A decade of The Golden Age

Celebrating a significant birthday at the start of October, in all the complexity of getting here and of the times I find myself in here, for a moment I am boringly mostly just grateful.

It’s not been boring for me, but might be for a post about it left at a thank you list. But little seems great at the moment generally, to put it midly, and for me personally there was a time I could see nothing great at all.

Which, via the long way round, was a period that lead to the inception of my work as Momo and to the coming out of its musical sound – a musical sound first released with a home-made debut LP, The Golden Age of Exploration. And it’s a record that still means a lot to me.

In this little behind the scenes, I share just a bit about where I’d come from in arriving at this album. It was a very long way round – over twenty years to drag myself just over the line of something that actually worked and seemed to embody a genuine artistic world. Talk about arriving late, despite trying quite hard the whole way; some people are born cool, some people have cool thrust upon them and some of them will never attain cool but by virtue of sheer blind beligerance make something that sounds at least a bit intentional. This record was a massive sketchbook work-out essentially, unsure what I was intending until I’d feverishly worked it through, but it unlocked me into a new world of music making with confidence and identity. It will always be a big symbol for me.

As I share in this vlog, of the many Momo secret hits from The Golden Age that I’ll never tire of playing out live, perhaps one symbolises the journey in my memory the best – Asylum Seeker.

These are some thoughts more about the personal walk through the development of this piece and the record around it, rather than an exploration of refugeeism. That’s a separate story to consider with art in which my place is to listen, not sing. But for a single example of the place of art in making connection to borderless citizenry, as geographic as emotional, you should follow The Walk of Little Amal from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester in a wave of creativity and testimony through seventy towns and cities. It is ambitious, to say the least, giving voice and visualisation to the human statistics of empty politics. That brokenness and lostness can help the most entitled of us, maybe well used to being heard and seen, glimpse empathy for those forced to make their whole lives testimony to dislocation is the whole point of my own little electro-pop song about looking for home.

 

 

A MIXTAPE FOR TIMO.

My gratitude at reaching the half century in the town I grew up in is actually in how I’ve arrived back here. Not just in one piece physically and emotionally, despite the darkest of sunny summers in generations this year, but having had the lifeblood transfusion of getting to finish a few things all at about the same time. I’ve been working some long hours and slightly obsessive To Do sheets over the last couple of months especially, but projects like Talking Distance and my Science Caketalk, as well as a couple of really interesting projects I’ve been working through consulting with Zo, have given me a nice sense of closure right before a big round number nameday. As I’ve said like a stuck record over the years, finishing things feels essential for learning and moving on. Especially because earning a little celebration at the close of them helps give you a little payback of joy and rest. Damn lucky when that works out.

An extra part of this I should say is a gift from some of my creative family. A reflection back to me of their creativity and how we can encourage each other in our play, our making, trying and exploring – a mixtape, that can really only be described as a variety show of gentle madness and brilliance on a lovingly presented C90 cassette. Arrived in the post on the afternoon of my fiftieth, from Andy Robinson, Simon Brett and a whole gang of people for some reason wanting to sing silly songs at me, or share poetry, or performance, or mixes or just well wishes and tune choices. These couple of sentences do not do this justice, and frankly I never will be able to. It’s floored me in its generosity and encouragement. But if the decade that The Golden Age unlocked could lead me to such family and produce such creativity between us then I should celebrate it. If your work leads you to find people who can hold each other up in the lostness and madness, you’ve been following something good, I suspect.

If you’d like to hear it for yourself, message me and I’ll send you the private link. It’s very entertaining.

Meanwhile, as a final part of my own little bit of celebration and closure before looking forward, I’ve created a loving kit bash of Asylum Seeker – the Decade Defiance Mix, which you can download for free right here, below.

So I am indeed grateful. But there’s nothing boring about it. All these decades in, whether I even get to glimpse the promised land or not, loved ones have encouraged me to feel like I’m only just warming up for the road still ahead.

x.

 

 

The unreal virus among us.

Were you at or cheering on the Unite For Freedom rally yesterday in London? Ten thousand turned up, it is reported. Pointedly not wearing masks, as symbols of oppression.

Living in a machine that naturally recycles fear at the best of times, it is an impossible mental feat to balance clear-headed concerns in times of crisis. Times of crisis – if they are that – demand reactions out of a normal sense of balance.

I want to share a little basic research that Mrs Peach sourced this morning that I too have been wanting to firm up in my mind a little more – one of the most central claims of the protests against COVID19 social restrictions: It’s less deadly than ‘the flu’.

Being a deep cynic about our current government and conservative trends in politics generally, never mind the more extremes of it driving global conversations at the moment, I felt for months that official Covid figures in the UK couldn’t be trusted. Liked GPs mentally adding a third to patients’ weekly alcohol unit claims. Perhaps you have been mentally doing the reverse, like those of uswho’ve said, with a tempting swoop of a cloak: “But do you actually KNOW anyone who’s had it though?”

All our understandable gossips aside, on the far side of the first summer with this disease I’m here comparing some key reported figures we’ve found. Different sources, admittedly, but fair ones in context, I think. Also, for both Covid19 and ‘normal’ influenza, England is by far the lion’s share of the cases across the UK nations, so I’m going to quote those figures, to keep it a degree simpler for essential illustration of the main point.

Links to the official spreadsheet and report are in the comments below for your reference. The Office of National Statistics reports deaths registered officially between Gov.uk and NHS England as 49,460. Of over 300,000 reported cases. across the whole UK.

Gov.uk’s official flu report for 2018/19 (which we’ve picked to steer clear of any Covid reports muddling more recent data) says, at the bottom of p51, the worst year for cases of flu recently was 2014/15 at 28,330. Less than a thousand of those deaths were of people under the age of 65. The report year itself recorded a bizarrely low figure of less than two thousand but an average number of deaths from flu in England in the last five years must be a little less than 20,000PA.

Remember too, the Covid19 figures of people who have died from the disease are for a lot less than a year of recording yet – essentially half that time. And these figures I believe don’t include indirect deaths. Note also, this has happened in distinctly not flu season. When our immune systems are stronger.

I would honestly add to this comparison also that the demographic for Covid deaths is widely reported as significantly different to that of normal flu – while kids seem very unlikely to get it, fatalities are markedly more spread across the ages than flu. And, anecdotally, while some who’ve had the disease have reported little trouble from it, many have conversely reported not just how unpleasant it is but how weirdly long lasting, still feeling knocked for six by it months later. Medical folk, please wade in with testimony and evidence here. But I’m concerned we are in danger of concocting simplistic narratives to suit our fears about SARS CoV2 and the disease the virus triggers.

It’s not the flu, as we’re used to dealing with it. It seems a lot more serious. I’d say, as ever, spend time talking to NHS workers who’ve been dealing with the disease whether they think the phenomenon is a hoax.

I’ll confess I’ve not gotten around to watching the London Real exposé on all this, with David Icke’s perspective fairly central to the thesis. I would say his words at the rally on Saturday: “Anyone with half a braincell on active duty can see it (the virus) is a nonsense, because they (the government) are making it up” seem to not fit the human loss represented in the recording of it above, or indeed around the world. Yes, I have homework still set me by friends to hear what the thesis is about where the disease did or didn’t come from, whether it is or isn’t real or natural. I do know that Brian from London Real Academy has sent me half a dozen promotional emails a day since I had to
subscribe to his channel in order to watch the exposé YouTube and Facebook took down.

My instinct here, as it has been all through our Brexit debates, is to ask: What is the fruit of the idea? Whose company does an idea keep or encourage; who seems emboldened by it and who is diminished. As with any political momentum, I think we should be asking: Who has the power here?

Who will benefit, what will we the people gain, and what might we lose?

I won’t call this a march of loonies and cranks and I’ll just about manage to stifle, by stuffing a kitchen cloth into my mouth, saying the march looked like a collection of right wing groups gathering. That’s the reactionary liberal in me. It was, I think, only one bloke who unfurled the Union of British Fascists flag and it could be mistaken for a 30s superhero logo and maybe that’s why it
seemed to go unchallenged by the crowd.

I do think this is more evidence of things we are all wrestling with as a society in this era. Massive corporate influence over world markets, assets and governments? Duh – obviously. Threats to civil liberties in a digital era? You tell me, Alexa. Shite-ton-a questions over vaccines produced in an unsafe timeframe by big pharma? What are we even fighting about? People waving placards saying: “Love and freedom to all”? I’ve always said you libertarians just want an unconditional hug. I’m in. And a corrupt decadent elite, cultivating the abuse cultures while the world burns? It’s not exactly a big imaginative ask, is it? And the strain to local businesses and everyone’s mental health
from suspending business as usual? Huge, but complex.

We’re in a global economic system I would describe as sickening and seizing-up . I’ve come to see it fundamentally. We are out of balance with the natural systems that made everything we have, and it’s a problem so fundamental and so big that few of us can take it in, let alone feel the impact of it emotionally. It’s different details of injustice that tend to hit home, I think.

If there is any fundamental waking up to do, I wonder if we’re more of us beginning to but to different aspects of the world machine’s problems, at different times. Different imperatives get us questioning our priorities.

And I take some comfort in how compassionate values are mixed up with more extreme rhetoric unconsciously. Vegan libertarians speak up. But also, keep following and joining the dots. Who is really around you, and who is missing?

My worry about narratives like those of Saturday’s rally in London is the over-simplification of medical and scientific issues, in a conflation of widely-shared fears and very specific more conspiratorial details. What rights our governments may attempt to lever into place during the
pandemic should concern us – as surely as the unelected technocrats trying to run them, like Dominic Cummings. We should be as angry at the undemocracy of that as of the cavalier treatment of British citizens. The narrative arc of Mr Icke’s story reads like a Dan Brown novel, like a season structure from a drama writers’ room looking for the right balance of centres of gravity and character to make it work.

Its effect too is an eroding of trust in the methodology of science, because for all the intellect wrestling with these issues in QAnon-type spaces, our own placards reduce the story to “antivaxing” “anti masks” “anti-5G” “anti-Bill Gates” “anti-global health organisations” “antigovernement”. Really, the networked “demon-haunted world” as Carl Sagan described it, is too easily dangerously
anti-complexity. Pro-gaslighting. Whether it’s populist politicians or consumer product placement. A demanding of you that something is what it isn’t.

In my bones, it didn’t feel like my home I saw articulated and represented yesterday, and it didn’t feel like freedom for me they were championing. But that’s how we all feel about someone’s protests, in their right to do so. Why should I feel so differently about this march compared with others I have attended myself – most noteably just a couple of blog posts back? From the story I currently think I’m in, I’d say the Unite For Freedom rally was a lot more pro-status quo than many folk on the march would like to hear themselves saying. I also believe it is part of sharing the working out of massive, new foundational times for all of us, and I mainly know that I don’t know very much, really. And also truths will out in time.

I think we’ve all grown up in an unreality in the West. But I think we’re being offered alternative unrealities as lifeboats. When we’re many more of us marching not because “MASKS ARE MUZZLES” but for values that would help someone else with their oxygen supply before attending to our own, then I’ll feel we’re going to get revolution from this current insane world.

David Icke called the “real” virus among us fascism. I’m at a personal stage that whenever I see it, I will call it out and stand with those who energise me about a truly healthy, hopeful, accountable human tomorrow.

 

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash.

Generation TEDx

 

So, yeah. I’m a TEDx speaker, apparently.

Sort of.

It’s been a bit of a journey, man.

After a wrestling with a pitch, around the very helpfully well structured framework laid out by TEDx Southampton 2020, back in the late spring I hit send on a rather thorough package of creative intent to join their event. To ask for a corner of their hallowed stage. The stage that was to have that famous giant Helvetica Heavy logo standing on it, just down the road from where I live.

I upped my game for this one. This felt good. I’d felt oddly moved by a sudden new take on my essentially Unsee The Future core thinking that seemed to fall out of my conversations with Caroline about what irresistable idea worth sharing I should try riding into the Mayflower Theatre upon. A new way into the big picture of our human planet in 2020. Dignified and rehearsed. Informed and sedately intelligent. Just a hint of boyish Momo cheek.

Or possibly me riding the TED logo like a bronco in a tequila bar. You get the picture.

 

Deep dive.

After thirty rich episodes of my research cast to date, I feel like the water is getting deeper and hotter. Not in the sea off Bournemouth, you understand. My exceptionally late dive into summer sea swimming this week may be based upon eight days of very benign weather, but the English channel is still a bracingly healthy temperature. Y’know. Healthy to the corpuscles and the zealous wellness guru in you, if not to male body confidence. Though call out my daily commitment to the plunge as soon as there’s as much as a force three off the Purbecks, won’t you.

No, I obviously mean the general temperature and complexity of current life on the human planet. My grip on encouraging the more hopeful human tomorrow is slightly more tremulous. Experience wizard mate Karla Morales-Lee very generously but forlornly tweeted me some months ago saying: “I feel like there should be a Timo podcast telling us everything is going to be alright.”

So do I.

Some things will be alright. Some things will be better. Much could be much worse in our life times. But the hope may lie in re-adjusting our scale of context.

And this gave me quite a personal way into a potential TEDx talk.

When I got back a standard email two weeks later that I hadn’t been selected for audition, I felt slugged in the solar plexus.

I was genuinely surprised. And not because of the middle aged white bloke over-confidence you assume I carry everywhere, on account of how much I appear to assume people want to hear what I reckon. Depsite the analytics. No, I tend to assume first that my default productions will struggle like hell to seem ‘credible’. And no wonder, I know, you’re right. But this talk felt like it should have landed.

So I did something uncharacteristic. I pushed back.

I politely emailed Annelies James from the team, working with Lee Peck Media and the Mayflower crew and other partners all bringing this show to life and slaving over emails with people like me. And essentially I thanked her for taking the time to go through mine and everyone’s talks, and acknowledged it can’t be easy telling people No. But also why did she tell me No?

Annelies was, as she has been throughout my contact with TEDx Southampton mostly through her, lovely. Encouraging but professionally consistent. And I got the crumbs I’d needed – I’d apparently been very close to selection. But I think I’d been late in the day and others had fitted into the event’s more intimate theme they were curating, human to human contact, just that bit better.

So, I rolled with the punch and breathed in. As Savannah Peterson said on Twitter today, admitting to failing at a big tilt at something: “It feels so 2020.” God, but this did. A year of needing personal resilience in grinding and sudden fighty ways. But something told me to take the lesson on fighting. Namely: Make sure you do, don’t take no for the whole answer, but do it with empathy.

Two weeks later I emailed Annelies again. Wondering if anything had, ah, changed.

To her charming credit she called me. I don’t think she’d mind me sharing that she said: “You’ve been so nice about it, I’m thinking: f**ck it, let’s hear you.”

I had an audition.

 

Short talk.

Writing and praciticing the whole first half of my talk I marched onto the Mayflower’s wide boards into the lights in a top hat a month later, and suddenly realised I was doing my first ever audition. For a bloke with theatre supposedly in his blood, I’d never actually put it out there quite like this. Like every actor has to constantly to find every single bit of work.

“Bugger me, I’m on a talent show” I realised as I stood looking at the judges. They all smiled at me warmly, with the magnificent sweep of the Mayflower’s oppulent auditorium atmospherically behind them.

Sauntering out after warm applause, I figured: “You got a shot and gave it your best. Now don’t think about it.”

So I tried not to think about it. Think about how perfect me in a top hat on a grand Victorian stage opening a talk with the words “The VicTORIANS!”in a music hall swoop would be for this show. Or about how much I could do with an honest-to-God break. A little bit of good luck to boost the energies at last and have an actual THING on my CV at last. Tried not to think about how utterly timely and Right Ruddy Now relevant my talk is.

Tried not to. Failed, obviously.

Then I heard. The judges were finding it hard to select twelve. I was down to the last 16.

I cheered. Then thought… why not just put us all on?

I of course cheekily, and ever so nicely, asked Annelies why they couldn’t just put us all on. She ever so professionally left giving me an answer until she had a firm one.

A week later I finally heard. And you won’t be surprised to hear, of course, that I… didn’t get selected.

I felt hit in the solar plexus.

Except… I had been selected. I was… an alternate speaker.

Number 13 of 12, essentially. Yeah. THAT close. Along with a spare female speaker, Johanna.

The bucking TED logo threw me off. Face first onto my stupid stupid top hat.

 

Long game.

Now, you might imagine how this feels. Or you might not. To think that in the middle of a summer of economic ruin, global pandemic fear, loss and conspiracy, I felt all but knocked out by not winning a TED talk tells you all you need to know about my first world problems and sense of perspective. Obviously. Except, y’know. You have to put your all into an audition, or not even bother turning up. Right? And if my one use in life in these horror-ful, utterly destabilising times is to bring strangely confident words of encouragement to people occasionally, then of course I was feeling hit in the boney plate covering my heart at coming so close to feeling useful. To doing something that might have reached more people with something creatively actually POSTIVE in 2020.

I’m just a twerp. But such is the detail a storyteller of any kind has to inhabit. All theatre is silly. And from the depths. And just hard work. And what one must absolutely do or die trying.

I had another call with Annelies. In which she was as kind and thoughtful as she could be within sure professional commitmenst to the team – 100% correctly – and in which I tried and failed to keep all my adult dignity and a suave indifference to the spotlight. The challenge was set: I was being asked to be a sub, if anyone dropped out. But the point slowly dawning on me through the punchdrunkness was… I was being recognised and promoted as a TEDx speaker. PEACH. WAKE UP.

Having given it my all, prepared to say: “I don’t want to put myself through that” and walk away with head up and no hard feelings at all, I saw myself under the TED logo on the new website and my knees buckled. I sat myself down and realised I had been selected as a credible potential voice of the event. And this was still a chance to represent and cheer on South Central. An opportunity to be in amongst the conversation for a while, and make the points I think are important. And to be part of a really well put together TEDx event on my doorstep and learn from it and get to put this mugshot in my blog posts: “I’m a TEDx speaker”.

There’s also another bit of the story. M’dear mate Matt. Because, while I knew almost no one, surprisingly, who made it through to the finals, one of the most distinctive voices for the Bournemouth and South Central creative scene, Matt Desmier and I got to ride into it a bit like another job, swapping notes about which of us had done less homework closer to the hour. It was encouraging, and a laugh. And we came THAT close to both riding into it together. And hey, right the way up to the final day, we actually are.

But there’s only so much of a good thing a single event can take, which I think they recognise… so I’m happy to say he’s now representing our corner of the coast in there for us both over the last mile. His talk, The future’s not so different, is a ride through science fiction culture deconstructing our so called predictions a bit – so it’s obviously the talk I secretly most want to watch. Plus, he’ll likely now give me a slot when he brings back Silicon Beach, so, y’know. Mates. I appreciate them. And am proud of them.

So I AM a TEDx speaker. And I will be sharing at least a version of my talk once the event has happened in November. Between now and then, I get to speak about the issue and the theme explored by our other twelve, no thirteen, speakers – we’re both taking this one for the team, Johanna. Picturing how your work honestly fits into a team? This is definitely part of what it means to make human to human contact.

Especially given how much I wang on about how the story of human planet futures “is not about me.” Called out there when it most counts, huh, Peach.

Also, Annelies said I should start a government petition to get me included, so there’s that.


 

DISCOVER ALL THE SPEAKERS AND GET YOUR LIMITED EDITION TICKETS FOR TEDx SOUTHAMPTON 2020 >

 

Read or listen to an Unsee The Future: Think Blink introducing Momo’s TEDx Southampton theme >

 

 

 

A remarkable, moving, heartening, respectful experience.

 

Blimey, yesterday was interesting, and a strange feeling tumult of heartening and challenging. As is typical of right now. Our country’s polarisations seem to have turned into frantic wrestles with something, everything, each other, ourselves. Here’s my personal therapeutic thought note on what struck me.

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO FACEBOOK. PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMES TURNER.

 

I generally echo Rachel’s combination of feelings in her re-post below, speaking as she does as a medical professional with some racial insights. And I went to bed last night wanting to know: How do those of us who are BAME and care workers in the pandemic feel about yesterday’s race protests?

 

 

 

So many of us in the UK have frankly led the government in trying to demonstrate community responsibility in a biological emergency this year, costing us who knows what emotional toll alone. It’s a seismic shock to our usual flow of life. This has been happening for three months.

For others of us in the same country, trying to demonstrate community responsibility has felt against the flow of the system I think, like a thousand little cuts and too many recurring deep wounds. This has taken its emotional toll on generations.

Both of these problems are rooted to the shape of how our country works fundamentally, and how it affects our well-being and our security. The interesting thing there is… how many different groups of us might relate to the second statement? Which shows just how systemic are our cultural problems. But the issue of race I’ve come to believe roots to the foundation of our very society. It’s not imported on ships from the Windies still just within living memory. It’s something our society is built on.

We’ve often said in our house that it feels like our generation – X – in some of our good fortune with the property bubble have had to finally address a lot of papered over, painted over, boarded over, bodged conversions and multiple redecorations in the houses we’ve incredibly luckily been able to afford. If we have. Finally bothering to strip off all those layers of wallpaper, strip back the spindles of the staircase, pull up the cheap laminate flooring, get back to the brickwork, replace the roof, re hang the tiles, discover the original features and cherish them. But ensure the foundations and fundamentals are sured up. Preventing lots of pieces of our heritage being lost, doing the grafting work needed to bring them back to life before they fall down.

Hate to break it to us, weary folk, especially since most of us will grind our teeth now at the privileged property metaphor, but this is us right now and Britain’s economic history. Because it’s a racial economic history that we’ve not finished dealing with. We seem barely able to face it even now. But, in a crisis era, of multiple security threats to us all at once, mostly built on our habitual behaviours, we’re simply going to have to get into the work.

Over the last couple of weeks, the government has been leaking out all kinds of bits of freedoms for us, and this transition back period was always going to be a ruddy awkward, make-it-up-as-we-go-along, frustrating time. Even if the government had been strategically clear and purposeful and careful from the beginning. Which it hasn’t been. So many of us feel equally we wish we could get on with normal life again, but that the lockdown may have been leaking early. My local beaches heaving with care-free bathers ten days ago is testimony to how ready we are to forget responsibilities, but perhaps it’s all over, for government at the very top seems to behave as if it is.

It’s in this moment, not early lockdown, that race protests happened this weekend.

But it’s not like we always get to pick our moment. George Floyd is one more name in a shockingly long list of people of colour who didn’t. And this might not resonate with you, honestly. Or it might be just one more deep cut too many for you.

The pandemic is far from over. The charts in this country are not good. And we’re none of us quite sure what the right thing to do is in different moments. Some of us have been long saying: “For goodness sake, do you need telling EVERYTHING?” Intuition and responsibility drive our micro decisions every day around the clearest shared guidance we can find.

Now, if we can pause our own frustrations and wearinesses for a moment, staring into the stream of edited stories and pictures of yesterday, I’d ask we ponder this:

Why would people who are, incredibly, much more likely to suffer from Covid19 – us, if we’re BAME – choose THIS moment to come out and gather in the streets? Do we not understand the risks or responsibilities?

What is the trauma among us forcing people to do this?

After feeling we could and should carefully represent in Bournemouth yesterday, every single person there masked, gloved, keeping apart, respecting the police service who gave the go ahead and kept calm presence, I have to say it felt an important single moment to represent this crisis in our midst also. Far more people turned up, or drove past honking and cheering than the organisers expected. We shall be isolating for a few days to be sure, and have no plans to join a public meet up on this scale again.

This is complex. Our times are. Our feelings are. And shamefully, after generations, this feels only like the very start. It certainly, shamefully, is in me. But I’m not interested in shame. This is all about creating a more sustainable human future. Which means facing what we’re really dealing with in ourselves.

It. Is. Always. Worth. It. Because by suring up our foundations of justice, we join the road to peace.

I’m convinced the first bit of work is some deep listening. That’s the courage we’re really being called to. It might start by becoming very aware of who we we want to blame for our own pains. And why.

Rachel Ali wrote: “Of course the protests worry me, I’m anxious about a second wave.

But speaking out about the systemic entrenched racism in this country and in all Western countries is bloody important. I support the protests. I wish they weren’t necessary. I really wish they weren’t necessary now. But I support them.

PS: If you’ve looked at the higher rates of death in BAME communities and blamed genetics or race, then you need to do some more reading.”

Empower the creative individual, by getting over individualism.

 

What does an artistic emergency look like?

I know you. You’d say now’s not the time for such frivolity, Peach. We’re in a real crisis.

To which, in Condescending Article Writing Mode, I would say knowishly: “We’re actually in a dozen global crises at once, mate. Coronovirus is just a blacklight on all the crap we’d already not learned how to deal with.”

Crap born almost entirely out of culture.

Culture is a sort of unconcious narrative habit. A context for living that’s essentially a story we think we’re in – shaping the character we play, with out us noticing. So perhaps there’s no better moment than Mental Health Awareness Week in a confusingly half-ending pandemic lockdown to talk about ways of seeing.

We’ve been seeing the world through little windows for weeks – smered kitchen panes, smered laptop screens, smered PPE visors. If lucky enough to get your unbelievably clean hands on those. And that blinkering of sensory contact with each other and with the outside has amplified the inside – the sound of our own heads, trying to process this massively weird context malfunction. We live and form our view of the world by the world within us, and that world is likely to be getting increasingly rattled. If only we knew what to do.

I’m often wanging on about art being testimony. Something that cuts through binified, fake-news times with some personal truth – transforming reality with an experience. Art can walk into the middle of no-man’s land and sing.

And man do we feel it. Those first few weeks of rattling pans and cheering and singing for our NHS workers was motivationally moving, up and down our streets. It made some emotional sense. Shame we’ve not learned how to make economic sense of it.

While you might think now is not the time to put together the words Art and Emergency, across connections, resources, tracks of creative thought and entire livelihoods, artistic practitioners are certainly losing things at the moment. Fundamental aspects of their lives, even. Partly because their work is hard to value robustly – even though they tend to put their whole lives into it. And edificial creative landmarks in our cities and towns are as likely to disappear in the next few months as the artists, DJs, players and events businesses wanting to populate them.

How do we value this?

 

ENGAGE THE SURVIVAL TOOLS.

Art is significantly about making emotional sense of the world and working out what to do. It’s as primary as any cynical survival of the fittest yuppie mantra. It is a first response mechanism for humans. And out of it can come whole new ways of seeing – our worlds, our problems, our selves. Yet how do we value this, in a time of crisis? In a financialised, free market economics world, it is the first thing we switch off.

Yet, as we cheer first responders in the NHS and have remarkably adapted to sheilding them and the vulnerable by locking down, how are we gearing up for the next health crisis – that of our mental wellbeing attempting to make sense of all this? And how are we valuing either of these groups of workers, trying to help us secure wellness amid the threats?

Though a big part of my own outlook is that of a designer, art for me is music. It’s where I’ve always gone to make sense of my own worldsview and to recharge my creative pilot light to solve other problems. But for some reason, it hadn’t occured to me to pause my grand schemes and try to just testify. Despite all the wanging on I’ve done. So Easter weekend, I attempted it. And the result was a piece called Pandemonstrate.

It’s a song deliberately styled with a heavy, summery retrowave vibe – reeeally 80s, in other words. Because that summer of ’88 really was when I bought my first four-track and never looked back, and also because it was the era that founded the amplification of all our problems. The good ol’ cult of globalising free market economics.

Today, it seems, that economic window onto what we value has clouded our ability to look forward and imagine true visions of the future, because its relentless implication for forty years is that we’re not supposed to share much. Dreams are naiive, mate. Dystopia is the only realism. Love will betray you. Pick your bleating cynical comfort blanket prayer as you close your eyes there.

It’s all to such blinding degree, it feels like we are left only with nostalgia. A haunted longing, looking back in our minds. Back to the dreams, and summers, that would never come for most of us. An individualism so lonely, it has weakened the fundamentals of society – our ability to share possibilities. Something a pandemic calls out fearsomly. No wonder we have anxieties.

Art helps us connect. And engage. With – take a deep breath – truth. The ones lurking in you. It can help you find a way to do that thing you most don’t want to do with your mental health – face it. Engage with the unreconciled realities and expectations with in us, and with the undrawn worlds beyond us. Beyond this moment. I have become a firm believer that the kinetic act of moving into creative expression can unlock our minds and empower that illusive businessy word that’s boringly haunted everything all this century – innovation. New ways of seeing how we do everything, even fundamentally.

If there’s an emergency right now, it is of our imaginations. They are on the life support of Netflix and the venitlators of substance dependency and porn. But they long to breathe out in the open again and get to creative work. Because it’s not about you or me. It’s about our shared knowledge and wellness – that’s how you fix the context for the individual.

This is the crisis moment we must learn how to re-value our imaginations. And the artistic professionals who could help us revive those utterly essential survival tools.

 

SUPPORT THE CREATIVE MINDS CAMPAIGN BY DORSET MIND AND DISCOVER THE FULL MUSIC FILM FOR PANDEMONSTRATE BY MOMO:TEMPO – RIGHT HERE >