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Life, politics and art …

The legacy of my late father was to stand up for what you believe in – politely, but firmly and with good grace. I was at the Peoples’ Assembly march last Saturday in central London, alongside some 150,000 others. Whether this government takes any notice remains to be seen, but at least they will be aware that people were out on the streets, prepared to voice their opposition to the draconian cuts they continue to impose on the most vulnerable people in our society.

Feelings are running high at one of our local community schools too, which, like so many throughout the UK, is under threat of becoming an academy. Proposed redundancies and job losses amidst teaching and support staff (as well as proposed cuts to specific subjects) are also in the pipeline. It’s too complex to go into thoroughly here, but in short, I am extremely concerned about the impact both academisation and these proposed cuts would bring: yet greater workloads to already overstretched teaching and support staff, the virtual abolishment of employment rights, cuts to creative subjects such as music and drama, to name but a few – and living in an area with a high incidence of vulnerable children, massive cuts to pastoral care is of particular concern to me.

As I wrote in the introduction to my ‘Bread and Roses’ work – wherever you look, it seems that the material and spiritual things we need to sustain us as a society are being stripped away. There’s a lot of anger around and feelings are running high; the Malcolm X quote I’ve included before on this blog springs to mind:

‘Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.’

‘Bread and Roses’ is work I created to bring about a change of my own to pick myself up crucially, from the despair I descended into in response to the Tories’ re-election in May 2015. I hadn’t seen it coming and felt completely floored by the result. Getting on with making work felt like a positive way to detract from an overwhelming sense of powerlessness and disillusion. I was also inspired by artist Jean McEwan who, in the aftermath of the election result, put out a UK wide call on social media for people to answer the fundamental question, ‘How Do We Get Through This?’

Jean’s question helped to give me the kickstart I needed in order to get back in the proverbial saddle. It also inspired others to do the same. People’s ideas about how they were going to survive and resist austerity were collated and resulted in a zine, created by Jean. You can find out more about it via this link: http://jeanmcewanartist.bigcartel.com/product/how-do-we-get-through-this and even order a copy of your own to read about the diverse way in which people responded.

‘Bread and Roses’ takes its title from a speech by the American feminist and socialist Rose Schneiderman who declared ‘the worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.’ As cuts to public services increase, so many people will be forced to go without either, while the very richest in society continue to increase their wealth.

It’s coming up to a year now since the General Election of May, 2015. The decaying condition of both the bread and the roses in the weeks and months since, has acted as a visual reminder of the consequences of neglect.

Eleven months on, here are the most recent images. I’m already wondering if there will be any significant changes between now and May 7th, 2016.

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