Shake! – Surviving the System

For the last 6 years I have been involved in Voices That Shake as a writer, poet, project developer and facilitator. Our next course is ‘#SurvivingTheSystem.’  Each time we do an intensive, I am invited to write a blog.

Why Surviving the System, Shake!?

So Shake is back!

artwork by Anni Movsisyan

artwork by Anni Movsisyan

We have been on hiatus for nearly 8 months and we’re back with a new Shake intensive course. #SurvivingTheSystem takes a birds eye view of the planet, zooms in and looks at the streets of everyday living and reflects on our lives as individuals. Examining the current and disturbing issues of our time, it seems we are in for a future of more difficulty after an already bleak few decades now. The political shift to the right in favour of big business and property development, with the marketing machine of mass media, many of us find ourselves numb, in shock, and emotionally, mentally and spiritually brutalized. When we look to the institutions and structures meant to be sources of security, we find them to be disrespectful and uncaring. Abusive.

We are coerced and forced to accept cuts to education and healthcare. Gentrification and immigration prejudice manifests as cultural cleansing and violence, post-Brexit which clumped migration, immigration inefficiency and refugee status’s into one dangerous xenophobic national security and economic risk. In the west, many young people who see themselves as the future working generations are looking at their parents and forbears asking “ What the hell were you thinking?” post Brexit. The sentiment is rooted in deep disappointment and mourning from the the violent severing from the opportunities of belonging to the European block.

Labour. Violence. Addiction
A person’s labour and livelihood is linked so closely to well being, and such deliberate scare-mongering is shock tactics to confuse, misinform, and in consequence heighten stress levels of every life where mistrust and frustration is a genuine societal problem. Continue reading

Verbalisation with BeatFreeks at BRep

imageBirmingham with Beatfreeks on Wednesday 27th July.

“How do you find your inspiration for your work?” is the most frequently asked question I get as a writer who performs her work. I can’t deny I am often stumped at the question. I trawl my brain for the one thing  but it just doesn’t work like that. I’m only sure of  a couple of things though – the world is full of inspiration and my gut and my heart have conversations all the time about the abstracts – love, conflict, relationships, frailty, resilience, environment, discrimination and power. Or that centrifugal spin of a coffee cup falling. That tense exchange through eye contact on busy  public transport. A door held open for an Elder. The truth out of the mouth of babes. Continue reading

What Women Believe – finding our poetry

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What do you believe?

Take a moment. Sit with that question. Bullet point your conclusions on a piece of paper and ask yourself, “could that change tomorrow?”

Every second of the day we are asked to believe in something.  Something nor from us. Particularly as women. Often we are asked to believe in something that is the antithesis of who we are. Our political opinions, how we feel about our bodies and their sensuality is tightly bound in deflated bubble-wrap and tied off with barbed wire. Not much wriggle room without painful consequences. The sexualisation of our  bodies and diminishment of our intellect pits us in a batle of unbalanced compromise as nationalism subsumes our  multiplicitous gender identities into unachievable and fantasized cultural archtypes. We seek “fraternité” in our  friends, neighbours and family,  and if we find rejection there, we seek solidarity in online communities,  or in magazines “for women”. We look for any space where we may feel accepted, appreciated for who exactly we are regardless of our shape, colour of our skin, or sexual self-identification.

And then there is religion: a predominantly global belief in a monolithic male presence speaking from a unilaterally agreed elevated position (with economic and political clout behind him) as the Alpha and Omega of how to “woman “. Continue reading

LLSB – Long Live Southbank

If you’ve heard about the Long Live Southbank campaign, then you’ll know it was 180,000 members and signatories pushing back against the Southbank Centre, a national arts venue, trying to take over a nation treasure to build coffee shops and schmancy restaurants.  When I heard about the campaign I got it. As a poet, I got it. The is a true David and Goliath tale of ordinary folk who took on an institution and won. It was a story of a provocation and a resistance movement that last a eventful 17 months.

The Southbank building is an architectural bastion, along the river bank of the Thames is a sight to be hold and is a bastion for music and arts int he UK. It had plans to take over the Undercroft, for over 40 years home to millions of skateboarders, break dancers and poppers graffiti artists, filmmakers, photographers  of all generations who took owner of a space explicitly made for the public as an experiment in the 60’s to see what would happen left to the organic nature of creativity.

image LLSB poem image image image image image

What I came to viscerally comprehend is that this ‘space’ was  destined for generations of freethinking minds exploding with motion and acrobatic innovation. What they do is a science. Skaters only have to look at the layout, the geometrics of a space and in milliseconds calculate the velocity, curve, swerve  and execution of their net trick. How much is deduced by instinct, body memory and a subconscious perception of space by what I can only call a chi energy. Also, it’s not a trick. Its calligraphy on concrete. It’s ephemeral architecture in space. It is timing marked by a musicality in rhythm and movement. It’s about defying gravity and what a skater aka artist says whilst suspended in space. It’s about the love relationship between the heart of a skater, their board and their body in the urbanized landscape.

Space is prey, it’s seredipitous discoveries, found, claimed, converted, transformed, named, given another reason for existing other than the functionality of expressing consumerist ‘progress’. Storytelling takes into account the space it is being made in. It shape shifts to retain and emanate its essence.

The skateboard community received international support. And after 18 months of legal wranglings with the directors of the Southbank, a  brilliant social media campaign, and a scathing but just sense of humor, the campaign was a success.

I was more than happy for them because there has to come a point where demanding headspace to imagine through movement on a board and some ball-bearings historically mimicking the surfing the waves of an expansive ocean with its broad beach pulling up the speediest of waves, I can only imagine  the spirit that needs to exercise its freedom of  expressive movement across distances  in the open air. the  I see how the spaces they occupy are created, needed and in the light of this campaign, even more why they need to be protected.

Finally Surfing On Land:Skateboard history, California

Long Live South Bank Poem

Rollin’ through the decades Rollin’ Through the Decades is a feature length documentary that celebrates skateboarding’s journey from London’s South Bank underneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall, spiritual home of skateboarding since the early seventies.

Long Live Southbank Book

The Voice of Burntwood Girls

Last Summer, as part of the Battersea Arts Centre Heritage Project, I worked with a group of young women whose creative maturity really inspired me.  Given the freedom to use film, paint, mixed media and photography to express themselves, they took basic ideas about the representation and power of girls and women’s voices and ran with it.

I’ll let them speak for themselves…

SHAKE! Youth Art and Activism – My Thought on the 3 R’s

I have been working on this incredible youth project for the last four years. Shake! is Platform London’s youth initiative which happen twice a year as a February school’s half-term and August Summer holidays intensive course. They take 6 months to devise with themes I would have been frightened of as teenager, more concerned with fashion and hair and whether I was going to make enough money at my holiday job to get the freshest garms to rock on my  return to college.

THIS type of project (post UK Summer insurrections 2011) is more important than ever and from 17th-21st February, I was again immersed in the politically inquisitive and emotional world of 16 young people who believe they can change the world with the poetic word and film.The process of devising this particular Shake course was perhaps the most befuddling because the themes were MASSIVE – Remembering, Re-Imagining and Reparations.
I wrote a blog about it and writing it was crucial to my process of grounding me in the themes for this year. I needn’t have fretted. The Young People delivered, as usual.
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Here is the blog post.

Zena’s Thoughts on the Three R’s- Remembering, Re-imagining, Reparations

This will be my fourth time as a Shake! facilitator and the third time as  core team intensive 5-day course deviser.Shake! 1: The pilot “Arts Race and Power” course honoured the lives of aspiring architect and London youth Stephen Lawrence, and the eco-activist and Nigerian Ogoni Tribesman writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and used their stories as case studies to interrogate the themes

Shake! 2 – The “Voice Verse Power” course analysed media representation, political definitions of race and power to estabilish, validate and give a platform for the voice of the marginalised and stigmatised.Shake! 3: focused on the themes of and “Power, Perceptions, Propaganda”.Now we’re going in deep – Remembering, Re-imagining, Reparations. This the title of the next course and it is going to be one of our most challenging courses to devise for the themes are so broad, complex and could potentially take us down a worm hole of new age theory and idealistic visions of Utopia. Continue reading

Shake! Youth Arts, Race, Media and Power Project 2013 Is Go!

I have been a core project consultant and deviser of Platform London’s Youth Project, ‘Shake!’, and finally the time has come for it’s delivery. Shake! has been in development since it’s pilot 2010 and successfully received two years funding thanks to the hard work of Jane Trowell at Platform. I spent a day with the  rest of the Shake! team creating the courses curriculum.

I have to say, I’m very excited about delivering this program. Lot’s of interactive learning through creative writing, film making online graphic design…and it’s brilliant that in such hard times, so much can be offered for free. We have a great team – Ed Lewis (Demand the Impossible), Farzana Khan,  Simon Murray and Derek Richards from Hi8us Films South. Plus the Platform London team who are offering all kinds of support, information, research and delivery tips that are invaluable. It’s going to be an amazing year for Shake!

The first Shake!  intensive course is free and runs from 18th February – 22nd Feb. The continuity workshops and mentoring through to Shake’s summer intensive course. Dates to be confirmed.

Click for more on Shake!  info and for details to enrol.
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The UK “Riot” Maze

My own mixed-feelings and thoughts around the UK riots have been just as compelling to me as the multitude of articles, conferences, panel discussions, arts pieces that have been born from them. I have concluded to think about the riots as a sort of “tilling the soil” for  planting seed of re-imagining, using this ‘opportunity’ to be creative in tackling deep seated social and economic issues head on. I had grown tired of hearing the stock responses, shouting down  or the pussy footing that goes on that tends to go  won when race and class become the focus of a conversation.

One thing that I have found annoying me a little is the Image of the guy in the grey tracksuit and  black scarf walking with a mini inferno crackling behind him. I’m not even going to add it to this post. It’s almost a perverse sort of fetishizing and branding…

Two articles caught my attention this week. The Guardian / London School of Economics / Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Reading The Riots Report and the  Neil ‘O Brien of The Telegraph – How the Guardian destroyed the left’s excuses for the riots

I’m still going through the Guardian/LSE report.  Here are the thoughts that Ieft in the comments page of The Telegraphs critique of the Guardian report.

“This is a less a case of misreading the riots but more of balancing representation. For the last three months there has been plenty to-ing and fro-ing between “it was pure criminality” and “its poverty and disaffection”. Both land on the same landing strip – the lack of a Continue reading

The UK “Riot” Maze

My own mixed-feelings and thoughts around the UK riots have been just as compelling to me as the multitude of articles, conferences, panel discussions, arts pieces that have been born from them. I have concluded to think about the riots as a sort of “tilling the soil” for  planting seed of re-imagining, using this ‘opportunity’ to be creative in tackling deep seated social and economic issues head on. I had grown tired of hearing the stock responses, shouting down  or the pussy footing that goes on that tends to go  won when race and class become the focus of a conversation.

One thing that I have found annoying me a little is the Image of the guy in the grey tracksuit and  black scarf walking with a mini inferno crackling behind him. I’m not even going to add it to this post. It’s almost a perverse sort of fetishizing and branding…

Two articles caught my attention this week. The Guardian / London School of Economics / Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Reading The Riots Report and the  Neil ‘O Brien of The Telegraph – How the Guardian destroyed the left’s excuses for the riots

I’m still going through the Guardian/LSE report.  Here are the thoughts that Ieft in the comments page of The Telegraphs critique of the Guardian report.

“This is a less a case of misreading the riots but more of balancing representation. For the last three months there has been plenty to-ing and fro-ing between “it was pure criminality” and “its poverty and disaffection”. Both land on the same landing strip – the lack of a Continue reading

The UK “Riot” Maze

My own mixed-feelings and thoughts around the UK riots have been just as compelling to me as the multitude of articles, conferences, panel discussions, arts pieces that have been born from them. I have concluded to think about the riots as a sort of “tilling the soil” for  planting seed of re-imagining, using this ‘opportunity’ to be creative in tackling deep seated social and economic issues head on. I had grown tired of hearing the stock responses, shouting down  or the pussy footing that goes on that tends to go  won when race and class become the focus of a conversation.

One thing that I have found annoying me a little is the Image of the guy in the grey tracksuit and  black scarf walking with a mini inferno crackling behind him. I’m not even going to add it to this post. It’s almost a perverse sort of fetishizing and branding…

Two articles caught my attention this week. The Guardian / London School of Economics / Joseph Rowntree Foundation – Reading The Riots Report and the  Neil ‘O Brien of The Telegraph – How the Guardian destroyed the left’s excuses for the riots

I’m still going through the Guardian/LSE report.  Here are the thoughts that Ieft in the comments page of The Telegraphs critique of the Guardian report.

“This is a less a case of misreading the riots but more of balancing representation. For the last three months there has been plenty to-ing and fro-ing between “it was pure criminality” and “its poverty and disaffection”. Both land on the same landing strip – the lack of a Continue reading