What once might have seemed like a radical situation, far removed from our everyday reality, aligned itself with our own experiences of living through a dangerous pandemic.
Photo Credit: Ned Collyer
This document was initially produced for the Kill The Bill protests, but applies equally to all protests.
This is a creative protest. It’s a little document full of questions, suggestions, prompts, and exercises. You don’t have to do all of them, not by a long shot. The idea is simply that you might, if you have some spare time, settle down with this document, choose some of the sections which you find most interesting, and make things.
What those things are doesn’t matter. You could sketch, paint, write lyrics or music, poetry or prose, or work in whatever form you like best. I’d recommend trying to mix it up a little though, if you can. If you like to write, give yourself some time to draw. If you like painting, try singing a song. Get out your modelling clay or Lego if you like! Anything which can be used to make something.
With any luck, you won’t be alone. Whether you’re reading this out in the cold at a protest, or at home wanting to send your solidarity, this document allows us to come together in an act of collective imagining. It’s very hard to build a better world if we can’t imagine it first; So this is a chance for you to Invent The Future.
If, out of this, you make anything you’re happy to share, please do so on social media, to encourage people to get involved in the campaign to #KillTheBill. Send your drawings to your family, your poetry to your friends, and your music to whoever will listen. We’ll win together or not at all, and art is a powerful way of building community between people.
Most importantly - Take a minute to breathe and relax. This is a moment to think about hope, and to reconnect with the fire of imagination which keeps us warm during the struggle.
Yours, in Solidarity,
ACT ONE: WHERE WE ARE
Look around you. Where are you? Show me it. What is this place? What can you see? Is this your home? Your community? What is it like? What are the small pieces of beauty? What are the things nobody but you knows about? You don’t have to tell me. I just want you to think about it. Are these the people you’re fighting for? If not, then who is? Tell me about them. Take a moment to remind yourself why we fight.
Where does resistance live in you? Can you feel it in your body? What part? Where does your hope live - That little fire which keeps us warm. What about your fears? Don’t - ironically- be scared of them. It’s okay to be afraid. We shouldn’t have to be optimistic all the time; it’ll only burn us out. Allow yourself to feel your fears. Maybe create something which contains them - An artistic vessel to store them in.
After that, can you make something which contains your hope, your resistance? Which speaks to where those two things live in you? Can you find your own hunger for hope, and the direction it leads you in - whether that’s to action or to rest? Where does it want you to go? Write, draw, sculpt, sing, create; Allow yourself to be lead only by that want - that burning hope - for a few minutes.
How is the weather? Can you feel a change in the air? What’s it like, where you are? Here, it’s grey, and on the edge of tipping into soft and gentle rain. Find an item which speaks to you of resistance. It can be anything, from a nice leaf to something passed down through generations. This object has magical powers; talk with it for a moment. What power does it hold? Who has carried it before? Why is it in your hands, now? What is it giving you?
How could it remake the world?
Take this magical item - this talisman - and place it where feels most right.
Say goodbye to it before you move onto the next section.
ACT TWO: THE CITY
You’re in a city - But it’s not your city. It’s not any city which has ever really existed. It’s a city purely in your imagination - Can you invite me in? Show me around the streets? What does it look like? How does the air taste? What are the sounds of the street - Can you hear that? There’s chanting from down the road...
There’s a protest going on, people blocking the streets carrying signs and banners. The government is passing a law expanding the powers of the police. The noise is deafening! People are moving like waves pulling into high tide. How does it feel to be amongst them? What’s it like?
People are shouting slogans - What are they? What do they have with them? Do they carry a manifesto? Is someone putting up posters? Is someone writing an article, or a protest song? Can you create something from that world?
Somewhere in this city, somebody finds something. It’s an object - Your object, from earlier. It’s exactly where you left it. What do they do with it? How do they feel when they find it?
It’s a decade later. All the old statues sit locked up in museums, alongside the placards and banners and batons. A child is looking at something - It’s the thing you created earlier, the manifesto, or poster, or song or whatever you wished to make, which originates from this world and these protests. The child leaves the museum, and walks out onto the streets -
Imagine a world without the police, without prisons, and without the carceral system; What does it look like to you? Can you imagine this other world - Better and brighter then it was before, no longer so full of fear? Write, draw, sculpt, sing, create; Invent the future as it could be.
And once you’ve imagined where we’re going, turn the page, and let’s look at where we’ve been.
ACT THREE: THE MUSEUM OF RESISTANCE
You have found yourself in The Museum Of Resistance. We have exhibits going back centuries; every moment of struggle, of victory or defeat, is recorded within these walls.
Picture this museum - What does it look like? Is it hallowed and imposing like a cathedral? Or something more humble - Less intimidating, more welcoming, a space to feel at home? How does it feel to walk through it, looking at the exhibits? Is it busy, full of people? Or more relaxed?
Would you like to show me around? Certainly I’d appreciate the tour.
Spend a minute or so thinking about the moments which have shaped your politics - What were they? Did you witness them yourself, or were they told to you later? Who has come before you? What were they fighting for?
Now think about revolutionary art. What songs have changed you? What poems have given you the strength to keep fighting even when the struggle seemed bleak? What pieces of liberatory art stay with you, like pinprick stars punctured through the darkness of an oppressive sky?
Take a moment. Hold them in your mind’s eye. Now, create something in answer to the call they sent out into the struggle. Make something in dialogue with and in response to that work, which has lingered in your radical memory.
Think about the current movements which shape our age; the forces which unite mass groups of people to fight for change. How would you like them to be remembered, when the future comes? How should the people at their centre be memorialised? If “history will absolve us” then what will you see when you one day walk into an exhibition on the movement which #KilledTheBill?
The abolitionist writer and activist Emmy Rākete says that we in the struggle are all picking something up from the generations who have come before, and leaving something behind for those who will come after.
As you leave the museum, you see there’s a space for you to write one last thing. A note, to the future. To those who will be organising in a decade or two decades time. What do you write to them? What do we say?
(For more of Red Fightback’s analysis on #KillTheBill, see our article here: https://redfightback.org/kill-the-bill/)