With today’s final birthday guest post, we’re changing tack a little. When I asked Rose to write something about the stigma associated with mental illness, I thought it would be an interesting insight into a subject that is close to both our hearts – but with the recent suicide of the comedian Robin Williams and the public and media response to this tragic event, the topic has taken on a whole new significance. This is an honest and thoughtful post, and I freely admit that I strongly identify with a lot of what is said here. I am sure that this post will also strike a chord with others.
Rose blogs at the excellent roseversusblackdog about her experiences of and ongoing recovery from mental health issues. Even if you have no personal experience of mental illness (and especially if you do), her blog is definitely a recommended read.
August 11th 2014 – I woke up at 3am suffering from an anxiety attack and decided to have a quick browse on Twitter to distract myself. One tweet caught my eye – I saw the words “Robin Williams dead at 63 – Suspected Suicide”.
Tweet after tweet. Overwhelming sadness.
“Get help!” “Tell someone” “You can get better”.
Understandable messages from concerned well-wishers some who were probably worried about their own friends and family.
I also thought a lot about the exhortations to “speak up” and “tell someone”.
I would like to explain why this is such courageous act and why given the possible consequences, we should have understanding and compassion for people who wish to stay silent.
Grasp the Nettle is the latest film from director (and friend of Another Kind Of Mind) Dean Puckett. This documentary explores the experiences of a disparate group of activists who came together in 2009 to create a sustainable community outside of the mainstream on a patch of derelict land at Kew Bridge, west London. I was involved in this project too (indeed, it was at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village that I first met Dean and his ever-present camera!), photographing and writing about the site as it grew and changed over the eleven months of its existence. It would be true to say that this was a place that inspired me both practically and creatively – and I wasn’t the only one.
Here, Dean describes what inspired him to make a film about the Eco-Village:
There was an intoxicating energy about the place, a sense of freedom from a system which many of us recognise is unequal and destructive. Yet this rag-tag bunch of occupiers defied conventional stereotypes of the ‘ecowarrior’. Most of them were ordinary people from different walks of life – some were students, others were former professionals. And they had come together to not simply occupy a piece of land, but to transform it, bit by bit – in an exciting and unnerving sense, creating their own reality outside the system. I wanted to truly understand this emerging hotbed of radical practice that was both outside and inside wider society, the people involved, and the way they understood what they were doing.
So he got his camera out – and the result was Grasp the Nettle. Having been successfully screened at a number of festivals, the film is now available online for anyone to watch – wherever, whenever and for free. I’ve posted it above, so now it’s your turn to meet the inhabitants of Kew Bridge Eco-Village and see what you think…
Long-time readers may be familiar with Dean’s name from my posts on ‘The Crisis of Civilization’, his previous film collaboration with Lucca Benney and Nafeez Ahmed – which is also available online if you haven’t yet seen it.
Some people are born to be troublemakers – in the best possible sense of that word. The veteran Labour politican Tony Benn, who died yesterday at the age of 88, was certainly one such. The kind of trouble he made was the kind of trouble many more of us should make in this life: he was prepared to stand up and say what needed to be said, usually in no uncertain terms, and often much to the discomfort of the government of the day (and even his own party, at times).
While reading the many tributes that have been made to this principled man in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was reminded of the role he played in paying tribute to someone else, another determined and impassioned individual who stood up for what they believed in – the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who is remembered by an unusual memorial plaque in the House of Commons (see text below). I first encountered the story of this once secret plaque and Benn’s part in it from the MP and ex-Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, who told it at a Climate Rush event commemorating the suffragettes in 2010, and it has intrigued me ever since:
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
IN THIS BROOM CUPBOARD EMILY WILDING DAVISON HID HERSELF, ILLEGALLY, DURING THE NIGHT OF THE 1911 CENSUS.
SHE WAS A BRAVE SUFFRAGETTE CAMPAIGNING FOR VOTES FOR WOMEN AT A TIME WHEN PARLIAMENT DENIED THEM THAT RIGHT.
IN THIS WAY SHE WAS ABLE TO RECORD HER ADDRESS, ON THE NIGHT OF THE CENSUS, AS BEING “THE HOUSE OF COMMONS”, THUS MAKING HER CLAIM TO THE SAME POLITICAL RIGHTS AS MEN.
EMILY WILDING DAVISON DIED IN JUNE 1913 FROM INJURIES SUSTAINED WHEN SHE THREW HERSELF UNDER THE KING’S HORSE AT THE DERBY TO DRAW PUBLIC ATTENTION TO THE INJUSTICE SUFFERED BY WOMEN.
BY SUCH MEANS WAS DEMOCRACY WON FOR THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN.
Notice placed here by Tony Benn MP.
“I must tell you, Mr Speaker, that I am going to put a plaque in the House. I shall have it made myself and screwed on the door of the broom cupboard in the Crypt.”
It’s a great story, but it’s more than that. It says a great deal about the kind of person Tony Benn was. A tenacious and principled man who was happy to speak his mind, as the very fact that he was so determined to commemorate this event (even secretly) – and that he considered it to be important enough to memorialise – shows. Like many from across the political spectrum, I have long admired the principled stance he maintained all the way through his political life – and this memorial to Emily Wilding Davison is but one example of the way his democratic and socialist principles were so important to him.
I never met the man himself, but I saw and heard him speak at countless rallies and he was always fascinating. I suspect we might not always have agreed on everything had we ever met, but, quite frankly, that really doesn’t matter. The accounts I have read over the last twenty four hours from those who did meet him all point to a man who was fascinated by people and who would always find time to speak to those who buttonholed him – and, unlike most modern politicians, who would really listen to and absorb what he was being told, whether he agreed or not.
Tony Benn was the kind of politician you just don’t see any more. Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Gary Younge points out exactly what it was that made Benn the kind of politican we should see more of:
He advocated for the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich and labour against capital. He believed that we were more effective as human beings when we worked together collectively than when we worked against each other as individuals. Such principles have long been threatened with extinction in British politics. Benn did a great deal to keep them alive.
And it’s now our job to continue to keep these principles alive in the face of the current political climate…
As a human being it is very difficult not to have sympathy for somebody that I cared about deeply, but it is also important to remember that that person that I cared about deeply did not in fact exist. I cared deeply for somebody whose life was intermingled with mine, and that person’s life story is a fiction.
These are the words of an activist, named only as Lisa, who gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last month. Lisa’s testimony about her ex-partner is part of the Committee’s Interim Report on undercover policing, a subject which has rightly caused a great deal of outcry and controversy over the last year or so.
The collapse of a high-profile court case against a group of environmental activists in early 2011 revealed that a police spy known as Mark Stone (real name Mark Kennedy) had successfully infiltrated various activist groups over a long period of time, acting as what can only be described as an agent provocateur.
This case was just the start of a series of revelations concerning the activities of Kennedy and a number of other undercover officers – revelations which have left many within the activist community quite rightly shocked and angered, and have led to wider calls for public inquiries and investigations into the use and tactics of police spies like Kennedy and his colleagues (hence the Home Affairs Committee’s involvement) .
Last Saturday, I headed off to Sipson to wish the wonderful Grow Heathrow project a very happy third birthday. Although they have the possibility of a legal judgement looming over them that could – sadly – lead to their eviction from this fantastic site, they still know how to throw a great birthday party – and I hope they have many more!
Here’s something I’m really excited about. This is the trailer for Grasp The Nettle, the brand new film from some of the team behind the successful indie remix mash-up documentary The Crisis of Civilization (2011). Filmed during the immediate aftermath of the 2008 banking collapse and beyond, Grasp The Nettle follows the lives and experiences of an eclectic group of activists involved in two radical social projects in London – the Kew Bridge Eco-Village and the controversial Democracy Village in Parliament Square.
After many requests from fans of the film and much hard work from the Crisis Team, it’s finally here… Yes, The Crisis of Civilization has, at long last, been unleashed online and on DVD!
You lucky people out there can now WATCH THE FILM FOR FREE ONLINE whenever you want. You can also DOWNLOAD THE FILM FOR FREE, and BUY THE DVD (which comes with lots of lovely extras) – all of which means that now you too can put a screening on in your community at any time and spread the word to your friends and family…
Remember, if you decide to buy the DVD, you can be safe in the knowledge that in doing so you are helping to support the project (which has been created on a shoestring by a small and dedicated group of people volunteering their time, skills and energy) in the important job of getting the film out to as many people as possible.
So tell your friends and share the links. Everyone should see this film!
Watch it. Download it. Buy it. Screen it. Share it.
Really exciting news reaches me from Crisis of Civilization HQ – from March 14th 2012 at 7pm UK time, everyone will be able to watch and download the film online for FREE, as well as being able to buy the DVD from the Crisis website or from Amazon!
The DVD will be available in both PAL and NTSC formats – which means that anyone can put a screening on now, wherever they are in the world – and comes in lovely eco-friendly recycled packaging (of course!) with over an hour’s worth of extra goodies for you to enjoy, including deleted scenes, remix films, and additional interview footage.
You’ll also find a range of subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Swedish and Chinese, which have been expertly put together by an amazingly dedicated bunch of linguistically talented volunteers.
There’s been lots of interest in the release already, with reviews from the Transition Voice website and the independent film magazine Little White Lies, as well as a great response from the BAFTA-winning film-maker, Nick Broomfield, who described The Crisis of Civilization as “a unique film. Everyone should see it”.
Today is International Women’s Day, which celebrates the lives and achievements of women around the world. So today – and every day – I am celebrating all the amazing, inspiring and wonderful women in my life. Women I know and love. Women who have an impact on my life every day of every week of every year.
I am celebrating my strong and determined mother.
I am celebrating my talented, witty and intelligent sister.
I am celebrating my younger female friends, who approach living with an awe-inspiring passion, joy and strength.
I am celebrating my older female friends, some of whom may be retired but who most certainly are not retiring in their zest for life.
I am celebrating all the female artists, writers, poets, film-makers, musicians and DJs I know – all of whom fill my life with art and music and inspiration.
With public sector workers on strike across the country yesterday, somewhere between fifteen and thirty thousand strikers (depending on which media or official source you consult, as is ever the case with these things!) and their supporters attended a central London march and rally in opposition to government cuts to the sector and their pensions. This slideshow is just some of what I saw.