An exciting opportunity came my way and luckily I had the spoons to respond! [Viva Oxygen Therapy!!] Have you heard of Theodore Zeldin? He’s a very special person 🙂

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sorry this is such a rubbish photo, but it was taken by candlelight 😀 that’s a commissioned cowl in his hand, made by Singing Bird Artist 😉 oh my, what an honour. You can find lots about Theodore Zeldin online, his short biography is here:

http://www.oxfordmuse.com/?q=theodore-zeldin

and his books are available from all good bookstores, as they say. Personally I think he has contributed so much to intersectional thinking by extending the way ‘respectable’ history researchers and professors can expand into political zones and make the voices of ‘ordinary’ people shine through. That he then champions a method of peace-making through conversation, an unfolding of understanding by breaking down stereotypes and having people respond not react to the person in front of them, perhaps from a group they had biased thoughts about, oh, this is Nobel Peace Prize stuff in my book…

He is here in Nottingham both to launch the Being Human Festival 2016 [many other venues across Britain, see http://beinghumanfestival.org/event/conversation-dinner/ for the event where the photo was taken, many events also took place at Contemporary, where some Black History events took pride of place ❤ ] and the Nottingham Portraits project, where a city will be revealed by the views of its citizens, many more events planned for that!

So, what was Singing Bird doing there? Well, you know I’m a textile and fibre artist and work as a process artist, incorporating time and site specific details… Amber Forrest contacted me through Knit Nottingham, who suggested me as a knitter, who though disabled, would be very comfortable knitting during an event to commemorate it in some way. Thanks Eleanor, I owe you 😉 After an excited phone conversation and meet up with the lovely Amber who did so much [thanks again Amber] to make sure I was comfortable and my agoraphobia and fibromyalgic needs were met on the night, I was primed. Knit a hat, no a cowl, for a man who has pioneered such exciting techniques to open people’s minds and show them more is possible! This is my joy in action 🙂

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This is a man who wears suits a lot – that’s what professionally active historians of 80+ wear, but I noticed in photos often has his shirt collar open, no hat and no tie. Aha! A cowl might be useful then, particularly when travelling. Amber had found the yarn above, a navy with white thread running through, which turns out to be recycled glass fibres, and get this, it glows in the dark!! How cool is that! I immediately felt how like a pin stripe it looked, like those suits… and having thought about how he has worked to bring out hidden sides of people, I thought of natural colours, a rainbow maybe, no, better, a sunset, with colours reflected in the sea, all the ripples he has made in the world, shimmering reflections taken on their own wave out into the world and the waves he has met and with which he has rolled, how much further he goes than you’d expect from the pinstripe… So I prepared for the event by knitting the ‘pinstripe’ side and starting the sea and sunset, with short lengths of yarns prepped to allow many elements, reflecting the diverse and various people expected to the event at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant.

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I arrived at the event and was seated with some help [bar stools and sticks don’t go!] introduced to some lovely people, then escorted upstairs [plenty of disabled people came to the event, but they all had to be ambulatory, and those stairs with cold brass handrails were no fun to come down]  to be able to choose where I wanted to sit. I smiled, remembering my late husband, as I chose the back corner where you could see 4 doors, but hide a weapon at my right side – yes, classic ninja/agoraphobic out but stressed!! He always knew where I would sit, and as a martial artist found it very funny, because I’m also a pacifist. 😉

There were speeches, from the head of Humanities at the University of Nottingham, about the Being Human Festivals and their intentions [improving community integration and access] and from Amber introducing the Nottingham Portraits and MUSE project, and Theodore Zeldin then spoke on how to use the Menu of Conversation we were offered to guide the process. He advised how to avoid traumatic topics if you needed to, but still speak of things important to your life.. it was an amazing list and very interesting… only one thing jarred.. the use of “both sexes”. Theodore has written some great stuff on improving communication between men and women and works with his wife [they have joint copyright on some ideas/processes] so understands the huge need there is for this work.

However, it is 2016, and we do now know there are far more sexes/gender orientations present in our communities, I have several trans friends, some happily transitioned, some at the beginning of their process, but most of my closest trans friends are non-binary, and I have 2 cis friends who also feel they identify more with genderfluid orientations. What is commonplace to me doesn’t seem to have reached Theodore, but I hope someone will draw his intention to this lapse in language, because I don’t feel any lack of diversity in his approach… I will include it in feedback to the Menu process forms and if I am part of the spinoff events MUSE intends, I will definitely raise it, and suggest sticking an amendment over the top. [I am torn between eco awareness and trans ally on that, far better to have new forms, but how many have been printed already??]

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Overall I was very pleased to see a diversity of people there in terms of race and culture and disability, I met at least 2 gay men, spotted some lesbians and doubt I was the only bi person there… there were a lot of white academic types, but then they were there as helpers, so like the wait staff created another group making it slightly hard to get a sense of true proportions. One University guy made a gaffe, but it turned out well, as he casually said he had been hoping to meet some homeless people – silence from 4 of us, and then a refuge project guy spoke up about varieties of homelessness and to support him I said, hmm, yes, I had been 20 minutes away from having no key to a place of my own, flat sitting for a friend while unsafe at my own place [house sharer was letting in violent neighbour angry I had helped her partner leave… sigh] was this close enough to give him an idea? Lovely project guy immediately says ‘Twinnies!’ and goes for a fistbump and handshake! The other two joined in and it turned out we had all been in precarious positions, the woman next to me making that very good point about how many paycheques most people are away from the street if they lose their home. The Uni guy looked a bit embarrassed but got over it and joined in and heard about the project in Beeston. Sorry I didn’t get people’s  names, but knitting takes two hands, actually it takes three when you get your work out and find you have lost a long needle in the taxi!!! I spent a flustered time figuring out how to knit in smaller sections at a time with many dropped stitches being sorted by candlelight [omg] as every other row took all 3 of the short needles from my mitts project… and then some… and BREATHE!!

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My main conversation partner of the evening was a joy to meet! She was full of anger and righteous indignation and an edge of despair about Trump and Brexit and we talked non-stop!! I told her I am a possibilitarian and relentless optimist [at least when I have the right painkillers!!] and how I felt the working class had been abandoned when the first Council houses were sold off, and then when things like the Trade Unions, which had begun to diversify, black leaders in the TGWU [Transport General Workers] and women getting senior positions in the FireFighter’s Union, were pushed out of the Labour Party and the spin doctors let in, and the training and development side of the unions and the Labour Party stopped. I was never a Labour Party member, but I knew loads of Labour and various flavour Communists from being a socialist feminist with the National Assembly of Women… well I was the token anarcha-feminist 😀 [some of the working class women were very doubtful when I joined, but were won over by my ability to make profits on the catering to fund speakers for International Women’s Day] These were mainly women who had become politicized by the Miner’s Strike, strikes over working conditions, by meeting or being refugees and feminists in teaching or Council work. It makes for a different energy, less despair, more backbone when the shit hit the fan, and because this ISN’T the pit collapsing on 200 men in your village/town, a relief it isn’t worse. Although it is very very frightening…

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The rise of the alt-right/ white supremacists seems to have started with Brexit, risen with Trump and if Marine Le Pen gets in in France… ffs… the recent event in Spain with Franco praised and the Nazi salute being offered to a Catholic priest – omg, omg… this is very, very frightening. Or is it? This was here before, but underground.. now it has surfaced and like a particularly bulging spot, it can be tackled and all that pus can run away. Before, Britain First and other despicables could deny their Nazi roots, now they are gloating, out and proud. And they are sickening the middle way-ers who very naively thought they could vote Ukip and it would only be black suits, not blood on the streets… if the second referendum comes through, I think enough lies have been proved, enough nastiness has been shown that with more canvassing and talking to lost-in-the-muddle types, we could get a very different result.

There is a pause in which we have time to organize against white supremacism, already Muslims and Jews have acted to make a joint organization to defend religious rights, which is amazing.. I have seen Jewish Voices for Peace making common cause with Black Muslims via Facebook through supporting Black Lives Matter demos over the summer and a couple of days after Trump’s election, this amazing announcement of the new organization. I had tears of joy… may this feed back, may this help those American Jews who do support the sending of military aid to Israel stop and instead build a programme of mutual understanding and send peacemaking volunteers to Israel/Palestine…

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But back to the event, celebrating thinking again, meeting and talking and responding, not reacting… there was such a buzz, such good energy in the room… I woke up the next day early and full of positivity, and managed to start clutterclearing my studio! That’s a win! I am meeting Amaya for a cuppa at the weekend and we will talk more about the ideas thrown up, she has great energy, skills and education and empowerment and I hope we will be able to come up with some ideas to help gather the resources of our individual networks and enrol them in creating more connections…at the least, hanging out with likeminded friends is good for your mental health! more win, more hope, more possibility webs spreading into the world! It has to be good.

 

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