Last Friday night about 50 Mancunians backed into the Royal Exchange’s Studio to see an unusual and interesting event: the reading of “Letters to the Earth.”
The letters were the result of a call out by a new organisation “Culture Declares Emergency,” which very much does what it says on the tin (twitter here, btw). Events were being staged around the country to coincide with the latest school strike (and some performers who were due to be on the stage had been banned from the city centre for 24 hours after their sit-down protest on Oxford Road earlier in the day).
While the letters themselves were of varying insight, poetry, pathos and bathos, the readings of them (and the singing) were uniformly excellent. All the more remarkable, in fact, given that the performers only started rehearsing at 5pm!
There are clearly a lot of extremely talented people in Manchester who have the desire and the ability to use art and cultural production to get the message of ecological apocalypse out there. It’s up to the activists, I suppose, to make sure that there is more local content for them to play with (for example, there was a letter to central government, but not one to local government, or to the complicit local ‘environmentalists’ who have provided fig-leaf services for local government this last decade).
There were only two dud notes, one minor and easily rectified, the other major and long-standing. The long-standing one is that the so-called Manchester Climate Change “Agency” couldn’t even be bothered to put the event on its (empty) calendar. That’s typical of the total uselessness of this body.
The minor one – it would have been great if those in the audience had been invited to talk to a stranger in the room for a few minutes before the performance, and then at the end, so that more links were formed and more people stuck around in the bar afterwards (it seemed to me that no-one did, despite the invitation). We need more art, yes, but we need more relationships and connections…
Excellent points via email –
Good points, Marc.
But not everyone can afford to buy drinks and mingle and network after events.
Having worked in the media and knowing how much networking goes on and sharing of information about projects and work opportunities through word of mouth, I’m aware of how exclusionary that kind of thing can be, for people who are skint, or introverted, or have caring responsibilities that they need to get back to.
So maybe if it’s felt that there ought to be a drinks & mingling element to an event it should be publicised clearly in advance, rather than a casual announcement during the event that people are welcome to stick around after – I don’t know if that’s what happened on this occasion, or whether attendees were forewarned that they might want to bring cash to spend at the bar?
Of course, for some people, advance notice wouldn’t make any difference and they wouldn’t be able to budget and bring spending money, if they don’t have any. So, preferably, if it’s felt that an event ought to incorporate drinks and networking, maybe there needs to be a budget for that and the organisers need to consider providing drinks (and nibbles) to facilitate inclusion?
This is a very good article from the Guardian a few years ago – ‘What makes me tired when organising with middle class comrades’: