video editor that “working for free will cause more damage to the industry”. The mentality that participatory community art in forms beyond temporary financial gratification; had no place opened my eyes to how humans become transformed in a reflection of their surroundings. It reminded me of the ever-present will of people to commoditize human resources through finance. Working for free has taken up most of my existence. It felt as imperative to generate solidarity through creative practice more than ever than there was for profiting off human energy. A year later the world has suddenly been hit by economic downturns and barrages of clinical alien science. Our ability to come together as creatives to develop community connectivity and cohesion had been stunted by the public health and events industry crises. We decided to call out to previous contributors to find solutions…

(Izzie Mitchel- participant design facilitator) and myself, organising the structure of the first #WLWG event in 2020)

Starting out: from then to now

We Love Wood Green aimed to provide a consistent roof to community workshopping events, accessible for all age groups. People who facilitated workshops would be reimbursed by guests in attendance. Events would initially be supported by a donation bucket for contributions to our hedge fund, thus ensuring that we could develop towards further gaining funding and backing as we grew our network. An in-house charity would always be present but change with each event. These devices were aimed at raising awareness of the concept of ‘paying forward’ and freedom of humanitarian choice.  We dreamed that local facilitators, makers and performers could come together to network and provide independent workshops to all ages and cultures. Generating independent revenue from a ‘workshop marketplace’, from within the venue itself.

The project also seeks to combat gentrification, whilst offering grassroots regeneration to its local network by engaging the community rather than disenfranchising residents. According to Jacques Derrida in ‘Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness’ people should “each [be] as independent from the other and from the state as possible, but nevertheless allied to each other according to forms of solidarity yet to be invented” (4:2001). We Love Wood Green aimed to bring people together, allowing further connections for inventing or reinventing ideas for solidarity. Likewise, in ‘Community art and the State’, Owen Evans provides an explanation around how the state “… cannot be abolished for the functions which it performs are necessary functions. It can, however, be transformed” (46:1984). In this sense, We Love Wood Green also aimed to understand new forms of oppression and discrimination emerging from the events industry and the ongoing public health crisis. Attempting to bridge the multifarious gaps between people and their environments.

How did the ‘We Love Wood Green: 1st Anniversary Airwaves Edition‘ start out?

Around the beginning of November Elijah and I knocked heads. I began to devise the interviews, all of which hoped to be recorded live and direct from the studio. However, as quarantine requirements became heightened we turned to our new best friend/worst enemy- ‘Zoom’. For two of our interviews (With Alex- Goodness Brew Co. and Ben- The Art Factory), we used the video networking platform to carry out interview dialogues. In order to maintain the breaking down of class systems or the natures of community vs industry dualisms, the government benefits granted to me since graduating- would fund the smaller workings of the project, whilst Elijah facilitated sound developments. Interestingly, buying the blog domain, as well as the making and printing of flyers, allowed me to feel useful, especially considering the likes of governmental communications advising creative workers to retrain. Using the individualised funds and extra free time provided within such an unprecedented climate, we invested where we believed the government should be investing.

With the provisions of recording equipment and space, we were then dependent on peer-to-peer networks and trust rather than financial donations. Further, we used our time to contribute and provide services to the local community with no promise of gaining anything monetarily. Financial gain mattered less to us than the catharsis which the process provided to both the team and the participants. Furthermore, gratification could be supplied financially, and this will yet allow the project to progress beyond what it currently is. However, personally, there is no financial supplement to happiness and solidarity.

To recreate this experience online and through the airwaves, we simulated a ‘Tour Through North London’. Allowing people to escape their homes without feeling that they needed to ‘escape’. The other two participants (Leo- Capoeira & Alex and Barney- Rap Therapy), we were grateful to host face-to-face, under regulated conditions. When a state of globalised emergency ensues we must quickly prioritise between our needs and wants, our consciousness is constantly divided between motivations of survival and pleasure-seeking. To counteract this anthropological conundrum, interviewing participants ensured we were able to alleviate moods and offer apertures for community frustrations. Sharing our desired future outcomes and altering our awareness to the reshaping of pandemic language ensured we were able to proactively reflect and contextualise our situations as a collective.

(Young people dancing to ‘Miss Havisham’s Digital Clock’)

Shared participatory experiences are important. Connections between vibration and stimulation inspire people from passivity into reactivity. As Cezar Cruz says: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” (2015) If sat statically in front of a screen watching a band play for two hours, the experience will be nowhere near what it would be in a real-time lived experience. Though even for younger or older people to connect safely, the internet takes away a lot of agency from parents and adults concerned with human rights. Further, people who are living on the streets or with disabilities may be limited to their use of technology. The We Love Wood Green Airwaves Edition intends to break down the barriers created by the onslaught of public health issues and governmental handling of creative arts initiatives.

Through adapting the show to a radio format and creating an online network of facilitators, three spheres of interactivity emerged. The first sphere presented real-time lived experiences for community arts facilitators through audio broadcast ethnographic interviews and soundscapes. The second sphere presents the blogging element- an easily accessible and visual/written representation of the project. This is an interactive archive available for continuous contribution, with the possibility to observe the progress of work whilst also networking, regardless of physical/lived separations. Pages can be printed off and likewise podcast(s) have a permanent home. The third sphere- is seen as interaction via collaborative liaison via the radio stations and communities we connect with.

Through these multidiciplinary spheres we hope to:

  • Advance unconditional and borderless community love
  • Decrease the collective apathy and division which are destroying our “communi-tree”
  • Develop sustainable models of interconnected solidarity between nations and practices
  • Generate collective coping mechanisms, which not only assist collective experiences of joy but also address core issues arising from the handlings of the public health crisis, both within the UK and beyond

Movements Forward

We Love: Wood Green has inspired Elijah and I to re-envision a community development idea. The wider We Love: Collective hopes to form a six-part series- investigating continuing current affairs impacting marginalised communities in London. Through doing so, I am managing to develop a network with local funders, through which we aim to pay everybody involved in each series. Furthermore, the We Love: Collective hopes to produce an academic journal towards the end of the series. By collating information gained through the interviewing process, as well as from our archive of the podcast and blogged case studies, we aim to uncover resolution strategies for the event industry, community arts and local communities. By streamlining our agency and individualised goals into one fully functioning network, the We Love: Collective hopes to contribute to the revitalisation of participatory culture and arts. Elucidating culture and collaboration practices regardless of borders counteracts digital and financial narcissism. And alongside the coercion reinforced by (anti)social systems of containment and separation emerging within contemporary public health guidelines, connecting through communication systems allows us to maintain our seeds of knowledge and plant our own outcomes – beneficial for all, despite all.

“Art Should Disturb the Comfortable and Comfort the Disturbed ”

-Cezar Cruz-


Cruz. J. A. C (2015) ‘Norteños/Sureños: Time to ‘bang’ for Freedom: A Brief History of the Conflict Between the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia’, Chiron Media LTD, London, UK

Derrida. J (2001) ‘Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness’, Routledge, London, UK

Kelly. O (1984) ‘Community Art and the State – Storming the Citadels’ Comedia Publishing Group, London, UK

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