JOURNAL: REFLECTIONS FROM THE FIELD

SERIES two:

Considering the passing of Bell Hooks, how did covid and football matches impact weLove:woodgreen- unlocking celebration?

Written by Hannah Cassidy-Matthews BAHons/MA
Edited by John Gonzalez
Approx. 8 Min read

Walking to The Goodness Brewing co. over the 2021 spring/summer, I frequently noticed the police had cordoned off my route. Bus diversions and an increased police presence apparently intended to prevent ‘under-the-counter’ parties, a rise in muggings, stabbings, brawls and traffic crashes became the norm. The pandemonium surrounding my workplace increased exponentially during my first year coordinating events there… Though not because I was working there, I hasten to add! Seeing direct conflict through protests and mainstream news reports, initiated a drive to coordinate the ‘WeLove: WoodGreen’ (WL:WG) event once again.  I discussed marketing strategies with assistant manager, Alex Evans, who suggested that hosting the event after the Euros could encourage diversity and inclusion within the WL:WG community… This would ensure extra publicity and increased revenue in the run-up to WL.WG. The idea of using capitalism to fund something quintessentially anti-capitalist appealed to me. It was however a concern of mine that showing the football on a giant screen, would attract an influx of additional punters and inevitably increase the mingling of strangers within a public health crisis. When England finally lost, and criminal fines and stricter penalisation for putting on events skyrocketed, I realised that WL:WG had the potential to alleviate some of the disappointment. We proceeded to invite a variety of new (and a few previous) facilitators to join us in hosting this year’s event…

Methodology:

This article is structured to re-establish a conversation around inclusive and supported housing. That development of community love, considering human responses brought on by periods of isolation inductive of lockdown, is nourishing and vital. As ‘The Guardian’ has uncovered- lockdown had; “increased rates of depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress.” (Foulkes. L & Ritcher. D Online:2021).1 in 4 people, live with or have lived experiences of mental health issues, witness or endure domestic violence, experience SEND (special educational needs & Disabilities) or live supporting those with underlying health issues. Considering this stat (See Mind Uk & MQ Mental Health research), the foundations of WL:WG are rooted within nurturing those who want to set about changing the boundaries of support provided to all marginalised groups. As an ode to the recent passing of writer, Bell Hooks who, her book- ‘All About Love’ (2001) is reflected upon as it inspired this year’s project(s). I contextualize how collaborations between BackLivesMatter and TransLivesMatter protests (2021), highlighted the need for immersive cross-cultural events for intersectional heritages present in London, Wood Green and beyond. On reflection toward our first event in 2020, I observed how WL:WG housed a predominantly, white male arena of facilitators. 

This year, we aimed to transcend new paradigms-; coordinating workshops for, with and by; mainly female, non-binary and/or mixed heritage facilitators. A phenomenological discussion around cultural inclusion is found under the subheading ‘funding and finance’. In the ‘Outcomes and Impact’ section, I contemplate how ‘We are viable’ and ‘We Make events‘ campaigns, highlighted the economic marginalisation of artists, venues and collaborative artists throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Combatting stigma, raising awareness and donations for the ‘We Make Events’ campaign via our podcast, contributed toward how we constructed our event(s) in 2021. This year WL:WG: Unlocking Celebration targeted areas where support for mental health was limited. A lack of education around culture, gender and sexuality inclusion within the school curriculums, ensured our selection of workshops available. Finalising the article I develop points on how we hope to transcend ‘the WeLove:Collective’ project moving forward into 2022.

WL:WG hoped to pay homage to those who continued working throughout the pandemic (like our bouncer Murphy- R.I.P!), and those who we have lost over the past couple of years (friend Gemma Auston- R.I.P!). In solidarity with those feeling particularly infuriated by Sarah Everard, George Floyd, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, and other cases. WeLove: You! Feeling agitated enough to continue working for the ‘WeLove:Collective’, providing a space this year that made everyone feel included and celebrated felt vital.

Changeable Social Climates:

The very obvious emergence of soaring new (non-council) property developments surrounding the brewery, infuriated me. It became exceedingly difficult to host an event when I was struggling to feed myself, to love myself, to feel proud of anything- seeing the looming struggle of those around me, whilst new buildings were flying up and many left empty. I felt at times like I was deflecting my own inner struggles, headfirst into work when I should have been taking time to process new information and tasks at hand. Having therapy when creating an event of this scale and dealing with societal trauma at the same time, became pivotal to my ability to provide antidotes for myself and others. (Big ups to Nicolas Hearn- my therapist at the time and the NHS)! 

Through devising a full-day event that triggered memories of past struggles, I found it useful to read Bell Hooks. She said- 

“We’ve always thought of our heroes as having to do with death and war(…) it’s really a journey that’s about love- deeds that have to do with conquering domination. To truly choose to love is heroic.”

Speaking Freely: Bell Hooks on ‘The Freedom Forum’

(Speaking Freely YOUTUBE:2016)

Without external budgets, and the pressures of funding bearing down, I found it difficult but satisfying to provide support to a community I had not been born into. My ancestry, on my fathers’ side, did live in north London, motivating me to connect with my own uncertain heritage too. Bringing strangers together to create art, make new friends and transform the space felt radical, albeit emotionally draining at times. Thanks to external inspiration from organisations such as ‘Enjoy Wood Green’, ‘Edible London’ and ‘Noel Park Big Local Festival’ all contribute to establishing Wood Green as an inspiring and compassionate place to live. They also supported by promoting and attending our event.

Funding and Finance

The Goodness Brewery were happy to host us just after the ‘European League’ football Championships. Adding many flavours into the mix, particularly when coordinating our event under the current (anti)social climates: strict pressures of lockdown restrictions and working with “vulnerable groups”, and a lost football final. With tensions rising around “race” relations toward players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho & Bukayo Saka as well as between having the right to party vs football enjoyers- the classic debate (See Weisel .O Böhm-Cohen .R 2014).

Wood Green sustains a diverse population, consisting of large numbers of Turkish and Greek Cypriots who, for at least half a century have been suffering governmental conflict as a minority and are furthermore an underrepresented group within mainstream media. Highlighted by a meeting with Suny (CEO of Edible London) and prior to working with them for WL:WG, he explained how conflict brought on by oppressive governments overseas contributed to the way Edible and its wider connections are affected. (See Isachenko, Daria (2012). The Making of Informal States: Statebuilding in Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria.) 

Suny and Sadiq at an Edible London site with Young Mayor of Harringay

Assisted by The Goodness brewing Co, we went ahead and installed a pop-up marketplace outside, with sellers of wares and food from across the globe. Ivory Coast (Africa Spice Kitchen), Turkey (Wigs For Heros), Italy (Edible London), Cyprus (Wrap Delight), Finland (Inga’s paper Flowers), Southern Ireland (Renegade Fabricators), Bulgaria (Humbird medicines) and fems from the UK (Fairy Faces). All of which lived locally, in surrounding areas in north London. Hooks, in ‘All About Love’ says that, “Communities sustain life- not nuclear families or the “couple”, and certainly not the rugged individualist.” (Hooks. B 129:2001). Meaning, in light of this project; it is vital to immerse and thus bring forward as many people and perspectives when building solid foundations when building a collective community event that prioritizes community love and not-for-profit regeneration. Using profit made from market traders’ pitch fee donations, we were able to coordinate a digitally interactive immersive performance element to our project- The talking tree. A space for people to hear jokes, interact with their environment and attach their feelings and affirmations to a tree-based outside.

Outcomes and impact: A testimony from an attendee

Non-directed immersive technology, allowed people to interact without engaging if they didn’t want to (check it here ‘The talking tree app’). We collated video footage, took audio testimonies and photographed action on the day, adding a further 4th Dimension into WL:WG. We would like to make a video to reach further afield- collectively instilling joy and self-directed community action across the UK (in light of Brexit and further global changes to climate and environment

Tying Notes to the ‘Wish Tree’

The WL:WG- Unlocking event, catalysed and rallied against the marginalisation of artists with underlying intersectional structural conflicts. Caxton Youth Organisation, who attended with a troupe of young people who’ve mixed learning requirements, noted they were under threat of having to sell their iconic yellow bus, due to government cuts to youth work services. They managed to raise £200 pounds and offered their participants the opportunity to gain experiences within the workplace through engagement in fundraising- selling their own beautifully handcrafted tie dye hats and Christmas cards, among other beautiful crafts. However, they still had to sell their bus…

Check out their Instagram page for more insight

In light of aggressive and dramatic governmental changes to human rights, economics and European structural changes over the past two years- a direct link can be placed between the effects of such changes on human behaviour.

“Studies show that males and females who are violently humiliated and abused repeatedly, with no caring intervention, are likely to be dysfunctional and will be predisposed to abuse others violently.” (Hooks B 24:2001). 

From conflict and tensions arising from a series of protests this year (KillTheBill, BLM/TLM movements) (see Resist-AntiTresspass campaigns), I chatted to one of the attendees at the event. They had arrived with their parents and were from a mixed heritage background (half Mauritian, half British). For this attendee, it felt they were frustrated about how things unfolded so publicly. In many ways, this year highlighted the insensitivity to people’s personal stories around race, gender and financial freedom. They said:

 
“It’s important to bring spaces to people when they fall out or give them spaces to be together. Especially if people don’t want or know how to talk about stuff that maybe doesn’t upset them directly. I thought ‘SparkleMafia’s’ dance-off was great for that- everyone was dancing together- non-disabled people, people with disabilities, younger and older people, people like me and people like you… we then sat amongst each other and shared food afterwards”.

Anonymous attendee at ‘WeLove:WoodGreen- Unlocking Celebration’

The statement above speaks to levels about healing generational trauma. For this reason, putting on the event felt all the more vital to remedying the turmoil of this year. Showing people how they can use spare frustration, time and opportunities to connect to create and develop positive changes, at a foundational level.

Summary:

Following this year’s ups and downs, we have decided to take the next year off. Outreaching more widely to other organisations who work with marginalised groups. We hope to adapt and develop our program of activities and projects so that ‘WeLove:Collective’ becomes site-specific. It would be great to have a “WeLove:” for every town- fitting to time and place and engaging its participants in celebrating their local culture. 

We have some fabulous footage ready to be developed, edited and worked on- with a vision to combine experiences of community artists experiences from over the past two years. We are unsure at this point how long and for what purposes it could be used for but there is great potential- please get in touch if you would like to work on this with us. 

We have applied for bids toward the end of this year and hope to receive answers from other organisations which provide small bursaries. Moving forward we hope to wind down and engage in developing TheRAPutix workshop programs. Delivering sessions more regularly, hosting them both online and in-person- stay tuned via their Instagram page for more… We hope to begin outreach work moving forward into the new year, performing more gigs, gathering more content- from photoshoots, to cypher sessions to open mics.

This year has brought with it, trauma, collaboration, extreme highs (celebrations of becoming ‘free’ over the summer) and extreme lows (losing football matches and for some- Brexit… there is a long list here). For that reason our joke-telling app and immersive interactive workshop we hope to develop beyond the WL:WG project- The Talking Tree (which may change names soon)- for and by people with PTSD or trauma-related illnesses.

On that note, from all at the ‘WeLove:Collective’ we bid you a bright year ahead into 2022, let’s think with our hearts, process with our heads and work with our hands, to dismantle current oppressions in the face of adversity.

Bibliography

  • Hooks. B (2001) All About Love, New Visions Publishing, London, United Kingdom
  • Isachenko. D (2012). The Making of Informal States: Statebuilding in Northern Cyprus and Transdniestria, Palgrave Macmillan, London, United Kingdom
  • Ritcher. D & Foulkes. L (2021) Yes, lockdown was bad for mental health. Not to do it would have been worse, The Guardian [Accessed Online: 23/12/21] [Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/05/lockdown-mental-health-pandemic%5D
  • Weisel .O Böhm-Cohen .R (2014)  “Ingroup love”and“outgroup hate”in intergroup conflict between natural groups Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (110-120) [Accessed Online: 21/12/21]

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